Legal Hiring Outlook in Singapore (Q4 2023 to Q1 2024)

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Legal Hiring Outlook in Singapore

(Q4 2023 to Q1 2024)


02-02-2024 | By Low Yan Lin, Consultant, ETC

This blog article begins with the general opportunities for legal professionals. As we progress into 2024, some aspects of legal hiring remain the same. We will touch on the common reasons for lawyers leaving private practice and the key traits that hiring managers are looking out for.

Subsequently, we will delve into how hiring managers have responded to the changes to Singapore’s bar admission requirements and the greater adoption of legal technology in law firms.

We surveyed close to 150 legal professionals (57% with more than 9 years of industry experience, and the remaining 43% with at least 5 years of industry experience) to obtain our findings. There was a good mix of private practice lawyers and in-house counsels.

1. Job opportunities in the legal market

There were diverse opinions regarding the ease of switching to a different job in the legal industry in Q4 2023.

Approximately, 52% found that it was not easy to find a different role to further their legal career. These were the top three reasons given:

  • While many companies are hiring, some found it difficult to find a role with a good fit (in terms of being able to gel with the working styles of the boss and the rest of the team).
  • Some cited a slow-down in the economy for the lack of opportunities.
  • Some found that it was difficult as there were fewer positions available for senior lawyers, especially in-house.

“It is not easy (to switch) because there are increasing rates of specialisation in the industry, for tech especially. When you say you are a technology lawyer, it can mean many things. You can be specialising in Intellectual Property issues, Data Privacy etc. but having expertise in one area doesn’t mean you will be a match in another technology company.” – Ian Ernst Chai, Lawyer at Dentons Rodyk

On the other hand, 30% of the respondents remarked that it was easy to switch to another legal role. Some cited how general legal skills are transferable across industries. Separately, amid lay-offs and retrenchments, some acknowledged the new openings which are being created for legal professionals. 

“For Singapore, there is a growing demand for legal services as law firms and companies relocate to Singapore and start to grow their Asia practices.” –  Zack Quek, General Counsel at Ninja Van 

With regulators becoming more active in regulating the industries across the board, more legal jobs will be needed as a matter of necessity, not just as a goodtohave.”Chiam Shien Yong, Managing Counsel at Sabre Corporation 

The remaining 18% of respondents did not have strong views on this topic. 

2. Constants in the legal landscape 

Main reasons for attrition in private practice:

  1. Long working hours
  2. Lack of job satisfaction and fulfilment
  3. Repetitive nature of the work

Other reasons for attrition:

  1. Overwhelming stress from bosses/clients/the Court
  2. Inconsistent and unpredictable time requirements
  3. Lack of promotion prospects
  4. Not being keen on partnership

What hiring managers in law firms and in-house consider:

  1. 43.3% ranked the ability to work in a team as the most important trait.
  2. Other top traits include: previous experience in the related area of specialisation and effective oral communication skills.
  3. 83% of all respondents ranked being qualified in jurisdictions other than Singapore as the least important in their hiring considerations.

“(We should) recognise that positive firm culture and having a structure for personal career development are aspects capable candidates look out for. As such, firms should pay attention to having those in place to attract and retain the right talents.” – Wynne Tay, Lawyer at Pinsent Masons MPillay 

3. Responses to new developments in the legal industry 

Uncoupling of admission to the Singapore Bar from the completion of a training contract (TC) 

From 2024 onwards, qualified persons can be admitted to the Singapore Bar without completing the now 12-month practice TC. As stated in MinLaw’s press release, the proposed change recognises that legal education can lead to different career pathways. One possible career path is that of an in-house lawyer.

Out of about 80 in-house hiring managers surveyed:

  • 68% stated that they were willing to hire candidates who have not completed their TC; and
  • 32% were not willing to.

