Get up close and personal with the
team members through the interns’ insights
Of the many things that distinguished my experience with the VanillaLaw community, perhaps the most significant is this: I dare say VanillaLaw is unapologetically single-minded in their service of their customer segment, the SMEs, and they structure their every work process and team discussion accordingly. The team adopts many practices which run against the grain of what traditional law firms usually do, but they do so not for the sake of being “counter-culture”. Their flat organisational structure, progressive use of technology and software, and embracing of alternative dispute resolution, are all characteristics that support their one objective and clientele.
That said, this did not limit the cases I saw here to purely corporate work – I had the pleasure of being exposed to several civil and criminal cases, reflective of the clients’ trust of the people here. Notably, sitting into client meetings and hearings got me to engage in the realities of practice, where strategy, civil procedure, and communication with clients came to the fore and had me thinking outside of the silos of legal concepts. I saw how involving the clients in discussions and giving them adequate information and control was crucial to client-centricity.
Interning here was a good balance of being thrown into the deep end and having help available to guide you along. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of trust and autonomy given – I got to understand fully the past and present development of every case I was assigned to, discuss case theory and review contracts, and even communicate with clients on behalf of the team. Committed to training up the next generation, Mark and Vivienne consistently took care to integrate me into their current workflow, rather than creating intern-level tasks or points of research for me to do, and I never felt sidelined or overwhelmed. It was a step outside of my comfort zone, but a manageable one for me to quickly pick up new guiding principles, processes, and skill sets. Thank you also to Boon Chong for taking the time to explain cases and points of law.
I was most eager to know about the firm’s work culture, and found that it did not disappoint. As a young and earnest student, I came in with many misconceptions and ideals, and these have been refined by the conversations I had with the team. Your decades of life advice, dispensed generously, have been formative in shaping the kind of career and lifestyle I want to have, and more importantly the kind of person I would choose to be. The transparency in the team, both across our online work software and across the lunch table, is something that you called “brutally honest”, but that I deeply appreciated.
VanillaLaw is a firm and community sold to its core purpose, and I’ve greatly enjoyed the work and authenticity here.
MY FORTUITOUS ENCOUNTER WITH VANILLALAW
I stumbled upon VanillaLaw by chance, looking to clear my school’s internship requirements, but I did not expect to learn so much from a boutique firm within a short time frame of 2 weeks. For me, having completed 2 internships prior, VanillaLaw was like breath of fresh air, both in terms of culture and the way they functioned.
When I first started, I was surprised to find that VanillaLaw was already experienced with the use of zoom, trello and other online solutions that circumvented the terrific impacts of Covid. They are a firm that is unafraid to wander into the unchartered territories of technology to provide value for their SME clients in ways unheard of. In particular, I was very impressed with the revolutionary VanillaLaw docs that helps clients with drafting in an effective, efficient and low-cost manner, which completely differed from my experience in other firms.
During my short stint at VanillaLaw, I was exposed to many different areas of corporate and litigation work, with the unique part of my experience being that I was thoroughly involved in each assignment from the outset. From being given the opportunity to participate in discussions with clients, to understanding their needs, planning and translating them into agreements, I’ve obtained great insight into how VanillaLaw carefully strategizes and crafts contracts that ensure the protection of the clients’ interests in almost any scenario. From this, I have not only learnt key drafting and planning skills, but more importantly, how to clearly identify the clients’ needs and strategize means to best protect their interests.
I also had the chance to participate in not just the planning and preparations for a litigation assignment, but also be present at the case’s hearings to see my work come to fruition. One in particular that stuck with me was a trial with cross examinations. I found it incredible how our team was able to not only clearly understand the situation and the clients needs, but were able to pinpoint multiple weaknesses in the opposition’s case and execute our case confidently, which swung the case heavily in our favor.
Most important of all, I was inspired by the character of the people that made up the VanillaLaw team. Throughout my 2 weeks, Mark had been consistently respectful and patient in his teaching and guidance, yet firm when it comes to upholding standards. Boon Chong had also put in great efforts to explain to me the complex ideas and procedures in cases whenever I asked. But what surprised me most of all was how every person in the team genuinely cared for the client and each member of the team including myself. They were genuinely concerned for my well-being, often checking up on me to make sure I could handle the work load, and took it upon themselves to ensure that I learn and take away more than what I have contributed to the firm. Up till the start of my experience with VanillaLaw, I had never seen a legal team that embodied optimism, compassion and service in the way VanillaLaw had.
Though my internship has ended, the experience, knowledge and attitude that I’ve gained will stay with me as I look to becoming lawyers like them in the future. Indeed, I have taken away much more than I had initially expected, and much more than what I had contributed in these 2 weeks.
Singapore Management University
4th Year Rising Law Undergraduate
22 October 2020
I thoroughly enjoyed my summer internship with VanillaLaw® LLC. From the very first day, I was already sitting in on client meetings, and getting involved with the drafting of legal documents. If you truly want to experience the work and culture of a boutique firm, with a dedicated team, look no further than VanillaLaw®.
CLIENT CENTRIC ETHOS
Law school teaches you plenty of principles and knowledge, but VanillaLaw® gave me an opportunity to translate all of that into practical use. The experience here also opens your eyes to a new set of considerations – the firm’s client-centric ethos, and holistic view of the interplay between business and law, shape the way they approach cases and issues. The firm focuses on SMEs – both local and international – which sensitised me to the issues that business owners face.
Additionally, I got to have a taste of all kinds of legal work: arbitration, employment law, NDAs and family law were just a few of the areas that I explored during my time with the firm.
