Archive for the ‘Lawyers’ Interviews’ Category

Coffee Talk with MWLEC

Friday, March 17th, 2017

(This article is reproduced with the permission of the Malaysian Women Legal Counsel Association (MWLEC)).

Our Eddie Law recently had a great time chatting over cups of coffee with the vibrant individuals from the Malaysian Women Legal Counsel Association, also known as MWLEC.

MWLEC is a new association which has been set up specifically with the aim of providing support and useful insights to female in-house counsels in Malaysia, in order to help them advance in their chosen careers and increase their marketability. This dynamic association provides its members with the latest legal updates, news, as well as valuable training programs in order to stay relevant in this competitive field.

In the interview, Eddie had the opportunity to share his knowledge and expertise on various issues such as the latest development in the legal recruitment industry, must-have criteria to succeed as in-house counsels, tips on training needs and the overall market outlook for the legal industry. Read on!

eddie2COFFEE TALK WITH EDDIE, THE FOUNDER OF ELAWYER

  1. In this digital era, has there been any change in terms of the tools used by the hiring manager to assess a candidate?

Eddie: Well, some hiring managers these days are checking online profiles of potential candidates via major social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook to have a better understanding of the candidate. Therefore, it is advisable to maintain a presentable profile online.

On another note, more and more companies have also adopted the online Psychometric Tests to screen candidates. The Psychometric Test is used to gauge the candidates’ suitability for a role by determining if the candidate possesses the personality, characteristics and aptitude required for a specific role. Surprisingly, many candidates who seem to be articulate and appear to be “smart” during interview were unable to do well in the said test.

  1. Based on your experience, what was the most unusual request you received from a hiring manager before they conduct its first interview with a candidate?

Eddie: On one occasion, an employer requested me to provide information on the marital status of female candidate and if she is married, whether she has children and the age of the children. The reason behind such unusual request is that the employer prefers candidate who could commit to long work hours as and when required. The employer also mentioned that they have had a history of former female employees taking emergency leave frequently to attend to the needs of her young family.

Please do bear in mind that this was an exceptional case, most employers do not have such a preference. I personally think that with the current development in technology, there is increasing flexibility in how work can be performed. Hence, this change will benefit young mothers and empower them in their work. Employers should abandon this biased mentality as they could “miss out” on hiring young mothers with great talent.

  1. What type of training would you encourage an in-house counsel to attend in order for them to maintain their employability?

 

Eddie: In addition to attending trainings to sharpen their existing skill set, in-house counsels should attend industrial trainings. It is crucial for in-house counsels to have a better understanding of the industry trend so that they can provide more practical and strategic advice to the business without depending on an external lawyer. In depth knowledge of the industry is the differentiating factor between an in-house counsel and external lawyer.

 

Last but not least, leadership and managerial trainings are equally important for an in-house counsel. A successful corporate counsel is not merely a technical expert but also a great leader/people manager. Without good leadership and people management skills, it will be very challenging to lead a team.  An in-house counsel has to deal with co-workers from various levels of the organisation so they must possess good people skills in order to perform their functions effectively.

 

  1. What is your advice for someone who newly joins in-house position from a law firm?

 

Eddie: This is my advice to you:-

  1. Be humble and be humble! I must say that assuming the role of an in-house counsel is more than just providing legal advice. It is very challenging as you are expected to think like a commercial lawyer, so you need to learn how to be more commercially savvy. You will also need to know how to deal with/manage people of different levels of seniority and background to ensure effective communication and work harmoniously with each of them. Your work will not be purely legal, it will also involve the “operational” aspect of the business so you need to learn to be more flexible in your thinking, to provide more practical and relevant advice for the business (as opposed to giving pure “legal” advice only). You need to understand the industry and business operations of the company. It is quite obvious that a former lawyer who turns to becoming an in-house counsel has many things to learn so they should be more open to learning those things.
  2. Communicate, communicate and communicate! I have observed so many private practitioners struggling to adjust themselves into the corporate working culture. In particular, former lawyers find that people management/engagement is the most challenging aspect in a corporate working environment. In fact, all of these issues can be resolved with better communication and by being more diplomatic as and when you approach the business. Hostile confrontation and sarcasm will only ruin working relationships with co-workers and hinder your advancement in climbing the corporate ladder.

 

  1. Tell us about yourself and eLawyer.

 

Eddie: I am a lawyer turned legal recruiter. I started my career in private practice, before working as an in-house counsel. In 2007, I started a law portal called eLawyer.com.my (“eLawyer”) and began providing legal recruitment services around the year 2009. eLawyer provides two main services which are “Online Job Board Listing” and “Executive Search Service”.

 

My working experience in a law firm and as a corporate counsel sets me apart from normal recruiters, as I better understand the needs and requirements of both employers and candidates. I believe this enables me to make a better match between employer and candidate.

 

As of today, eLawyer has successfully helped more than 500 legal talents in securing their ideal jobs (excluding those who secure jobs through the online job listing board) and has served more than 500 law firms and corporations in recruitment.  There are more than 7,500 lawyers registered with us.

