Contributed by the National
Young Lawyers Committee
Alvina Mun Sook Kwan, 23 years old, graduated from the University of Leeds in 2005. She passed the CLP exams in 2006 and was called to the Bar in August 2007. Angeline Cheah spoke to her recently.
You chambered in a large firm in Kuala Lumpur and are now practising in a medium–sized firm in Penang. What are the main differences that you find between the two?
Like any other vocation, working in a large city or establishment is always more challenging and stressful.
Having said that, I consider myself very fortunate
for the opportunity to chamber in a reputable firm which gave me the exposure to
different areas of legal practice and I had a very good learning experience
during my pupilage which is a necessary foundation for any young lawyer starting
out in the profession. In Penang, the members are a very close–knit community.
The camaraderie, courtesy and unity among members are commendable.
The National Young Lawyers Committee recently conducted on the working conditions of young lawyers in Malaysia. What is your general opinion on the working conditions of chambering pupils and young lawyers in Penang?
In the Working Conditions Survey Report by the National Young Lawyers Committee, I note that 67% of the respondents indicated that they are considering leaving the legal profession in the next 5 years. This speaks volumes about the working conditions of young practitioners in Malaysia and this should alert employers to tackle these issues at hand.
In the relatively short time that I have been in practice, I think pupils and young lawyers in Penang are generally satisfied with the working environment here as the emphasis has always been to practice a balanced lifestyle.
Any specific concerns? If so, what do you think can be done to improve the situation?
My concern involves pupils–in–chambers. Firstly, some pupils may not be adequately remunerated. To this end, the Bar Council should seriously look into setting a compulsory minimum allowance for pupils as a matter of ethics and to avoid exploitation. Most pupils are still relying on parental support or other part–time employment. Secondly, there should be a curriculum for pupils to follow as a pupil’s work experience large depended on the type of work the master does and as a result, the playing field in which pupils compete may not always be level. A curriculum would provide uniformity, a structured and monitored training of the pupils and also ensures greater consistency between pupilages.
You recently attended the 3rd Young Lawyers Convention held here in Penang. Do you think it benefited you as a young lawyer? In what way?
The theme of this year’s Convention was “Independent, Innovative and International”. True to its theme, the Convention addressed topics and issues that are very relevant in practice such as the use of IT, how to manage time effectively, how to remain competitive and in demand with the entry of foreign lawyers and what are the skills and expectations required of lawyers with the onset of globalisation. I also gained valuable insights from the candid discussions and personal accounts at forums by distinguished speakers and participants alike. As a young lawyer, I certainly benefited from the convention as the discussions were not only empowering but very practical to apply in the profession.
In its Annual General Meeting last week, the majority of the Penang Bar voted against having a Young Lawyers Committee in Penang. What is your take on that?
The Young Lawyers Committee in seeking to promote and protect interests of young lawyers serves as a platform for young lawyers to express their various views and concerns which they might find difficult to discuss with other senior lawyers. I would be happy if Penang YLC could be reinstated as I do not see any harm in setting up the YLC here when the other state bars have their own YLCs and also the setting up of State YLCs is highly encouraged by the Bar Council. However, the general consensus among Penang lawyers at the AGM is that with the repeal of section 46A(1)(a) of the LPA the YLC’s utility is questionable. For that, notwithstanding my vote in favour of setting up the Penang YLC, I would abide by the majority decision.
On a different note, the Bar elections for most State Bars are over and the general elections are around the corner? Will you be voting this time around? If not, why?
Yes, I will be voting come March 8. This would be my first and I’m very excited to be eligible to vote in our country’s 12th general election. It would be interesting to watch BN and the opposition pitting against the other. The latter has a very important role to play in our country’s governance to ensure that a system of checks and balances is in place.
Do you think that it is important for the young people of our country to be aware of their right to vote as citizens? Why?
Definitely. All Malaysians eligible to vote must come forward to exercise their inviolate right to elect their leaders and government. The power to determine the future of our country is in our hands. We must vote to ensure a fair, free and democratic election. If you do not exercise your voting rights, you do not have a place in this country.
Many young people today are indifferent to the politics of our country. Why do you think that is so, and what can be done to stir an interest in these young people?
I think the indifferent attitude of young people towards politics can be attributed to Ignorance due to the restrictive and repressive media environment in our country particularly the mainstream media which does not always report the complete truth. As a result, the younger generation may not be equipped with the necessary information to assess the real political situation in our country. On the other hand, it is good to know that more people are now resorting to alternative media such as internet blogs in search of the truth and unbiased reporting. Perhaps the young people should also get involved in the political arena to get them interested.
If you were elected as a Member of Parliament, what would you do for the betterment of your community?
A Member of Parliament is the elected representative of the people and thus should ethically discharge his duties to the people with integrity, dignity without fear or favour and should always put the interests of the people first. What I would do for my community would of course depend on the community’s needs and wants. Personally, I want to see changes that would improve the quality of life of our people for example bridging the race and religion divide, ensuring fairness in our education system, increase in job opportunities, eradicating corruption, greater transparency in our judiciary, make poverty history, improving our public transportation system, ensuring accountability and responsibility of our government and the making of just laws.
Other YL Personalities:
Melisa Tai Mein–Sze
Vincent Tan Boon Siang
Muhammad Syamsulfaiz Zainuddin
Ummi Kalthum Bt Zakaria
Mohd Taufik Bin Md Tahir
Goh Chuan Chean
Hemalatha Parasa Ramulu
Kho Yieng San
Ng Li Lin
Karthigesan a/l Shanmugam
Juna Binti Jusoh
Albert Ding Choo Earn
Sulaiman Bin Abu Bakar
Nasdrul Umur Bin Shamsulhuda
Sandesh Kabir Singh
Edelina Sophia Binti Sophian Pulle
Mohd Busyairy Bin Che Muda
Wong Fook Meng
Fadiah Nadwa Fikri
Lee Chooi Peng
Angeline Cheah Yin Leng
Mishant a/l Thiruchelvam
Shahrizal Bin Mohd Zin
Rezalman B. Bahran
Gavin Tang Cheng Loong
Noreen Ahmad Ariff
Nadia Ashikin binti Maduarin
David Dinesh Mathew
Nizam Bashir Bin Abdul Kariem Bashir
Amer Hamzah Bin Arshad
Ernie Suffiani Binti Salim
Ahmad Syukri Bin Yusoff
Dipendra Harshad Rai
Soo Wee Loon
Aminuddin bin Abdullah