OPEN COMMUNICATION CHANNNEL
It did seem overwhelming at first, but one of the things I loved the most about the internship was the openness and warmth. There’s no need to worry about who you should be asking or whether the question is “stupid” – the people here understand that you might need some guidance or a helping hand, and willingly offer both. As long as you’re eager to try, they’ll support you along the way. The emphasis on teaching and the effort to make sure the internship is meaningful for both parties is something that you won’t be able to find easily, and I would like to thank everyone at the firm for welcoming me in. I’ll definitely miss the chats we had at the long table!
I was also impressed by how forward-thinking the firm was, and how prepared they were to deal with the disruptions in the midst of COVID-19. With open communication channels and a whole host of excellent remote-working processes and tools, I never felt like I was being forgotten or left out, and it was easy to access everything I needed to stay updated. VanillaLaw®‘s investment in and comfort with technology, going so far as to develop their own proprietary software (VanillaLaw® Docs), further sets them apart from other firms.
Put aside the lofty ideals and sensationalised drama of Suits – the work being done at VanillaLaw® involves real people, real work, and results in real impact. Come in with an open mind, ready to learn and participate, and it’ll be an experience that stays with you forever.
Chiow Hui Min
Singapore Management University
3rd Year Rising Law Undergraduate
3 August 2020
It is quite difficult to summarise my experience here at VanillaLaw®LLC as a summer intern. But for starters, I would say that it was an eye-opening experience that would stay with me for a long time. Amongst other things, I got to experience working with documents ranging from NDAs to drafting a will, licensing agreements and employment contracts. Everyone here guided me and were quick to answer queries that I might have – something I really appreciated.
A FLAT ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE
VanillaLaw® has a different internal organisation structure – you don’t really experience a hierarchy here. Everyone here talked to me like an equal and are always more than willing to help me with anything that I might have had in mind. This sense of family and equality in status meant that I was brought onboard to all client meetings – where i was encouraged to ask questions during fact finding sessions, and even helped clients fill out forms together on zoom conference calls.
Reflecting on the experiences in this firm – from court hearings and conducting research to drafting forms and meeting clients – I find that I have grown as a person. I’ve learnt to not jump head first into my work, but to stop and plan my approach. I also learnt that in a team, accountability and trust is key – we should always discuss our next steps before embarking on it to make sure we stay on the same page. My time here taught me the importance of teamwork in getting work done, and it’s one of the most unique points of the firm, along with its liberal implementation of technology tools, that i think might have made it this efficient at its work.
A FIRM DEDICATED TO HELPING THE SMEs
The COVID-19 pandemic radically changed how businesses operated, but VanillaLaw® was no stranger to conducting its normal course of business online. VanillaLaw®‘s agility allowed it to flourish in this new normal, which is something I am appreciative to be a part of a firm dedicated to helping SMEs establish a solid foundation for its business needs, VanillaLaw® strongly believes in making the law accessible, and takes a unique approach in doing so. It is proud to support the smaller companies that does so much for our economy, and its innovative technologies and methods have impressed the clients and myself.
I do recommend that future interns who seek to apply to this firm come here with an open heart an open mind. I came to this firm expecting to be involved heavily in corporate work, but I got more than I bargained for. I was exposed to a litany of different practices – commercial litigation, family suits, private client, international commercial arbitration, amongst others. I’m confident that Mark and Vivienne will give you solid advice and exposure just like they had done for me. Do not be afraid to ask questions, even those that might seem trivial. Most importantly, do not be afraid to get your hands dirty – despite the fancy technological innovations that makes everybody’s lives easier, hard work is still a big part of the job here.
I have learnt a lot from my experience in this firm, and I’m confident that the skills taught to me here are some of the greatest takeaways that law school is unlikely to teach me.
Singapore Management University
3rd Year Rising, Law Undergraduate
3 July 2020
My internship experience with VanillaLaw® LLC has been an extremely memorable and insightful one that has taught and exposed me to aspects of practice that law school has been unable to teach me in full. On top of being allowed to shadow lawyers to court, sit in during client meetings and draft basic legal documentation, I was allowed to participate in VanillaLaw®‘s booth exhibit during SME Technology and Innovation Day. It was during this event that I was granted the opportunity to pitch the firm’s innovative legal tech, VanillaLaw® Docs, to SME and Business owners. The event really broadened my horizons as it shattered my initial belief that a lawyer’s skill set is confined to advocacy and legal expertise.
FLAT ORGANISATION STRUCTURE
With a relatively flat organisational structure, the staff were very willing to answer any questions I had during the course of my internship, and provided genuine feedback where appropriate. This contributed greatly to making my experience here a very meaningful and enjoyable one.
CONCURRENT LEGAL AND BUSINESS TEAMS SUPPORT
With the legal and business teams operating concurrently under one roof, they actively challenged my pre-conceived notions of legal practice. The firm’s fundamental belief that business and law have to come together to optimise legal solutions is underscored by the provision of well-tailored business advice during consultations which prioritise the business interests of VanillaLaw®‘s diverse clientele.
Collectively, the two arms of business and law work together to support SMEs at varying stages of maturity. The personal opportunity to witness and experience such synergies during an internship program has definitely been an unparalleled and arguably non-replicable experience.
Ong Boon Chong
Singapore Management University
4th Year Rising, Law Undergraduate
30 July 2018
[Boon Chong has now joined the VanillaLaw® team as a Legal Associate]
Hwa Chong International Schhol
International Baccalaureate Diploma Graduate (2018)