 

  1. For the past 9 years in eLawyer, do you see an increase in the in-house legal post in Malaysia? Yes/no, why?

 

Eddie: Yes, I see more and more in house jobs available in the market  because more companies are becoming aware of the importance of having an in-house counsel, there are more stringent regulatory requirements, and it saves cost (when a company grows to a certain size, having an in-house lawyer can help to save on legal fees).

 

  1. How would you describe a good in-house counsel?

 

Eddie: I would say a good in-house counsel is:-

 

  • a trusted counsel by the senior management and team members.
  • able to understand the business of the employer well.
  • able to offer strategic and practical legal advice.
  • a good team leader and effective manager.
  • a person who has good legal skill and a business mind.

 

  1. Can you share with us, what would be the overall market outlook for in-house legal jobs in year 2017?

 

Eddie: Due to the slowdown in the economy (or at least with the perceived slowdown), there may not be as many new openings in the job market. That being said, there are still many existing job vacancies available. In any economic condition, talented and capable people will always be sought-after.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with the Managing Partner of the largest law firm in Malacca – Mr Wong Fook Meng (Chee Siah Le Kee & Partners)

Friday, December 12th, 2014

fook meng

This is an exclusive interview with Wong Fook Meng, the Managing Partner of Chee Siah Le Kee & Partners, a firm of 13 lawyers and over 40 support staff in Malacca.

1. Hi Fook Meng, most of the people who visit the E Lawyer website are from Kuala Lumpur and are looking for jobs in Kuala Lumpur. You are one of our clients outside of the Klang Valley. Can you tell us a little bit more about life in Malacca and why you       choose to practice in Malacca? 

I actually started my legal practice in Kuala Lumpur and was working in the law firm of Mah Weng Kwai &Associates. I really enjoyed the robust litigation practice in Kuala Lumpur and Mr Mah was an excellent boss and mentor. However, I decided to relocate to Malacca as it is my hometown.

Practicing in Malacca affords me the opportunity to balance work with other important life commitments. The people in my firm work incredibly hard. But, we are spared the heavy traffic and crowded environment of the big cities. On most days, we can still spend a full evening at home with our loved ones. This is very important especially for those with young families as you get to invest your time and energy to building your family rather than giving them your emotional leftovers.  We also have more time to contribute to worthy causes. Many of our partners provide leadership or play   active roles in charitable organizations, NGO and also the local Bar Committee.

Like most State Bars, the Malacca Bar is a close knitted community of lawyers. You know most of the practitioners in your field of practice and there is a strong sense of community as some of your fellow lawyers become your very close friends. Malacca is also a city which has a lot of historical and cultural heritage and not to mention some of the best culinary specialties in the country (please don’t get me started on the food topic!).  Property prices are also relatively much lower compared to other places such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Baru.

 

2. Please share with us more about your firm e.g. history, areas of practice, current team members & etc?

Our firm was founded by Mr Chee Kong Chi in 1981. Over the years, it had grown to be one of the larger firms outside the Klang Valley. We currently have 13 lawyers and over 40 support staff. We have 3 practice groups : Civil Litigation, Corporate Finance and Commercial Banking and Conveyancing and Retail Banking.

Most of our clients are institutional clients such as financial institutions, public listed companies, property developers, manufacturers, hoteliers, politicians and even non-profit organizations. Many of our clients are captains of industries and entrepreneurs. As such, you rarely have a dull day in the office as you engage with some of the movers and shakers of industries in your daily work.

As an example, we are involved in providing legal services for the Hatten Group and the Kerjaya Prospek Group which had both launched innovative developments which are changing the Malacca property landscape. We are glad to be a part of how entrepreneurs are making a difference in the community in Malacca.

 

3. What is the working culture in your law firm? What values do you embrace in the workplace?

We strive hard to create a strong collegiate spirit within the office. We are like a warm close knitted family where everyone works hard and try not to let the others down. Underpinning our friendly working environment is a solid focus on creating a high performing culture where we go the extra mile to deliver outstanding results to the clients.

Our clients are the driving force behind our practice. As such, we have a very high commitment to deliver high quality legal work and services to our clients. The sense of professionalism and dedication to our tasks is very strongly entrenched in our firm.

People often think that they need to choose between being friendly and productive. We believe in the proposition that we can deliver outstanding work without being abrasive or unfriendly. There is a lot of respect and warmth within the firm and this is the same attitude that we bring with us as we engage with our clients. The “kam cheng” value is one that is consistently practiced in our daily work.

Recently  our tea lady fell ill due to dengue fever. The senior partners of the firm visited her in the hospital and brought along papaya juice and the consultant literally fed her with some Chinese medicinal supplements. During the economic downturn in 2009, we gave out our own “BRIM” of RM500.00 cash assistance to everyone in the firm. At times, when a particular staff cannot locate a missing document, everyone in the firm stop work and help to locate the missing document. These are stories which demonstrate our strong team commitment. It is just part of our firm’s DNA.

