Matthew graduated from the National University of Singapore, Faculty of Law in 2013. During his time in law school, he ran online clothing store Momoteapots and became the partner of physical store The Vainpot Boutique. After graduating from law school, Matthew did his training contract at Kelvin Chia Partnership and went on to work at TJ Cheng Law Corporation, PKWA Law Practice LLC, and Dentons Rodyk & Davidson LLP.
He currently balances his work as Legal Counsel at Maybank with his roles as owner of All Would Envy and Soi 55 - which include designing several of the clothes sold at All Would Envy.
This Letter is addressed to his 22-year-old self in the second year of law school.
I know you must be feeling pretty shitty about school and all. Sadly, it doesn’t get any better!
I know you are struggling in school. You don’t want to spend all day in the library - which, anyway, doesn’t have any empty tables for you. Yet, you also kinda want to feel like you belong in law school - you feel like you should be working hard like all your peers (especially since the Vice Dean told you - erm, has he told you yet? - that you wouldn’t be able to go for exchange in year 3 because your grades don’t look too good).
You know what? Just study a bit and spend the rest of your time partying and doing what you want and love (while you are still young and can afford to have fun!). Go ahead and spend time building your online business, or man your shop at Haji Lane all day 7 days a week, if that’s what you want! Although you might also want to pack some of your law notes so you can read up a little whenever you feel guilty - you know the guilt never leaves.
Ten years down the road, you might (would) regret it if you didn’t spend more time on your business, which is actually a great passion of yours! After law school, you will get called to the bar and work as a lawyer, and I promise you - you will never ever have time to do everything you are passionate about. Law school is oddly the best time to do it for you!
Anyway, I wasn’t exactly kidding when I said that things might not get better. Sorry for breaking the news early. You might freak out reading this, but yeah...
Here’s fortune teller Ang telling you your future for the next 10 years - I hope it will help you in your decision-making along the way!
You will get second lower honours when you graduate from law school. But my advice to you is this: don’t worry too much about it! You probably won’t be able to get your grades up enough to get a second upper, and half the cohort of your batch will get second lower anyway (you are not alone, haha!). Good grades can probably get you a good training contract and a good job thereafter, but I don’t think you would want to or should give up doing your online store and boutique at Haji Lane (things that make you happier than studying – yes, everyone knows you hate studying…).
You will have a hard time getting a job after you don’t get retained at the firm you trained at. Yes, that (2014) will be the year there will be an oversupply of lawyers and the Ministry of Law will start encouraging lawyers to look overseas or outside the legal industry for career opportunities! P.S.: You might need to submit more than 100 applications, and you will only get one job offer, after your training contract ends.
Then you will have an equally hard time trying to get a job in a big firm where you want to try working (and learning) at as a young lawyer. Good news though - you managed to find a job in Dentons Rodyk (yes, Rodyk would have combined with Dentons by then) 2 years after getting called to the bar (and after 4 unsuccessful applications to Rodyk)!
You will not end up doing corporate law, even though you wanted to and tried to take many corporate law modules in law school! The truth is, not many young lawyers really get to choose what they get to do or which department/team they get assigned to (unless they do really well in school or during the bar course). You will start out as a fresh lawyer doing general corporate work in a small boutique firm but won’t be able to find any place in a corporate department in a medium-sized or big firm. You will finally “settle” as real estate lawyer. But fortunately for you - you will end up really liking real estate law, even though you hated the real estate practice module during the bar course! That’s quite a shocker huh!
You will still be figuring your way around at the “prime” age of 30. You won’t be “there” yet and you still wouldn’t know what exactly you want to do in life. At 30, you will still be doing business on the side (and you won’t only be selling clothes…) while you continue working in the legal field. But then again, there probably won’t be an end point where you will be able to say you have gotten where you want to be - you know you will always be greedy for more and want to try more things anyway, so just enjoy the process and every step of the way!
You will really enjoy partying (erm, think clubbing)! Right now, you might prefer to just hide at home or in your Haji Lane shop every day, but at 30, you will regret not starting to party earlier. You will enjoy meeting people and just letting loose on Friday nights, having fun with friends you love. So my advice to you is: start early! Uni is the best time to enjoy and make friends and party, and you would still have the energy to do so! Warning: by 30 you will need a few days to recover after each night of partying. 30 is not so “prime” after all.
So, don’t think too much and just live your life the way you want to live. Don’t fail law school, but don’t worry too much about the grades. Life is more than that – grades and money aren’t everything and definitely aren’t the only things that can make you happy, fulfilled and “successful”!