So You Want To Be A Lawyer?about 2 years ago
It was almost 3 decades ago that my mother informed me I will be going to the UK to read law. The news came the day after my final STPM paper. I just replied, "Ok". Mother says, son does. Was simpler back then, I guess.
I recall, vividly, as I walked past the immigration counter at the airport, I turned around and saw her all teary eyed. But in my heart I was like "Hey, I am off for an adventure!"
It did not cross my mind as to what the career would hold for me.
Get your law degree
Going to the UK was the first step in my journey to being a lawyer, I need to have a recognised law degree. They call it the LL.B (Hons). Want to know where? Have a look at this list.
Of course one may choose to study law in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore or Malaysia even. Many a great lawyer have graduated from local institutions such as Universiti Malaya, University Islam Antarabangsa or Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
Qualifying to chamber
After completing 3 years of studies, I graduated with an LL.B (Hons). Now, it's off to the second step. I did not opt to do the UK Bar exams but rather the Malaysian equivalent called the Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP).
Guess I missed out on joining one of the Inns of Court and going for those dining sessions. Yeah, the UK Bar students need to go makan.
Joining the CLP course was 'fun'. You go in with the knowledge that the attrition rate is 80% (passing without having to re-sit a single paper, on your first outing). Only 1 out of 5 will make it.
I was fortunate to have passed my CLP in the first sitting. You have to when family financial resources are very limited. Guess that was the incentive.
Now its time to chamber
Armed with my CLP, I commenced my 'chambering', as we call it in Malaysia. The proper term is 'pupillage'. Pupillage is a 9 month process where you have a lawyer, called a 'master', who takes you in and shows you the ropes of legal practice.
There were late nights. Reading. Researching. Drafting. Even packing my master's bag. Making sure there are pens, pencils, highlighters etc. Ensuring all the photocopied cases are properly arranged.
You master will 'enlighten' you. Hence, this is a very important period. You will pick up the proper habits if you have a good master. I was most fortunate to have one. I still remember him telling me, "Did you check with the law books?". Thank you Mr KH Koh.
Yeah ... lawyers need proper libraries. All answers are found in the books.
Pupillage was a good time. It was not only all work and no play. I recall many times where a few of us 'chambies' would stand by the corridors of the old Jalan Duta court house, watching the immaculately groomed female lawyers walk by. Boys will be boys.
Get called to the bar
Upon completion of your pupillage, if all is well, you will then be admitted to the Malaysian Bar.
You are now almost a lawyer!
Why 'almost'? Well, you have to pay for some fees first. Nothing comes for free right?
You have to pay various fees as a member of the Malaysian Bar Council, you will require professional indemnity insurance and the the High Court will issue you the Sijil Annual, aka the practicing certificate.
Once you have your Sijil Annual, you are now let loose into society as a lawyer. A member of the Bar. A member of one of the world's oldest profession. A noble profession.
You are now a lawyer!
So ... do you want to be a lawyer?
I still do ... despite not practising law anymore.
Life has taken me on a different course, a most colourful one. But, at the end of the day, I know I am still a lawyer at heart.