We also practice inclusiveness in our workplace. We hired a young adult with learning disability as our internal despatch. He zips around the office delivering documents from one floor to the other. Our team members treat him like one of their own younger brothers and always feed him with food and snacks to the extent that we have to discourage the practice as he was getting obese! We also have physically handicapped team members who do secretarial work.

We also use technology to improve our efficiency. With the smart phones and tablets in our hands, we can stay connected and do quick research on the go. I was recently on a three weeks trip to the United States of America. Our partners are often overseas or outstation. But, we stay connected at all times and monitor important assignments with the aid of technology.

 

 4. It is interesting that you said your team is committed to going the extra mile to deliver results for the clients. A lot of employers complain about Gen Y lawyers being unwilling to go the extra mile. How does CSiLK motivate their young lawyers to go the extra mile?

We always remind our young lawyers that we are a firm of professionals and that our clients’ interests are of paramount importance. We need to work hard to ensure that our clients’ interests are fully protected by the instrument of the law. Also, we need to take pride and ownership in our work as it is a reflection of our own personal character.

Besides that, we also believe that people will work hard when they are properly compensated. The financial returns must commensurate with the amount of time and energies invested. We fully believe in sharing the fruits of our labours together.

Lastly, we create a supporting environment for our young lawyers to learn and grow. People will do their best when they know you genuinely care for their welfare and development, both on a professional and personal level.

 

5. Do you have any talent development or training programmes in your firm for young lawyers?

We believe that our young lawyers represent the future of our firms. We are always looking for talented and dedicated young lawyers who are serious in growing their careers.

We have a lot of internal training both in legal skills and practice development skills. We also send our lawyers for legal seminars and conferences in Kuala Lumpur and other places for them to keep abreast with legal developments. Once a month, we have a Starbucks discussion with our lawyers where we discuss some leadership principles over coffee. In 2013, we had management consultant and author of Barefoot Leadership, Alvin Ung, to conduct a series of leadership development training for our lawyers. We also have Friday lunches where we do legal updates.

But, the most important training is on the job training. Partners will work together with associates on more complex assignments. Through the partnership in working on actual files, we hope to do skill transfer from partners to associates and raise everyone’s game.

The learning is also mutual where partners are also listening to and learning from the young lawyers especially when it comes to technology and understanding how younger clients think and operate.

Our main goal is to support our young lawyers’ career path and help them to grow to be trusted advisors to our clients.

Our firm also believe in continuous development for everyone including the partners. We need to constantly grow our skills and knowledge or face the risk of becoming stagnant or obsolete. Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing two eminent barristers from United Kingdom, Edwin Glasgow QC and Desmond Browne QC for Praxis. I learnt so much from these two gentlemen on how to refine our art of advocacy. Talent development is a daily and never ending process in our firm.

 

6. Are there any “out-of work” activities that you organize for your staff?

The highlight of our firm is the bi annual overseas team building trips. So far, we have been to countries such as South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Indonesia and Thailand.  Every confirmed staff in the office is entitled to go for these trips including the tea ladies and the drivers. You can also bring your spouses and children along. Yes, it costs a lot financially but you cannot put a monetary value on forging bonds of trust and friendships within the firm. During these trips, team members often share more deeply about their life stories and all these cement the strength of the relationships within the firm. And it is a great joy to especially have team members’ children in our trips who never fail to brighten up the atmosphere.

 

7. Many young lawyers are looking for jobs which gives them “work-life-balance”, what is your view on this?

What constitutes the ideal work life balance is dependent on each person. Each one of us is unique and have our own individual values that we embrace.

As a rule of thumb, young lawyers who are starting out in practice should invest a greater amount of time in building a strong foundation for their practice. This inevitably will involve longer hours at work. But, if you are interested in your work, investing the time in doing a good job and learning the law is an enjoyable pursuit rather than an endurance test.

If you are able to deliver excellent quality of work over the long haul, then you can earn some flexibility in your schedule. For example, taking a longer vacation or doing pro bono work. Most employers are willing to give you the flexibility for “work life balance” if you are first a high performer in your work.

On a personal level, I am a firm believer in work life balance. One should never sacrifice important things like family, friendships, health and a well-rounded development on the altar of monetary gains. That’s foolish chasing after the wind. There’s a life to be pursued and enjoyed outside the office.

 

8. Can you share with us, what would you look for in a lawyer before you hiring him/her?

Firstly, someone who has a good grasp of basic legal principles, excellent comprehension of facts and issues and the ability to apply legal principles to solve clients’ problems.

Secondly, we look for people who are keen in creating value for others.  Many young lawyers are interested in what they can get instead of what they can give. But, it is only as we create value for clients that the financial and non-financial rewards will come.

Thirdly, the law is a people business. As such, someone with a winsome personality who can engage well with clients will have an added advantage.

