Charmaine is an in-house counsel with NCS Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of Singapore Telecommunications Limited (Singtel). After graduating from the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Law in 2010, Charmaine joined Drew & Napier LLC as a trainee and subsequently practised in Drew & Napier for 5 years, specialising in intellectual property. As a member of Drew & Napier’s recruitment committee, she actively engaged law students at career fairs and various recruitment events. Charmaine’s interest in pursuing a career in the field of IT led her to join NCS in mid-2016, where she is grateful for the fresh opportunities to learn. Charmaine has always loved singing and performing, and is now part of an a cappella group called 1023 (read: ten twenty-three).
This letter is addressed to her 23-year-old self who was barely a month into her training contract, and overwhelmed by the long hours in legal practice.
It’s 7:30 PM on a Friday evening, and you’ve just stepped out of the office for a quick breather. While the rest of the world is bubbling with excitement at the start of the weekend, you know that your work day has only just begun.
You’re barely a month into your training contract, but you’ve already experienced the infamous “bad hours” in practice. You knew full well that working as a lawyer would entail pretty lengthy working hours – and you were prepared for that – but somehow, it’s different when it finally happens and hits you like a ton of bricks, isn’t it?
You make a quick call home, and finally get to hear Mom’s voice on the line after a week of not seeing her – she’d be asleep when you return home, and by the time you’re awake, she’d have left for work. Consumed by fatigue, overwhelmed by the sheer difficulty of this new lifestyle, and coupled with the melody of that familiar voice over the phone, you end up sobbing in the middle of Raffles Place Park – yes, that iconic green space right smack in the middle of the CBD area actually has a name.
You feel terrible, don’t you? You wonder what on earth you signed up for, begin doubting if you’re truly cut out for this whole lawyering thing, and question if you made the right choice by accepting the offer from NUS Law 5 years ago. Perhaps you might have been better off if you’d gone ahead and done that degree in Mass Communications instead?
Take a deep breath, my dear girl.
You may not realise this now, but you are so very blessed. Beginnings are supposed to be difficult. It’s the universe’s way of determining if you’re worthy of your position, by putting your mettle to the test. This way, should you succeed in overcoming these obstacles right from the start, you’ll always be sufficiently well-equipped to deal with the tides and thunderstorms in the future – be it in law, or in life. Now that you’ve been presented with this opportunity to learn and grow, embrace it with open arms, and a positive attitude. I believe in you, and I know that the Senior Charmaines of the Greater Future do, too.
You’ve gotten off the phone with Mom, and your tear-stained face reflects a sad grimace. I wish I could walk up to you, squeeze your hand, and offer you a reassuring hug. Better still, I would love to give you a fleeting glimpse into the future, and tell you that things do take a turn for the better, and more quickly than you think. But no, I won’t ruin the surprise for you. It’s way more fun (not to mention satisfying) to discover them for yourself. One thing’s for certain though – years from now, you’ll never be able to imagine yourself doing anything else, apart from law.
Reach into your pocket, little one – you’ll find the tissues I placed in there. Wipe those tears dry, calm yourself down, head back up to the office, and press on with this journey.
I’ll see you real soon.