What I learnt after leaving legal practice to pursue an MBA

Guest writer Janice Tan Ying has been on quite a journey since she first wrote for us in October 2017 (“5 things I learned from pupillage that law school didn’t teach me“). In this article, she shares some of the many things she learnt from her recently-concluded two-year MBA.

Two years ago, I left legal practice at one of the largest law firms in Malaysia to pursue a full-time MBA at the Asia School of Business (ASB) — a partnership collaboration between Bank Negara Malaysia and MIT Sloan School of Management. This was a decision that felt incredibly daunting at the outset. 20 months (and an MBA degree in hand!) later, I dare say it was one of the best decisions that I have made.

Here are some of my reflections from my business school journey:

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Law Firms in Malaysia Face Tight Cashflow and May Downsize

Law firms in Malaysia are facing challenging times. Based on the recently released Bar Council survey results on 5 June 2020 (report available from the Malaysian Bar website to members only), almost half of the law firms replied that they would be downsizing, closing their law practice or ceasing practice. Close to 60% of the law firms responded that they were not intending to hire due to financial issues from the movement control / COVID-19.

I highlight the key points from the Bar Council survey from the perspective of hiring trends moving ahead.
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Lessons from Lockdown: How COVID-19 and remote working have changed the way we work

2020 has been the year of COVID-19. The pandemic has affected every aspect of life in almost every corner of the globe. Apart from the devastating impact on health and lives, and the effect on economies everywhere which may take years to recover from, COVID-19 has changed the way we work. Malaysia’s Movement Control Order (“MCO”) meant that from 18 March, most businesses had to cease on-site operations. Many other countries also enforced similar restrictions.

As a result of restrictions, people the world over have had to get used to working from home. While the concept of remote working isn’t new (it may come as a surprise to many that Tim Ferriss’ classic “The 4-Hour Workweek” was published 13 years ago), before these restrictions most industries had resisted the shift to working away from the office. The COVID-19 restrictions have forced even the staunchest luddites to adopt remote working.

We sought the views of the following four individuals with links to the legal industry across Asia-Pacific to hear about their work-from-home experiences:

  1. Crystal Wong, a partner in the Energy, Infrastructure & Projects and International Arbitration Practice Group at LHAG.
  2. Gaythri Raman, the Managing Director, Southeast Asia at LexisNexis.
  3. Jeannette Tam, a Senior Managing Associate at Bird & Bird Hong Kong.
  4. Zamir Hamdy Hamdan, the Asst Vice President for Stakeholder Management in Astro Malaysia‘s Human Capital Division.

We’re sure you’ll enjoy reading their insights.

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Insights from two months of webinars

There have been a few very noticeable changes in the Malaysian legal industry in 2020. Most of these are attributable to COVID-19 and the resultant restrictions under the Movement Control Order (MCO) since 18 March 2020, and subsequent on-going Conditional MCO.

One significant development was the proliferation of webinars. By the middle of April, it seemed like there was at least one webinar a day to tune into, depending on your area of interest. Almost all of these were free, with some requiring prior registration. In recent weeks we have seen the shift to paid webinars, and webinars will very likely be a mainstay for the foreseeable future. It is looking increasingly unlikely that big conferences will be possible for the rest of the year.

To gain some insights into the rise in popularity of webinars, particularly in the legal industry, there is probably no better person to hear from than Richard Wee. He was one of the first movers who promoted and hosted webinars during the MCO — both in collaboration with Brickfields Asia College (BAC), and through his own firm, Richard Wee Chambers (RWC). Richard has since hosted more than 20 webinars, covering a broad range of topics.

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5 lessons I learnt from pupillage

This is a guest post by Isabelle Siaw, and is one of the 3 articles selected to be published on TML following our open call for submissions. We would like to thank everyone who sent in their articles, and hope to see more quality legal writing published, which will hopefully lead to vibrant discussions and thought leadership in the Malaysian legal industry.

Pupillage can be a testing period for law graduates. Most lawyers would agree that the transition from law student to fully-qualified lawyer during that pupillage period can be challenging and stressful. As I approach the end of my own pupillage, here are five lessons that I have learnt.

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Call to the Bar in a Time of Social Distancing

I set out my thoughts on how to modify existing hearings for a pupil to be Called to the Bar in Malaysia. This is during a time of movement control, social distancing and the Courts being cautious in allowing the number of people into the court rooms. I present three options. The first being a dramatically scaled down Call to the Bar ceremony. The second being a remote Skype hearing . The third, and least preferable, is to grant the Order for admission in the absence of everyone.

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