8 Things You Should Know Before You Study Law
Thinking of pursuing a law degree? Here’s what you need to know about studying law and the legal profession.
Updated 01 Mar 2022
So, you want to be a lawyer. But do you really know what you’re getting yourself into?
Before you submit your application for law school, here are 8 things you should know.
#1. Where you choose to study law matters
Do you have dreams of studying law in some of the top law schools in the world like Harvard or Yale? You might want to think again, especially if you want to practise law in Malaysia.
The legal profession is governed by the Legal Profession Qualifying Board (LPQB) Malaysia, and it determines what qualifications are recognised in order for you to be admitted as an advocate and solicitor. There is a short list of universities that LPQB recognises, and outside of that list, you’ll need to take the Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP). And even then, only degree holders from certain universities in Malaysia, UK, Australia and New Zealand are allowed to sit for CLP.
So, it’s highly important that you consider the recognition of your university when pursuing a law degree.
Need advice on which law school to go to? Reach out to our friendly education advisors for a free consultation.
#2. You will have to do a lot of reading
If you’re not a reader, then you will highly likely suffer in a law degree. Law school requires a lot of reading. And when we say a lot, we mean a lot.
In your study, you will spend countless hours poring over textbooks and case studies. You will be expected to read up on the law, the academics’ opinion of it and facts on past cases. You’ve probably seen scenes in law shows and movies where students are called to list out the facts of a case. This can happen to you too.
So if you’re not a fan of reading, surviving law school can be hard.
#3. You will need more than just facts to survive the legal field
The legal profession is not just about memorising facts. That is important but so are other skills like critical thinking and communication. You can’t just spout out statutes and expect it to argue for itself. You’ll have to know how you can apply your theoretical legal knowledge to real-world settings.
On top of that, you will also need good language and communication skills. You don’t have to be the next William Shakespeare but you will need to be proficient enough to ensure what you’re trying to say is conveyed correctly.
Don’t worry about not having these skills early on. You can always develop them in your studies. However, it’s worth a mention here because knowing the importance of these skills early on will give you ample time to work on them.
#4. It takes time (and effort) to be a full-fledged lawyer
Graduating with a law degree doesn’t automatically make you a lawyer. As it is a highly regulated profession, you’ll need to fulfil a number of criteria to be a qualified lawyer.
Most law graduates will need to complete the Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP), which is a 9-month course consisting of 5 subject papers. The CLP exam is notorious for having a low passing rate of 10% to 20% each year. Not only that, but there is a four-time limit on how many times you can attempt the CLP. Some universities are exempted from the CLP. However, these law programmes are 1 year longer as they have a professional year as part of the curriculum.
That’s not the end of it. Thereafter, you’ll need to complete your pupillage of 9 months, an internship for law graduates where you will shadow a senior counsel to familiarise yourself with the tasks of an advocate and solicitor.
Only upon successful completion will you be called to the Malaysian bar where you will be sworn in as an advocate and solicitor. This entire journey can take 6 - 8 years to complete from SPM.
Not sure of the pathway to become a lawyer? This article explains the details on how you can be a qualified lawyer in Malaysia.
#5. The field can be pretty competitive
Whether it’s the high pay, pressure from your Asian parents or personal interest, plenty of people want to study law. As such, competition, especially for spots at public universities, can be stiff.
The competition doesn’t stop there. You’ll have to battle with a slew of bright, ambitious law graduates to secure a decent pupillage spot. And if you want to work at prestigious law firms with high salaries, expect a lot of work and massive expectations.
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#6. There are many practice areas of law
The legal field covers all aspects of life, from crime and punishment to property law. As such, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that there’s more than one type of lawyer.
The one you’re most familiar with is probably criminal litigation lawyers. They’re the ones you see in crime shows arguing in court. But you can also find lawyers specialising in family law, IP (intellectual property) protection, human rights and banking and finance.
#7. Not all lawyers go to court
If you're hesitant to study law because you're apprehensive of arguing your case in court, know that not all lawyers go to court.
It’s one of the most common things you see about lawyers in the media but this only illustrates one type of lawyer — litigation.
For lawyers who specialise in conveyancing, corporate law and banking and finance, their playground is outside the court. Instead, they can be found practising their craft in boardrooms and on negotiation tables.
#8. It's not like what you see on TV
Finally, if you find yourself motivated to go into the law field because of what you see on the screen, think again.
Legal shows and movies like Suits, Vincenzo, Legally Blonde and the likes are entertaining but they are far from reality. Sure, they might feature some real law and employ legal professionals as consultants — but ultimately, they are still works of fiction. No one is going to hire you just because you have a photographic memory and no court system will ever allow a first-year to act as an attorney in a real courtroom. Behind all the drama and action of high profile court cases are countless hours of research and paperwork.
So while these works can serve as inspiration for you, remember that there’s more to the law field than what you see on-screen.
Hopefully, this article will help you decide if you really want to study law. Your degree is an investment, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of time and energy. So make sure to think things through.