LLVL: Attachments Are A Waste Of Time

LLVL mediumWhy most attachments are a waste of time.

When I was just starting out, I used to be so impressed by people who had done numerous attachments before commencing chambering.

I was intimidated by these diehards, who had usually done four-week attachments at various legal firms during their university breaks. All I ever was interested in doing during my breaks were sleeping, eating, going to the cinema and dossing about (in no particular order). I felt that, if I wanted to succeed, I’d surely have to work my ass off to make up for all that lost “working experience.”

As the years passed, I came to realise that time spent as an attachment counted for nought. Unless you’re a particularly dedicated person, and are lucky enough to find a good firm or lawyer to be attached to, don’t bother.

You’ll learn more useful career/life lessons at the cineplex.

In my third year of practice, the Firm took in a batch of three attachment pupils, and the partner leading my team was reluctantly assigned one to use for four weeks.

The girl was sent straight to me.

“Hiya, this is my third attachment, but the first in a corporate department, so I’m pretty excited! I’m hoping that by the time I have to apply for chambering, I’d know exactly what I want to do.”

How do you respond to that kind of eagerness?

First thought:

“I don’t see how punching, stapling, binding and photocopying will help you decide, unless you plan to read through everything you touch.”

Okay, scratch that, unacceptable response.

Second thought:

“Bloody hell what did I do to have been dumped with this eager beaver for the next four weeks?”

Third thought: “Hang on, I do have that stack of 57 company and winding-up searches I need unstapled, photocopied, scanned and ring-bound.”

“Oh hello, welcome to the Firm. Great timing, I actually do have a few very important things I need your help on…”

I’ve been on my firm’s recruitment committee for three years, and “attachment experience” in a CV honestly doesn’t make a difference to me.

So, if you’re a law student and have a bit of time to kill during the holidays, don’t bother with attachments. Go and work in a restaurant. Help out at an orphanage. Volunteer with an NGO. Travel. Take walks around the city. Get to know the people and the world around you.

Alter Ego has been a corporate lawyer in Kuala Lumpur for many years. Livin’ La Vida Loyar is a weekly semi-fictional, sorta-kinda-fact-based, non-chronological account of her experiences in the legal industry. She is writing this column anonymously because she doesn’t want people around her to know that, when she’s furiously typing on her BlackBerry in their presence, she is actually taking notes for this column! Plus of course there’s all this mumbo-jumbo about client confidentiality and getting disbarred. If you have an interesting story to share from your experiences as a lawyer, your encounters with a lawyer, or if you have a question about lawyers, please email her at [email protected]. Confidentiality is guaranteed. She thinks tweeting should be left to the birds. As all fiction is to some extent autobiographical, you may think she’s writing about you. She’s not. Jangan perasan. You may also think you know her. You don’t. Jangan kay-poh.


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Posted on 16 February 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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18 Responses to LLVL: Attachments Are A Waste Of Time

  1. long life

    There is a page with details of the new mail and a video showing how to use it.cpa advisors
    It seems that many are comlaining though and Yahoo are investigating.

  2. Shang

    Doing 4 attachments informed me which firms NOT to join as a chambering student

  3. Wendy Grimaldi

    I guess its not a total right or wrong way to comment on this piece of article, but to be frank, its not totally useless..

    I'm doing an attachment in a medium sized firm, and I guess I;m lucky enough to get a good firm with some real good partner and senior associates to guide and teach me something. Even though I'm not sure if these are going to be useful in my future studies or future career, but It's still good for me now. I get a lot of advices from the lawyers in this firm, what kind of option i'm gonna have and what courses should i take for that, etc etc etc.. And instead of doing a legal clerk's job, I'm assigned to draft submissions, taught on legal proceedings, the procedures and research, which some of it I think its interesting.

    So, I do agree with your point that working as volunteer in NGO, or get a better paid job for the break might be a better option that doing an attachment in a law firm, but still, there are some positive thing with doing an attachment. Personally, I think we should take its negative side of point wholly.

  4. deanna

    i did my attachment as a well known criminal lawyer's firm while waiting for my LLB intake.There was not much work at the firm but i did go on various road trips to courts all over Malaysia ( the only fun part) Nothing i did during my attachment prepared me for my LLB and chambering.That's when the reality sets in how busy a lawyer is.

    i got paid rm250 only where i worked at a well known lingerie store a earned almost rm2000 during holidays.So yes i agree with you. Find work anywhere else besides a law firm because you will sooner or later work in one.

  5. Pingback: LLVL: Litigators or Pirates? | LoyarBurok

  6. A good firm has a responsibility to safeguard the dignity of it's attachments by hiring office peons to do all the :

    ,”punching, stapling, binding and photocopying”, and coffee-making and errand-running

    ;this article probably refers to one of the cheapskate attitude /money grubbing law firms or the less than established ones.

