Ben Chester Cheong

Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) (First Class Honours), 2011-2014, University of Exeter
Master of Law (LL.M.) (Commercial Law), 2014-2015, University of Cambridge

Current place of work: Shook Lin & Bok LLP

Ben graduated from the University of Exeter in 2014 with a first class degree in Law. Originally from Singapore, Ben’s undergraduate academic achievements at Exeter helped him secure both a place at the University of Cambridge to study for an LLM and a training contract at Singaporean law firm Shook Lin & Bok LLP. We interviewed Ben to find out more about how his time at Exeter contributed to launching his career in law.

How did your degree prepare you in terms of further study and your career?

The legal skills, the research methodology and the independent learning skills which I acquired at Exeter in the process of completing my dissertation prepared me tremendously for the LL.M. at Cambridge. The experience made me highly adaptable and able to learn new areas of law quickly.

I remembered attending several career events at Exeter with magic circle and other law firms. Partners from the law firms advised us to do well in law school and to be well-prepared for the interviews. They also offered a presentation on interview skills. I thought it was particularly helpful that the firm had some of the partners who previously studied at Exeter to share their own unique experiences.

Besides career events that I have attended, the law school also regularly invited ex-alumni as guest speakers to speak on their areas of expertise during the guest lectures and I found that particularly helpful as it provided an insight into the various career pathways and opportunities available to Exeter law students upon graduation.

Tell us about your training contract and future career plans

Singapore has a fused legal profession, so one would qualify as both a barrister and a solicitor at the same time. The process for qualifying as an advocate & solicitor in Singapore is slightly different for overseas law graduates. I am currently serving out my relevant legal training with Shook Lin & Bok LLP.

I applied for training contracts with various Singapore law firms about 1 month after I started out my LL.M. at Cambridge. It particularly helped that I was a first class graduate at Exeter and I achieved one of the top positions in my year. This helped to ensure that my applications were very competitive. I went through a Skype interview with the hiring partner which went very well and the partner made me the offer of a training contract after the call. I remembered being very happy on securing the training contact.

I intend to qualify as a solicitor in at least one jurisdiction and, at the moment, this would be Singapore. My long-term interest is to obtain a PhD in law. I think legal research/academic life is a highly satisfying and fulfilling experience. I have not thought of what area I would like to complete a PhD in, but I am certainly very interested in both corporate and public law.

What advice would you give to current students who may want to follow in your footsteps?

To do well in law school, one must read very widely and from various legal resources. For many law subjects, there are copious amounts of legal literature on it. My advice is not to stick with one textbook but to use various textbooks in tandem to expound and consolidate the learning process.

To improve understanding on a particular topic, read the journals as well as other textbooks. I personally think that the onerous reading lists reflect the demands of law practice. As a trainee, the hours are long and the workload can be heavy at times. Law school is a good training and preparatory stage for a legal career and if one can keep to the reading lists and prepare for all the tutorials and lectures, I think this would put them in good stead for law practice. The long hours that one has to put in as a law student is quite reflective of the reality of practice life and I think that law school is a good training ground in that aspect.