Malaysian law students combine skills to publish book

Three past and present University of London LLB students in Malaysia have responded to a wave of criticism against law graduates by publishing a book designed to educate entrants about the industry
University of London Library
A new book by LLB students could be making its way onto library shelves
As students we were initially a little sceptical of whether the professionals in the industry would take us seriously – but they did!

Four years ago, a rift emerged in Malaysia's legal community, with hundreds of law firms complaining that entrants weren't equipped to deal with the rigours of the industry. Inspired by this damning appraisal, three young scholars from the University of London International Programmes embarked on a project to turn these perceptions around.

Two LLB graduates, Kenneth Chung (2014) and Andreanna Ten (2013), and current LLB student, New Su Ann, have combined their efforts and insights in a new publication, The Hotshot Series: the Legal Line, which they hope will address some of those concerns.

"We felt that there was a huge information chasm between what students and employers expect from each other," New Su Ann explains.

"Kenneth built the team from the ground up. This was his brainchild. He was still in his second year when he had the idea for this book and began the initiative."

"Shockingly low" calibre

The debate over the calibre of new law graduates began gathering heat back in 2011, when a survey by the National Young Lawyers Committee (NYCL) suggested that almost two-thirds of young lawyers were considering leaving the industry.

Less than a year later, the Bar Council in Malaysia released the findings of its own survey, which found that almost 400 employers in the legal profession rated the calibre of new entrants as 'shockingly low'.

Firms were dismayed at having to retrain graduates in rudimentary skills, it reported, emphasising a growing bridge between employers and new law graduates.

Consequently, the NYCL recommended that young lawyers had to strive for greater levels of professional development, particularly by attending the Bar Council’s Professional Development seminars.

"We had to learn to be extremely professional and competent interviewers almost overnight!"

But the University of London trio believed that much more could be done to educate aspiring law students about employers' expectations and avoid the reality shock when they eventually came to practise.

And the professionals agreed, to their surprise.

After three years in the planning, The Hotshot Series: the Legal Line, was published by Lexis Nexis Malaysia at the start of the year.

Consisting of over 50 interviews with practitioners and non-practitioners, the guidebook is designed to help aspiring law graduates become more familiar with the industry through the eyes of employers and give them a better idea of what to expect when they qualify.

"As students we were initially a little sceptical of whether the professionals in the industry would take us seriously – but they did!" says New Su Ann.

"After they agreed to chat, we had to juggle the tight schedules of our interviewees (partners of law firms, bankers, tax officers / management consultants who held law degrees, judges, and even the Minister in Charge of Law in Malaysia) and also our own studies!

"We had to learn to be extremely professional and competent interviewers almost overnight!"

The value of a University of London LLB

The book is not only designed to educate, but also to inspire. From a position only a few years ago where it seemed that the best young minds might decide against practising law, now more of them might be encouraged to join.

The project demonstrates how the University of London LLB, which is supported by seven recognised teaching institutions in Malaysia, equips students with core skills.

"Synthesising the large volumes of information took us a few months," Su Ann explains. "And frankly speaking, taking the University of London LLB helps!

"Anyone who takes the degree is definitely no stranger to research, synthesising large volumes of information and presenting it in a comprehensive and yet engaging manner."

The book project was voted by industry leaders as the Best Social Enterprise in the Young Leadership Academy 2012, organised by McKinsey & Co, and part of the proceeds will be donated to high-need schools through Teach for Malaysia.

Watch an interview with New Su Ann below.