On this note, we are in the constant look for talented lawyers and legal secretaries to join our expanding team. Should any want to know more about working with us, please send your application to me directly at wong@csilk.com.my

 

9. I understand that your firm is the largest in Malacca. Can you name 3 significant factors / reasons which get your firm to be where it is today?

Firstly, our non-negotiable value of integrity and honesty. We are highly committed to handling each transaction in a professional manner so that our clients can sleep at peace at night when they entrust their matters and monies to us. In an age when so many people and institutions fail due to a lack of integrity, we have an absolute commitment to be a law firm which can be fully trusted by our clients.

Secondly, our ability to listen to and understand our clients’ business and needs better. We work hard to comprehend our clients’ differing commercial needs and see how to tailor our legal services to help further our clients’ interests within reason and the confines of the law. We work together with our clients on picking the winning strategies for their matters. At the end of the day, our clients look to us as their trusted advisors to help them navigate the troubled waters of litigation or the complex maze of a commercial transaction.

Thirdly, our kam cheng value. We grow and nurture our relationships with our clients and also with each other within the firm. Many of our staff have been with us for more than 20 years. We just enjoy working with each other ( well..at least most of the time!). And, we are always looking for like-minded people who share our values to join us and be part of our growing team. I would love to personally meet or speak to anyone who is interested to start or grow their legal careers in Malacca.

The Wind in Her Sails

Monday, July 14th, 2014

(This article has been published in Praxis April-June 2014 Supplement )

The Praxis Legal Career supplement navigates the tides of maritime law with Ms Rahayu of Rahayu Partnership in this one-to-one interview.

Q: Ms Rahayu, we understand that your firm is specialised in the practice of maritime law. May I know of the type of works included in this area of practice?

Rahayu Partnership (“RP”): Maritime Law is a dynamic, niche, yet vast area of legal expertise. It takes experience and specialisation to excel. It demands understanding the breadth and depth of the law and having some familiarity with the maritime industry to be able to contextualise its legal demands. As with most areas of legal practice, the work encompasses both the contentious and non-contentious variety.

A complete maritime law firm would have the following legal expertise in its portfolio:

Contentious work: charterparty disputes, bill of lading disputes and other maritime contractual disputes relating to international trade and sale of goods, marine insurance subrogated recoveries, admiralty and ship arrest including collision, pollution and personal injury claims etc. Such matters would require expertise and jurisprudence of the procedures involved in the areas of litigation and ADR, i.e. arbitration and mediation.

Non-contentious work: ship sale and purchase, advising on international contract for the carriage of goods by sea and contracts for the sale and purchase of goods, drafting and reviewing of commercial documents relating to freight forwarding and logistics, shipbuilding and repair, ship financing, marine insurance claims and risk management. Such matters would require an understanding in the areas of corporate and commercial law.

For more information on the firm, you may visit www.rahayupartnership.com
Q:  What differentiates a maritime lawyer from a lawyer who practises in other areas of law?  

RP: Like most specialists, one needs to have passion for one’s calling in life. With passion comes dedication and commitment. One could say that a “Maritime Lawyer” is not the same as a “Lawyer who does Maritime”.

Q:  Why did you choose to venture into such a niche area of practice?

RP: Charterparties! My first exposure to maritime law was when I chambered under a maritime law practitioner and had to deal with instructions requiring an understanding of the workings and complexities of a bill of lading and charterparties.

Q: How would you describe the work culture in your firm?

RP: As maritime lawyers, we invest our time and resources to first meet and satisfy clients’ needs and at the same time to build a learning culture. We have strong work ethics in collaborating closely with our clients, and spend more time rendering sound legal advice as opposed to mere litigation alone. We prioritise ourselves as solutions providers and problem solvers rather than just litigators and administrators. On top of that, we invest more time networking with the maritime industry players rather than just the legal fraternity.

Q: Does your clientele consist only of shipping companies?  

RP: Domestically, our clients include insurers for cargo, hull and machinery, shipbuilders, shipowners, venture capitalists, bankers, financial institutions, marine contractors, offshore players, port operators, liability insurers, freight forwarders, logistics service providers and commodity traders. Internationally, we work closely with the P&I Clubs and its correspondents, foreign law firms and recovery agents, amongst others.

 Q: What would be your top requirements or criteria in hiring associates/lawyers?  

RP: First, passion in shipping law. A maritime lawyer must also have the critical-, analytical- and systemic-thinking skills and creativity of a problem solver. Finally, tenacity, perseverance and a certain relentlessness in pursuit of a solution. One must possess strong self-motivation in overcoming hurdles and be driven to progress because maritime law is often a lengthy, time-consuming area of practice.

A young lawyer wishes to venture into maritime law practice should be prepared to do research, research, research, and then more research! Many issues will be unfamiliar to you at first, so shooting from the hip is dangerous. Look for mentors and be like a sponge – absorb everything. With time, you will develop speed and accuracy in your advice, the two most valuable assets a maritime lawyer can have.

