Documentation and the Law Student

I’m sure you are familiar with the ISO buzz. Chances are you might have come across it when you’re at the premises of certain government agencies and some private firms. The common certification is ISO 9000. But what is ISO and how is it relevant to the Law Student?

The essence of ISO lies in documentation. You record and create a standard operating procedure which revolves around the service or product. Coming up with it is not enough; you will have to follow the procedure as well. External auditors would be checking to ensure you comply. If anything goes wrong, you are supposed to sit down and investigate where it went wrong and check it with your procedure. If the error was internal, you need to solve the problem and minimise losses. If you need to change the procedure, by all means do so. On the other hand, if the mistake was external, you have to talk to the vendor or supplier. Explain the purpose of the meeting, inform them the problem and how it is linked to them. Should the other party address the problem, you can keep them. But where things go sour, you have to severe the loss and make a move.

How will this be relevant to the Law Student – and, later, lawyers?

The cornerstone of the Torrens System is “registration is everything”. I would like to adapt this to: records are everything. Please remember that when you practice, your case can be thrown out of court just because you overlooked some trivial technicalities. You forgot to fill in a form or the form was written with blue ink in cursive writing. A manual also helps you manage your life better.

When studying, you could identify how to set priorities. What are the criteria for one task to be more important than another. In your room, you could fix one place to keep your keys and documents. When you want to take it, it’s there. When you need to keep it, there it goes.

Documentation also helps your finances. When you’re eating out, try to ask for and keep the receipt. Or at least record the price. When you buy books and magazines, do the same. Why? Because you can get tax exemption from the latter. Well… maybe your parents can. You can also dictate when and why will you withdraw what amount of money from the bank.

Sounds complicated? Well, sad to say this is what you will have to emphasize on. Heck, as Law students, you ought to learn the double entry system when it comes to the calendar! When you’re working as an in-house counsel, especially for corporations and government agencies, you will face all this. It may not always be known as ISO, but documentation will become part of your life.


One Response to Documentation and the Law Student

  1. Alistaire says:

    Additional tips from a Law Student who has undergone practical training at a Court (and only recently too!):

    While judges can and often are as harsh as Aldric claims, Senior Assistant Registrars (SARs) are thankfully, from what I have seen, not as much. SARs have jurisdiction to hear what you might term the “little details” of any given case, for example, applications for Summary Judgment under Order 14 of the Rules of High Court 1980, or for determining the assesment of damages awarded in each cause of action (as opposed to the actual cause of action, which is heard by the judge), snippets, if you may. One exception is within the realm of bankruptcy, where before only judges have jurisdiction to issue AOROs (Adjudication order/Receiving order, the two orders that sentence one to bankruptcy) now in lieu of the ever increasing number of cases that power has been delegated to SARs.

    If you choose to practice insolvency you might find yourself often employed by financial institutions who wish to bankrupt errant debtors. Usually this will involve filing a Creditor’s Petition (CP) following any act of bankrupcy by the debtor. When filing such a Petition, remember, procedures of documentation are very important. Every effort must be made to ensure that the preceding Bankruptcy Notice (BN) has been made to the debtor, and failing which, substituted service has been effected. Also, in bankruptcy, besides filing with the SAR, you also have to ensure that the Official Assignee (OA) (of the Director General of Insolvency, who manages the assets of all bankrupts) has all copies of the documents pertaining to the execution of your action against the debtor. Often it is the case that the OA loses the files, so a useful tip is to serve any notice to the OA who will be present at the hearing instead, rather then beforehand. From my observations the SAR asks two questions before agreeing to an AORO 1) Has notice been served upon the debtor? and 2) Has notice been served on the OA? Answer yes to all this, and the Court will be satisfied you have made reasonable effort to contact the debtor, who usually fails to show up, and will grant the much coverted AORO. Remember also that a CP has to be filed within 6 months from the act of bankrupcy by the debtor, failing which the period lapses and you will have to apply for extension of time. There was a time when a lawyer bewilderedly looked at the SAR when she, noticing that the months were up, asked whether an extension had been given, underscoring also the basic need for one to KNOW YOUR CASE BEFORE YOU PRESENT.

    As for other civil applications, such as Summary Judgment under Order 14s heard by SARs, the advice is pretty much the same, just make sure all documents are in order before. I have heard such lame excuses sitting in chamber hearings during my practical, such as forgetting to photocopy authorities, etc. So prudent time management of documentation is important too. Remember too that in all civil actions, an order of which you seek needs to be drafted before hand in the form of a draf perintah (draft order). Have also regard to dates (etc when so and so affidavit was filed and where) Orders in civil actions are not done by the Courts themselves, as in criminal cases. The more you assist the Court, the more likely a favourable impression and ultimately, a favourable outcome for your client. So documentation is very important indeed.

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