Nick graduated with an LL.B from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2010 and holds an LL.M in IP Law (with Distinction) from University College London. After being called to the Singapore Bar, he honed his craft as an IP lawyer, before moving into a position as Legal Counsel at the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (“A*STAR”). Nick provides strategic counsel on legal issues at the intersection of business, technology, and public policy. Nick has also authored and published articles on various aspects of IP law in the Journal of Intellectual Property Law and Practice. Additionally, he also serves as a mentor under the NUS Law Alumni Mentorship Programme, and shares his professional experiences at the Centre for Future Graduates@Law. Coming from a humanities background, Nick never imagined that he would go on to carve a niche in advising scientists and engineers. Indeed, life can take unexpected turns!
This letter is dedicated to his 25-year-old self, on the morning of his Commencement Ceremony.
Dear “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” Nick,
Congratulations! After four years of hard work, you’ve finally graduated. You’ll remember this beautiful day for many years to come. On this special day, I’d like to share some thoughts and give you a glimpse of things to come in the years ahead. (P.S. you might want to go easy on the shots tonight. You’ll thank me tomorrow morning!)
1. Be curious. Always. Being a good lawyer requires more of you than having a sound grasp of the law (no mean feat in itself!). It requires a generous dose of curiosity too. In the coming years, you’ll spend countless hours absorbing information on things like gene editing, 3-D printing, and artificial intelligence. Over time, you’ll guzzle plenty of black coffee while trying to make sense of these puzzling things. To understand them, you’ll often have to compare them to other things which you are more familiar with: blenders, ovens, and calculators. While you may never become a technical expert, you’ll gain precious insights from seeking your own answers. Such insights will help you to see issues from your clients’ eyes, and speak their language. In this way, you can be one step closer to serving their needs and adding value to their business. You’ll also make friends with folks from all over the world and learn to appreciate different (often diametrically opposed!) philosophies, cultures, and beliefs. In a globalized world, such exposure can be valuable. You’ll live in uncertain times, buzzing with disruptiveness and ambiguity. To thrive, you must be consistently learning, relentlessly testing your own beliefs, and maintaining an open mind. There’s nothing wrong in admitting that you don’t have every answer. What’s truly foolish is being too proud to admit it and too lazy to ask for guidance.
2. Love your work. You must be passionate about your work if you want to survive the many Monday mornings to come. Always remember that you did not sign up to become a faceless office drone (P.S. there will be much talk about robots taking over lawyers’ jobs. Just keep calm and carry on). As a lawyer, you perform an important role. People rely on you for thoughtful, prompt, and practical advice. If you serve them well, you will earn their trust and respect. This is a priceless reward. So, pursue excellence with every fibre of your being. Arrive a bit earlier. Stay a bit later. Focus. Listen. Collaborate. Be patient. Follow up. Get things done. You’ll be surprised at how far a positive attitude can take you. I also have a list of “Don’ts” to share with you. Don’t be a workaholic. Don’t be afraid to say “no”. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes. Don’t obsess over accolades and rankings. Learn to succeed on your own terms. There will be days when things don’t go your way despite all that you have done. Keep your faith and take things in your stride. Let your passion push you forward.
3. It’s all about people, people, people. You must never kid yourself into thinking that you got here on your own efforts. Your journey here was only possible because you had the support of many people. Parents who believed in you. Mentors who guided you. Friends who encouraged you. Treasure these people and invest in your relationships with them. You should also try to have more fun. Your best memories of law school won’t be about making the Dean’s List or winning book prizes. Rather, they’ll revolve around the fun times you shared with your buddies (yes, including that road trip to Vegas!). Lastly, pay it forward and help other people. Offer to mentor. Volunteer to serve. Teach a class. This way, you’ll build a virtuous cycle, and make the world a better place in your own way.
Be curious. Love your work. Treasure your people. Three simple points which will make your life much richer. The path ahead is like untrodden snow, and the world is now calling you to serve. Go forth and make an impact!
A slightly wiser (and heftier) Nick Sim