 

PRAXIS Interviews: Mathew Thomas Philip, Founder and Managing Partner of THOMAS PHILIP

Monday, July 14th, 2014
 
(This article has been published in Praxis April-June 2014 Supplement)

1. Why has Thomas Philip  decided to focus  solely on dispute resolution? 

Shortly after I founded the firm in 2004, I decided that for us to grow, it was best that we stuck to doing what we knew best. Luckily, that strategy worked out well for us.  We have now grown to a  13-lawyer law firm focusing solely on dispute resolution.

2. What has  influenced the way that you have managed Thomas Philip?

I am a strong believer in  the concept of a  quadruple  bottom line with the “4 Ps”: People, Purpose, Planet and Profit.

3. How is this reflected in the  lives of  the lawyers at Thomas Philip?

We invest in the growth of our people. We expect our lawyers to have a higher purpose than just money-making in their practice of the  law.  We set aside 10 per cent of our time and 1 per cent of our gross income for pro bono and CSR work so that we may make a difference to our the planet in some meaningful way.   We strive for  profit optimization not  profit maximization.  These are the cornerstones of our 4 Ps practice.

4. What are your aspirations for people who join  Thomas Philip?

I would like like for them to find their true  purpose and calling  in life.

5. What is the firm’s philosophy on partnership?

When we recruit, we recruit for partnership potential and try our best to give our people the best opportunities for partnership.

6. What do you do to fulfil your corporate social responsibilities (CSR)?

There are 4 areas. Firstly  over the next 5 years we are the main sponsor for the MLTIC web portal, a portal providing free access to legal information to the public; Secondly, we strongly support the development  of our future lawyers, particularly law students in our local law schools.  We sponsor book prizes, moot clubs, moot competitions, and other advocacy related activities – we have just agreed to sponsor the UiTM Moot Team over the next 5 years. Thirdly,  we support our Bar , providing sponsorship for the Malaysian bench and Bar games.  Fourthly, we organise various charitable outreach events and target one organisation each  year to provide tangible help.  We were pleasantly surprised to be nominated for the 2014 Asian Legal Business Awards for “CSR Law Firm of the Year” in a field of much larger firms.

7.  What kind of pro bono work do you do?

We  have a varied portfolio of pro bono work, current examples being a right to information case which went all the way up to the Federal Court, a wrongful death claim against the authorities,  and an accident claim for a low-income family.  Our lawyers  are expected to spend 10 per cent of their time in pro bono and CSR work and they also have flexibility in their choice of pro bono work.

8.  Let’s talk about money. Why do you pay above-average rates for your pupils (RM3,500.00) and first year associates (RM5,000.00)?

That appears to me a fair proposition for the results we are expecting from them.

9. So what kind of lawyers are you looking for?

All kinds!  What we are after, is diversity.  At different times and different situations, we will be looking for people with different skill sets and strengths.

10. What training do you provide to your  lawyers?

All lawyers have a training budget which they utilise for off-site training.  On-site,  every Thursday at 7 pm, our lawyers, pupils and paralegals are required to give presentations on their selected areas of law to the firm.  This helps them hone their advocacy and public speaking skills. Apart from technical skills, we emphasise the importance of business development, which is everyone’s business at Thomas Philip, not just the partners.  So the firm organises weekly events, usually on Thursdays at 8 p.m  at which our lawyers can network with invited guests at our as part of our business development initiative.

11. What is the average time frame for a fresh graduate to be offered partnership at the firm?

Partnership requires maturity in thinking, not just technical skill sets.  This level of maturity and a genuine belief in the philosophy and values of the firm can only truly be realised by being “tried and tested” over time, perhaps  after the fresh graduate  has been with the firm for about  4 to 5 years.

12. From the perspective of recruitment of pupils, how do you differentiate your firm from other litigation firms?

I can think of 4 things. First, our pupils are allowed and expected to conduct trials in the Magistrates Court. We believe that the best way to learn is by doing. Second,  they have to be in the Appellate courts once a week to observe the best advocates at work as part of their advocacy training.  Third, they are expected to do moot trials regularly based on upcoming real cases.  Fourth, our pupils are offered a 1-week all expenses paid internship with a law firm in an Asean Country to broaden their experience at the end of their pupillage.

 

 

Common Bar Exam

Friday, April 10th, 2009

(Reproduced with permission of the KL Bar Publications Committee. This article first appeared in Relevan Issue No. 0208)

There has been much discourse lately on whether there should be a common examination for all law graduates before they enter the legal profession. The President of the Malaysian Bar, Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevesan, was quoted by the New Sunday Times (April 6, 2006) as saying that there was a need for “…… a common examination for all law graduates entering the legal profession, irrespective of where they had pursued their undergraduate degrees.”

