Seven years of practice - a reflection

BY the time this article is published, I would have completed seven years as a lawyer. Seven years ago, Oct 5, 2007, I was admitted to the High Court of Malaya as an advocate and solicitor, a wide-eyed young man from Petaling Jaya at the cusp of his legal journey, not knowing what the future held.

Non-lawyers may not understand why completing seven years of practice is a big deal. But for a lawyer, completing seven years of practice means that he is technically not a young lawyer anymore.

A lawyer who has completed seven years of practice can take pupils-in-chambers and can also move the petitions of pupils-in-chambers to be admitted as an advocate and solicitor. It is a landmark event in the legal lifespan of a lawyer.

Practice can be challenging to a young lawyer, especially in the first few years. The hours are long, the pay is not great and the courts, if you are a litigation lawyer, will not be gentle to you just because you are a young lawyer. I have been lucky as I was given the opportunities by my firm to handle cases on my own early on.

Yes, I have made many, many mistakes, both outside court and in court. Sharp rebukes from judges were common, especially in the early years. I was more reckless, brash and less matured, so I had to learn the hard way through these mistakes.

I have also been lucky in that I could count on many of other lawyers for guidance and assistance. Members of the Bar are generally not possessive or stingy with knowledge. Even sitting in court with a stranger, while waiting for one’s case to be called up, can result in the stranger sharing his knowledge and experience with you. Of course, there are exceptions, but by and large, the Bar has this commendable tradition of knowledge sharing.

I have learned much over the past seven years. Learned how to handle different types of litigation matters, how to handle clients, how to submit in court, how to conduct trials and many other lessons, some of which have not been thought in law school. But there is still so much to learn, so many things I am clueless about and so many areas of the law unexplored.

When I see some senior lawyers on their feet, articulately submitting to the court with eloquence and a touch of muted passion, seamlessly weaving facts and law with little effort, I know that I have a long, long way to go and much to learn. Learning is a lifelong process. But the fear is that as the years go by, learning becomes a chore. One might even refuse to learn anymore. I hope that day never comes for me.

I am still in love with this profession. I love how it stimulates my mind, how being on my feet in court gives me an unrivalled high, how it challenges my critical thinking. I am still passionate about the law.

I love how I am a part of a Malaysian Bar that will not shy away from the difficult issues and that will uphold the cause of justice without fear or favour. I love that the Bar can always be counted upon to rise when injustice is occasioned. I am honoured to be a part of the Malaysian Bar.

When the country is in such an interesting time, where we are at a vital crossroad that will decide the future of our nation, how can anyone not want to be a part of this, especially if you are a lawyer and poised, by the virtue of your profession, to make positive changes for society? Faced with such a situation, can you blame a young lawyer for wanting to change the world?

But though my passion and hunger has not abated, the rigours of practice have taken a toll on me. I find myself mentally and physically exhausted these days. I am in danger of burning out so I need to pace myself as I want to be in this for the long run. Because if not this profession, what else can I do?

* Syahredzan Johan used to be a young lawyer but still feels young at heart.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.

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