As a lawyer, Samuel’s days are filled with client meetings, time in Court, and going through file after file, but at night, he assumes a different role. “I try to spend most of my nights doing what I love — doing research and reading up on garment drafting, fitting processes, and techniques, and practising my skills in the same area,” he says. “I draft contracts in the day, and clothes in my free time.” It might sound like Samuel leads a packed double life, but he seems pretty happy with what he’s doing — he’s even taking up an invitation from a local university to teach law as an adjunct lecturer. “What and honour and privilege — I’m stoked!” Samuel takes pride in dressing well, and has a strict, self-enforced “no casual Fridays” dress rule; today is clearly not an exception. We steal a few moments of Samuel’s time and speak to him about his work, his after-work pursuits, and his envy for his pet cat.
1. Describe a typical day at work.
This is going to be difficult since my work day never really ends — I’m a member of a practice that is very client-centric, and it is our responsibility to be contactable 24/7 to deal with any exigencies that may arise. We work on cross-jurisdiction files very often with clients and/or other lawyers who are based in different time zones, so there have been occasions where we have had to take calls in the wee hours of the morning. It’s about letting the clients know that we are with them every step of the way.
But assuming a work day starts when I (try to) open my eyes in the morning after a few hours of sleep, I’m a Christian and start my mornings with a simple prayer for grace, favour, and supply to meet the challenges of the day (the first of which is getting psyched up for work in the face of the human traffic on board the train). I try to do as much as I can before even getting into the office, such as calling my secretary to go through a list of to-dos. My Partner is very engaged on the files and does the same with me, and it’s usually just a matter of who gets to the phone first to make the call. I usually have about 15 minutes to do this, that being the amount of time it takes before the train enters the underground tunnels, which, to my ire, cuts off my reception. I spend a good part of the morning sorting through and replying e-mails, and the rest of the day is spent either going to Court, drafting documents, or attending client meetings, lunches, or dinners. I keep my fingers crossed for work to be kind to me but when push comes to shove we need to pull some late nights. That said, I don’t particularly enjoy having the sun go down on me and prefer taking work home if possible. There aren’t that many distractions at home so I’m usually able to focus and remain productive. A good shower helps too.
After spending some time researching and working on garment drafting, I then watch completely inane videos on YouTube or read irrelevant articles on Wikipedia until my phone drops on my face and I fall asleep. Don’t judge — they provide conversation fodder.
2. If you could start your own business or company, what would it deal with, and why?
I’d start a clothier of sorts that doesn’t take life or itself too seriously, and that recognises that there is so much more to life than just looking good. The focus should be on engaging the person with sincerity and on dressing the person as a human being for who he or she is, a composite whole of his or her experiences, and not just for the sake of creating a veneer. Why? I like people who are well dressed and are comfortable in their own skin, and who know that there is more to them than just their clothes. It is one thing to know your fabrics and what goes into your clothes, and be tasteful about cut and fit, but another thing altogether to be completely self-obsessed and miss the woods for the trees. While I recognise that a lot of this is subjective and a matter of individual taste, I think there is a certain attractiveness about people who are confident, which, beyond speaking well (and talking sense, of course), usually involves them taking pride in their own dressing. Conversely, there is a certain unattractiveness about peacocks who preen themselves at every given opportunity. It is unfortunate that the industry often feeds and capitalises on people’s insecurities to flourish. There are too many stressors in life; one’s wardrobe shouldn’t be one of them. I know this sounds like fluff. Easier said than done.
3. What drives and inspires you to continue to do what you do, day in and out?
While we might seem to be cogs in a machine, the knowledge that the things I do at work have a direct impact in the grander scheme of things keeps me going. I enjoy that a bulk of my work revolves around corporate restructuring and insolvency, which allows me to gain a better understanding as to how and why companies fail, and how to bring them back from the jaws of death. I also have the loveliest colleagues, who never fail to provide me with intellectual (and completely non-intellectual) stimuli. Besides, there are bills on the table that won’t pay themselves.
4. What do you think about entrepreneurship in Singapore? Eg. Are there more opportunities for entrepreneurs? Is it becoming easier or more difficult for people to start their own businesses?
Singapore is great for entrepreneurs, with opportunities aplenty. I am seeing an increasing number of people turn their hobbies into clever money-making activities, without requiring too much initial capital outlay. Perhaps one of the bigger obstacles remaining for many aspiring entrepreneurs is an averse risk appetite, especially for those who feel adequately comfortable in their existing careers.
5. If there’s one piece of advice you would like to give anyone who is just starting his/her career, or his/her own business, what would it be? Or, what is the one most important thing you’ve learnt in your years at work?
Live, laugh, and love — at the end of the day, it’s the relationships that matter.
6. If you could wear a uniform of sorts to work for the rest of your life, what would that outfit consist of, and why?
I like being comfortable. In an ideal world, I would work in my pyjamas. But that’s definitely not going to happen anytime soon.
7. Tell us something interesting about yourself. What do you do in your spare time? Any unusual hobbies? A childhood pastime? Favourite book/movie/music genre? Role model in life? Anything that you can come up with at the top of your head.
I like doing up clothes for myself and for others. I also enjoy composing and arranging music on my digital audio workstation. My role model is my cat, who gets a lot of affection without doing very much and doesn’t take nonsense from no one. But alas, not all of us are adorable enough to do that — being a house cat is a luxury reserved for the privileged few.
8. Do you have any philosophies, mottoes or quotes that you’re living by right now?
Everything I could possibly say in response to this question will sound like a cliché. I like “live, laugh, love”. I do live by it!