“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.”
– Zora Neale Hurston, from “Their Eyes Were Watching God”
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” ricocheted the sentiment that I had after embarking on the Certificate of Legal Practice (CLP) course. The years of day dreaming of living a life as a lawyer is finally much visible and because of that, questions of self identity started pouring in and I had to ponder on questions like “Which area interests me?” ; “Should I chamber in a small firm, big firm or a medium firm?”; and most importantly, “What kind of lawyer do I want to be?”
My First Lesson
As I embarked on this indelible journey of attachment in Alex Chang & Co, I found that undergoing an attachment with the right mentor allows me to not only have added value to my curriculum vitae but also added value to myself as a person. The first thing that was shared by Mr Chang to me was a line from the Sun Tzu’s Art of War, which explains that in any situation, three things determining the outcome are the“heaven’s will, geographical structure, and human relationship” and in our field, we can take advantage of these, through carefully crafted words and techniques at the right time. This will of course take years of practice and lots of groundwork to be done to achieve this.
Rule of Thumb
Besides that, I was also taught a principle which is “never to assume” anything at all in life because in our realm, lawyers are constantly arguing over the grey areas, thus, our capabilities are measured from the solutions that we provide to our clients. Also, we have to be good “forecasters” of consequences because we need to anticipate the arguments and outcomes that will be submitted by our opponent as well as the deliberation by the judges.
The other rule which I have learnt: only speak when you are backed up by authorities. This practice of only speaking with authorities has trained me to be more precise in my speeches as well as opinion forming because for every question that is posted to me, Mr Chang would only accept arguments and reasoning that I can use to persuade a judge, if not, it would just be another telltale which would not be admitted in the honourable courts.
Theories to Practice
Furthermore, I was given multiple case studies to work on, deliberate, derive my own opinion and then, present to Mr Chang at the end of every working day. Besides, he also made sure that I joined in the discussion of their current cases where he showed me how an opening speech was to be properly made, right terminologies to be used, manner and etiquette when we are submitting before the judge. Also, I was lucky enough to witness a rare ex parte Fortuna Injunction being applied in chambers.
Reading the case studies and observing how Malaysian law is being applied in day to day submissions enriched my understanding of the CLP syllabus. My drafting skills were enhanced because now I can relate to these theories which are actually deployed in real life scenarios. Memorising Civil Procedure rules also became an automatic practice rather than a “force feeding” session into my memory. For the above reason, I have a great sense of fulfilment.
Sustaining My Block of Cheese
Mr Chang will try his best to puncture holes on my block of cheese (argument) while I will have to try my best to sustain my block of cheese from falling apart on a daily basis for all the case studies because he told me that there will not be second chances in real life scenarios when I have to submit before the judges.
It is definitely an invaluable experience because such exercise progresses my train of thought to look at situations in a deeper spectrum and to actually enjoy researches because I cannot take for granted and apply my essentials (college textbooks) to all situations, because in real life, facts are always different and he made it a point for me to back up every single fact with an authority before I speak. This in fact made me pay more attention to minute details and to actually put on a curious hat to get a reasoning for even the simplest peculiarity.
In cognisance to that, the most memorable experience that I derived during this attachment is the fact that I would wake up eager to get to work daily at six in the morning, crawling through the dreadful one and a half hour jam to Kuala Lumpur, and to my own surprise, look forward to start the day at work because I get to put my legal skills on check and ready to discover something new.
This environment helped me to grow because in Alex Chang & Co, my colleagues are not just another co-worker but family members because they guide not only by actions but by heart. The experience has not only taught me the etiquettes and the court ethics as a lawyer but also allow me to envision the kind of lawyer that I want to be in the future, to be able to inspire another junior to feel proud of this profession like how Mr Chang would always share, “Look at your case like a game and not a job because you will dread to finish a job but you would use your heart to win the game”.
Notes of Appreciation
Last but not least, courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the gratefully and appreciating heart and thus, I would love to extend my gratitude to the invaluable guidance given by my mentor, Mr Chang and both his Legal Assistants, Ms Lim and Mr Soong who are both generous about their knowledge as well as personal experiences helping me to think out of the box. In addition to that, I am also grateful to Ms Wong, Ms Chow and Mrs Chang for taking care of and guiding me throughout this transit.”I never face Monday morning blues, because of fun colleagues like you. Thank you.”