Sha-Lyn shares her hopes and dreams as she starts her first law firm internship.
Truth be told, the legal industry never struck me as a possible study course, much less a career option – not during high school, nor the first couple of years at college.
All I can remember is hazy memories of my mum who studied and practised law, but refused to be admitted as a partner and went on to explore other career paths.
It was a boy (as it always begins with), who was adamant that I would excel in law studies and suggested I pursue an LLB. He said I had the brains (oh, the flattery!), and the argumentative spirit that would be perfect to study law. So, unlike many who willfully enter the legal pathway in the quest for justice, I went in simply because I needed a degree, and an LLB seemed like a valuable one to have.
Representing college in mooting competitions sealed my dislike for barrister duties – presenting a case in front of a “judge” was simply not my cup of tea. That being the case, what is it about law that I do like? Why even intern in a law firm when I could graduate and get my degree, and easily revert to my previous line of work: communications and advertising?
I stumbled upon this quote by Lord Hoffman in Thorner v Majors in which His Lordship quoted a philosopher, Hegel: “The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.” That piqued my interest and I came to the realization that the law isn’t just what the law is; a more pertinent question is why the law is the way it stands today.
Where many find the pursuit of justice to be the motivating factor to become a lawyer, I find the question of “what is justice?” to be an even more exciting concept to comprehend. Who determines what “justice” is? It is such a fluid concept that every State has their own laws to govern the people based on their concept of justice. And within the State’s rule of law, justice is further defined and interpreted by judges at their discretion (within established rules).
When judges ask themselves, “what is the right thing to do in this situation?” they are evaluating what justice entails based on an underlying philosophical ground. For example, a judge who prefers the utilitarian rule would most certainly come to a different conclusion of what is justice compared to a Kant-practising judge.
Thus, was the epiphany for me. Being a lover of abstract questions and questions with no conclusive answers, my initial idea that law seemingly has an answer for everything based on rules and decided principles (as in every case where a verdict must be given), was seen in a new light: that the very basis of law is a manifestation of philosophy.
And because philosophy is fluid – where there is no “right” answer to the way we live our reality, the way we think, the fundamental nature of our being and existence, the law is therefore equally as uncertain.
State law follows which discipline of philosophy it believes in.
State law follows the popular beliefs of the people it governs.
Law is as fluid as the society it wields its power over. It is for that reason that my interest in the legal field lies – the language and reasoning behind it. As mentioned previously, I have an inherent bias against court work and as such, PLVG seems like a good fit for its corporate and commercial background.
I would also have to admit that in my head, the corporate lawyer is more glamorous than those in litigation (the author has been swayed by movies portraying corporate life in general as high and fancy; with the briefcases and the suits).
I feel that with the internship, I am giving law a chance to show that it is a career path that I would consider. The art of questioning and looking at events beyond the shallow waters is itself a lifestyle. One need not practice law to argue, to ask the why’s of things, to see alternative viewpoints, and the like.
Instead, in the three months at PLVG, I would want an answer to: “What does the legal field have in store for me (in a corporate segment)?” The answer to that would, beyond reasonable doubt (or maybe slightly less), determine if I would pursue law in the future as a career. Or in other words, to have the same responsibilities as one working in a firm (except with considerably less remuneration) and taking into account the lack of knowledge and experience as one.
Sha-Lyn does not undermine those who pursue law for the quest of justice. However, she believes that in the reality of the field, this may usually not be the primary motivation for most lawyers. And for this reason, she would rather attempt to be fair in everyday dealings of life.
What is the main motivation of the Bar Council and Malaysian Bar when issuing statements or taking action?