Contrary to what you may think, your vote really does matter. We at Law Annual sincerely hope that you would exercise your right to vote–and use it wisely–on Monday, as the Year 2s gather to decide whether or not we would have a moratorium for the batch graduating in 2014. To allow all to make an informed decision, an appeal for insights from seniors was posted on Overheard @ BTC. Many keenly responded to the thread (thank you!). Here, we have summarized and consolidated the main points for and against a moratorium, and compiled several law firms’ responses regarding a moratorium.

 ****** Reasons Why You Should Vote For a Moratorium*****

  1. The lack of a moratorium generally (note: generally) disadvantages students going on exchange
    • Students on an exchange—especially a year-long exchange—would face some difficulties with meeting the application deadlines and interview slots.
    • For a student going on exchange in Semester 1, you may lack the third-year subject results that some firms look for—so whilst everyone around you snaps up job offers, you are only able to apply at the end of Year 3.
    • For a student going on exchange in Semester 2, you face the pressure of getting your contract settled before you leave – leaving a very small window for applications (after getting your Year 3 Semester 1 results in December till the date you depart), or bear the burden of scheduling phone/Skype interviews across time zones, or endure that sickly feeling of not having a job while the rest of your batch mates secure theirs, casting a pall on a what is meant to be an enriching and enjoyable exchange programme. Many other administrative problems also exist, such as having to send contracts and documents overseas.
    • Many mid-sized firms do not offer Skype interviews, so if you are abroad, they will tell you to call them when you’re back in Singapore so they can arrange an interview for you (but by then most of the spots would have been filled up anyway). As for the Big 4, they do offer Skype interviews; however, it may be difficult to impress across the internet, with the awkwardness and all.
  2. People can make more informed choices about which practice areas and firms to apply to
    • The additional time you get with having a moratorium would be extremely beneficial to intern with more firms and to experiment with more electives. The year 2 subjects are only foundational and it might be hard to get an inkling of what areas of the law you would like to specialise in.
    • The curriculum in the first 2 years of law school covers most of the foundational law subjects and there is a greater focus on litigation in the way we are taught and assessed. For those of you who are thinking of doing corporate, LCS offers a limited preview of how it is like but there are elective modules such as International Corporate Finance, M&A and Bank Documentation that would offer you a greater insight into corporate practice. For those thinking of doing specialist practice areas like shipping or IP, it makes sense for you to take the relevant electives.
    • There will be an additional summer vacation for internships. Nothing can better expose you to a practice area than undertaking an internship in that department. The practice area that you have set your mind on now may very well be changed after you have done an internship in that department. The converse is also possible; a practice area that you have never previously considered could well be your new found interest. Having a moratorium will allow you to have an additional 2 months after year 3 to do more internships to allow you to find the best fit, not just for practice areas but also for firms.
  3. With a lack of a moratorium, the application process becomes long and drawn out.
    • It almost seems that the lack of a moratorium turns the whole process into a game. And if you cannot play the game you lose out. People are leveraging firms against one another, spamming applications and adopting other tactics. If you’re not as savvy, you’ll lose out on this basis alone. It’s not even about applying early, or sending out 20 applications. It’s like reading the stock market. Some applied to only one or two at a time, be it out of naiveté or perhaps not to spoil the market. Not all got offers immediately, some were kept waiting for months. And around them, places were filling up. By the time they received replies, those with rejections suddenly found themselves facing a market with few places left.
    • You have to start applying as soon as possible, and then wait for firms to reply. Some firms reply early, some late, some firms hold out to see what applications they get. in this time, you may get offers from your 2nd, 3rd, 4th or xth choice firms, that you have to consider taking for fear of not being able to get a place.
    • With a moratorium, this “agony” is spread over about 3 days. One would have to make decisions on firms within short deadlines; although there will be a mass of interviews in one day, it makes for a more efficient process to get a TC. Those who did not get TCs in the first 3 days eventually got TCs as well.
    • To shed some light on what happens: on the day moratorium lifts, the entire cohort will basically head down to Raffles Place, submit their applications to various firms, (be it via email, or hand delivered), and then wait for interviews. Some will get calls early, some late, but basically you just wait for an interview. If you don’t get anything on Day 1, you head back on Day 2, so on so forth.
    • You only have to prepare all your documents in 1 shot.
  4. Firms generally self impose an application window for organizational and administrative reasons.
    • Because it is more advantageous to a firm in viewing more applications, they generally set an internal application window and held back offers till they saw a substantial amount of applicants. As a result, even without moratorium, NUS and SMU applications are generally viewed together.
    • Exceptional students have been offered places before this application window in my year but I heard that even with a moratorium some students would have been offered a “wink wink” offer under the table before the lifting of the moratorium. The “wink wink” offer = an agreement by trust that if they apply for a TC they will be accepted. As such, this “leakage” of available spots in a firm might potentially occur with or without a moratorium.
    • Where there is no moratorium, generally applications come in scattered intervals and without an official application date, firms do not have the reassurance of seeing the application of every person interested in the firm. As a result, they hold off in hope for a better applicant and this I feel might be the reason why so many applications in my year were put on hold for months.
    • Some firms offer conditional offers (conditional on graduating with a second upper for example). As such, if a moratorium is in place, it might be easier to gauge if you can make these conditions with three years of grades before accepting the offer. There are examples of seniors who fail to graduate with second uppers and lose their TCs because of the conditional offers.

