When Contemplating Law…

I’ve been receiving questions such as “Should I do Law?” and “Is reading Law easy?” over the past few weeks. For you who took the time to write an email and post a comment, I would like to thank you. Perhaps I could be of an assistance to you and Malaysians out there who are thinking of doing Law or have been thrusted into the legal field to satisfy the powers that be. 😉

As they say, the legal profession is among the oldest profession in the world – next to prostitution. Some jokes and puns points the two being the same. :-S Remember that just because you will be pursuing your Legal Studies or Jurisprudence degree, it’s not a guarantee that you will become a lawyer. The road is still long. Heck, even if you did Pre-Law or Asasi Undang-Undang, no one can say you will be called to the Bar. Having a Law degree, however, gives you significant advantages over the competition.

The three years you spend or invest in you Bachelor of Legal Studies (Hons.) or equivalent are to instill skills to find the Law, understand the Law and apply the Law. You do not actually learn the Law per se. Through legal education, you are thought to find relevant issues to be tackled, formulate a solution, present and defend it under thorough scrutiny. Because Law is chaotic, there is no right answer. In fact, lawyers who adhere to the ‘text book solution’ idea is best kept at arms length. You will be dealing with the rights and liabilities of everything and anything in Malaysia. Thus, you need to learn to make colours out of black and white. In my view, shared by many, the best lawyers are the creative ones! Take Boston Legal, for example. Though it may be a sitcom, but their arguements are persuasive – and that is what you need in the Malaysian Legal Fraternity.

To quote the Constitutional Law Don, Y.Bhg. Prof. Dr. Shad Saleem Faruqi of UiTM, Law students give life and meaning to the word of the law. It is the lawyers and the judges who can expand and contract the vocabulary employed and arranged by Parliament to condone, condemn or prohibit acts and omissions. Teh Cheng Po, among others, is such a display of creativity.

As mentioned previously, a Law student must always keep an open mind as well as being able to formulate logical opinions when in the field. Out of the thousands of cases which goes under the Judge’s hammer every year, at least a handful must be landmark cases. While the doctrine of judicial precedent governs the judiciary to ensure we have a consistent one, the doctrine allows some leeway for courts to adopt change. Much depending on your understanding of the law, quite frankly.

Then, there’s the issue of defending a person who is different from you. You might end up defending a group of Orang Asli or Native of Sarawak and Sabah against some multinational corporation or other big shots. To get to them, you might have to do more than jungle-tracking. Can you afford to do that, mentally and emotionally? Many jurisdictions have admitted that eye-witness account does not necessarily produce accurate accounts of the event. How can you be sure what your client is saying is the truth or a fabrication? While we’re at this, let us not forget hostile witnesses and judges themselves. Bear in mind,those on the Bench are human too. What happens if your arguement is rejected by the court, what do you do? Perhaps you face a situation where you might loose. What is your next move?

Life as a Law Student is no where near glamourous for some. Yet, there are those who still manage to party every night and still graduate with that degree. Personally, I have no comment on this. You need to balance your life. University at large is a good time for you to learn what and why to prioritise. Just remember that you have to read and comprehend a lot of material.

Do you see the skills – among others – you can acquire from doing Law? You may not be called to the Bar at the end of the day, but you will still have the same skills as those who do – more or less.

But what if you’re from a Science or Technical Stream or have an interests in the Arts? To quote an old note I had in Pre-Law, “Law is a chaotic of solution with a chaotic of answers to a chaotic of questions”. Because Law covers every aspect of human life, you can steer yourself towards the science-related segment of the Law. I know of some friends who are keen on doing Medical Negligence as they find that area of the Law to be interesting… and lucrative. I have a former lecturer who’s doing a study on electronic signature – every aspect of it: all the what, who, why, when, where, how and any combo of it. As for me, I did Cyber Law for my elective – well, since I’m a freelance copywriter generating some extra bucks. The Arts part? Well, scroll up to the creativity part. 😉

At the core of it, studying Law is just like studying Life and Humanity. You dissect many aspects of everyday life – and in Law School it is arranged under categories: Contract Law, Law of Torts, Malaysian Legal System, Criminal Law, Family Law, Constitutional Law and the like. Ask questions like “how come she can do this bu he can’t?” or “can the Government do this?” You’ll even learn about the Special Privileges of the Malays and the Natives of Sarawak and Sabah (Art. 153, Federal Constitution) as it is. Some laws are rather archaic that you cannot help to be amused by it. Don’t be surprised by your reaction when you read judgements which are ‘ajaib‘ (weird) in nature: see Tan Sri Raja Khalid.

Do not let your past get to you when you’re accepted in Law School. Nevermind your history wasn’t as strong as your classmate. Who cares if you’re from the Technical stream. At the end of the day, you want to cross the stage and get your scroll. There are many books and materials on the market, online and off, which can help you. You past should stay where it is. Work your present to create your future. After all, the rule is: you cannot change your past – and there is no exception. You can alter your future by the actions you take at the present.

When in Law School, to enjoy life, my advice is carpe diem. It’s best if you can pursue studies in an area you’re into. Law school does not mean you’ll be an advocate and solicitor, but you can have the “LL.B. (Hons.) (UiTM), B.L.S. (Hons.) (UiTM)” behind your name, though.

So when contemplating Law, know what you want but keep options open.