Excellent Initiatives: Moving the Call of Siti Aisyah binti Abdul Rahman

After the mover I secured for the call of a pupil in chambers in our firm cancelled, Mr. Jeya Kumar a/l Vaithilingam heroically saved the day by agreeing to move her call on condition I prepared the long call speech. So this is the reproduction of the speech I had the honour of preparing on the occasion of Cik Siti Aisyah binti Abdul Rahman’s call to the Bar before Justice Puan Hadhariah binti Syed Ismail on 23 April 2010.

Every now and then we come across someone who appears to have a natural inclination or suitability towards a particular profession. From their collection of habits, appearance, demeanour, interests and attitude, we can surmise their potential towards engineering, medicine, tele-marketing, legal practise and such. I am certain some of those called this morning may have that look of lawyerdom about them.

There are those, My Lord, and there are those like the Petitioner, Cik Siti Aisya Abdul Rahman. She differs from them because her natural inclination is not simply towards a profession but a relentless striving for a standard of achievement. And that standard is excellence.

Born on 9/5/1986 in Klang to Dato’ Abdul Rahman Othman and Datin Junaidah Amir, she is the eldest of 4 children. Her SPM results of 9A’s in 2003 promised a great deal to follow. Though medicine was her first option, she did not realize that her natural curiousity, lack of fear in asking questions and faithfulness to her values, could only lead her to the legal libraries and lectures at IIUM in 2004. Her participation in the national level Piala Perdana Menteri in 2000 and 2001 also indicated to her family that she had more lawyer than doctor about her. Doctors after all generally shy away from public speaking and are unlike lawyers, who are skilled at making people bleed without blood.

In March 2005, the Petitioner graduated from her Matriculation in Laws on the Dean’s list. In July 2006, she completed a Business & Law Exchange Semester with the Victoria University of Technology, Melbourne with distinction. In 2009, she graduated from IIUM on the Rector’s List (for coming in 3rd for her batch) with the Best Student in Civil Procedure Book Award. She was a keen mooter and debater and participated in various events the most notable being the International Round of the Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition in 2007. This is what she says about her academic period:

“[S]oon I found myself devising plans and strategies to self-nurture a profound yet sustainable love and understanding for the law and the legal profession. Throughout my tertiary education, I was selective in the programs and projects that I ventured into, immersing myself only in activities that I know I will enjoy and worth taking the risk for. … More importantly, they provided me with ample opportunities to think on my feet as I get to see the realities of the world, learn how people are facing it and apply what I gained during the whole experience so that I can make a difference in my own way.”

After she graduated, she commenced her pupilage in the chambers of Messrs. Azzat & Izzat with Puan Rose Zilawati bt. Mohd Arifin. Her Master and her other mentor in the firm, Encik Fahri Azzat, were of the view that the 2 standout qualities out of the Petitioner’s many good ones were firstly her initiative and secondly, her sense of craftsmanship with her work.

An example of her initiative had to do with her participation in the recent Eusoffe Abdoolcader Essay Competition organized by the Bar Council. This was not firm work. Encik Fahri was going to suggest she participate in it. When he got to her table, the entry form was already printed on her table. When he suggested she read ‘Plain English and the Law’ to improve her prose, she polished it off straightaway and revised her essay with her new found technique to great effect. The other thing was she would actually look for more work to do once she had finished hers. One hardly hears such attitude from pupils never mind lawyers!

An example of her craftsmanship is the way she takes pride in her work. This is a rarity these days. Pupils are only too happy to get it done and chuck it on your desk. The Petitioner however is the sort that would not be content or satisfied if her work was amended.

It is not because she is arrogant. But because she appreciates it was not good enough and hopes to try and do it better next time. It this sense of craftsmanship that is lacking from the Bar these days, a craft that speaks of a high level of integrity and confidence of her character. This is the sum of her experience in the firm:

“I learned how to strike the balance between fighting fair, standing firm, mastering the law, staying humble, and esteeming the life and the people that we all go back to after a hard day’s work.”

If that is what she has learned, she has learned much and is set to learn and accomplish much more.

The Petitioner owes her accomplishments to the mercy of Allah, and dedicates her call to the Bar to the partners in Messrs. Azzat & Izzat, her Master, Puan Rose Zilawati Mohamed Arifin, her de facto Master, Encik Fahri Azzat, her law lecturers and everybody else at the firm. She would like to thank Mama and Abah, after Allah and the Messenger, ‘Your love has been the only other condition of my absolute value.’

