Fahri’s speech on the occasion of Mr. Joshua Teoh Beni Chris’ call to the Bar before Justice Dr. Hj. Hamid Sultan Abu Backer on 27 July 2012.
There were three interesting background facts to this speech that made it memorable and an unusual challenge for me, since the challenge simply lay in finding the theme of the speech and then writing it.
The first being that I fell off my scooter on the way to the call and fortunately escaped with light bruises, aches and scrapes to the hands, ankle and knee. My counsel jacket took the brunt of my skidding on my back across the tarmac and left my shirt beneath unscathed. The jacket however was torn along the back. I entertained the option of leaving Joshua to the vicissitudes of another mover but thought it would be quite unfair, so soldiered on ‘bloody, but unbowed’. For those riding motorbikes, wear your helmets. It saved the back of my head from having to be scraped off the road.
The second was that despite the accident, I managed to get into court 5 minutes after 9 a.m., which was when the call hearing was fixed, only to find the court in the midst of a trial. Apparently the judge fixed and heard a continued trial before the call hearing. So all the pupils, movers and parents were made to wait outside until he was done with it. We were told to come back at 10 a.m., but proceedings only started at 10:30 a.m. Apparently there was another batch of calls scheduled for 10:30 a.m. They were made to wait further.
The third arose from the delay in the call hearings which was due entirely to the court’s masterful management of its schedule. Prior to the hearing, Puan Hendon, the Bar’s most prolific mover of calls, who often manages the pupils being called by briefing them and occasionally attempts to try the same on the movers, went around to all the movers that morning imploring them to ‘trim the unnecessaries’ and ‘cut out the trimmings’ and to keep the call speeches to one and a half minutes, as if the entire machinery of the administration of justice hinged upon it. The court, she explained, had a long list, and anything longer would delay the next batch of calls further. When the judge finally sat at 10:30 a.m., he prefaced the hearing by emphasizing that he had a very long list of cases to get through and would be appreciative if the call speeches were to be kept ‘very, very brief’ because he had a lot to get through.
We are therefore immensely grateful that his Lordship allowed us five minutes prayed for in order to do justice to the call speech I prepared. It may have gone unnoticed that sometimes events pass quicker with the presence of patience.
May it please your Lordship,
My Lord is no doubt aware, being a practitioner of well-known repute before, that lawyers in general have a poor reputation. We are called all sorts of nasty names and often stand accused of doing all sorts of nasty things – even though we only do what the client instructs. Those who relish denigrating our profession overlook that we are but the skilled hand, not the evil intent. So it is refreshing to learn that the Petitioner chose this profession – over that of the army and an engineer – because of what he perceived as the high level of respect society pays to lawyers, which even if true he will discover is not often translated into fees. He will learn in time that he will not forsake those professions entirely since there will be much soldiering done in the name of his client and justice; and there will also be much engineering required particularly for those hopeless cases the Petitioner will no doubt confront in his career.
He cites the lawyer novels of John Grisham, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and the TV legal series ‘the Practice’ as influences that tipped him towards the law. But despite such fine adversarial influences, the Petitioner says that he sees the role of lawyers as a reconciliatory. He sees lawyers as ‘a joint which connects society from their problems to their solutions’. I particularly enjoyed it when told me that lawyers ‘would create solutions out of nowhere like opening a road in the middle of the desert.’ Although his metaphor captures the spirit, it could do with some work. Lawyers can certainly work magic, but we don’t do miracles. That would be for the politicians.
My Lord, the Petitioner I do not propose to dwell on the Petitioner’s educational history. Proof of it is replete in the cause papers filed. I do however intend to briefly run through some of his accomplishments not found in the cause papers.
The Petitioner is one of those annoying all rounder students. He has been scoring A’s as far as he can remember. He thinks that B, C, D and F are merely letters of the alphabet, and not a grade one is awarded for exams. He excels at sports. He played tennis for the State of Negeri Sembilan in High School and was district champion. He has won numerous medals in University Futsal Tournaments during his time in University of Malaya. He often represented the university in International Mooting Competitions overseas, International Model United Nation Conferences overseas and found time to successfully organize numerous student law conferences. He is fluent in English, Malay, Mandarin and probably drives the women wild when he speaks German.
The Petitioner therefore has the right attitude, intellectual accomplishments and social abilities. From my interview with him, I am pleased to submit that he possesses the requisite good character for admission to the Bar. He understands that to excel at his work, there is much solitude, sacrifice and instant noodles to contend with. He knows there are times when he may lose morale and belief, but he alone is responsible for overcoming them and to keep motivated. He is mindful that the practice of law is much wider than its study and he would have to take deal with issues of practicality, time, commercial interests, the character of judges, for example, and not just what the law is. Most importantly, he knows he has much to learn. In short, he has the requisite humility, tenacity and resilience for the practice of law.
Being a sportsman, he looks upon the legal profession as a gentlemanly sport to be carried out with etiquette, mutual respect and honour. Furthermore, he tells me that ‘the excitement of having new challenges arising from the unique set of facts makes me like practice.’ If that is what he is really looking for, My Lord, I feel certain that he will come to love practice. He will find there is much of it in practice.
His Master, Ms. Kuek Pei Yee of Messrs. Skrine, confirms his qualities. She describes him as ‘very responsible’, reliable, adaptable and someone who is willing to do what it takes to get the job done. She took particular note of his ‘great memory’, which is a storehouse of all sorts of information (although most of it has little to do with the law), but has been handy in a few situations that helped the firm. She also independently confirms his solution-based approach to practice. Needless to say, he will be continuing as a legal assistant an associate in the IP (Intellectual Property) litigation unit after this. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him on his retention.
I believe I my submissions have amply shown the Petitioner to be of good character and so a fit and proper person to be called to the Bar. In closing, the Petitioner would like to express his heartfelt thanks to God (without whom none of us would be here), his father and mother, Pastor Teoh Choong Leong and Madam Chong Moi Jin, his Master, Kuek Pei Yee and Mr. Khoo Guan Huat also of Messrs. Skrine, everybody from the firm, his friends, his girlfriend and a special friendly known only as ‘S7’.
I believe the cause papers are in order and my learned friends have no objection to this Petition.
I pray that Joshua Teoh Beni Chris be admitted and enrolled as an advocate and solicitor in the High Court of Malaya. May it please Your Lordship.
Fahri Azzat thinks that the Bench and the Bar have forgotten that the call to the Bar is not simply a hindrance to be over and done with as quickly like the cleaning of a toilet but a celebration of a new lawyer that their family and friends take great trouble to attend and join in. They have also forgotten that the call to the Bar is a symbolic event, not simply a procedural one. He thinks the scourge of efficiency is the killer of tradition and in time, principles and so ethics. But such is the way of the world as it is today.