Litigation Experience in University vs. Litigation Life in Alex Chang & Co.
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.
Gary Au Kar Meng
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.