Do you have a burning question about becoming a legal eagle but you’re afraid it might sound too elementary?
Mr Daniel Abishegam, the Academic Director of ATC, Malaysia’s leading private law, answers some of the top questions everyone has when it comes to studying law.
#1. Do I have to read and memorise a lot?
From case studies to the Penal Code, it’s fair to think that pursuing law requires a ton of reading and memorising. While there is some truth to that, this course is not all about memorising.
According to Mr Abishegam, the biggest skill you get from a law degree is the ability to understand a law and apply it to real-world settings.
“Nobody comes out of a law degree having every single law in their head. That’s just silly because laws are so easily available. The skill that you develop after getting a law degree is the ability to understand a law, to read it (because law has a language of its own) and then to use and apply it.”
So, don’t worry if you’re not a walking encyclopaedia of dates, statutes and cases!
#2. Do I need to have good language skills?
“English isn’t my best language. Can I still be a lawyer?”
If your inability to communicate efficiently is the reason why you’re nervous to pursue law, Mr Abishegam reveals that studying law doesn’t require you to have superior language skills.
“This is not an English test; it’s a Law exam. The examiners are not too concerned about how well you phrase your sentences or what fancy Shakespearean language you use. As long as you’re able to use the language to convey what you’re trying to say, it’s enough,” he says.
So toss your worries aside and don’t let language barriers stop you from pursuing this course.
#3. Do I have to be an extrovert to excel in the field?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no one type of personality that excels in the legal field.
While the common stereotype surrounding a Law degree is that you need to be social, competitive and have a bold personality to state your arguments convincingly, Mr Abishegam confirms that your personality doesn’t play a huge role in your success in the field. Instead, it’s the skills that you’ve equipped yourself with while pursuing a Law degree.
“If (being an extrovert) is not your personality and you’re sure of it, then a Law degree will also give you an avenue to do so much more. A Law degree gives you skills as well as cultivates you to do a range of things. And the training you get from a Law degree is useful for so many other working areas as well.”
So don’t be discouraged if you’re not an extroverted person. There is enough room for every personality type to succeed in the legal field!
#4. Can I still be a lawyer if I don’t want to go to court?
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It’s no doubt that most legal TV shows and movies, if not all, make it seem like lawyers are exclusively in the courtrooms. So you might be wondering, are there lawyers who don’t have to face the judge?
Well, as a matter of fact, there are. According to Mr Abishegam, there are legal professions where you hardly ever go to court.
“You can become what is known as a general counsel or work in an in-house legal department (most big companies and medium-sized companies will have a legal department). What you do is that you are an employee of that particular company and your role is to advise the company about their legal liability, what they can do and can’t do.”
Not only that, there are lawyers who deal with conveyancing, banking and finance law, as well as corporate law — all of which rarely visit the courts.
#5. Can I be a judge right after doing a stint as a lawyer?
To be a judge right away is almost impossible as you will need a lot of experience as a practitioner. However, there is a path you can follow to pursue the judicial title in Malaysia according to Mr Abishegam.
“You can join the AG Chambers (Attorney General Chambers) services and then further become a magistrate. A magistrate is like a judge but they’re in charge of the lower courts. And if you work hard, you can be promoted to a Sessions Court Judge, then you move on to the big league and become a High Court Judge.”
Even so, it’s important to note that the path from a law practitioner to becoming a judge may not be linear for everyone. You may serve as a prosecutor first before you can be a magistrate, but either way, hard work is detrimental to prove your effort and competence for the title.
#6. What is the reality of being a lawyer?
If you think being a lawyer means earning big bucks and leading a glamorous lifestyle, you’ve probably fallen for these misconceptions of being a lawyer!
So what is the reality of being a lawyer? Are your days filled with working your fingers to the bone and surviving sleepless nights scouring the depths of the internet and legal files for cases?
Probably, but despite the struggles, Mr Abishegam believes that lawyers are well equipped with the tools to make a huge difference in society.
“As someone who has practised, you have the tools to do something other than just sitting around and complaining. If you’re qualified to be a lawyer, you now have the ability to do something about it such as taking action against the government, or if you see someone abusing another person who is less privileged, you can help that person. It’s within your power to help and you can.”
Don’t be disheartened by the workload of a Law degree because the skills you obtain from persevering through law school can actually serve a greater good to the world!
While law school is not for the faint-hearted, the heavy workload is a great preparation for your future in the field. With enough drive, passion and support, you can certainly succeed to be the lawyer you’re destined to be.