Guest writer Shi Jing shares the 5 things she hopes to achieve during pupillage. Having completed the Bar Professional Training Course with an overall grade of Outstanding, Shi Jing is about to commence her pupillage at one of the top legal firms in the country.
So you have completed 4 years of legal studies and you are about to embark on your pupillage journey. Aside from hoping to be retained by your firm, what are the 5 things you hope to achieve during pupillage? Every pupil has different priorities and goals and here are the 5 things which matter most to me.
#1: Undertake as wide a variety of work as possible
From sitting in with my pupil master when instructions are being taken from a client, to assisting him in getting a case up for trial, and to finally attending court to observe proceedings, I hope to gain as much acquaintance with a lawyer’s work as possible before commencing practice. After all the practice of law is very different from the academic study of law. I hope to make use of these 9 months to experience the law in action, learn from experienced lawyers, and integrate the very best style into my own work.
As I have studied law in the UK for the past 4 years, I also hope to use this opportunity to familiarise myself with Malaysian law, rules and procedure, especially those relevant to my intended practice area.
#2: Draft legal documents and opinions which are court or client ready
‘If you are in pupillage, will your pupil supervisor think that your work is so good that it can be immediately sent over to your client? If yes, then that is outstanding work.’ This was what was said to me when I was studying the BPTC. Outstanding work, in pupils’ dictionary, means work which is court or client ready. And that is the sort of work which I am aiming to produce. I hope to complete tasks to the best of my ability and instil confidence in my team that I am a safe pair of hands.
#3: Read widely
Growing up, I wasn’t the biggest fan of reading. The importance of reading to gain commercial awareness only dawned on me when I was in college. Now that I am a pupil (in the dispute resolution and corporate departments) I intend to focus my attention on 3 kinds of materials.
- The latest law reports. I hope to make it a habit to read the MLJ, AMR and CLJ issues as and when they are released (full case if related to my area and headnotes if not). Knowing the recent developments in the law will help contribute to my reservoir of knowledge which will come in handy when I am asked to research or advise on a point of law in the future.
- Business news. Some problems cannot be solved by narrowly looking at the law. Having a general awareness of what is going on in the commercial and business world will put a lawyer in a better position to advise their clients, to negotiate and litigate on their behalf, and to draft contracts. To that end it is important to read the business section of newspapers and other business publications as frequently as one could.
- Self-help articles and books on advocacy and drafting as these are two major parts of a lawyer’s work. P.S. read 7 Advocacy Tips From Top Judges and Lawyers and 10 Tips for More Effective Written Submissions
#4: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
The learning curve on a pupillage is very steep and there are going to be times where I feel insecure about my abilities. Instead of becoming disheartened whenever I make mistakes or am criticised for the standard of my work, I hope to see them as opportunities to learn and grow. After all we should not give up just because something is difficult. Pushing through challenges is what makes us grow.
#5: Build a network of friends and acquaintances at the Bar
It goes without saying that networking with people in the same industry as you is important. It makes future working relationships easier and it makes your professional (and personal) life richer. To that end I hope to know and connect with as many members of the Bar as possible.
As a pupil, I also hope to fit into the firm and its culture and develop good working chemistry with my colleagues. As the saying goes, you are likely to experience the most success and longevity in the practice of law if you find a firm where you fit in.
And that sums up the 5 things I intend to achieve during pupillage. All in all I hope to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible in this short period of time so that I would be in a position to handle my own cases post-pupillage.