An Unforgettable Summer Attachment
My one month long internship experience in this firm was indubitably nothing like I had expected.
Being involved in the Preparation for a Defamation Law Suit
A particularly memorable and rewarding experience was my involvement and participation in the preparation and discussion of a defamation case leading up to trial.
It was eye-opening to perceive how the knowledge on defamation that I have attained in law school actually and finally be applied in real life. Whoever knew that one day, justification, qualified privilege and fair comment would no longer only be theories I learn during tort lectures but real defences relied upon by the clients!
Researching for a Defamation Law Suit (among other research tasks)
In relation to the defamation case, one of my first research tasks in the firm was assigned to me by the co-counsel for defendant in the case, Mr Kingston, namely, whether a claimant could specify the quantum of damages in defamation trials.
I remember spending hours conducting researches on it. There was plentiful of information to filter, cases to examine and statutes to explore. Admittedly, the legal researches that I have done so far are somewhat limited to only within the UK and EU jurisdiction due to the syllabus I study.
However, I have picked up the skills to acquire the material I need on Malaysian law databases. We were questioned if we had any cases or acts to rely on, once again reminding me of a point emphasised so heavily and frequently by my professors during my undergraduate law studies: Back up your legal arguments with supporting authorities. As challenging as it was, my heart made a leap of joy when Mr Kingston nodded approvingly to my findings substantiated by relevant authorities.
As the weeks go by, I discovered that I was no longer as fearful of researching as I used to be, the research activities that I had undertaken gave me the boost of confidence I needed to plunge into more research assignments. I recognise that the path to refining my research skills does not end with the conclusion of my attachment, I must put in the effort to further hone my research skills.
Drafting Witness Statement
I believe my eyes were dancing with excitement when I was appointed to draft a witness statement for one of the witnesses of our client, the first defendant. Not to be forgotten were the butterflies in my stomach fluttering furiously as I took on my first attempt of drafting a witness statement. I was aware that I could refer to all the sample witness statements in the world, but my witness statement would only make sense if I had done the necessary reading and had clear understanding of the case.
With that in mind, I made sure to study earnestly the agreed facts, statement of claim and defence, issues to be tried as well as any related documents so that I do not miss out on any crucial questions to be included.
I was taught to be succinct with my questions, in order to make it easy and straightforward for the witness, and perhaps more importantly, the judge to apprehend. I have learned some techniques to phrase my questions in a manner that does not strike the judge as leading questions. I have also learned to avoid certain descriptions or words when drafting witness statements to prevent the opposing counsel from using it to our disadvantage.
Witnessing Case Management Proceedings (among other proceedings)
My heart was stirring with excitement and anticipation as I found myself seated in the court to witness multiple pre-trial case management proceedings in relation to the defamation case. All the hours we had spent cracking our heads researching on various issues – days later the judge was contemplating those matters before my very eyes!
I witnessed how the defendant counsels successfully convinced the judge to agree to the striking out of images to be included from the statement of claim. I continued to watch in admiration as the defendant counsels persuaded the judge to reject the opposing counsel’s claim of 1 million ringgit per defendant for damages as Her Ladyship explained how the right to grant a figure beyond a total of 1 million ringgit was beyond her jurisdiction.
I was honoured that Mr Chang had trusted me enough to make me in charge of coaching a high school moot team who were taking part in an inter-school mooting competition organised by Bond University, Australia.
While I was not the most experienced mooter, I had devoted all my energy into preparing them for the moot competition. Brimming with enthusiasm to assist the first-timer moot team, I read and familiarised myself with the facts of the problem, the legal issues and the arguments in favour of the claimant and the respondent so many times that the information has been committed to my memory till this day.
As I drafted and refined my submission, I uncovered the importance of precision, accuracy and concision of a submission. I had the opportunity to present my submission in front of Mr Chang who did not hesitate to question my submission. While I believe to have thoroughly equipped myself, I realised that one cannot anticipate every possible question – just as the real scenario is in actual court, it was hard not to be thrown off by the questions – but with vigorous preparation, and by thinking on my feet, I managed to conquer the questions.
Let Your Work Speak
I remember my disappointment when I had worked days and nights for the submission for the junior counsel for respondent, which was unfortunately not up to Mr Chang’s satisfaction. Time was ticking down the clock as the competition was less than 24 hours away. I worked harder on the submission that night. I was clearly riding on adrenaline (because I don’tdrink coffee ;)) as I found myself waking up at 5 on a Saturday morning to resume working on the submission, and despite having an orthopedist’s appointment to attend that very same morning, I managed to make my final amendments and emailed my submission to Mr Chang and the moot team.
My heart soared with joy and I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I saw the generous compliment Mr Chang had offered in response to the submission I had handed in: ‘Counsel quality already’. At that moment, whatever sense of fatigue present vanished into thin air. Of course, I still have a long, long way to go before becoming a successful lawyer, but those words of affirmation by an experienced
lawyer, was truly what I had needed to hear after dedicating all my time and effort into the work.
Not a Bed of Roses
I for one, prefer not to sugar coat my experience. I value authenticity, and I hope my testimony is able to reflect that. I did not necessarily find every single task assigned to me as equally enjoyable. Trips to the post office, clerical work – such as making phone calls, photocopying and scanning of documents, as well as having to translate many articles found on the firm’s website into Mandarin and Malay languages… these assignments do not carry the same thrill that comes from ‘drafting witness statement’ or ‘witnessing trials’. Nevertheless, it was crucial that I had chosen to view those seemingly mundane tasks as opportunities to learn.
There were days when I wished badly that I could be home spending time and having dinner with my parents. There were days when my eyes were twitching from the strain of having to stare at the computer for long hours without the luxury of time to pause for breaks whilst conducting the necessary research. There were days when I had fallen sick and a strong mindset was the only thing that sustained my poor body to keep going.
Looking back I was naive to think that I would get to arrive at 9am and leave the firm at 8pm sharp daily. Because reality was quite the contrary. As the firm specialises in litigation, some matters were simply out of our control. There were also tons of documents to be produced, scrutinised, amended, and approved within a short period of time, so we would often stay up later than usual putting together bundle of documents for a court case the next day. Of course, a court case the next day also
meant having to rise extra early.
You are Stronger than You Give Yourself Credit for
Needless to say, less than 5 hours of sleep for consecutive days a week was mentally and physically draining. However, I was determined not to let the odds weigh me down and sought to keep a sharp mind and upbeat spirit in order to tackle more challenges. It hurt that I had to miss dinners with my parents for an entire month, although, thankfully, being the ever understanding and caring parents, they gave me their full support and encouragement throughout my internship.
Once, the Magistrates Court in Shah Alam and the High Court in KL had arranged for a clashing time and date for two respective hearings. That was when I had the chance to learn how to draft a letter to seek the judge’s indulgence to have the matter stood down, followed by phone calls to the court in order to notify them and obtain confirmation.
I have also learned to complete my tasks more efficiently and handle pressure with better composure. A notable experience is when I was assigned to draft an order pertaining to a bankruptcy matter. It would soon come to my awareness, as I began drafting the order, that behind that piece of end product were the careful attention invested, and multiple drafts and corrections undergone before it was ready to be submitted to the court.
In fact, if such is the harsh reality of working life as a litigator – fast-paced, intense, and hectic, I am thankful to have gained an insight at an earlier stage before officially setting foot into the legal field.
I would like to express my utmost appreciation towards Mr Chang for giving me the opportunity to intern at your firm. I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude towards all the members of the firm whom I had the pleasure to work alongside.
Thank you for your guidance, assistance and care. My best wishes to everyone.