The former Minister of Law in the Prime Minister’s Department is reported to have said (in the New Straits Times, May 15, 2006) that “…… the government was looking into introducing a Bar Vocational Course and whether such a model, practiced in the United Kingdom, could be implemented locally.” Relevan speaks to Steven Thiru, Chairman of the Professional Standards and Development Committee of the Bar Council and a member of the Bar Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on the Common Bar Course, for his views on these developments :-

Q: Do we need a Common Bar Course (“CBC”) as a single entry point into the legal profession in Malaysia?
A: Yes. It would be an important step in our efforts to improve quality at the Bar. It would enable us to deal with the source of the problem, viz, the general deterioration in legal education. A uniform training scheme, in the form of the CBC, would certainly contribute towards enhancing standards.

Q: Is the Bar Council in favour of the CBC, particularly as a replacement of the Certificate of Legal Practice (CLP) and if so, what steps have the Bar Council taken?
A: The Bar Council has advocated for the CBC since the mid 1980’s. We have consistently taken the stand that the CBC should be the ultimate filter for entry into the legal profession. In May this year the Bar Council set up the Ad-Hoc Committee on the CBC. The Committee consist of experienced practitioners1, a senior academician (and formerly a senior practitioner)2 and the senior manager (standards) of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency3.

Q: Can you tell us about the work of the Bar Council’s Ad-Hoc Committee on the CBC?
A: The Committee’s primary task was to craft the syllabus and course content for the proposed CBC. In this regard, we were required to also consider and implement, where possible, the position taken by the Bar Council in the various working papers on the CBC. These were prepared between 1989 to 2003 and include the Morrison Report (1989), Seeking Quality : Bar Council’s Memorandum on Legal Education Reform And Qualifications For Entry Into The Legal Profession (1993), Report on the Review of the CLP (2002) and Bar Council Memorandum On Legal Education Reform (2003).

Q: Has the Committee completed its work?
A: Yes, we have. We have prepared a draft CBC framework which takes into account the Bar Council’s views over the past two decades. We have also made a number fresh proposals which we believe will revolutionise legal training and put us on par with other modern schemes the world-over. The draft CBC proposal is, however, still work-in-progress as it is pending approval by the Bar Council. It is to be tabled for debate at our next Council meeting on October 11, 2008.

Q: Can you tell us the approach adopted by the Committee?
A: As a starting point, the Committee considered the prevailing post-graduate professional training programmes (ie. for advocates and solicitors/barristers and solicitors) in other commonwealth jurisdictions, namely the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada. The experiences of these other jurisdictions were useful as a guideline. However, the Committee did not lose sight of the fact that the profession in Malaysia is fused. Thus, the draft CBC proposal is not a wholesale reproduction of any one of these other jurisdictions (eg. the Bar Vocational Programme in the United Kingdom). The Committee has nevertheless adopted certain critical aspects of these programmes and inculcated them into the draft CBC proposal.

Q: But, will the CBC be just another CLP with a new label?
A: It would not be. We were conscious of the weaknesses in the CLP. We found it to be outdated and it certainly does not, in our view, serve the requirements of the modern legal profession. Also, a survey of the developments in the other jurisdictions show that there has been a demonstrable shift in focus to practical training based on experiential learning and practical/vocational training. The CLP is, regrettably, still largely mired in the old school academic/black-letter law approach sans practical training.

Q: What is the underlying principle for the proposed CBC?
A: The main principle is that it will serve as a single entry point into the legal profession in Malaysia regardless of where the undergraduate qualification is obtained (locally or from foreign universities/colleges of law). There may of course be a list of recognized universities/colleges of law (local and international) which would be determined by the Legal Qualifying Board. This is consistent with the Bar Council’s stand that “…… the check on quality will not be at the undergraduate level ie. entry into law schools but at the professional entry level ie. professional qualifications for entry into the Bar. Thus the final check would be at the entry level into the legal profession.” (see the Bar Council’s Memorandum On Legal Education Reform of 3.1.2003)

Q: Has the Committee also drawn up the objectives of the proposed CBC?
A: Yes. There are broadly six primary objectives and they are as follows :-
(1) The focus of the CBC should be on skills/practical training (as opposed to testing on legal knowledge) to equip the “student-at-law” for legal practice in Malaysia.
(2) The vocational nature of the training will be complimented with academic (substantive law) elements, only where necessary. Thus, the CBC will not deal with substantive law, which should remain the domain of the universities/law colleges.
(3) The CBC must combine the modern experience of other commonwealth jurisdictions and our peculiar requirements (in a fused profession, with the inherent weaknesses).
(4) The CBC should prepare the “student-at-law” for the first two years of practice.
(5) The CBC should also enable the “student-at-law” to choose (if they so desire) to become either an advocate (litigation) or a solicitor (non-litigation). This is achieved by giving the student-at-law the option to fashion their training to cater for their choice.
(6) The CBC must deal with some of the shortcomings in pupillage and enhance the training during pupillage.

Q: What would be the course structure for the CBC?
A: We have proposed that the CBC be conducted in five semesters over a period of twenty months (inclusive of pupillage). In this regard, the first three semesters will entail full time study whilst the remaining two semesters will be conducted part-time together with pupillage. Further, Semester 1, 2 and 3 will consists of compulsory subjects. In semesters 4 and 5 (where the “students-at-law” would be undergoing pupillage), there would be a mixture of compulsory subjects and electives. As noted earlier, by their choice of the electives, the “student-at-law” (now pupil) can start tailoring their training to suit their preferred choice of practice (litigation or non litigation).

