A month and a half ago I visited a law firm to have a chat with a man I will only describe as far more experienced, far wiser and certainly more humane than I ever will be.
He had heard I was undergoing troubles and skimming the details, proffered all the support the firm could offer as well as a personal extension of such support — even though he did not need to. However, that is not the crux of this note.
Due to my youthful curiosity, I asked him what life was like working for such a reputable law firm and how did he manage to advance so far in such a short space of time. His answer surprised me.
“The work is hard, the expectations demanding but the best thing about working at [X Firm] is that my colleagues are decent. And well, in life, I guess that’s all you can hope for from people — for people to be decent.”
Looking like a deer caught in headlights, I offered an “Uh-huh.”
He continued. “I’ve worked in other places and dealt at arms length with many other firms and the one thing I’ll say is that this quality — decency — is not all that easy to come by. It’s underrated and when you get to my stage, you don’t expect anyone to be kind or sympathetic. If they’re fair and empathize… that’s all you can ask for. And I’m thankful to be working here because well, people really are decent.”
“And to answer your second question, the way people do well at [X Firm] is to just well, try their best. We’ve never faulted anyone who tried and well, we take care of our people as long as we know they’re putting in the effort. That’s not to say we don’t let go of people when they don’t meet expectations but it really helps when we know they’re trying.”
Our conversation meandered to other more boring and mundane issues but needless to say, I was sold. Not sold by the offer on the table, but sold by this idea of decency. As I stepped out into the early evening light, flanked by the endless waves of human traffic in the heart of the CBD, I pondered. How many of those around me were thinking about their fellow men and treating them decently? How many were thinking of profit maximization above and beyond everything else? Or cynically, how many were thinking only of themselves and their own advancement?
I am no longer a law student. But my memories of Law school beyond all else are of those who treated me with decency — and there were quite a number of them. From simple things like messages of encouragement to lending me lecture notes when I woke up hazy and missed my lectures or even, just taking the time to sit down and hit me up for a chat.
I remember and treasure these things far more than being placed on the Dean’s list, or getting a Gold Star in SLS from Beckmann. (I assure you the endless mugging doesn’t even cross my mind here).
Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of the paper chase, we forget those around us. And truth be told, I was consumed by that chase that I didn’t take the time to appreciate all those wonderful people around me. Maybe if I did it again, I’d have done things differently. Who knows?
But beside that, here’s to all the decent and awesome people in Law school. People keep telling me about how competitive or nasty it is here but while there have been incidents, I’d like to remember all the wonderful people here who prove that Law students have a heart – and they’re not afraid to use it.
This has been a really long piece but I’d like to end it by wishing everyone an amazing new year and a good semester ahead.
Article contributed by: Currently on a leave of absence from school due to personal reasons, the writer will be taking up a position at a law firm in February and ultimately hopes to continue his studies at NUS Law.