10 tips on building an awesome legal career

10 tips on building an awesome legal career

Insights from corporate lawyer Marcus van Geyzel on taking your legal career beyond the ordinary.

There is a vast number of lawyers in Malaysia (at last count, there are 16,104 of us), with an ever-increasing number of law graduates coming into the market every year.

I’m often asked for insights on how pupils and young lawyers can set themselves apart in this crowd. These 10 tips are a condensed version of what I usually share — if you want the extended version, buy me a coffee and we’ll talk.

First off, I should make clear that these tips obviously aren’t magic beans that will instantly convert a mediocre lawyer into a good one. There are so many career possibilities open to law graduates, so it’s impossible to have a fixed formula.

There isn’t even an agreed definition of what a ‘lawyer’ is. The basic categories used in Malaysia are ‘corporate lawyer’ and ‘litigation lawyer’ (as all lawyers here are ‘advocates and solicitors’) — but countless nuances exist within these broad, clumsy categorisations. What one lawyer does on a daily basis can be extremely different from what another lawyer does, so these tips will have to be adapted accordingly.

Why do some lawyers seem to excel — at work and in life — while others struggle to make sense of the profession? How come some seem to have boundless enthusiasm for their work even after a decade, while others are burnt out and disillusioned within five years?

I don’t pretend to have a magic formula to building an awesome legal career. But I guarantee that anyone who practises these 10 tips will have a better chance at staying ahead of the disillusioned and unmotivated crowd who see lawyering as ‘just a job’.

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Law firm job applications and interviews — bootcamp with Office Parrots

On 29 September 2015, I was the featured speaker at a Career Kickstarter Bootcamp, organised by Office Parrots at Brickfields Asia College.

The two-hour event attracted a full-house crowd, made up of students pursuing their law degree and CLP.

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Draw your own map

Sometimes, you need to ignore what the world tells you.

The world — family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and people you may never speak to more than once — often have good intentions, but most of them speak the language of conformity.

Of the known.

Of their knowns.

Often, to the world, the best path is the path they themselves took. As if life was that simple, that dull — everyone taking the same path.

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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

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