Q: Will the CBC be the death knell for pupillage?
A: The Committee is of the view that pupillage should be retained albeit with a reduction in its duration. In this regard, the Committee has proposed that CBC should run partly parallel with pupillage. As stated above, the student-at-law will undertake the CBC on a full-time basis in the first three semesters. They will then begin their pupillage and continue with semesters four and five of the CBC on a part-time basis. The incorporation of pupillage into the CBC will hopefully deal with some of the shortcomings in the training of our pupils. It will allow pupils to easily compare the level of training that they are receiving from their masters with their peers. Moreover, if there are weaknesses, the dual effect of “peer-learning” and participation in the part-time CBC programme would provide a safety net.

Q: How would the CBC deal with the crescendo of complaints that we hear about the legal profession today?
A: It is a matter that we considered carefully. Thus, the first three semesters essentially deal with aptitude, ethical values, basic legal skills and core areas of practice. These are the bedrock of legal practice in Malaysia and are intended to ensure that those coming into the Bar have the requisite qualities. In this regard, it is envisaged that there should be a stringent assessment system that would sieve out those who do not possess these fundamental requirements. In other words, it is not a given that all “students-at-law” would make the grade and complete the CBC.

Q: What are subjects that the CBC will cover?
A: We have put together an array of subjects that we feel will meet the objectives that I spoke of earlier. In this regard, some of the main subjects that we have proposed are : Practical Aspects of Malaysian Law, Legal Interpretation Skills (Constitution, Statutes and Case Law) and Practice Management Skills (in Semester 1), Legal Language (English and Bahasa Malaysia for law) and Communication Skills (including IT skills), Lawyering Skills (eg. Techniques of analysis) and Practical Legal Research, Legal Ethics and Professionalism, Business and Solicitors Accounts, Interviewing and Client Counselling Skills, Opinion Writing (in Semester 2) and core subjects such as Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Drafting Skills, Evidence, Real Property Practice, Commercial and Corporate Practice, Introduction to Advocacy, Negotiation Skills, Alternative Dispute Resolution-Mediation and Arbitration (in Semesters 3 and 4)4. Finally, in Semester 5 we have proposed Remedies and Enforcement/Execution Proceedings as well as a host of other electives5.

Q: How do you expect the CBC to be delivered?
A: The Committee has also considered the mode of delivery and the assessment system. We have discovered that most jurisdictions have moved away from the traditional lecture-seminar/tutorial as the mode/s of delivery of the CBC. Thus, the modern approach (as part of experiential learning) is to have a mixture of lecture-seminar/tutorials, on-line learning, DVD’s, practical and industrial training. This should result in cost savings and it would also impact on the logistical requirements for the CBC.

Q: What about the teaching staff and infrastructure to support the CBC?
A: It is envisaged that the teaching staff will consist of qualified members of the Bar, judges (sitting and retired) and qualified academics from the various law faculties/private colleges. There should also be provision for foreign teaching staff, whether on an ad-hoc or permanent basis. Further, in connection with finances, the Bar Council has decided that the CBC should be run on a non-profit basis. Thus, public funding from the government would be required to set up the necessary infrastructure and to cover administration costs.

Q: When do you expect the CBC come into place?
A: We anticipate it will take between 4 to 6 years for the CBC to be implemented. This is because, inter-alia, there is a requirement for dedicated course materials, which are presently unavailable. We must also develop a training programme for those who are to be engaged to teach the CBC. As for logistics, in the interim we would need to use the available facilities in the law faculties in our public universities in the Klang Valley. However, we must look at a purpose built college (eg. the College of Law, Sydney) to cater for the CBC in the future.

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1 Hendon Mohamed, Prasad Abraham, Sheila De Costa, G.K. Ganesan, Ken St. James, Mariette Peters, Murad Ali, Roger Tan, Dato’ Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Nahendran Navaratnam and S.S. Muker
2 Adjunct Professor R. Rajeswaran of UiTM
3 Dr. Rozlini Mary Fernandez Chung
4 Some of the other proposed electives in Semester 4 are Advanced Evidence, Advanced Civil Procedure, Advanced Criminal Procedure, Advanced Real Property Practice, Advanced Corporate and Commercial Practice, Wills and Probate Practice, Insolvency Practice and Family Law Practice.
5 Some of the proposed electives in Semester 5 are Administrative Law Practice, Advocacy in Criminal Law, Industrial Law Practice, Intellectual Property Law Practice, Human Rights Litigation and Introduction to Islamic Banking and Finance.

2008 UKM 1st Class Law Student – Kee Meng Fai

Monday, August 25th, 2008

 

Hi Meng Fai, first of all, we wish to congratulate you for obtaining 1st class honour in LLB.

Q: Can you tell us about yourself?

