Malaysia SME interview: ‘Eddie’s law of successful legal placements sets benchmark’

Eddie Law of eLawyereddie law of elawyer 2

We are pleased to share with you the interview of our founder of eLawyer, Eddie Law, by the prominent Malaysia SME newspaper on 2 October 2015. We reproduced the below interview for your reading pleasure.

Eddie Law is a lawyer. He founded and runs eLawyer, a leading internet based recruitment service for the Malaysian legal fraternity. “Friends say that since I was born a Law, it’s in my blood!” he jokes.

Named by Asia Law Portal as one of the top-thirty most important people in legal circles in the Asia-Pacific, Law, 38, specialises in hiring and placing students, legal secretaries, lawyers, legal managers, partners and legal counsel.

“Our recruitment consultants are lawyers by training, and therefore we understand our clients’ expectations,” he explained. His client base comprises sole-proprietor firms, partnerships and large local and foreign law firms.

“Our corporate clients include private companies, public-listed companies, government-linked organizations, investment banks, regulatory bodies and international corporations.”

After initially practising as a lawyer, Law worked for an IT group as legal advisor before venturing out on his own. He stumbled upon the idea of legal recruitment quite by chance.

“I started a law portal, but the recruitment aspect of it worked out best. So I got all the required licences and worked towards making it big.”

Select and manage

Asked what he would consider the single most important ingredient to being a successful entrepreneur, he replied without hesitation, “The ability to select and manage the right people.”

A young man from Setiawan, Perak, he studies in Chinese primary and secondary schools in the town, after which he had a choice of either taking over his father’s small restaurant or going to university.

“I did not relish the thought of being a chef, so I went to university. Despite not being top of the class at school, I surprised myself with a Second Class Upper,” he recalled with a glint of pride. He studied at UK’s Anglia Ruskin University, and is today their official Alumni Ambassador for Malaysia.

After graduation, his self-confidence soared, and he moved on to bigger things.

“I always tell young lawyers that persistency is a key factor, but so are execution and passion. If you are passionate in what you do, you will do it well and persistently. But the foundation of it all is humility. Without humility, you stop learning and growing.”

His firm currently offers job adverts, resume searches and placement services. Its job advertisement service displays job vacancies online, attracting 500,000 hits every month. Email job updates are received by 7500 registered jobseekers, while its Facebook job updates are viewed by thousands of lawyers and law students.

Another service, a resume search programme, is an active recruitment process through which employers can browse and search for candidates instead of waiting for them to apply. Search results can be filtered by criteria such as years of working experience, specialisation, position level and language proficiency.

He also runs a placement service which sources and screens suitable candidates for employers. Clients only pay upon successful placement.

“We provide free replacement of candidates if the candidate is found unsuitable for the employer’s needs,” he adds.

According to the Asia Law Portal (March 2015), Law is one of only three Malaysians who made the list of top 30 influencers within the Asia-Pacific legal industry.

Blog to follow

His eLawyer Law Blog Forum was also listed as one of the ’12 blogs in Asia to follow in 2015′, by John Grimley, the editor and publisher of Asia Law Portal.

Law said that among some of the manpower issues affecting the professions in Malaysia today are the the shortage of specialist lawyers, the challenge of managing Gen & staff, and the lack of coaching, mentoring and training for young lawyers.

At present, 95% or more of Malaysian law firms cater to the retail market, and less than 5% focus on the corporate market, which involves providing legal services to large corporations and high-net-worth individuals.

“Today, there are more than 6000 law firms in Malaysia, but less than 50 do work for the big corporations. This is because corporations go for big law firms, where they fell they can tap expertise, specialization, and experience. Thus, must corporate work is monopolised by a few large law firms an mid-sized boutique law firms.”

High demand

He noted that there is a high demand for specialists rather than general practitioners, especially in niche areas such as intellectual property, maritime law, and construction arbitration.

Another issue is the challenge of managing Gen-Y staff.

“These are mostly people below 30. They tend to emphasize fulfilment and satisfaction over money, and seek work-life balance, flexibility and autonomy at work.”

“Others seek instant gratification; they need bonuses more often than once a year. They are not willing to wait ten years for a partnership; they will jump ship if there is more money somewhere else.”

How does one attract and retain Gen-Y talent? What would help, says Law, is a lot of coaching and mentoring.

“Unlike the older generation who were left to their own devices, many of the young people I meet say they left their jobs because they did not have enough guidance.”

“Most law firms don’t realise the need for coaching, mentoring and engagement for young lawyers, and often don’t have the time or skills to do this. They are so involved in daily operations, productivity and output, billings and targets, that they often overlook human resource development. ”

“I met many young lawyers who leave because they do not know where they are going in their career.”

“When there is internal training, its mostly for technical skills. There is hardly any training budget, and if there is, the budge allocations are usually for partners. This is one reason why some young lawyers leave law firms and go on to become in-house corporate lawyers. They feel they have more opportunities to grow in larger commercial enterprises.”

He says that as young lawyers progress in their careers, many are expected to become leaders and people managers.

“Legal firms expect you to perform this role but they don’t imbibe you with people management and leadership skills.”

Law suggests that law firms should set aside budgets for training young lawyers in such skills.

“This problem is not confined to legal firms. It applies to SMEs in general, but in the Malaysian case, it is exacerbated by weaknesses in the education system.”

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