Reflections of An Ex- Intern – By Matthew Chu

1) Learning in a good working environment
Before starting my internship at OTP Law Corporation (OTP Law), I was terribly nervous. Would I have a good relationship with the folks there? How do I leave a good impression? Would I perform well at the firm despite average grades? With these questions weighing heavily on my mind, I started my first day with great trepidation.
My fears were quickly allayed. During my first meeting with the directors, there was no mention of my GPA at all. Instead, they were more interested in finding out about me as a person – what my personal interests were and my time in law school, for instance. I was assured, albeit in jest that there is no need to memorize the entire rules of court to fulfill my responsibilities as an intern. Additionally, they stressed that so long as I have a good attitude and a willingness to learn, that was all that they wished from me.
Amongst my “missions” seemed also to be “By the end of this internship, your goal is to gain 3kg!”. True to that, the whole of my internship was laden with food.
It was through these interactions that I was able to experience how the firm prioritized their colleagues’ welfare. This is a testament to OTP Law’s stellar work culture, which embodies empathy and treating one another like family.
OTP Law’s environment is also very nurturing. The directors were always encouraging me to ask questions and were always challenging me with questions of their own. I remember having intense in-depth discussions with them about a particular issue concerning a freezing injunction, and who exactly was the proper plaintiff to proceed with the injunction application. Despite my struggles to communicate my points, they were very patient with me. They told me that it was good to slow down, think through so to better frame my arguments. Under their tutelage and close mentorship, I found myself increasingly critical and organized in the way I deal with legal issues.

2) Learning about the law and practice
In addition to its impeccable work culture, OTP Law also has expertise in a wide range of practice areas. While the firm may be better known for its family law matters and civil disputes or even tech practice, a surprising field that piqued my interest was real estate/conveyancing. The firm has a very experienced conveyancing paralegal, who was very patient. She guided me through the various conveyancing procedures and explained how the conveyancing industry worked. While conveyancing may seem boring to most, the certainty and practicality behind the procedures made conveyancing something that I might consider doing in the future. Hence, OTP Law having a broad scope of practice areas enriched my internship experiences.

3) Learning about running a business
Beyond learning about the law, interning at OTP Law also taught me about running a law practice: dealing with clients; promoting the practice; and adapting the practice to the digital age.
I learnt that a good law firm is highly client centric. I learnt also that most clients call upon lawyers when face with distresses and uncertainties. it is therefore important for lawyers to be patient and empathetic so to better assuage the concerns of clients.
During my internship, I was lucky enough to experience the re-designing of the firm’s website. Something I really enjoyed. That experience taught me how much resources are needed to promote and develop a law practice. Given that I hope to set up my own firm in the future, this experience was particularly insightful.
Another big lesson for me was how what used to be a traditional law firm which was completely reliant on paper adapt to the digital age. At OTP Law, paperless was the way to go and the lack of physical files, the norm. If most firms go this way, the number of trees saved in the process would be immense. Virtual meetings and WFH also meant tremendous saving of time and resources on travelling as well. Looking at how OTP Law adapts shows the importance of flexibility and quick adjustments to the current times and the need to take the initiative to be ahead of the curve. In a way, that made me excited at the possible changes the next generation can bring.

4) Learning about what it means to be a lawyer
Interning at OTP Law made me consider a very fundamental question – what does it mean to be a lawyer?
I had three takeaways: First, a lawyer has duties to the court and to the client. Second, a lawyer must not simply do what a client wants us to do. He must always look ahead and properly advise the client on all the consequences including potential legal pitfalls of that course of action. Lastly, lawyering is not just a job, but it is a calling that requires constant reflection and self-development.
A lawyer has a duty both to the courts and their clients. The directors at OTP Law always emphasized that as lawyers are officers of the court, they uphold a sacred duty to ensure that justice is meted out fairly. Thus, lawyers must maintain a high standard of integrity and professionalism, including not misleading the court or inciting clients to provide inaccurate evidence. Weighing on the other side, lawyers must also act in their clients’ best interests. A case dealing with the mental capacity of a deponent to an affidavit made me realise these.
Professionalism, I was told, is also in the way we conduct ourselves and how we treat lawyers in opposing camps. Courtesy is another must. One case demonstrated why even though litigation can be an incredibly competitive environment, it is no reason to disrespect your opposing counsel, all the more so when you are in front of the judge.
Next, we are not mere mouthpieces of clients. A lawyer must not simply do what the client asks of him. Lawyers owe a duty to their client to point out the potential legal pitfalls and consequences that might befall them.
Lastly, a lawyer is about constant reflection, self-development and learning. The law is always changing, and lawyers must constantly keep themselves abreast so to better advise their clients. There is no doubt that this is arduous, but it is necessary. It will be a lifetime of never resting on our laurels, but a constant strive to learn and improve. A lawyer must also have a strong centre, to do what’s right and not be tempted to waver to the wrong.

5) Learning to not confine myself to the law
This I learnt by example from Mylene, the co-director at OTP Law and the co-founder of PracticeForte Pte Ltd (PracticeForte). Just because I am studying the law does not mean that I am confined to just becoming a lawyer. Mylene had a vision of banding small professional firms and in pursuit of that vision, started PracticeForte and PracticeForte Advisory. Today, the Advisory comprised of other law firms, forensic accountants and investigators, counsellors and mediation professionals. A law degree does not have to define what I do. It is what I do with it.
Also, just because OTP Law handles a lot of civil and family disputes does not mean they believe all problems have to be resolved with litigation. They are big believers and firm advocates for trying settlements through mediations, negotiations and other ADR methods.

6) What could I have improved on?
In terms of things that I could have done better, I believe I could have taken more initiative on updates, more diligence to meeting datelines and more prompt in asking for help. I have the habit of keeping quiet when I get stuck, but I vow now to ask for help when it happens again. Also, a gentle reminder to myself not to let perfect get in the way of good. It is better that we get something out so that we can at least discuss and then refine and then get better.

7) Recommendations
It has been a blast working at OTP Law, and I will definitely recommend the firm to my friends seeking internships. The work environment, learning opportunities and people are wonderful, and any interns learning here is sure to experience tremendous growth.

8) Shoutouts
I’m really grateful for my time in OTP Law, and I’d like to thank everyone working there for teaching me!
* Isabel – For being a fighter and juggling all her responsibilities and never complaining – and yet still willing to pull me into OTP Law and mentor me
* Shukrina – For showing me the importance in fighting for a cause, even when things look bleak
* Sandra – For patiently teaching me conveyancing, and looking over my everyday needs
* Susan – For teaching me how to balance being tough and showing compassion. Additionally, thank you for showing me that law is not just a job but a calling
* Mylene – For inspiring me to chase my passions and not being afraid to break free from the mold
* Mr Lim Seng Siew – For teaching me to give the clients not just what they want, but what they need; and to putting the client’s interest above our own
* Chloe – For showing me how to be more efficient in my work and how to properly engage with clients

At the time of writing, Matthew Chu is a law 4 student at the Singapore Management University. He interned with OTP Law Corporation in mid 2022.