The Malaysian Women Legal Counsel Association Members’ First Gathering

On 9th April 2017, the Malaysian Women Legal Counsel Association (MWLEC) organised their first members’ gathering in a friendly neighbourhood cafe. The gathering was a perfect opportunity for MWLEC to share the objectives and visions of the association with its members, and also to promote all upcoming activities for the year 2017.

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(Photo with the committee members of MWLEC)

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In 2015, the market was still doing fine, and companies were still hiring although there were concerns of a market slowdown;

In 2016, the market started to experience a slowdown and companies were very cautious about hiring. This led to a freeze in hiring and retrenchment exercises, especially in the oil & gas and financial industries. Furthermore, the property market also shrunk.  This had greatly affected the businesses of many law firms, especially law firms which relied on property and conveyancing works.

This year (2017), the market is still very slow and most of the hiring being done are for replacement purposes and not for purposes of expansion. However, there are certain areas of legal work that are still doing fairly well, e.g. construction disputes, foreign investment, and purchase of land by foreign parties. Divorce cases are increasing every year (always on a rise and seemingly not affected by market conditions).

During this period of economic downturn, big corporations are the ones that are being hit the hardest, and would either freeze hiring or hire mainly for replacement purposes. In contrast, smaller companies, especially those with stronger cash flow, are still boldly expanding in the current market conditions and are willing to hire for expansion as they see opportunities of gaining something of value for a cheaper price during the market slowdown.

Due to the decrease in the value of our Ringgit, some foreign companies have chosen Malaysia as their legal hub to provide support for both regional and global legal work, and these foreign companies are therefore still aggressively hiring. More international companies have set up legal hubs in Malaysia for cost-cutting purposes, hence more hiring is in turn being done, especially within the oil & gas companies.

Law firms are now very cautious in hiring and the outlook does not seem very optimistic, with some large firms notably having reduced the amount of increments and bonuses paid out. Some law firms are even cutting salaries and freezing bonuses, and some have even laid- off their lawyers.

Despite the market slowdown, where potential employers are cautious about the future market outlook, the output of fresh graduates continue to increase due to the establishment of more and more law schools. The Malaysian market is experiencing a situation similar to that which occurred in Singapore two years ago, where fresh law graduates faced challenges in securing pupillage posts and lawyers who have just been called to the Bar faced challenges in securing entry-level legal assistant positions.

However, Eddie is still generally very optimistic about the legal job market, as good legal talents will still be sought after in every kind of market condition. The key is to start equipping yourself to become a talent so that you won’t be affected by the market.

During the sharing session, these were the questions posed to Eddie, together with the answers he provided:

  1. We have heard that Chinese-based corporation are more generous in terms of salary offers, is that true or is it just a rumour?

Eddie:  So far, I do not have any direct involvement in recruiting for any Chinese-based corporation, but I have heard that they are willing to pay high salary and you are expected to work equally hard. This is due to the working culture back in China where they place a strong emphasis on efficiencies and results.

  1. Do retrenchment exercises carried out by financial institutions often involve their legal departments?

Eddie: Banks are still seeking out talents although they do not hire as many new employees as before. As Bank Negara has now imposed more stringent compliance demands upon financial institutions, there are more vacancies for compliance roles now as compared to before.

  1. In terms of industry, which top three industries have a stronger budget when it comes to hiring legal talent?

Eddie: It is very hard to answer that question according to industries as the offer may range widely within the same industry. I would say a candidate whose job scope is to support regional works will usually be able to command a higher salary. Secondly, foreign companies usually pay their employees higher salary as compared to local companies. In terms of law firms, the more reputable firms or boutique law firms would typically offer a higher salary.

  1. Can you share with us what are the three No-Nos during an interview?

Eddie:  Sure. Firstly, never badmouth your employer and the keyword here is “badmouth” as opposed to hiding the real reason for leaving. There is a fine line between badmouthing and stating the facts, especially when the push factor for leaving a particular job is people. No employer would want to hire a candidate with bad attitude or character (badmouthing is a sign of bad character), no matter how smart the candidate may be.

Secondly, when it comes to explaining your reasons for leaving, never say the reason is for MONEY ONLY. Why? If a candidate changes jobs just because of money, I doubt that the person will stay in any position for long, so again no employer would want to invest in candidates who have the short-term mentality. Anyhow, most employers will not be against the idea of you asking for a salary increase when you join them, so why highlight something that is not an issue?

Lastly, never be late, because first impressions really count. It is reasonable for an employer to perceive someone who is late for an interview as not being serious or keen about the particular job. Failure to be on time may also be attributed to poor time management, poor planning skills, and may imply that the candidate is unreliable, disrespectful and untrustworthy. You do not want to create such a negative impression even before being interviewed by the employer. In the event that you are late, always inform the employer in advance, provide an explanation of why you are late, and be apologetic.

 

 

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