    Attachments are all about law, not errands. Give the idiot company a piece of your mind, or if from a generous background, thumb your nose at the firm by HIRING your own PA to do all that you 'boss' tells you to. Heck use that 700 salary to hire a peon in to to the rubbish in stead.

    You're here for experience NOT to be insulted.

  7. Skeptic

    One last thing, being selfish gets you nothing. Helping others earns you respect.

  8. Skeptic

    Really? I don't think so.

    Perhaps the writer of this article said so because that is a practice in his/her firm, which, frankly speaking, and in my opinion, even if the firm is a big and reputable one (which I presume it is), will be a big bad example to the next generation (no intent to defame you and your firm). You may think that a bunch of attachment students are nothing but "eager beavers" but don't you remember when you first started out you were just as "eager"? When you are already in your position and you belittle others, is that what a senior should do? Really? No wonder our culture is cultivating more and more indifferent, apathetic and selfish generations who not only can't be bothered about teaching, sharing and helping others out, but would actually snigger at others' "eagerness" to learn and enthusiasms.

    When I was attached to my firm, albeit I was underpaid, I learnt tremendous stuff. My boss did not hire me to staple and photostat. Of course there were times when I need to do a bit of copying as it is part of my own document. But when I do too much of that, my boss will actually ask why I am doing all that and not leave them to the clerk instead. I was brought to the courts, looked at all the processes and procedures, made to learn to draft affidavits, submissions and whatnots. I was also asked to draft some opinions on insurance matter (which is of course were subjected to their scrutiny and which I needed to painstakingly amend repeatedly). All these if you may call are money's worth consideration for the work that I put in. But I think they are even more valuable than money itself.

    I don't think it is right for the author to write such irresponsible and belittling article and sweeping statements to be shared online in a site which is visited by so many potential law students and put them off.

    Just because most firms in KL (in particular) and especially the big ones are like this, not everyone is selfish and are unwilling to help others thinking it's a waste of THEIR time because they are BIG and SUCCESSFUL lawyers.

    Our culture truly needs an awakening. Education is not just about teleporting you to the top. It's the whole process of getting there itself that counts the most.

  9. Aerie Rahman

    Hello Alter Ego,

    Looks like you weren't really livin' la vida loyar when it comes to attachments. Alrite, lame jokes aside…

    First, I dont think attachments should be made compulsory by the universities. I think it should be advised for students to do so, not forced. Coercing is just treating mature adults as mere children.

    Secondly, I think attachments aren't a waste of time. Yeah, maybe some poor sod might end up doing menial chores (making coffee, stapling stuff), it's not such a bad thing. It's a lesson in life. And demonstrates the hierarchical nature of the legal profession. Maybe he/she might challenge it one day.

    The fact that you are in a law firm for one month presents you with an opportunity. Opportunity to utilize the library, sembang with loyars, establish a connection and make friends. All this is absent in campus life and the exposure is priceless.

    I was lucky. I enjoyed my attachment program. It was a fantastic firm. Everyone greeted us (I did it with my friends) with humility. The senior partner himself called us now and then and gave us lectures…about life. The law firm was vibrant. Everyone joked around. I not only learned about boring procedures and how to draft affidavits etc, I also learned about what it means to be a lawyer in Malaysia. It was a lesson of a lifetime.

  10. June Rubis

    Hey there Alter Ego,

    I get your point and I hope others too. I've personally done hiring as well for different organizations, and it's not so much the who's who on your C.V. but rather whether you are a well-rounded individual who can bring something else to the table, that makes you stand out from the rest of the keeners with perfect scores, perfect internships, perfect recommendations from the oh-so-right people.

    That includes the 'flawed' individuals who did not take a straight path from school – college – internships – work. Yes, those who worked in restaurants and learnt humility along the way, travelled/took time off from school, tried different things, etc.

    I find that these candidates are often quicker to deal with unexpected emergencies and situations that are thrown in their way, are more emotionally mature and also have a fresh perspective that adds value to the office.

    It's not to say that all 'perfect' candidates don't have these qualities, some do – and if they can articulate that well enough in the interview, then it's terrific.

    Speaking of photocopying, I've had young grads who had the cheek to say that their parents didn't send them to [expensive schools] just so that they could photocopy x amount of research papers.

    Yes, go out in the world, and learn some humility young ones!

  11. Noreen

    sorry errata- I meant to say s39B of DDA, not 37B.

  12. Chris Tan

    And oh yes, if you are able to get into a big firm, you will be able/have the chance of getting to know different areas of law, though with honesty you could not try them all. it helps when you are coming towards the end of chambering and knows exactly what you want to do in future.

  13. Chris Tan

    With respect, I do not agree with this piece. It is not a waste of time. It is, if one do not appreciate whatever things they did during their attachments.

    Your third thought drew my attention most, quoting

    "Third thought: "Hang on, I do have that stack of 57 company and winding-up searches I need unstapled, photocopied, scanned and ring-bound."

