Sim Khadijah Binte Mohammed, legal skills trainer

Khadijah is the Founder and Principal Legal Skills Trainer of Lacuna Training Solutions, Singapore’s first dedicated legal skills training firm. She graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2007. Khadijah was a litigation lawyer with Rajah & Tann LLP for 5 years, before joining the Singapore Legal Service in 2013 as an Assistant Registrar of the Supreme Court. In 2014, Khadijah became one of the youngest persons to be appointed as a District Judge of the Family Justice Courts (FJC).

Khadijah is an accredited Mediator with the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) and the Singapore International Mediation Institute, and served as a Judge-Mediator during her time at the FJC. Even before establishing Lacuna Training Solutions, Khadijah was actively involved in training for many years. She served as a Legal Skills Trainer at NUS, as an Advocacy, Negotiation & Mediation Trainer for the Part B Course, and as a Senior Trainer for the SMC.

Other than her passion for litigation, mediation and training, Khadijah is an aspiring writer and poet, and has published several articles detailing her reflections on her journey through life thus far.

This Letter is addressed to Khadijah’s younger self in her first year of law school.

My Dearest Jah,

Today is Children’s Day, but you are no longer a child. You have not been a child for a long time now. Perhaps you have forgotten what being a child even means.

Over the past few years, you have strived so hard for good grades, so as to land yourself a good job that will, in turn, (hopefully) bring an end to the cycle of debt that has plagued your family. I’m so sorry to tell you that you still have a long, long way to go on that front. However, I assure you that the day will come when you and your siblings will no longer have to fret about having the electricity or water shut off, nor the debt collectors coming to repossess your furniture and appliances. But today is not the day for you to relax.

I know that you feel lost right now, and that the readings don’t make any sense. I know that Professor Eleanor Wong scares you. In some ways, I am still awestruck by her. But believe it or not, El will come to be a major inspiration in your life, a mentor, and a true friend. But first, you need to figure out what on earth she is saying in class. Good luck with that. 😊

Next, you need to become competent enough in your analytical and oratorical skills, so as to allow you to participate in some advocacy competitions. This is crucial. I can’t tell you too much, not least because EVERY SINGLE time-travel show in human history has taught us never to mess with the timeline, or risk a butterfly effect that will have catastrophic consequences. But please trust me on this: you need to win an advocacy competition. This will kick off a series of events that will help shape the rest of your legal career. I know right now you are only concerned with finding the means to pay for next Semester’s school fees, but you need to start thinking bigger. Promise me that you will at least try.

Okay, I think you are having trouble believing in your own abilities to even graduate law school, much less to win an advocacy competition. Let me give you another reason to try: do it for the prize money; it will cover next Semester’s school fees, and then some. That is as good a reason as any to put yourself out there, and to try your best.

Listen, I don’t have much time to tell you everything that you need to know, and we need to talk about something more serious now. I know I said that I wouldn’t reveal too much, but I need you to promise me something else. And in order for you to make that promise, there are certain things about your future that you need to know…

One day, you will be in a position to make a difference, to decide on the relevant laws, and to apply those laws to real cases. You will be in a position to decide on matters that will affect people’s lives. You will love and hate the responsibility. You will agonise over every decision. There will be cases that will rob you of sleep. There will be times when you wonder if you are even fit for the job. Those are the times that I’ll need you to find within yourself the strength to make those difficult but necessary decisions. Those are the times that I’ll need you to follow not just the letter of the law, but to follow your conscience as well.

You must promise me that when that day comes, you will never forget who you are, nor the reasons why you chose the legal profession in the first place. No matter how much authority or responsibility is placed in your hands, you must always remember where you came from. You are of the people, and it is them that you serve. There is room for compassion within the law. There is room for kindness and understanding. When you deal with the parties or their lawyers, deal with them fairly. The authority that you will possess must come hand-in-hand with the heaviest responsibility to exercise that authority justly.

So please, let your recollections of the challenges of practice guide your dealings with the lawyers before you, no matter how senior or junior they may be. Every member of the bar has his own unique struggles, and there is never a need to be unkind. In the same way, let your knowledge of the challenges of life guide your dealings with the parties before you. Remember what it was like to have to live hand-to-mouth, what it was like to watch as the bailiff came into your childhood home and seized everything that formed a part of your daily life. And I’m so, so sorry to tell you that by the time it falls to you to grant the banks the power to seize the very roofs over people's heads, you would have lived through such a seizure of your own. And by the time it falls to you to help divorcing parties transition into the next phase of their lives, you would have experienced a painful divorce yourself.

When you sit as the decision-maker then, bring all those experiences with you. Don’t let them colour you. Rather, let them guide you. Where the law permits, show mercy. Where it does not, show kindness. You will never know the effect that an encouraging word could have on a broken heart, or a wounded soul.

I apologise if I have revealed too much, or too little, depending on how you see it. Just know that you will survive and flourish through each experience, and it will make you a better lawyer, a better Judge, and above all, a better person. I wish you all the very best as you navigate the challenges and responsibilities ahead, and I will be sincerely rooting for you at the finish line.

Much love always,

Your future

1 October 2017

Lucy Reed, international lawyer and professor

Tan Xi’en Rachel, research assistant and incoming practice trainee