“Do you want to be a lawyer?” If you asked me this a year ago, I wouldn’t have anything concrete to answer. I wasn’t one of those people who knew they wanted to be a lawyer from the moment they were born. I chose to study law simply because I enjoy reading, I like carrying out constructive arguments, and I have always known that a law degree would give way to many career opportunities.
It hit me last year that, unlike a lot of my course mates, I didn’t have any real law internships to showcase in my CV – until recently. Over the past summer, I decided to really step up my game and interned at three renowned law firms in Malaysia:
Law internships in Malaysia do not typically span over several months (not that I’m aware of, and not unless they’re structured, anyway). I spent 2 to 4 weeks at each those law firms and by the end of it all, I learnt so much about myself and the legal practice back home. Here are 5 quick tips for you to make the most out of a law internship in Malaysia (or any work experience, really):
Tip #1: After you have completed all your assigned work, be proactive and seek to offer help to your supervisor or peers at work
I count myself lucky as I was assigned to mentors who kept me fairly occupied with tasks throughout my internships. In the event that you aren’t, take the initiative to ask around! This is also the perfect opportunity to explore other departments. I was placed in the arbitration, corporate and wills & probate departments. I learnt a lot… but I wanted to learn more. So, where I could, I asked around if there was anything I could assist with. By doing this I was exposed to tax, general litigation, medical negligence and intellectual property. I prepared court bundles and drafted orders, submissions and statements of claims. I even witnessed a high-profile case hearing in the Federal Court!
Tip #2: If you’re bored – don’t play with your phone!
There may be days where you are bored out of your mind, not having anything to do even after you have asked around for work. The temptation to scroll Instagram all day is real – but it is important that you resist! Read a book. Explore the firm’s digital assets and knowledge archives. It is difficult to get access to such valuable resources elsewhere (and for free!), so why not make the most of it? It also leaves a good impression when you are not seen spending hours glued to your phone screen when others are occupied with work.
Tip #3: Be consistently punctual
This should be a no-brainer, but a point worth mentioning since there’s such a thing as “Malaysian timing”. Being part of a structured internship programme means you will be given the opportunity to do things like meet with partners and attend court hearings. Never keep anyone waiting – be it a senior partner or a fellow intern. Even if you aren’t, it is good practice to always be punctual. It makes a difference, and really, it’s common courtesy to be respectful of others’ time!
Tip #4: Greet whoever you see – regardless of their level or portfolio alignment
Be it senior lawyers, associates, pupils, cleaners, clerk, etc. – say hello! Make small talk – ask things how their day is going and how their weekend was. Keep it polite and professional. It also makes encounters with people in the workplace more pleasant – and who wouldn’t want that?
Tip #5: Attend social events and be prepared to network
I was initially very reluctant to attend any social events because I didn’t know how to effectively network with colleagues outside working hours. The first time may not go as well as you imagined but that’s okay – persevere and learn through observation! After several events, I got better at initiating and holding conversations. I also realise that it’s not all about work for everyone at the firms – I was surprised to see how much fun everyone can have, and it felt even better to be able to be a part of it too.
I am now only months away from (hopefully) graduating with a law degree and it gives me a sense of comfort knowing that I have a clearer picture on what I see myself doing in the coming years. After three productive months, I realised I really do like the legal practice and it is a career path I’m determined to pursue after I graduate. Whether or not it will be the same for you, I can’t say – but it’s worth exploring internships to ensure you are on the right path. You never know until you try.
Disclaimer: This is an Opinion Article and it only reflects the views of the author and not the company or institution that may be associated with the Author. This article also does not have any intention to undermine or attack certain individuals or parties.
Written by: Hanna Haizal
Hanna is a final year law student at Queen Mary University of London. Upon graduating, she intends to undertake the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and qualify as a lawyer in Malaysia. As an advocate of education, Hanna enjoys working for charities that primarily aim to tackle education inequity among youths.
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