eLawyer Law Conference at UM

I attended the eLawyer Law Conferenceon Saturday, after rushing down from the Bar AGM in the morning. OK, didn’t quite attend the Bar AGM, more like just signing my name, grabbing the Annual Report and then rushing down to UM.This was the first time I’ve ever been a VIP at any event. The experience was complete with a corsage being pinned on me, and then an usher quickly bringing me to the packed lecture hall, and then pointed to the front row reserved for the VIPs. I was there mainly because I was one of the judges for the eLawyer Legal Blog Writing competition, the results of which would be announced at the end of the conference.

Made it there just in time to see Cheng Leong start his Q&A session, and the audience was very active in asking questions, and you could see that there were a lot of queries from the bloggers out there. I think the bulk of the audience were bloggers, and their questions ranged from copyright issues to whether they could prevent someone placing up a picture on facebook. Cheng Leong answered the questions like a true pro I thought, but you can read his blog for how he was feeling.

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Next up was Nizam with his talk on defamation and blogging, where he highlighted all the significant cases in the news recently and then set out the law on defamation. His Q&A session was buzzing as well, with lots of questions being posed and the MCs had to also cut this Q&A short.

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Some of the VIPs, including Khairul Anuar and Eddie Law

After this, was essentially the prize giving for the eLawyer Legal Blog writing competition. Fahri Azzat spoke on behalf of the judges to give some feedback. Essentially, the judges were going to reward originality of thought in the blog writing competition. I then spoke very briefly on my thoughts about the blogosphere here in Malaysia, and its interaction with the law and the legal profession. Prizes were then given out for the consolation prize winners and then the top three prizes.

I thought it was a well-run conference, albeit a half-day conference. Good start for eLawyer and hopefully this can be expanded in the next installment. Will look forward to more sessions, including panel discussions and an increase in interactivity among the speakers on a panel and more importantly, an increase in interactivity with the audience members.

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Update on the eLawyer Law Conference

I had earlier blogged about the eLawyer Law Conference, being held on 14 March 2009. Seems like it is going to be a packed event, with all the seats having run out. Both Nuffnang and Malaysiakini will be covering the event.The man behind eLawyer, Eddie, was also interviewed by BFM 89.9, and he also spoke about the eLawyer conference.

To those of you who obtained a seat at the conference, will see you there.

eLawyer Law Conference 2009

eLawyer will be holding its first ever Law Conference 2009 entitled “Blogging and Law”.

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It is from 9.30am – 12.30pm on Saturday 14 March 2009. I will be attending it but it looks like I will have to miss out on the Malaysian Bar AGM held on the same day.

Two of my friends, Cheng Leong and Nizam will be speaking at the conference on very interesting topics.

In conjunction with the conference, eLawyer will also be announcing the results of its legal blog writing competition. I sat as a judge and I have sifted through all the entries so I am looking forward to seeing who won.

ALB Report on Malaysian Legal Market

ALB featured an article looking back on the Malaysian legal market as well as the future ahead with the economic slowdown. The article touches on the long-mentioned entry of foreign law firms into the legal market, especially in the area of Islamic finance. I know Bank Negara has been trying to push for allowing foreign firms to come in for the practice area of Islamic finance but there seems to be little progress on that respect.Another aspect of the article covered the ongoing problem of retaining legal talent. I recognise the difficulty in ensuring that legal talent continues to remain in Malaysia, and I also wrote about this before.One of the lawyers in the ALB article spoke about consolidation of law firms. I find it difficult to see the role that the Bar Council can take on in forcing such a consolidation. I highly doubt the Malaysian Bar would pass any such resolution at a general meeting to advance such a proposal.

What I hope to see are higher entry standards into the legal profession. The archaic CLP must be phased out and with some form of common entry examination. I can see the commercial advantages of a consolidation of the legal market, although this must not affect the ease of access to legal services to the public. The market may then follow the UK market with its ‘Magic Circle’ firms specialising in commercial matters, along with the other near-Magic Circle commercial firms, as well as the national and other High Street firms delivering services relating to conveyancing, general litigation, probate, personal injury claims, etc.

Legal Salary Statistics from Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore

ALB recently featured an article comparing the salaries from several reliable recruitment companies to provide an overall view of legal market salaries for private practice lawyers of PQE 1-6 across the Asia-Pacific region.Very interesting results, especially where the Singapore international law firms seem to be paying very high relatively. For example, 3 years PQE is drawing an average of S$165,000, which is more than S$13,000 per month!

