A Letter to My 17 Year-Old-Self
Legal Attachment An Introduction
There was a song by Angela Aki called ‘A Letter To My 15 Year Old Self’. The song describes what the singer would have told her 15 year old self, which is to persevere despite having difficult moments in life.
As I think about the lyrics of the song, I compared it to my own experiences during my legal attachment with Alex Chang & Co.
I Arrived Here, Wearing a Pair of Boxer Shorts and a Singlet…
I have always wondered how my life would have been different now, if I have had joined this attachment at 17 year-old.
Thinking back, in the 6 years between that time and now, I had met many teachers, been in two continents, but no one, NO ONE, has ever told me that I was living in the comfort zone and that I must break away from that and I should experience life more and challenge myself. No one that is, until I joined this attachment.
Lord of the Rings? Realisation and Facing Reality
One of the first things that Mr Alex Chang asked me is whether I have watched `The Lord of Rings’ and if I remember what Mr Frodo said to Samwise during the scene as they were about to leave the Shire. I answered that I have and recalled what Mr Frodo said.
The Shire or the Village for Malaysian
He said that that was the furthest he has ever been within the Shire and if he took one more step he would be going to somewhere he has never been before.
When I think about that line and the life I had been living for the past 6 years, I had to come to terms with the harsh truth that I was living within my comfort zone. This attachment had made me realised that I had never stepped out of the ‘Shire’ or, in other words, I never got out of my comfort zone. It also made me aware that there is a much bigger world out there and that life has a lot to offer.
The Importance of Punctuality
One of the most important values I learned during my attachment is punctuality. As the saying goes, time and tide wait for no man. Some also say that time is money. Knowing this, it is quite baffling to see that not everyone appreciates the time that they have. Since time is precious, it must be used wisely and responsibly.
The Art of Listening and Taking Instructions
It is most unusual that I should talk about this… The importance to develop the ability to listen. The reason is simple, to be in court you have to be an “Audio” person, you are in a two-way communication with the court, if you cannot understand what is said to you, that is the end of the hearing…
Discipline, Perseverance, and Hard Work
I thought about my attachment experience and remember all the nights when I had to stay back in the office to finish up any remaining work. There were also times when I spent my weekends researching the law instead of lazing off. But, I know all of these were necessary if one is to become a successful and well-respected lawyer.
During my attachment, I was also taught about the value of discipline, hard work and perseverance. A lawyer who is both hard-working and persistent will go very far both in his life and career. It may not necessarily be the road to riches and fame, but his clients, the court and the general public will surely come to appreciate his work.
Federal Court Hearing
These values were illustrated to me during the preparation of the bundles of authorities and submissions for an upcoming Federal Hearing, responding to an appeal. Everyone in the firm from the clerks to the legal associates to Mr Chang himself were working around the clock, moving at blistering speed and carrying out their respective tasks dutifully and meticulously.
It is worth mentioning that all of this took place in the course of a few weeks. Being a first-hand witness to this sheer display of hard work and perseverance, it was quite the paradigm shift as I used to think that law was an easy profession.
300 Years of Experience
Seeing the huge and endless amount of work and effort that went into preparing for a submission lasting LESS than 15 minutes and before 5 learned Judges of the Federal Court with the collective legal experience of almost 300 years would turn most people away from pursuing a profession in court.
The driving force to sift search separate and screen through hundreds of legal authorities from New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, India and England may be summed up in two words: Hard Work.
Humility and Concession
It is always better to concede and admit defeat when you know you have no chance of success.
One day, after returning from a hearing in the Federal Court, Mr Alex Chang graciously invited me to join him for dinner with his family. We talked and discussed various topics over succulent Chinese cuisines. He told me the importance of conceding or admitting defeat in a trial, when to concede, and the consequences of failing to do so.
As Mr Chang was imparting his wisdom to me, I eventually came to understand that conceding in life is not always a bad thing. In fact, it might the best course of action in certain situations like when counsel has clearly no hope of success in his case.
Failure to concede when a party should, would result in a number of implications including getting reprimanded by the Judges, embarrassment, as well as penalties in costs.
Being Grateful for Encouragement and Support Provided
Mr Chang also took time to explain that gratitude is another quality that I must foster in life. He further explained that a person who is full of gratitude will move a long way. As I pondered, I came to understand that gratitude is not only important because it is a moral good, but also because a person who is full of gratitude will never become arrogant and is constantly open to new ideas and teachings. As Mr Chang said, a person who thinks he is invincible, will never learn anything.
Taking Initiative and the Courage to be Daring
Perhaps the most important lesson I had learned during my time here is the ability to take initiative. It may sound absurd to some…
Before I joined the firm, I seldom tried new things and met new people as I was constantly hounded by the fear of failure and rejection. But, now, I understand that fear and failure are inevitable in life but we must never let those stop us from trying and going forward.
Looking at my own attachment experience, I discerned that I had done many things that I would never have done before. Traveling to new places, meeting various interesting people, doing new things, none this would have been possible if had not joined this attachment. I am on the way out of the Shire…
Improving Legal Writing Skills
Writing is not I thought I knew. One of its many functions in a firm, is to deliver our ideas in a structured manner, packing a punch in every line.
Understanding the Legal Traditions
Throughout my journey here, I have learnt that being inquisitive and observant will not only aid one in completing the tasks and work given, but also enrich one’s life experiences. It is surprising what one can learn from simply observing and asking questions when in doubt. A revelation if you ask me.
I was fortunate enough to attend the Admission proceedings of pupils to the Malaysian Bar. Taking this opportunity, I quietly and attentively observed the entire admission ceremony from the ‘moving’ of the call to the robing of the pupil by the masters. Seeing all the formalities, I can understand why it is a significant event especially in the lives of pupils about to be admitted to the Bar.
I had the rare chance of joining a Judge of the High Court as well as several senior lawyers in a tea session after the admission proceedings. I must admit, that I am surprised by the Judge who was not only friendly but also wise and humble.
To be honest, life as an attachment student is not all smooth sailing. There were times when I dreaded going to work and times when I wished I was at home instead, lounging on my favourite sofa. I had been chastised and criticised in the course of my attachment. But you know what? I never regretted a single moment of it because I knew that the experience, lessons, knowledge, advice, and support I had gained here can never be found anywhere else and nothing in the world can replace that.
I think back to all the encouragement and support I had received in my attachment. I realised that everyone, no matter how busy or how tired or how preoccupied they were, took time and trouble to aid me in my journey and never once complained about it.
Before I conclude my story, I would like to express my deepest gratitude and thank everyone who had made this journey possible including Mr Alex Chang, whose guidance and tutelage I will forever be grateful for. Mr Danien Soong, whose advice had saved from many difficulties. Miss Lim Soo Sze, who has been a wonderful role model to me, Ms Janice foe her wonderful and delicious cooking and of course, Ms Chow, Ms Elaine, and Mis Elise Tam who were always prepared to lend their support in times of trouble.
Finally, I can now say with full confidence that joining the team and family of Alex Chang & Co, has changed me for the better and made a lot of difference in my perception of life. Wished I was here at 17 year old.
Chan Wai Lun
University of Wales, Aberystwyth