I thought the stand-out session was the one in relation to “IT: How Does It Make Us Mighty?” It demonstrated that when you have a good panel of speakers, giving different perspectives, as well as a good moderator to control the flow of speakers as well as the audience participation, you can get a very interesting session. Issues such as whether BlackBerry is a tool of empowerment or enslavement was touched on, as well as the impact of technology on the speed and pace of practice. Instantaneous responses are now expected, the lines are blurred between office and out-of-office hours. We are a service industry, and we are there to service the needs of clients, so we will have to increasingly cope with almost round-the-clock queries especially with clients from different time zones. If you aren’t going to step up to face such demands, there will be another lawyer to the left and to the right of you who will.
I have to admit that I had given little thought before this on how different legal practice could be outside of KL. But it was good on the part of the moderator to emphasise that the IT needs of a small law firm in one of the smaller states would be vastly different from the IT necessities expounded by some of the members of the panel. A lawyer from Ipoh spoke of how her law firm did not have a computer at all, but that did not get in the way of the firm’s practice. The firm’s clients could be illiterate but a very successful businessmen, so the concept of emails or even letters would be something very foreign. Another lawyer from Kelantan explained how different practice was like in that state. There were no such long working hours, and the concept of a client contacting you past 5.30pm was virtually unheard of.
It was good for that session to highlight the dichotomy between practice in a large law firm in KL, and perhaps the smaller firms outside of KL. Inevitably though, as clients’ needs evolve, even in the smaller towns, law firms will be forced to embrace more and more of IT. The illiterate quarry owner will soon hand over the quarry to his IT-savvy children, and then the law firm or lawyers will also be forced to change the way they practice.
In contrast to that IT session, which remained focused on the topic at hand, some of the other sessions were a little bit less successful. For instance, in the first session, “The New Lawyers: Gen Y” started off well I thought, with the various speakers, me included, giving different viewpoints on this new concept of Generation Y. A mere marketing term or something that really exists? The moderator had an idea on which points he wanted to develop, but the danger of these interactive talk-show style sessions is that it may slowly move off-point or become a complaining session. While it is good to use personal experiences or anecdotes to highlight certain points, I certainly didn’t want to see the session slowly end up focusing only on the bad experiences some of the lawyers had during their pupillage.
I think the scope of the topics for the YL Convention was wide and it should have been very interesting. While some of the sessions were a big success, some were quite a let-down. It actually boils down quite a lot to the strength of your speakers. Maybe future organisors should use less on the “talk-show” format which was widely used at this Convention. While it provides for a very interesting discussion, there is the danger of the session going off-point without a strong moderator. There should be a balance of the talk-show format as well as the conventional presentation of papers, but maybe then with more time allocated to Q&A and interaction. It allows participants to have physical papers to take away and read, and it also forces the speakers to be focused in their delivery and to come prepared. I am still a fan of the talk-show format though, and that format depends a lot on the moderator setting out clear guidelines on the different aspect each speaker should touch on.