Do You Have What It Takes?
So you’ve made a shortlist of possible career choices and the law is one of them. But what does it take to have a successful career in law? The essential traits are simple yet crucial.
The first one is a good grasp of the English language, both spoken and written. This is because most textbooks are written in English and case studies from the UK and Commonwealth countries are in the language. However, fluency in Bahasa Malaysia is also important as the language is used in Malaysian courts.
Working in government circles, it is essential to master Bahasa Malaysia. Working in large or multinational corporations, English is a mandatory requirement. But if you feel that you have a weakness in speaking either language, remember that comprehension is more important than oratorical skill. There are many kinds of lawyers and you don’t have to be the kind attending court. Many lawyers handle contracts and agreements exclusively or work in large corporations providing legal advice. So don’t be worried if you don’t have the poise of Barack Obama when addressing the press.
This is because while you need to understand the technical terms and be well-versed in case law, applying it to a real case requires the ability to interpret a unique situation in relation
to the basics of law. Every case is unique, and this is one industry where you can’t memorise your way to the answer.
Attention to detail
Every lawyer at some point puts his work onto paper. It may be the drafting of a contract, or a submission or claim for the court. A good lawyer is one who is meticulous in applying the necessary fine points and correct wording that defines something legally binding – in fact, even a small omission may have serious repercussions in the end.
The ability to articulate arguments is another plus point. If you are in the debating society and like justifying facts for an argument, or are simply very good at persuasion, you have the oratory skills to be a lawyer. Speaking skills alone are not enough. You must complement these with characteristics like a hardworking nature, as working with the law requires a lot of research and preparation.
Lawyers must always arrange time to read or research. If you enjoy spending your free time reading, or you enjoy subjects like history and literature, you may have what it takes to work with the law. This is because case studies, contracts and legislative documents all require reading time.
It is from this that lawyers can extract knowledge and apply their analytical skills to problem-solve. Lawyers are also on the lookout for ‘precedents’ or important judgments that serve as a guide for future disputes they might be involved in. Reading journals and past legal cases should be something you are comfortable with, particularly if your workload requires these to be bedtime reading.
All this will make you a good lawyer but one final ingredient remains that might just make you a great lawyer - passion! A passion for the law in all its forms, a passion that argues that without the law, a civil society cannot thrive in harmony amongst its citizens, is what makes a great lawyer.
Someone who realises this and strives to serve the law fairly will overcome any work stress, late hours and difficult situations purely because their passion rises above such things and drives them on.