I was called on 6 August 1999.
Today I marks the completion of 23 full years in legal practice. I enter my 24th year in practice tomorrow. I always celebrate this occasion with my friend Shan because we were called on the same day.
I am presently 46 years old. That means, I have been a lawyer for half my life. I was called to the Bar when I was 23 years old. Tomorrow I would be a lawyer longer than I haven’t. It feels a little surreal when I think about it but I will around to it.
Young lawyers, pupils and interns always seem surprised when I tell them I don’t think myself very senior, more middle-ish. 23 years sounds and feels like a long time in legal practice to the young.
Firstly, my father is presently 43 years at the Bar. Fingers crossed he goes on for many years more.
As I wrote previously in Going Up Against a Senior, I reckon lawyers that live up to a ripe old age can possibly have a legal practice that spans 50 years, if not more. So I consider a middle-aged lawyer one who is anywhere between the 20 to 30 years in active practice. That would be me.
Secondly, despite my whines, complaints, disappointments, frustrations, and stress all around over legal practice, on the whole, I love it. I have for the most part enjoyed it. It’s been fun. And times flies when we’re having fun.
I can say with confidence now, at this point in my life and career, that I foresee myself being a lawyer and in legal practice until I kick it; that I am happy to be a lawyer; and there’s nothing else I’d rather be. It took me a while to understand how that feels in my bones.
Some may find it surprising to find me saying that given how passionate and intense I have been about the law and legal practice.
The truth is for the first 10 years of legal practice, I asked myself annually whether I should quit legal practice. There was always something to be unhappy about, to be disappointed with, to be frustrated over. And also the wonder whether I may thrive more somewhere else.
My outlook changed for the better when I shifted my focus to what I enjoyed and made me happy about legal practice instead of what I hated about it. We are what we focus on.
I didn’t just enjoy the law, legal practice, and legal issues. Just as important, if not more, was the cameraderie that came with it. The pleasure of helping of others. The delight in solving of real legal problems. The nitty gritty: the crafting of a statement of claim; he negotiation of a contract; s tanding up and submitting in court. All of it. I love it.
23 years in, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I may dabble in this and that to satisfy my wanderlust instincts but law and legal practice will remain central to my life. 23 years in, I possess the confidence and authority of knowing a little more than when I started my practice.
Most importantly, 23 years in, I look forward to 23 years more.