I believe the papers are in order. I humbly submit that the Petitioner is of excellent character and is fit and proper person to be called and admitted to the rolls of the High Court as an advocate and solicitor. I pray for order in terms.

Postscript: When I prepared the speech initially, I was quite happy for Jeya (thanks again buddy) to take credit for the speech, and so not publish it. However, not wishing to take credit when none was due Jeya, after introducing the Petitioner and himself, immediately disclosed to the Judge that I prepared the speech. So I have taken the liberty of reproducing it.


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Fahri Azzat practices the dark arts of the law. Although he enjoys writing and reading, he doesn't enjoy writing his own little biographies of himself. Like this one. He wished somebody else would do it for him. He has little taste in writing about himself in third person. He feels weird doing it. But the part he finds most tedious is having to pad up the lack of his accomplishments, or share some interesting facts about his rather uneventful life, as if there were some who found that oh-so-interesting; as if he were some famous person, like Michael Jackson. When he writes these biographies, the thought, 'Wei, Jangan Perasaan- ah!' lights up in his head. So he usually just lists what he got involved with, positions he held and blah, blah. But this time. Right here. Right this very moment. Uhuh. This one. This one right here. He's finally telling it like it is.

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6 Responses to Excellent Initiatives: Moving the Call of Siti Aisyah binti Abdul Rahman

  1. Loyar Bangkok

    FA,

    thanks for your response.

    first of all, i must say that after knowing that YOU were the one who wrote the speech, instead of the petitioner, then it does take much – though not all – of the wind out of my criticisms. as u could see from my first comment, i thought it's 'self-glorification'/'showing off' BCOS during my time (n still so, for many, i guess), we had to write the speeches ourselves. the mover just shows up to read it that morning, as a favour to our pupil masters. in siti aisyah's case, it's different, n i must say she's lucky to have such a wonderful speech written about her.

    as an arrogant bastard it would b hypocritical of me to 'teach' her how to b humble but let me just say that if i were truly modest, i would have asked my mover NOT to put in those 'show-off bits' of info, even if the mover knew/asked for them. but then she might b really, really so smart that u r so deeply impressed that u felt u really wanted to share how amazing she was, with the whole world (not only reading the speech in court, but posting it on the world-wide-web now).

    if that's the case, well, then it's not her 'fault' then. BUT AS I SAID, this was NOT personal – i only used her example as an illustration. i've made that clear, above.

    on that 'trivial' point about her father's title, well, it all depends on the context. (again, if u were the one writing it, then i really cant fault her. again, her case was just used as for ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES ONLY. poor siti aisyah – my apologies for using u as 'exhibit A'. (i wanted to say "gunea pig" but out of respect (especially since it's Ramadan), i decided not to…)) but in the case of a speech which was written by the petitioner herself, then, read TOGETHER WITH all the 'resume info' in its TOTALITY, i would beg to differ – i would say it's just part of a whole chain of 'showing off'.

    what's an ideal call speech format to me? well, bcos i still maintain that the bare minimum should b mentioned (how LPA conditions have been complied with), i would not want to include the 'aspiration' part. so, if u think mentioning aspirations will "put too much pressure" (essentially what u r saying, though not your actual words) on the poor young petitioner, then i'm happy to leave that out completely. as u would recall, i only 'reluctantly conceded' the inclusion of that bcos u insisted that the ceremonial aspect/tradition must not b done away with: "maybe, u can talk about what the petitioner aspires to do after being called, i can accept this much ****if u really have to****"

    following from that, i also think that it's irrelevant what those sitting in the public gallery think. since there r so many parents/families sitting there, it's the more reason why one should not b showing off… among the few long calls i've been to, it's inevitable that the parents would later congratulate each other (after hearing the great long call speeches) n say to each other (aka 'sucking up to each other'), "wow, your son/daughter is impressive!!" it does make me feel like each long call speech is a resume doing battle with the others… it's just lame, to me. (again, it's NOT about siti aisyah…) it's just weird to me.

    parents should feel proud enough by the simple fact that their children r being called to the bar. what was said/not said doesnt really matter.