I have extracted some of the tables from the article:

Australia (Sydney – top tier only) (AU$)

Qualification ALB average
1 year PQE 73,833
2 years PQE 85,750
3 years PQE 97,833
4 years PQE 114,833
5 years PQE 129,583
6 years PQE 157,500

Hong Kong / China (HK$)


Qualification ALB average
1 year PQE 845,847
2 years PQE 926,114
3 years PQE 1,000,714
4 years PQE 1,109,357
5 years PQE 1,183,500
6 years PQE 1,270,229

 

(international firm salaries – not local)

Singapore (S$)


Qualification ALB average
1 year PQE 141,375
2 years PQE 152,000
3 years PQE 165,125
4 years PQE 228,125
5 years PQE 244,375
6 years PQE 256,875

 

(international firm salaries – not local)

Meet-up with Law Students

A few of the KL young lawyers hosted a huge bunch of ATC law students for dinner and drinks over in Bangsar this evening. They were very good company and I always find it heartwarming to see law students so interested in the law, in already being keen on doing pro bonowork and being generally passionate or interested in finding out more about the law.I guess this is in contrast to myself where I kinda ambled along my law degree and then being very fortunate to falling into an area of law that I enjoy and now enjoying the practice of law.

I think it is also very important for the profession to continue to maintain links with law students. They are after all the future of the profession and the meet-up today was just an extension of a long-standing young lawyer project in reaching out to the law students from local universities and other local institutions. It’s important to manage the expectations of law students, give them an idea of what real practice is like and also give the law students to ask any questions that they have. I would have appreciated any such opportunity to mix with lawyers when I was at law school, but never really got such opportunities.

Judging from the questions and the discussions we had, the students have a very good idea of what their goals and interests are in the practice of the law, and I think that bodes well for the profession.

Book Review: Modern Advocacy – Perspectives from Singapore

Picked up Modern Advocacy – Perspectives from Singapore from the library and just before I browsed through it, I half-expected it to be another book covering the usual objectives of cross-examination, how to frame your questions, or how to best make opening or closing submissions. But I couldn’t be more wrong and the book is a treasure trove of invaluable tips and lessons on trial advocacy. It provides in-depth coverage on all aspects of the craft of advocacy and very uniquely, from a Singapore perspective. A lot of the content and advice can equally be applicable here in Malaysia, due to our very similar laws on civil procedure.

The book is split into 20 chapters, and each chapter is authored by a leading litigator or judge in Singapore. The book does not just focus on the oft-perceived concept of advocacy being only the arguments made in court or deft cross-examination of the witnesses on the stand. Advocacy, or good advocacy, covers the entire span of trial preparation, from developing a case theory from the start, the drafting of pleadings to fit with that case theory, interviewing your witnesses, interlocutory proceedings and pre-trial and the eventual trial proceedings.

The chapters take the reader through this entire process of advocacy, each author giving advice and lessons while also peppering their writings with their own personal experiences. It is a wonderful read as the book either gives you a new perspective on how to approach a case or reinforces some of the approaches you have already adopted in your practice.

For instance, in the chapter covering ‘Advocacy in Interlocutory Applications’, Steven Chong SC shares with us litigation strategy on what sort of interlocutory applications should be applied for. The example of discovery is used, where the application for discovery is not so much to see what the opposing party will disclose, but to see what the opposing party refuses to disclose. It is useful to use such an application to gauge whether you have hit the other side’s “raw nerve”. An application for specific discovery of supposed non-relevant and undisclosed documents may then eventually cause the opposing party’s case theory to unravel. Applications for summary judgment or striking out can be useful – not necessarily and only to succeed in these applications, but to also assess the other party’s strengths and weaknesses and to force the other party to commit to a case theory or position very early on in the proceedings.

The book does not only focus on civil trial proceedings, but there are two chapters devoted to criminal trial proceedings and another focusing on advocacy in arbitration and alternative dispute resolution. Appellate advocacy is also covered as well as an overview from the Bench.

This is a fantastic read so I would highly recommend the purchase of it. It’s not too expensive so I want to pick up a copy for myself as well.

The Abolishment of the CLP

It was announced today that the Certificate of Legal Practice (CLP) will be scrapped in favour of a Common Bar Course. The Bar Council has affirmed its support of such a proposal. Since 1993, the Malaysian Bar has been advocating the establishment of a Common Bar Course (CBC) as a single entry point into the legal profession for all law graduates (both local and foreign. The CBC is intended to replace the CLP and all law graduates must enroll and successfully complete the CBC in order to practise law in Malaysia.In his article ‘The CLP – A change would do us all good’, Weng Tchung explained in detail the history of the CLP course, and I gratefully refer to his in-depth analysis of the background of the CLP. The same author has also made many points in his piece entitled ‘The CLP and the Proposed Common Bar Course’.

I would like to also emphasise the points he has made that practical subjects must be part of the syllabus. Under the present CLP system, students learn by rote and purely regurgitate procedural rules they have memorised. There are no subjects in relation to conferencing, negotiations or advocacy. Singapore itself is considering a revamp and a move towards a common Vocational Training Course.

