London Connection Q&A: Brandon Chan

Malaysian LLB alumnus Brandon Chan tells Suraya Saleh about his experience studying law in Malaysia and his tips for succeeding on the degree
LLB graduate Brandon Chan
LLB graduate Brandon Chan aims to become a mergers and acquisitions lawyer in a top London law firm

Why did you choose to study for a University of London degree?
The primary reason I chose to read for a law degree with the UOL is because it is a very high quality curriculum designed by leading academics of the University of London law schools. It is a unique endeavour and one which has a long history of excellence, producing so many quality lawyers and judges throughout the Commonwealth jurisdictions. This gives it the vital element of prestige.

In addition, it offers less privileged students who have got real legal talent an opportunity to read for a high quality, widely recognised degree in order to practice law.

Another aspect of the UOL degree is the challenge. As acknowledged by many senior academics within the UK law schools, the UOL law degree is one of the toughest law degrees around. I also relish studying independently because I know that it is the best way to read law. The UOL curriculum encourages this which enabled me to acquire valuable research and legal writing skills. 

"Through this degree, I have obtained a few scholarship offers, a place to do a Masters at University College London and an offer to read for the Legal Practice Course."

Thus, it is the sheer quality of the programme and my attraction to the intellectual challenges which prompted me to relinquish a place in a local university here in Malaysia to read for the law degree with the UOL. And, suffice to say, I have not looked back since. Through this degree, I have obtained a few scholarship offers, a place to do a Masters at University College London and an offer to read for the Legal Practice Course.

You attended classes at a local teaching institution in Malaysia, what was the most helpful aspect of that?
The most helpful aspect is it gives a student a more structured preparation towards the examinations. Through interactions with other students who are in a similar position reading for the degree, it provides vital emotional support and helps motivate each other to succeed. For example, through vital class discussions on the study materials and curriculum content.

Another factor which I find uniquely helpful is the amount of interaction with professionals who read for the degree on a part-time basis. Their maturity and the sharing of their work experiences is a valuable aspect of study as it blends in the theory and practice. This is one aspect which hardly can be found in internal universities.

How did having a University of London degree help you in your Masters and how do you think it will help your career?
The UOL degree is a highly recognised degree in the UK. Its degree awarded constitutes a qualified law degree (QLD) recognised by the Law Society and Solicitors Regulation Authority for the purposes of reading the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).

In addition, many leading academics are aware of its challenging exams and curriculum so that if one can register good grades, that is definitely bound to impress. That was how I managed to obtain a place in the highly competitive Masters degree course at University College London, one of the constituent law schools of UOL.

"I have acquired so many transferable skills which attract employers, skills which are more difficult to obtain had I chose to read law internally at a university."

What skills did you develop through your studies?
I have acquired so many transferable skills which attract employers, skills which are more difficult to obtain had I chose to read law internally at a university. One such example is my attitude towards my studies and work. I learned not to be complacent.

Through independent study, I also polished my legal research skills, diligently reading up materials from all sources. It made me a more literate person overall as I learned to find the source of materials to read. Self-study in itself is a skill and remains one of the best form of education.

What was the online support like?
The UOL provides vital online learning support which revolutionise how distance learning programme is being conducted. With one of the best IT teams amongst UK universities, the UOL’s vital subscriptions to a wide range of leading journals and publications provides students access to invaluable study materials via its online library. I think this privilege has put UOL students on a par with students from internal universities, if not better in terms of education facilities.

In addition, support is always provided through the Senate House Library which all UOL students can request through email if need be. The help received from the online librarian, Laura Griffiths, is still one of my best moments when reading law with the UOL. 

What are your tips for successfully completing a University of London degree?
Be proactive: One must seize the opportunities and take proactive action towards one’s studies. The fundamental thing to note is never become complacent. The advantage of having little guidance and support is that it trains you to work independently and with great skill. However, the flipside of it is too much freedom can encourage complacency.

Make good use of UOL resources: The UOL provides the vital learning tools to excel such as printed study materials which are dispatched promptly and very dedicated online learning facilities which are accessible to all students throughout their studies. Make good use of them, learn to use them as that is a skill in itself which will translate to valuable transferable research qualities in the future.

Aim high: Be ambitious and be determined to achieve success. UOL degrees are designed for ambitious students. That is the best way to excel in it. One way to motivate oneself is to aim to win the prizes on offer by the UOL for academic distinction. These are highly prestigious prizes which are awarded only to the finest UOL scholars in the world and it will greatly boost your CV. Be sure to get one of those throughout your study career with the UOL.

This will also enable one to persevere when the going gets tough. Indeed, a degree from the UOL is not for the faint-hearted but for those who are willing to make sacrifices, the reward is a study experience which is almost unrivalled.

How do you think your UoL experience compares to other universities?
I know many students will look at and see graduates from Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge or even the National University of Singapore and think ‘Hmm, I don’t stand a chance because I am not from an Ivy League university’.

However, the message I want to say is although those at internal universities may get better face-to-face preparation from their tutors, if you have real talent and ambition and you know you have what it takes to achieve success, you should not be afraid to show it, regardless of your background. Provided you put in the effort, have faith that UOL will give you that recognition you deserve!

"This ambition proved to me vividly that with a UOL degree, it is possible to advance through international jurisdictions."

What are your future career plans?
I have every ambition of becoming a leading corporate M & A lawyer practicing in one of the magic circle law firms in the city of London. I have been working to achieve this dream steadily over the years and the UOL degree has been a strong first step towards that. Indeed, this ambition proved to me vividly that with a UOL degree, it is possible to advance through international jurisdictions.

Any final words?
If you are looking for quality intellectual challenge and a prestigious degree which will enhance your job prospects, the UOL degree is the best way forward.

Brandon has just completed his Master of Laws, specialising in International Banking and Finance Law, at University College London (UCL), achieving a Distinction. He will commence the Legal Practice Course soon at BPP Law School under a scholarship.