    (lest u might think i'm just sour grape cos i din have much to 'show off', ahem… i think my 'resume' would have been 'better' than the rest of my long call batch (n many more…) IF i had decided to 'publish' it during long call, but i din. mine was just under 1 1/2 minute long.)

    perhaps some of us just dont feel that being called to the bar is THAT big of a deal, or that however big a deal it was, there is no need to read the resume.

    the above aside, i'm truly n genuinely impressed by siti aisyah as an individual, let's not let my misgivings about the long call speech format cloud that FACT. All the best to u young lady n welcome to the bar!!

    cheers, FA.

  2. Loyar Bangkok

    FA,

    oh come on, give me a break. where did i say that we should do away with the ceremony etc?? when i said the judge may even QUOTE shakespeare, i din say he should just COPY/RECITE shakespeare all the way. dont bend what i said, mate. u know what i'm talking about.

    i dont think we should do away with all ceremonies but i just dont think it's right that the petitioner should use that speech as a chance for self-glorification.

    maybe, u can talk about what the petitioner aspires to do after being called, i can accept this much if u really have to, but hey, i think to mention all your achievements (ie. reading your entire resume) in open court is just too much. this is NOT a job interview, mind u.

    for example, (sorry to use the example of this petitioner here, this is NOT a personal attack), is it really relevant/necessary for the court/public to know that your father is a dato, how many A's u got in spm, u were on the dean's list n rector's list, participated in jessup, what were her "2 standout qualities out of the Petitioner’s many good ones"??

    please lah…

    do ANY of these – or lack thereof – make her a fit n proper person to practise law, or otherwise??

    does knowing ANY of these glorious achievements really form part of the "noble and time consuming occasions of celebration and reflection"??

    come on, give me a break…

    IF AT ALL, i would rather we know what she aspires to BECOME, not how talented n glorious she has BEEN (which i have no doubt she was). tell us she aspires to become lord denning or hashim yusoff, whether "reflecting" on either of these 2 judicial giants make her feel "noble" or otherwise. THAT would be inspiring.

    not this.

    n if she fails to mention that, then the judge should instil that inspiration in her. on this i agree, that it's a pity that most judges simply couldnt b bothered, just wanted to get it over n done with fast. but that doesnt necessarily entail that instead/as a result, the petitioner should have her mover read out her entire resume in court.

    yeah, ariff is no doubt a class act, when compared with his peers both as a senior counsel n on the bench. a real gentleman n a pleasure to work with/for. he should have gone straight to fct if u ask me, like zaki. but that's precisely what i meant – judges who preside over long calls should do what he did, to inspire the petitioners.

    rather than having the petitioners telling the judges how glorious the petitioners have BEEN.

    u can have all the ceremonies u want (tea party afterwards with the judge), i have no objection to that.

    but please, spare us the resume reading…

    • Dear LoyarBangkok,

      Thank you for engaging me on this. I do apologize for any misinterpretation on my part.

      I respectfully disagree that the speech is about self-glorification. It is a partial recital of her academic accomplishments. Furthermore, she had no hand in her speech. I wrote it entirely on my own. If there's any glorification then it is I that should be blamed. And I would quite happily accept the blame because I have a very high regard for her intellectual and written abilities having worked with her for a period of 9 months. As for her parents title, this is a speech to the public at large and so I think it appropriate to mention his title. You will forgive me if I think these criticisms rather trivial.

      When you mention that I should talk about their aspirations, you must understand the dynamics that goes behind the crafting of a speech and the expected audience. When opportunity permits it, I would quite happily speak about it if I think it useful. But if you move calls often enough, you will occasionally discover that sometimes it is difficult to speak about that simply because there are those families/friends that have different expectations from a Petitioner.

      I recall one I had to give this year where the Petitioner wanted to go to private practise but her parents insisted that she join the government. By discussing her aspirations in her call speech, I may upset her parents. These are the factors and dynamics that have to be borne in mind if you want to bother with drafting a decent call speech.

      More importantly, that call speech is not simply for you. It is addressed to various people in the room with different expectations of which 'you' are one of them. Do you listen to that speech as a proud father or mother? Do you listen to that speech as a long time close friend? Or are you listening to that speech as stranger who is bored out of their wits in court and looking for something different? Are you there simply for inspiration?

