10 Years in the Law: Reflections

Thought as my introductory post, I would share more on my journey as a  lawyer. A month ago marked my 10 years at the Malaysian Bar and I take this chance to  look back and explain why I still enjoy the law.

Why did I study law?

I made the decision to study law very late on. Many of my college mates had already made their university applications while I was still undecided. If I had followed my classmates, I would have likely pursued engineering or a science subject. Instead, with me not being able to decide, I drifted into applying for law. I thought it would offer me the most options after my law degree.

One tutorial's worth of reading at law school
One tutorial’s worth of reading at law school

At university, I enjoyed the law subjects. But my decision to be a lawyer crystallised during my Bar year. It gave me a taste of what it was like to be a real lawyer.It was a thrill to master the practical subjects, in particular, to be taught all the advocacy skills. That involved learning the skills of making submissions and cross-examining of witnesses. That confirmed my decision that I wanted to be a  litigator. I wanted to be able to argue my cases in court.

Change of plans – leaving Singapore, heading to KL

Pic: brecorder.com

After Bar school, things did not go exactly as planned. I had already been living in Singapore since primary school. My family had moved from Malaysia to Singapore, and we were all Permanent Residents in Singapore. In summary, I was supposed to do my National Service as I was a PR. I had however revoked my PR after ‘A’ levels in order to head off to law school.

After that, I did not know that I could not return to Singapore to work due to me having evaded National Service.

This resulted in a very abrupt change in plans. I was to leave Singapore and the decision was made to head to Kuala Lumpur. I would aim to qualify in Malaysia and to then see how things worked out from there. The ultimate aim was to still try to return to Singapore since my family remained there.

Accidental specialisation

With the rush down to Kuala Lumpur, I had time to attend one pupillage interview. I was extremely lucky to secure the pupillage offer and started my new life in KL. I started  in the intellectual property (IP) department and enjoyed the work. While I knew I wanted to be a litigator, I was still being exposed to IP litigation. So, that’s what I thought I would end up doing. IP litigation.

Litigators are known as advocates.
Litigators aka advocates.

But, one day, I happened to accept an assignment from another partner to help on a commercial dispute. I enjoyed working on that file and that led to more assignments. However, a lot of the files were very company law-centric. There were issues relating to shareholder disputes and winding up. I had not read company law at university, and this would have normally been held against a pupil.

I was fortunate that it wasn’t held against me. I was then able to learn company law from scratch and to learn on the job. From that moment on, I accidentally started to specialise in company law and commercial disputes. And that is how I stumbled on my passion for this area of the law

Passion and hard work

What started off as a bit of a struggle, it became easier to learn the different concepts of company law through real-life files.

Especially, in the area of shareholder disputes, the cases tended to have multi-generational disputes, the good times and the bad times, and with different personalities and characters.

I worked very hard in my first few years of practice. I took many early words of advice to heart. Firstly, that I needed to put in those hours of work to build up a reservoir of knowledge and experience. There was no short cut to that. Secondly, no knowledge would ever go to waste. So, take the time to read around the area or issue and to master the fundamentals. That has paid dividends down the years, as I can draw on the basic principles on new matters.

Why do I still enjoy practicing law?

There are many factors why I enjoy the law. I still get the same rush of excitement when I enter the courtroom for a trial or a hearing.

That's how we litigators appear in court. Sort of. Minus the wigs.
That’s how we litigators appear in court. Sort of. Minus the wigs.

I look forward to working on a new brief, dissecting the legal issues and mastering the facts. When drafting my written submissions, I enjoy the challenge of crafting the most convincing argument and distilling my case.

Long way more to go

10 years on, I have learned so much but I am still excited. I am excited that there is still a long way more to go and a lot more to learn.

So, I am looking forward to suiting up and let’s bring on the next 10 years.

Pic: zhiyou.co
Pic: zhiyou.co

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