By BAC Apprentices
Writer: Liew Hong Wei
Editors: Jennifer Chan & Chan Sook Zhui
So, you’ve graduated from law school, passed your CLP, did pupillage, and set to become a lawyer!
Wait, I hear you wondering, how do you actually become a lawyer? Not just a lawyer, but a good one. I mean, you watched nine seasons of Suits, advised your uncle on Contract Law and probably have a bust of Lord Denning.
But, you’re wondering, what about reality? Here are some tips to help you start your promising career.
Communication / Language skills
A lawyer’s source of living is to be able to decipher and manipulate language. Whether to submit in court, to find loopholes in an SPA, or read the law in general.
Hence, to be able to read with precision and to write with clarity is the hallmark of a lawyer who is able to avoid unnecessary litigation and to ultimately provide the best possible service to his client.
However, communication skills are not limited to the formal job scope. Lawyers work with people, and, on behalf of people. This means a good lawyer should be able to interact, communicate and socialise with clients (with professional decorum of course!). This is needed in order to establish trust, to allow clients to open up, and to negotiate if needed.
Language, or in writing in particular, not only affects us and our clients, but the entirety of the law. As quoted by Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Zulkefli bin Ahmad Makinudin, Chief Judge of the High Court of Malaya, in his keynote address at the Lexis Nexis Authors’ Appreciation Day (Majestic Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, 23 Mar 2016)
“In a broader context, the promulgation of laws, rules or norms into legislation or common law is necessarily affected by the process from which they evolve. Your contribution as legal writers to the Malaysian jurisprudence is part of this evolution. It will necessarily have an impact in drafting laws which are reflective of societal needs. Here I must say, each one of you here have through your writing played [a] remarkable role in the advancement of the Rule of Law.”
Critical thinking is a broad term, and often misused.
In the legal context, a lawyer needs to be able to form logical arguments, to identify logical fallacies and to be generally familiar with the area of Logic. Having knowledge of a subject is insufficient. Clients come to lawyers to solve their problems. This means, the law is required to be applied rightly to the particular situation.
How do we cultivate good critical thinking? By writing! As stated by Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Zulkefli bin Ahmad Makinudin in the speech above:
“Good legal writing is indicative of clear legal thinking which in turn enhances [the] quality of arguments, improves the decision making and increases accountability in the administration of justice.”
Great lawyers innovate. They keep creating better filing methods, advocacy methods, cross-examination methods, ways to speak to clients, to provide better solutions to clients etc.
To constantly evolve and to stay relevant, is key to being the better, more improved lawyer.
To be creative is not to be construed as overturning social norms, or to mindlessly find new ways without much thought, but to always innovate to provide better solutions to our problems.
Law is hard. The legal industry can be ruthless. We have deadlines every single day and we have to rush for them. How do lawyers survive in this field? By being stronger, tougher and to keep going on! As with every difficult endeavour, those who thrive in the field are those who keep persevering and moving forward.
Keep up the work. Work smart.
You’re now prepared to be a lawyer! But there’s one more thing. One must not forget that a lawyer is proficient in his job, and must be ethical too.
As said by Manjeet Singh Dhillon,
“In a democratic society the enforcement of law finds its justification not in the interests of authority but in the maintenance of respect for law proceeding from the people”.