      Finally, you seem particularly concerned that I seem to be addressing a fossilized past instead of speculating on possibly glorious futures. I do not want to do that for several reasons. Firstly, by declaring that she aspires to be such and such may be embarassing for her. They may be personal private aspirations. Not all of us are Americans who are so ready to spill their aspirations to the world at large. Secondly, it puts unneeded pressure on her to achieve such heights. In this modern world, we all can do with less pressure and stress on ourselves. If she doesn't achieve it, there may be negative psychological or motivational consequences. Thirdly, it is the future and hence the great unknown. Fourthly, having noble aspirations does not mean you are a fit and proper person to be called to the Bar.

      I should very much hope that you will share with me/us your call speech when you are called upon to move one. It will allow us to see the fullness of your vision of an appropriate call speech. Since you are so against resume reading, I should hope you will join me in opposing the Bar Council and State Bar Committees in their standardization of the calls speeches. That is surely worse than my resume reading speeches!

  3. Loyar Bangkok

    good job on the speech, but frankly, i still dont quite get what's the point of writing a flowery speech for long call – lay people like your family sitting at the public gallery notwithstanding.

    technically, if i'm not mistaken, it's supposed to be a 'submission', where the mover submit on how the petitioner has met the conditions under LPA for admission to the bar ('fit n proper'), that's all. it's not supposed to be an "autobiography in 2 minute". (usually we write ours; i wrote mine, mover just did his own 'editing' while he reads.)

    some long call speeches make your hair stands up… i pity the judges who have to sit through the speeches.

    if i were to write one such 'speech' next time, i'll just say,

    – conditions of admission to the bar under LPA fulfilled (llb, clp (if applicable), pupilage)

    – when was shortcall

    – when petition was posted on the notice boards across the country

    – state bar committee report submitted

    – attended ethics course

    – no objection to the petition received

    – so, perintah seperti dipohon.

    end of story.

    isn't that supposed to be the way? since when it evolved into the current practice? is a glorious/inspiring background story about the petitioner going to paper over his failure to meet any of the LPA conditions?? i'm NOT condemning the current practice, just want to ask some questions.

    if anything inspiring should be said, it should be FROM THE BENCH. i remember my seniors telling me how 1 of the judges used to quote shakespeare etc. that should be the way…

    • Dear Loyar Bangkok, thanks for the comments.

      I have written about what should be in a speech in a Call to the Bar here. You will understand why I disagree with your outline speech.

      Perhaps we differ in our perception of the significance of the call to the Bar, but I do not see it as a simple administrative act but one that bears significance to our society. Perhaps such noble and time consuming occasions of celebration and reflection have little place in this fast pace bottom line world, but I think it is a good tradition worth preserving in our fast-changing, consumer oriented outright capitalism. It recalls and gives force to the fact that lawyers like judges and all those in a position of trust because of the nature of their work stand apart from the ordinariness of profession. It should recall the ethical and moral requirements of a true lawyer, not those cads that behave like whores but call themselves lawyers. In reply to your question 'isn't that supposed to be the way?' I would suggest you check out this. The problem with the speeches and the entire Call to the Bar is not because of the process or the occasion itself; rather the problem lies in the attitudes of our own learned brothers and sisters treat the proceedings with such contempt, indifference and disgust that they have reduced the occasion into a tedious, pointless exercise that it currently now is. Those judges that lack decorum, a sense of history of the occasion and just offer a solitary congratulations also play a role in denigrating the entire process.

      And let me now ask – why is a judge who quotes Shakespeare 'be the way'? What way is that? He may quote Shakespeare but is he talking sense, is he imparting useful words of wisdom or advice in his speech? Was he listening to the speeches and giving a damn about what was said about the freshly called lawyers? I would rather he use his own words, the moment and from his own inspiration conjure up his speech. I used to love moving calls before Tuan Mohamad Ariff Yusof when he was in the Appellate and Special Powers – real class act. He would listen to the speeches, make comments, engage the Petitioner and fashion his speech after listening to all the call speeches and put his own at the end.

      The truth is all of us – the judge, the movers, the masters, the excited family and friends – have a role to play in the Call to the Bar. What is sad is that some movers, masters and judges have forgotten or do not want to play their role and so the only ones left are those in the gallery. But what occasion can it excite out of them when they see the most important protagonist in the entire affair acting like it was such a chore?

      I would urge you to read and listen more about the history of our Bar so that you can better understand some of its fine traditions that are being annihilated in the face of the bottom line.

  4. FZ

    FA,
    “I learned how to strike the balance between fighting fair, standing firm, mastering the law, staying humble, and esteeming the life and the people that we all go back to after a hard day’s work.”

    yes, these were the traits taught at AI :)