A LIFE-CHANGING INTERNSHIP EXPERIENCE
It was exactly four months ago when my friends had gaped at me as if I had turned into some fire-breathing dragon when they heard about my decision to undertake a two-month internship at Alex Chang & Co. They could not believe that someone could even think about chucking their holidays away to get buried alive under piles of legal documents instead of devoting their break to lying in bed all day and blasting loud songs at home. Ironically, it’s rather impossible to disagree with them. After living my life as a couch potato for more than 18 years, I wasn’t sure if I could handle the challenge of stepping into the real working world to face the obstacles out there. Worse still, what if the experience changed my mind about my initial decision to take up law? That would be the last thing you would want out of an internship, but it was apparent then that the internship will either make me or break me.
FIRST WEEK AND DILEMMAS
My first week in Alex Chang & Co. passed breezily in a whirl of court hearings, paper documents, bizarre legal jargons and new colleagues. It had never occurred to me that I would have the opportunity to witness a cross-examination of the defendant at the Shah Alam High Court on my first day itself, which seemed both daunting and exciting at the same time. Nevertheless, my unfamiliarity with the ambience of the cold, solemn courtrooms, the proceedings and the formal language used by the judge and counsels had left me feeling intimidated and lost. Back in the office, I often found my exasperated self trying to decipher the then-strange words such as ‘affidavits’, ‘sealed order’ and ‘summons in chambers’. Panic struck me because the words were plainly English terms, yet they seemed like a language originated in Jupiter. It was like looking into the mirror and finding that you have suddenly turned dark pink. It’s still you, but it’s not the old you that you were so used to seeing. Would that freak you out? I bet that would.
Prior to this, it was my innocent assumption that joining a legal firm as an intern would enable me to apply my legal knowledge into practice. It was not exactly a wrong assumption, except that I was constantly wondering if I was whisked away from Earth to some alienated planet where everyone seems to speak Jupiter. To make matters worse, question marks began swimming in my head questioning whether law is really a profession for me to pursue as my career, probably permanently. There were times when I felt a part of me screaming hysterically, begging me to opt out of law, but there was another part of me whispering “Please persevere and never give up”. You see, the dilemmas were so dreadful to the extent that the idea of being a gardener instead of a miserable A-Level student seemed suddenly desirable.
COURT VISITS AND PROFESSIONAL ETHICS CLASS
Whilst here, I quickly found out that the daily routine of an intern does not solely involve sitting in a cubicle carrying out mundane tasks. During my days here, I have been to the Kuala Lumpur High Court a number of times to file in documents, to witness the pupils being admitted to the Bar, to shadow a legal assistant in obtaining an order from a Judge in chambers, to witness a hearing in the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya amongst many other instances and to attend a professional ethics class conducted by Mr. Alex Chang at the Bar Council. These eye-opening visits actually brought me a step further to the legal practising world and opened up a new perspective on how justice is served in the courts.
IN-HOUSE MOOT COMPETITION
To be absolutely honest, the unexpected proposal of a moot competition by Mr. Alex Chang almost made me fell out of my chair. For one, public speaking has never been my forte. I could not imagine myself presenting a speech without sweating profusely from head to toe. However, my anxiety and worry faded as quickly as they had surfaced when I started reading the bundles and got a thorough idea of the facts and disputes. Thinking back, it had been a wild ride brainstorming for legal issues, digging the loopholes in the disputed parties’ contract, researching for legal authorities and drafting the submission and submission in-reply along with my learned friend.
Now, is it safe for me to declare that the moot competition is by far the most meaningful and rewarding experience I have had in Alex Chang & Co.? You could definitely say yes, because after all, it was an experience that I have gained a paramount of knowledge from, including the ways to carry out legal research and the ways to address Judges in courts to learning how to draft a submission and getting hands-on training on litigation matters that one could not have obtained elsewhere. At the end of the second moot, it was quite a surprising self-realization for me to notice my eagerness to participate in the mooting society in law school later on. How relatable can Coldplay’s lyrics be at that instant which goes ‘if you never try, you’ll never know’!
First things first. It would be a massive lie to you and the entire world if I wrote that I have never once photocopied or stapled any documents during my two months here. These so-called menial tasks have taught me how vital these tools are to operate a law practice, without which every lawyer will be in utter chaos. However, it is through being assigned these ‘mundane tasks’ that one can learn to feel comfortable working outside their comfort zone. The frequent visits to the post office, the drives to the Kuala Lumpur High Court and the trip to the National Registry Department in Putrajaya via public transport have largely enabled me to boost my confidence in carrying out tasks I was once unfamiliar about.
SOCIAL EVENTS AND FRIENDSHIPS
In Alex Chang & Co., a work-life balance is deeply emphasized. Throughout my short duration here, you would find it surprising that I have been more of a social butterfly than I was in the entire year combined together. I was blessed with the opportunity to celebrate my 19th birthday here, with each and every one of the Alex Chang & Co. family singing me a birthday song and enjoying birthday cakes with me. On my fourth week, the troop of us attended a travel talk about Romania and we even had the opportunity to have a taste of the wines and the Romanian national dishes that we could not otherwise have in Malaysia.
It was only a few weeks ago that I had sung horribly when Mr. Alex Chang brought us for a Karaoke session at the Royal Lake Club. Born a terrible singer, it was quite a miracle that none of the mirrors broke, and wonderfully, none of my colleagues complained. As an intern in Alex Chang & Co., there has never been a moment that I have not felt at home. My colleagues were always there when I faced my downs, and they were always there to crack silly jokes to put a smile across my face. Perhaps one of the best things about interning here is the assortment of exotic dishes prepared by Ms. Janice that we got to taste every afternoon. During lunch, we would all gather around to have lunch and enjoy small-talks that have essentially brought us together.
As I am penning down my thoughts into words, it is a simple realization that day by day, it is difficult to notice my personal change and progress but looking back to whom I was two months ago, the life-changing internship experience has made me change my mind about Eureka moments being a mere myth. How could it be a myth when you have experienced it yourself? From being a couch potato to being a tougher individual and from wishing you were a gardener to aspiring to become a great lawyer, these changes felt like a hundred Eureka moments tumbling down simultaneously. Life is a learning curve, and it is an eventual find for me to learn that even the strangest language used in the legal world can be familiarized with if one is willing to take the first step. Although I have experienced the ups as well as the downs during my short duration here, the special moments and memories made in Alex Chang & Co. will forever be cherished, for this place is not merely a place to work and learn from. It is a place that I found myself, and a place that have, in some ways, changed my life.
Jessy Wan Yuen Mun