Litigation in Textbook and in Practice – A Comparison
By Lee Yiap Shi Jessie
After I have completed my journey in the university, I was given an opportunity to undergo a short attachment/ internship/ mini-pupillage at Alex Chang & Co to experience litigation in a commercial litigation firm. During the tenure of my internship, I was tasked to review some files to have a better insight of litigation practice. Now I understand that there is huge disparity between litigation in textbook and in practice.
The first file I read was a ‘trial’ file. What I understand from the Civil Procedure course was that trial proceedings are governed by Writs under Order 5 rule 2 of the Rules of Court 2012.
However, this is the first time for me to read a litigation file, I was not given the same opportunity in the other internship. I was in awe by the sheer thickness of the bundles and the number of documents.
Before I started my read, Mr. Alex Chang gave me some tips and a short briefing. I found out that one should always start reading the pleadings to have better understanding of the background facts and the plea of the parties. I made an interesting discovery which I would never have found in the text books… Every bundle in the Record of Appeal shall start with five blank papers, there are bundling and indexing regulations.
The next challenge I encountered was the language used in court, it is a special language, from the word ‘go’ right till the end of the proceedings… Everything has a special word from ‘If it please…’ to ‘Much obliged’.
Mr. Alex Chang taught me to think critically, read, understand and scrutinise all evidence, pleadings, submissions and relevant case authorities in order to tender flawless oral and written submissions. It dawned on me that when it comes to submission less is more. Precision is the key.
Mooting and litigation is heaven and earth.
When I reading another file on the assessment of damages file, a matter which started life in the High Court and ended in the Apex Court, I made another discovery, in Malaysia, we also have instructing solicitors and counsel will be instructed based on their skills and experiences.
Some seniors told me that they study law as they do not like Mathematics. I found out the hard truth, if you do not have a good mathematical sense to calculate costs, damages and compensation, you cannot handle commercial litigation. In that file, I fascinated to see how Mr Chang reduced a RM74 million in damages to NOTHING…
Advocacy was taught in the University, that was as good as watching the TV Series…
Again I found out, in the movies, the beautiful speeches were scripted. In practice we do not have such luxuries. I was very impressed by the advocacy skills of the counsel in the extraction of testimony that we need from the ‘unwilling’ witnesses. I felt butterflies in my stomach during the cross examination from the comfort of gallery.
It was such a pleasure for me to be part of the members in Alex Chang & Co as I have learnt much during that time. Mr Alex Chang Huey Wah and Miss Lim Soo Zee inculcated in me the qualities to be meticulous, hardworking and fast reacting.
I would like to express my appreciation to my colleagues for their assistance and patience in helping me completed the tasks given. Last but not least, I would like to express my gratitude towards Mr Alex Chang for his care, advice, light moments with the other colleagues and guidance; especially for forgiving my mistakes. It was really an eye-opening ‘stint’ to undergo a mini-pupillage/ internship at Alex Chang & Co.
Lee Yiap Shi, Jessie