From Lawyer to eLawyer

(This article has been published in Praxis April-June 2014 Supplement )

Interview with Eddie Law about his journey from a practising lawyer to an entrepreneur and legal recruiter. He shares his thoughts and experience on recruiting lawyers, as well as his observations on the legal career market trends etc.  

Mr. Eddie Law

Q: Hi Eddie, can you briefly tell us about your career before you started eLawyer.com.my (“eLawyer”)?

Ans: I was in private practice for two to three years. My main areas of practice were in corporate and conveyancing. Thereafter, I left private practice and joined an IT company as their group legal counsel cum PA to the Chief Operating Officer. Due to the financial instability of the company, I decided to leave the job after almost two years. At that moment, I was so fascinated with the unlimited possibilities of online business, I thought I’d take a chance and set up my first dot com company in 2006 with a programmer. It was a failure due to a lack of experience in the business. I persevered and continued to pursue my online business dream. I joined a web development company as their project manager and later invested in the company. There was where I started eLawyer.com.my in Nov 2007 together with Larry Lam, who was the owner of the said web development company.

 

Q: Why did you start eLawyer? How did such an idea come about?  

Ans: I realised that people are the main asset of law firms and only with good people a law firm is able to deliver quality work to its clients. More often than not, getting good/suitable people becomes a “headache” for many law firms. Recruiting requires sourcing for the right candidate and scanning through many resumes, and if a resume looks good, then time has to be taken to arrange an interview with them. As I am a legal person myself and understand a legal firm’s needs, I thought I could take over the tedious work of finding good candidates for them.

 

Q: What are the services provided by eLawyer.com.my?

Ans: Legal recruitment is our main product. We provide online job advertisements, online resume search and placement services. Law firms or corporations can advertise their job vacancies on our website and also search for online CVs (with the permission of the potential candidates) via our website. Our placement service is like an executive search service where we help employers search for prospective candidates and conduct the first round of interview with them before recommending the shortlisted candidates to the employers for their interviews.

Apart from providing legal recruitment services, lawyers and law students can also sell their used law books via our website. This service is free. In addition to that, visitors to our site can also browse articles posted on our law blog which discuss legal career tips, news on legal market trends, legal events and others.

 

Q: Who are your clients? 

Ans: As of today, we have more than 400 law firms using our services, including advertising their job vacancies on our website and engaging us to recommend suitable talents for their firms. We also have clients from various industries, including but not limited to, oil & gas, banking and finance, insurance, technology, tobacco, property, regulatory bodies, hotel, pharmaceutical, shipping, infrastructure, manufacturing, etc.

 

Q: You have more than six years of experience in legal recruitment, what are the current market trends and observations you can share with us?

Ans:

1. Rapid increment of remuneration – interestingly, the pupillage allowance and lawyers’ salary has shot up rapidly over the past five years. From RM1,500 to RM2,500 (for pupillage allowance) and from RM2,500 to RM4,200 (First-year lawyer’s monthly salary). It has close to doubled over this five-year period; it definitely beat the annual inflation rate. I can safely foresee that a first-year lawyer’s monthly salary will hit RM5,000 very soon. I guess such rapid increment may be due to the shrinking talent pool.

2.  Change in motivating factor to work – Gen Y lawyers are no more motivated to work just for money, they want more than that, including but not limited to, having a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose in their work.

3.  Work-Life-Balance – many drop out from the legal profession for want of work-life balance.

4. Mobility of workforce – more and more young lawyers are very keen to work overseas.

5. Decaying quality in young lawyers – although there are more law schools and law students than before, based on feedback from the market, the quality of young lawyers being churned out is not meeting most employers’ benchmark.

6. Lawyers are more enterprising – I noticed that many young lawyers tend to set up their own firms within one to three years after they are called to the Bar. This was pretty rare when I was in practice.

 

Q: In your opinion, what should law firms do to retain talent?

Ans: There are many things a law firm can do to retain talent. Paying a good or competitive salary is just one of them but not the most important factor (as the saying goes, money is important in life but not the most important thing). Ultimately, it boils down to knowing the needs of your people and trying your best to fulfil those needs. For instance, the need of being understood/cared for should be fulfilled by genuine engagement, the need of learning should be fulfilled by training, the need of belonging should be fulfilled by creating a more cohesive working environment, etc.

 

Q: What is your top career advice for young lawyers?

Ans: Let me answer this with the three “Fs”.

First: Finding the right platform – knowing your strength/personality and choosing the right area of practice which matches your strength will make you stand out from the crowd. In many cases, making the right choice is more important than working hard in an area which is not your strength.

Second: Finding purpose in your career – many talented young lawyers gave up practice due to challenges faced at work (eg feeling constantly burnt out, lack of self-confidence due to harsh criticism, etc). At such vulnerable moments, they may see their work as meaningless. In order for them to empower themselves, they have to find a sense of purpose in their work. Possessing such a sense of purpose is like the wind that will move the sail boat to its destination instead of drifting on the vast sea without a direction.

Third: Finding a career mentor – having someone whom you trust to journey with you in your initial career is such a pleasure. Your career mentor can be your peer, your boss, a senior lawyer or a legal career adviser. A mentor is able to listen, to encourage, to enlighten, to give you a different perspective when needed and to inspire you in your practice journey. On this note, I would like to share that many young lawyers like to talk to me about their careers and I am always happy to listen and give advice.

 

Q: What is your most satisfying recruitment assignment?

Ans: I placed a partner who was working in a mid-sized reputable firm with a smaller-sized firm, thus enabling her to spend more time with her young family, and at the same time also increase her income within a certain time, which she would not have achieved it if she had continued to stay with her previous firm. I truly felt that she is a happier person now. I also recruit for corporations and there was one instance where the whole legal team was recruited through me, including the head of legal, which is really satisfying to know. They are able to work very well with each other. I believe the leadership of the head of legal plays a very important role and I also believe that since I know all of their characteristics/personalities, I was in a better position to find the right match for the team.

 

Q: What have you learned from the journey from lawyer to eLawyer?

Ans: I find this journey so rewarding as it has widened my perspectives of life and it has also allowed me to know myself better than ever. I would say that having the Right perspective on things that we do and things that we see is so crucial as the Right perspective will bring the Right action and the Right action will generate the Right result. The wisdom of having the Right perspective is gained from your experience in life and your ability to reflect on the experience and through thoughtful discussions with wise people. I must say this is a life lesson.

 

Q: What makes you different from other recruiters?

Ans: Drawing from my lawyering experience in both law firms and a corporation, I am able to share first hand information with my candidates about the differences in both working environments. Also, due to my nature of work, I have the privilege to talk to different levels of lawyers, including very successful senior lawyers and in-house counsel. This allows me to have a macro, yet micro insight to a lawyers’ career (both in private practice and as an in-house lawyer). I believe these are all very insightful information that I am able to share with candidates.

 

Q: What are your future plans for eLawyer?

Ans: eLawyer still has a long way to go. I have many plans for eLawyer. To mention a few: I hope to someday set up an eLawyer Scholarship to help deserving students accomplish their dreams to become a lawyer. I also plan to create an eLawyer Community to compliment the Bar by providing assistance and resources to lawyers in various areas. We dream to be the leading and trusted service provider to lawyers through HR, technology and networking in Malaysia and beyond. On this note, I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to those who wish to understand more about eLawyer and those who wish to join us in furthering eLawyer’s dreams to contact me directly at eddie@elawyer.com.my.

Freelance Web Developer

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