KUALA LUMPUR, Wed: The final day of the three-day 14th Malaysian Law
Conference on 31st October 2007 was attended by a fair great number of
participants who were hungry for more information given out by the highly
The Malaysian Bar Council invited many well-respected local and foreign speakers to discuss important areas such as issues on whether we are turning lawyers in the new millennium into working machines, the role of ASEAN in the Myanmar Impasse, orang asli and our constitution, our Criminal Justice System: the good, the bad and the ugly side of it, the development of the South East Asia young lawyers convention, etc…
There were a total number of six sessions on the final day of the conference.
One of the interesting sessions that attracted many young lawyers was on the issue of ‘Lawyers in the New Millennium – Are we turning lawyers into working machines?’. Lee Shih from M/s. Skrine hosted the session in a more informal and interactive approach. The speakers for the session were Dr Alvin Ng, a Clinical psychologist and lecturer from UKM, Laura Liew, an advocate and solicitor and also the Chair for the Young Lawyers Committee of the Singapore Law Society, Olivia Loh, a partner from M/s. Bodipalar Ponnudurai Nathan and Sandesh Kabir from M/s. YH Teh & Quek.
It was a very motivating session as young lawyers gathered together to exchange ideas and to look into the issues affecting them, for instance salary, working hours, their working conditions, etc.
Before kicking off the session, the host invited Desmond Ho,
Deputy Chairman of the National Young Lawyers Committee to discuss the survey
done in relation to the working conditions of young lawyers. He stated that the
purpose of the survey was to obtain data and a clear picture of the working
conditions of young lawyers of the Malaysian Bar and allowing the NYLC to
initiate further discussions on the identified pertinent and pressing issues to
sufficiently represent the needs and interest of young lawyers.
He mentioned that out of the 453 respondents who completed the survey forms, a total of 59.2% of respondents stated that there were not satisfied with their salary and 68.8% respondents were not satisfied with their salary increment. Further, a 68.9% of respondents were satisfied with their working hours, and only 50.8% of respondents felt satisfied with the level of work related pressures in practice.
When being posed the question on whether lawyers today are turned into working machines, the speakers unanimously agreed that young lawyers today, to a certain extent, are slowly turning into working machines, knowingly or unknowingly.
The Chair of the Singapore Young Lawyers Committee gave her view on the working conditions in Singapore. She stated that most of the young lawyers in Singapore are working in large firms due to the attractive salary, even though they are subjected to long working hours and the greater pressure.
Olivia Loh was of the opinion that in the Malaysian context, it all depends on the area of practice, the firm and the state one is practising in. She stated that it is all up to every individual, whether he/she is willing to put up with long hours in a sexy deal in a large firm or to have a better quality life working in smaller firms.
Sandesh Kabir expressed the view that it depends on one’s passion for the law. He was of the opinion that many young lawyers were earnest and enthusiastic to practise law, but yet get tired with the procedure and the substantive work involved.
Dr Alvin stated that young lawyers work hard for long hours and it depends on how they manage their time and how well they cope with their working conditions. When touching on the issue of procedures involved, for instance, to get a document stamped at the Stamp Office, he gave a witty comment that one could do yoga while queuing up for his / her turn.
The speakers all agreed that it all boils down to a matter of choice and to recognise one’s own limits. Young lawyers should identify the problems they face, to know how much they can take and to learn to manage time properly so that stress could be reduced.
During the Q & A session, one of the interesting questions posed to all young lawyers was, what are the expectations of a young lawyer. He stated that if young lawyers think that the legal profession is similar as those seen in LA Law, then they are certainly not suitable for the profession. His advice was that the procedure and substantive work is all part of the learning experience and trivial things contribute to knowledge. He emphasised that no matter which era one joins the legal profession, the stress and work pressure will still be there.
It was indeed an interesting session for the young lawyers who attended that particular session.