(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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- What is your advice for someone who newly joins in-house position from a law firm?
Eddie: This is my advice to you:-
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.