    "Oh hello, welcome to the Firm. Great timing, I actually do have a few very important things I need your help on…"

    In essence, for a simple term it is a job of photocopying. I think attachment is a good time for young people to learn how to photocopy. I don't doubt that it could be an easy job. I am in my 5th firm and I dare say, every machine differs.

    The most important part is not whether it is easy or not, but whether you know how or not. Some senior associates (needless to say partners) in a firm do not know how to photocopy, if at all they are just being lazy. I know there is such thing as clerk but what happens if everyone is busy and no one is available to help? And at that time what happens if you do not know how to operate the machine and photocopy cases from law journals or an A3 size strata title?

    To your gist of this article, I agree that it is good if you are able to find a good employer. Perhaps I was lucky to get two good employers with good lawyers in two firms during my attachment, that I think whatever I did there was indeed beneficial and is of use for practical purpose.

    Perhaps our system of education in this country is that there are way too much of spoon feeding. The only way to be up ahead and carry ourselves with knowledge is by doing attachments to get the hang of practical aspect. From there, at the very least we know the basic of doing clerical works aside from learning about court documents or procedures for conveyancing.

  14. I would agree with Noreen that one should take the opportunity to read materials available and 'be alert on what's going on around you'. An attachment, internship or the old articleship (when one even had to pay to be able to work in a firm!), is like being allowed into a private office and stay to listen and gather what is going on in the process of learning. To a keen learner, it is a godsend opportunity. To a busybody, it is also an opportunity to private gossips about the inner circles! Anyway, the main difference seems to be the individual, whether he or she makes good use of the opportunity.

    Being 'bullied' is quite common. There was once an Indian Singaporean graduate who was articled to a firm of accountants in UK. He did his national service and his rank was Lieutenant before he joined. At the firm, the Audit Manager used to tell him to make him a cup of coffee with a 'it's nice to be served by a Lieutenant once a while!'

  15. Noreen

    I think it really depends on where you go to. My Uni made it compulsory for the students to do attachments in our 3rd year and it carries 3 credit hours. We had to do 3 weeks in a legal firm and another 3 either at either the courts, police station or AG's Chambers.

    I've never worked in my life so attachment was my first exposure to office environment. Sure, all they gave me were research and translations but that was also the time where I finally know how an affidavit and summons look like. Sure I was made to carry those heavier than life counsel bag to court and became the de-facto parking attendant but I got to sit in meetings with clients and observed hearings and trials.

    I learnt about mentions, remands, JID,DNAA, sat in a murder, s37B trials during the attachment at the court. The Judge was also nice enough to let us read the charge sheet etc. By the time I learn criminal and civil procedure in final year, I already have a rough idea what goes on in court, how to address the judges etc. Some friends who did their attachment at police stations get to observe a post-mortem which from what I heard, was really exciting.

    Students should not just staple agreements etc blindly like a robot, they should take the time to read what they are given. When in court,be alert on what's going on around you, try and make friends with the court staff, this will actually help you a lot in practice.

  16. You have your points about attachment which presumably is similar to internship in other establishments. Though I cannot speak on attachment in legal firms, internship in other places has its merits.

    We cannot escape the mundane aspect of juniors',"punching, stapling, binding and photocopying", and coffee-making and errand-running if I may add, when starting work in their new places of work.

    From what I have seen and gathered, some of the important aspects of internship include getting to know the business or practical side of the firm. To someone without any working experience, it is revelation of sorts, dispelling any of his or her myth or misconception about the profession or business.

    A young man (school leaver)who went to a relation's accounting firm for a month, decided that being an accountant as a profession is definitely out for him. A young lady who was interned with an international consultancy firm gained invaluable insight (as part of the firm's recruitment team) which helped her when applying for a job in an MNC.

    We should not underestimate the chance of meeting the right persons, especially in a large organization, which might be helpful in the process of networking and for future prospects.

    I feel to dismiss attachment as a waste of time which does not make any difference is being too simplistic and harsh. Having a few attachment experiences is like having worked in a few places but in shorter periods. Though it might be true in some cases that 'a rolling stone gathers no moss', the varied experience would have at least widened the person's perspective and enriched his or her writing, for instance, if nothing else!

  17. student

    OMG,it feels like someone slapped me. All this while I thought its cool to work at firm during sem break and indirectly can gain LOTS of experience. That's just change my whole perception towards attachment. Dang. Thanks btw.

  18. Ex-Attachment studen

    that's a real smack in the face ain't it hahaha.. used to do a few attachments myself.. and thought i was underpaid as i was doing a work of a CHIEF CONVEYANCING CLERK for a minimal RM700 in KL.. whereas all the other clerks were doing less than i did for a staggering RM2000+.. that was like my what the fxxk moment… and i went and asked for higher pay but the boss kept negotiating with me for less than rm1500.. so with the little dignity that i have i quit.. but i did learn something there.. i learn that i worth more than RM700 hahaha..