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Litigation Experience in University vs. Litigation Life in Alex Chang & Co.

Gary Au Kar Meng

Gary Au Kar Meng

I have recently completed  a short  attachment/ mini pupillage   under the  supervision of  Mr Alex Chang Huey Wah  and  I    have learned  so much.  I   now  understand  the fact that the life of a litigator   is very different from what I have learned during  university.   In university it was  all theoretical, the exposure here is   practical and  hands on experience.

In the university, the closest we  got  to  actual   litigation  was  Mooting,  where we were also  required   to draft  court documents and prepare bundles.  However,    I  found out on day one  that what we  did in the  university was rather simple,  compared to the real matters   that  the   firm deals with,  which  is  definitely tougher and more  perplexing.   I  found this out through the hard way, when Mr Alex Chang gave me some case files to read  and thereafter I was required to share my thoughts with him.

Mr Alex Chang  even gave me the opportunity to be a  “judge” in  one of the ongoing matters, that is,   to prepare the Grounds of Judgment  after  reading pleadings,  notes of proceedings,  submissions  and authorities.   This   exercise taught  me  to think  critically    before writing my  Grounds of Judgment.   Even when I was in the process of reading through this case, Mr Alex  Chang would monitor my progress  before the deadline to make sure that I was on the right track.

Through this exercise, I understand that  in a ‘live firing’ exercise, there is no deadline, one has to be prepared at all times as counsel for the opponent may spring an objection to your questions in court and that must be dealt with immediately.   This is another example where litigation life is different from university life, because in moots, there were no ‘objections’ raised by opposing teammates.

In  the  litigation firms,  we have to be prepared for any situation that  may occur precipitously.  Our understanding of all legal principles will  not be tested on a topic by topic basis,   when it rains it pours.

An  unexpected  turn  of events  was, I   attended  proceedings in the  chambers of a judge  with Mr Alex Chang.   This is  a very unique experience.  Before this,  I  was always of the opinion,  stemming  from  my previous attachments  and experience shared by my peers,  that attachment students are not allowed to enter the judges’ chambers.  I  was clearly proven wrong.

Another  eye opening observation   was the manner  written submissions were  prepared.   The lengths they are  willing  to  go to, to ensure that  the written submission  is impeccable by  constantly editing and adding authorities  to the submission right up until the moment the bundles are ready to be sent for binding.

Although  working in the firm will (and I stress on the word WILL) include working until late hours (till about  10pm),  I believe it is a great learning experience especially for young graduates or those recently called to the bar.  It gives us an idea of what working in a litigation firm entails because it is part of the obligations to the clients of the firm, to ensure everything goes on smoothly.

In conclusion,  I  have to admit that it actually surprises me as to  the vast amount of knowledge that  I  have garnered   from this brief but very insightful  attachment/ mini pupillage  with the firm.  I now know  that    the  university only offered us a 30 seconds preview of this two hour movie of   the world of  litigation.   My only regret perhaps, is, I found out all these in a 5 minutes preview of the same movie that I am going to continue…   Much  ground  to be discovered,  in  Newfoundland.

Finally,   my sincere gratitude  to Mr Alex  Chang,   for  his constant mental sparring,     advice and willingness to teach and not forgetting  my colleagues in the firm, for their help and encouragement. Sincerely,  thank you.

Yours truly,
Gary Au Kar Meng

Post script

On July 15, 2016, Gary was admitted and enrolled as an  advocate  and solicitors of the High Court of Malaya, Mr CHANG was invited to be his mover, click here for the speech and photos.

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