******Reason Against A Moratorium******

  • If you’ve worked hard and achieved the grades, and you want peace of mind, having no moratorium allows you to secure your TC early. It won’t mean you can completely slack off for the rest of your semesters in law school, but it certainly puts less pressure on everything hinging on your grades this semester.
  • The moratorium equalizes all your peers. Meaning that if you have not achieved a level of academic excellence that is on par or better than your batch mates, there is no running away from this fact when the moratorium is lifted. Firms will judge you. In a half hour interview given to you over three days in which they have to consider everything. Having no moratorium removes this equalizing effect and allows you to pursue other means that may be less prejudicial and more favourable to you.
  • It is often the case that in fact firms would like that they have you secured early, and they will only be frustrated if they are not allowed to secure you when they want to, because if something shinier comes your way after their offer but prior to the moratorium, there really isn’t anything that they can do.

***** From The Law Firms******

  • From Lee & Lee: I have been involved in recruiting Trainees for about 7 years,some of which have had a moratorium, and some of which had no moratorium.From my experience, there are many reasons why NUS and SMU lawstudents should not agree to a moratorium as to training contracts.These reasons are as follows:-(1) NUS and SMU law students will disadvantage themselvesagainst the estimated 200 plus Singaporeans studying law in English andAustralian universities if they agree to a moratorium.If a moratorium is imposed (typically in the month of July afterthe 3rd year) on the NUS and SMU law students, a number of Singaporeansstudying law in English and Australian universities will apply for and securetraining contracts before the moratorium is lifted.If no moratorium is imposed, NUS and SMU law students can applyfor and secure training contracts while the Singaporeans studying law in Englishand Australian universities are still overseas. This is what is happening nowfor the 3rd year NUS and SMU law students. We find that NUS and SMU law students form a lower percentage ofour Trainees when there is a moratorium. I am just amazed that NUS and SMU law students would consider losingthe competitive advantage that they have against the English and Australianuniversity students who face restrictions as to when they can be interviewed inperson by Singapore law firms. (2) The moratorium is not binding on law firms. Therewill be law firms who offer students training contracts before the moratorium lifts,which offers are accepted. You will never know who are the students who do thisif they do not admit it. (3) The moratorium is not binding on students. A studentcan choose not to be bound by the moratorium, and to apply for and secure atraining contract before the moratorium lifts. You will also never know who arethe students who do this if they do not admit it. (4) The moratorium gives NUS and SMU students less choice in choosinga law firm. When there is a moratorium, all applications are considered andoffers are made within one day. Students are given a very short time to acceptan offer. A student will be put in a tight spot when he is made an offerby say a law firm of his 4th choice and has not heard from other lawfirms. Should he accept the offer there and then, or should he lose that offerand wait to see whether he gets offers from his preferred law firms? Themoratorium is therefore very stressful for the students. If there is nomoratorium, a student can choose to apply in batches, and has much more time toconsider all offers. Law firms will also have more time to consider and assesscandidates if there is no moratorium. If there is a moratorium, offers willhave to be made within a very short period of time, and law firms have lesstime to assess the many applications that they receive. Regards Matthew Saw Partner – Litigation Department Lee & Lee
  • From Wong Partnership: Our view on the moratorium is that it should be reinstated. The moratorium lends order to the Practice Training contract recruitment process and results in less disruption. We wish to assess students fairly, and the moratorium enables us to assess them at the same time, unlike the current situation, where good students who apply late may be penalised as contract offers have already been made.Furthermore, we have a preference to view year 3 grades. This is in the interests of the students as well, as some may not have performed well in the first year but perform better in subsequent years to more than make up for it. If the moratorium follows previous years, we would be able to consider such grades in their assessment.Lastly, the turnaround time for offers to be made are also typically shorter with a moratorium in place as assessments of applications can be done at the same time. We feel that the students will benefit from a less drawn out application process as it reduces uncertainty and anxiety for them.If you have any queries, please feel free to contact me.
    Best Regards, Jarrod NG Director – Human Capital Wong Partnership
  • From TSMP Law Corporation: From our perspective, we would actually be in favour of reinstating the moratorium. Based on our experience withthe recent applications for the 2014 intake as well as the feedback we have been receiving from the applicants themselves, the lifting of themoratorium has resulted in a certain degree of uncertainty in relation to the entire process.