A: I come from a family of four, me being the eldest and I am from KL. I had my primary education in SRJK (C) Sentul and secondary education In Methodist Boys Secondary School Kuala Lumpur. I did my LLB in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Q: Did you expect that you would be graduating with a 1st class degree? How did you feel when you came to know about your results?

A: I did not really expect to graduate with 1st class as I did not put a lot of emphasis on the results. I believe that results do not define how good a lawyer you are. But nonetheless, I was excited to know about my result.

Q: How many of your classmates managed to graduate with a 1st class degree this year? Who are they?

A: There are four of us who graduated with 1st class. They are  Chai Wai Hong, Chin Hui Juin, Lee Fong Ling and I.

Q: We also understand that you have also been awarded with UKM’s “Anugerah DiRaja” during the recent Convocation Ceremony held on 9 August 2008.  Can you briefly explain about the award and what are the criteria to receive such an award? Can you list down some of your achievements that helped you win this award?

A:  This Award is given by the Chancellor of UKM to acknowledge the achievements of students who excel in academic as well as co-curriculum activities. The award is given to two students who has achieve results higher than 3.67 and has exhibited leadership qualities during their course of study.  I believe that my experience in debating and mooting has helped a lot in this area. Among others, I participated in the Asian Law Students Conference in Jakarta and UKM won the debating tournament and I won the Best Debater award. I have also won the Inter University law faculty Bahasa Malaysia Debate. My other experience is participating in other Asian Level conference and tournaments would have scored points too.

Q: Can you share some secrets/tips for achieving excellent academic results?

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UKM Ms Inspiration 2008 – Ms Jinan Bt. Mohd Pauzi

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Jinan is newly graduated from UKM Law Faculty. She has won the title of 1st UKM Ms Inspiration 2008. Jinan being the out spoken, energetic and intelligent law student has participated in numerous international law activities.

Below is the interview conducted by eLawyer with Jinan.

Can you briefly tell us about yourself?

My full name is Jinan bt Mohd Pauzi. I’ve just completed my final year at UKM’s Faculty of Law. I grew up in Massachusetts, USA thinking that I was half-Negro (a long story that one). I’m now staying in Kajang with my parents after spending five years away from home in a boarding school and a year in matriculation. I like to travel, read fantasy novels and bloghop.

I’m also scared to death of cockroaches and streamyx breakdowns (Yes, I do love Facebook that much!). I used to be fluent in Japanese, can write and read Korean (kindergarten level only, people) and can totally understand (but not speak) hard-core Kelantanese. Recently, I’ve unearthed a hidden talent which is- I’m really good at using my toes to grab things beyond my arms reach (e.g. tv remote). Ok, I’d better stop before I start telling about my pet rabbit which I accidently killed by hosing it down with hot water. Oops.

We understand that you have won the title of “UKM Ms Inspiration 2008”, what are the assessment criteria for someone to receive this award?

According to the organizers (I asked ok), the chosen female student is assessed by their achievements in both academics and extra-curricular activities. She must also have the extra “x-factor” or an “all-rounder” that makes her an inspiration for other students. This is the first time UKM has given out this of award. I just wonder why they didn’t make a Mr Inspiration award? Weird. I could have used a little company on that big stage. Oh well, maybe next year.

What are your achievements which make you won this award?

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The Different Lawyer – Chris Tan Chur Pim

Monday, May 19th, 2008

We are glad to conduct this interview with Mr Chris Tan Chur Pim. He is a young and dynamic lawyer, who is wise to take the advantage of IT. Chris’ firm, Chur Associates, is the 1st law firm in Malaysia having presence in Facebook, which has attracted almost 200 members as at today.

Chris Tan is also well known as a lawyer who always thinks “out of the box”. His creativity can be seen from the office design and organisation structure of his firm. In fact, his law firm looks more like a desinger house. He proudly told us that yes, “lawyer is a designer, who designs legal solutions to meet clients’ needs.”

Below is the interview content:

Personal

Can you tell us about yourself, in terms of your practice experience and positions that you hold.

I am a Managing Partner of Chur Associates. CA is a boutique legal firm founded in 2004. We specialise in designing legal solutions catered to our clients’ needs. CA’s brand promise is “We Deliver!” To that end, we offer our clients the necessary means and methods to ensure their requirements are met.

 Please refer to http://www.churassociates.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=26 for full profile.

This question is a bit odd but I think the law students or those who plan to take up law may be interested to know. Why do you choose to become a lawyer? In your opinion, what are the characters make a good lawyer?

Becoming a lawyer was a logical step for me, since I had what I see as complementary characteristics. One of my strengths is my oration, and I enjoy thoroughly speaking on stage.

It is important for a lawyer to be able to communicate well, in sending the message across. Supporting that would be a person’s analytical skill. Also, a good lawyer should possess the ability to be objective all the time.

Law Firm Management
 
Can you tell us about Chur Associates, the firm’s background, areas of practice and people?
Chur Associates is a legal firm with a difference – We Deliver!

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