Of that 68%, some explained that their companies had enough resources to train the new joiners within the company. Some respondents also cited that they have worked with many successful foreign in-house lawyers (like those in Europe and the USA) who never had private practice training. The key is in being able to learn, working hard and having good business acumen. Relevant experience can also be gained outside of a private law firm 

“After working in the legal industry for so long, (I realised that) the success of a lawyer does not depend on what they learn in the law firm or at school. The things that they learn may not be what their company needs them to do. In the end, they may need to re-learn everything. Work hard and have the right learning attitude. The supervisor can train them to have the necessary skills and knowledge for that industry.” – Daniel Ng, Chief Legal Officer at Toshiba Global Commerce Solution


“Everybody needs to start somewhere. And competence should not be judged through whether one completes a training contract.” Roy Goh, Contract Counsel at Google 

The latter group preferred private practice experience for various reasons: 

  • Law firm experience is invaluable; skills in file management, client management, research and drafting are hard to pick up elsewhere. 
  • Due to headcount limitations, the new employee must be able to take up the work quickly, independently, and with minimal supervision. 
  • Cannot afford to take the risk; will not be sure how qualified the lawyers are without the proof that they completed their TC. 

“Law firm training provides a certain rigour and grounding to new lawyers which is important in any context whether one is practising in a law firm or inhouse.” Victoria Ho, Deputy General Counsel at Teradyne 


“As we do not hire fresh graduates, we still need someone with some relevant experience who can at least hit the ground walking (even if not at the stage of running) as there is very little time and opportunity to train someone inhouse. Legal counsels are considered support functions and the company will not be willing to pay to train someone.” – Valerie Lai, Senior Legal Counsel at a Swiss private asset management company 

It is encouraging to see how two-thirds of in-house hiring managers surveyed are not fixated on prior private practice experience. 

Rise in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and legal technology 

We see that more law firms and companies are making use of AI and legal technology to streamline processes. But has this affected the number of roles and the types of roles companies are hiring for?

20% of respondents stated that their companies do not need to hire as many legal professionals after implementing AI and legal technology.

“Contract and document management tools have greatly helped to process large volumes of low-level legal tasks, reducing the need for headcount for such tasks.” – APAC Legal Counsel at an American travel technology company 


“AI has made jobs easier and some replacements are on hold as AI can do the job.” – Nirev Shah, Head of Legal at a payments company

At the same time, we do see new roles being created. As aptly put by a Data Privacy legal counsel at a Chinese technology giant, “We are hiring people to develop and manage the AI tech instead of just hiring lawyers”. In the future, we will likely see more legal technologist roles1 emerge.

While about 80% of respondents stated that they have not seen a change in hiring practices, many acknowledged that it is likely just a matter of time. In future, legal technology will become more advanced, more widely adopted and will definitely affect hiring practices. 

4. Changes which jobseekers wish to see in legal recruitment 

In today’s employees job market, the opinions of jobseekers become increasingly important. The most common wish among respondents was to see greater transparency in the salary budget and job scope 

“There should be a better idea of the team that one is joining as well as opportunities for career advancement within the new organisation. Right now, most of this information is either not available or given very late in the recruitment process.” – Partner at a Big 4 law firm in Singapore 

Another 15% of respondents mentioned that the last drawn salary should not be a big factor in deciding the pay of a new employee. Employers should look at the existing skills the candidate has and their exact experience. 

“I think that while Post-Qualification Experience (PQE) is a good benchmark to ascertain a candidate’s seniority, it’s also important to note the sort of exposure or work the candidate has done. A candidate in a smaller outfit may have had huge growth owing to the need to be more in tandem with the needs of the company which may not be something someone else in a larger, more established in-house team may be exposed to.” APAC Legal Counsel at a payments company 

Some have also suggested dedicated job portals for the legal industry, as well as more job and networking fairs dedicated to specific segments of lawyers. We found that the common avenues to find a new job are: 

  • LinkedIn (90%);
  • Recruitment agencies (75%); and
  • Referrals (71%).  

Final Words

The economic uncertainty and the evolving legal landscape have caused anxiety among some legal professionals. However, companies are still hiring. There are opportunities and we encourage you to be open to them. 

Reach out to our consultant here if you require help in your hiring or jobseeking needs in the legal industry. 


We would like to thank all the legal professionals whoparticipatedin our survey and shared their valuable insights.

Eight Talons Consulting


1 Legal technologists assist law firms with implementing technology into their work to help make processes more efficient. For example, they train AI to read contracts and pull out specific clauses to assist teams with large-scale contract reviews.

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