For us, it has been somewhat difficultto start scheduling interviews as applications have come in on a relativelyad-hoc basis and this, in turn, makes it harder for us to offer trainingcontracts to students as it is not clear to us whether there would be othermore suitable candidates that have not applied yet. From a recruitmentperspective, we think this uncertainty actually makes it harder for bothourselves and the students, unlike in the past where the applications comingin over a period of 1 to 2 days made the process a lot simpler.

Feedback from applicants is that theyare also in a state of uncertainty as to their applications. Differentfirms started their interview process at different times and, as a result,they did not know whether they were already not in consideration at thefirms they applied to or whether they could accept an existing offer becausethe other firms had not yet scheduled an interview with them.Our view is that the process shouldbe kept as simple as possible because that will actually facilitate theentire process to the benefit of both the firms and the students. Kind regards Dayne TSMP Law Corporation

  •  From Rodyk: I am the partner in charge of the practice training programme at Rodyk & Davidson LLP and your email has been forwarded to me.In view of the short time line, the main points I would make are as follows:-(i) Voting on the moratorium should be done at the start of the 3rd year, instead of at the end of the 2nd year. At the end of the 2nd year, very few students would have interned yet or spoken to practitioners (most internships are during the summer break at the end of the 2nd year).Any choice will end up being based on rumour or on a herd mentality.- There is no impact at all in delaying the vote to the start of 3rd year- if there is a moratorium, it is lifted at the end of 3rd year. If there is no moratorium, applications start in the middle of 3rd year.(ii) A lack of a moratorium means that there is no system. There are students who have to wait 2 to 3 months for responses to their applications. That is not ideal for the emotional or mental well being of the applicant. (iii) Even without a moratorium, most students will figure out that there is a window period within which to apply. That is not much different from a moratorium, save that it is informal. My apologies for the late response and please let me know if you need any clarification. Regards Christopher CHONG Partner Rodyk & Davidson LLP
  •  From Drew & Napier: Hope this is not too late. For Drew, we would prefer having a moratorium, preferable to kick in only after the students have obtained their 3rd year, 1st semester grades. This gives students more opportunities to have done internships and they would be more familiar with the firms. We’ve also found that students generally have a better idea of what they want to do after they have completed 2nd year. There is also less anxiety among students as they know when they would need to apply as opposed to being unsure whether they have been prejudiced because they think they are slower than their peers in applying to firms. Regards Blossom Hing, Recruitment Director.