While I think the abolishment of the CLP and a move towards the CBC is a step in the right direction, the present lack of details about the implementation of this proposed CBC leaves me cautious. Will this CBC act as a gatekeeper to ensure high standards are met before an individual can enter the profession? Or will some form of unseen quota system be enforced behind the scenes? Or even worse, the doors will be left wide open to let all and sundry in?

Bristol-LSE Debate: The Aftermath

I had great fun this evening at the debate. It was staged at the Royal Selangor Golf Club, deep in Kuala Lumpur. There was a really bad jam leading there, and I was worried about reaching there late. I wasn’t in the most prepared of states, and was quite stressed with preparing my debate, whilst juggling the clearing of work this week before I went on leave.

Although I knew only one person at the dinner initially, I soon got to know the people on my table quite well, and while there were several pockets of LSE alumni as well as Bristol alumni, people were generally mixing well.

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Having completed our 6-course dinner, it was time to start the debate proper. We were very fortunate to have Datuk Zaid Ibrahim to moderate the debate. The debate was generally a light hearted affair, and it was quite interactive where the audience members would react and cheer their unimate on, or boo the other side, but all in good fun. Each round would be decided by way of vote of hands from the floor.

The debate kicked off with the first topic: “This house believes that the British university environment and standards can be recreated in Malaysia at local institutions of higher learning.” LSE was proposing this motion, while Bristol was opposing, and Bristol won this round.

The second topic was “This house believes that both universities attract diverse students, but while Bristol produces all-rounders, LSE churns out financial stereotypes”, with Bristol proposing. For this round, LSE edged out the Bristol side and therefore it all came down to the final topic.

“This house believes that football as a sport does more for youth development than motorsports.” This is the one which I had to tackle and I went first in advancing the proposition. Nerves definitely kicked in, and while my prepared opening went smoothly, I definitely didn’t do as well during my rebuttal section, but I managed to salvage it during the conclusion I guess. I think it is fair to say, and this was commented by a neutral member of the audience (Exeter alumni), that both speakers had rather porous arguments which he could poke holes through.

The moderator graciously declared the round a tie, although I think the show of hands was in favour of LSE. Therefore, the night ended in a tie. The overall score between Bristol and LSE would officially read 1/2 – 2 1/2.

But again, the whole evening was in good fun and spirit, and I am glad that I got involved in the event. I made quite a number of new friends, both Bristolians and LSE-ians, especially over drinks after the event. The Bristolians would be reminiscing about our Bristol days, asking which hall did we stay in our first year (seems like the nickname Shiat Bunker has been around for many years even before I was there), remembering the Downs, Whiteladies Road and Blackboy Hill (not the most politically-correct street names I must admit). Looking forward to the next alumni event.

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Bristol-LSE Alumni Debate

I was invited to take part in the Bristol-LSE Debate tomorrow evening. It is being organised by the University of Bristol Alumni Association of Malaysia and it revives the friendly rivalry between the two alumni associations here in Malaysia (Bristol is now trailing 0-2 after losing in paintballing and go-karting).

I will be in the company of real heavyweights while I will be the small fry. On the Bristol team, there will be Fahri Azzat, a prominent young lawyer, as well as Dato’ Ahmad Zaki Zahid, Head of Policy Unit in the PM’s Department.

On LSE’s side, there will be Raja Eileen, a partner from the law firm Raja, Darryl & Goh, and Dato’ Azman Yahya, former CEO of Danaharta. Originally Dato Tony Fernandes (of Air Asia) was also supposed to debate for LSE but I’ve been informed that he might have to pull out.

The debate will be carried out in the Economist Oxford 2.0 format, with slight tweaks.

For each topic (25 mins):

1. Intro by moderator – 1 min
2. Proposal opening – 3 mins
3. Opposition opening – 3 mins
4. Proposal rebuttal – 3 mins
5. Opposition rebuttal – 3 mins
6. Proposal conclusion – 2 mins
7. Opposition conclusion – 2 mins
8. Moderator summarises – 3 mins
9. Floor votes and vote-counting – 5 mins

It will be much faster than a standard debate, and it will be individual speakers against individual speakers, and not a team event. So there will be 3 topics up for debate.

Mine is the more light-hearted of the three: “This House believes that football as a sport does more for youth development than motorsports.” Luckily, I am on the proposition side, and I think the topic is quite heavily tilted to the proposition’s favour.

My opponent? Dato’ Azman Yahya. Good luck to me. I am stressed.

Quite short notice, but if anyone has any ideas in support of my topic, or if you can anticipate points raised in favour of the opposition, please drop a comment. Much appreciated!