Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP) – Making the Most Out of the Postgrad Course in Malaysia

Compared to the UK Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) whose syllabus is all-rounded to sharpen advocacy and drafting skills and refining techniques on legal application, the CLP as “one of the toughest examinations a law graduate will ever face” (source) involves rote learning the breadth of study materials coupled with the constant reminder at the back of your mind of it’s infamous passing rate.

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However, there are many benefits to being in Malaysia that you can take advantage of. Here’s 4 things you can do to enrich your CLP journey and turn it into an all-encompassing learning experience that may be beneficial in kick starting your career as a young lawyer.

1. Internships

With the flexibility of doing part-time or full-time studies for CLP, this is a good chance to do internships that you didn’t secure during your degree days. There are so many areas of law to explore – criminal, family, banking & commercial, employment, tax, human rights, entertainment, and intellectual property to name a few. This could be one of your last few opportunities to get a taste of different areas before you delve deeper into it as a chambering student. During the internship you would also be exposed to the realities of the working world that would better prepare you for when you join the workforce (perhaps you’ll realise that student life is actually the best and appreciate it more).

Aside from the areas of law, internships are also an opportunity for you to try different practices such as court litigation, corporate advisory, or arbitration among others. Each practice has emphasis on a certain skills over the other, for example, advocacy in litigation and being meticulous with a sharp eye for detail in corporate. These are not one size fits all approaches and discovering which is a better fit to your character and personality is helpful for targeted pupillage applications. During university, I did an internship in dispute resolution but had no idea of the workings of the corporate world so I was really glad to get experience from a corporate internship done during the first month of CLP.

Internships are of course not only restricted to the legal industry and you can aim to diversify your CV by doing non-law related internships in fields such as accounting, business, consulting, or even the creative industry of arts and design! Learning the basics of other trades will expose you to different perspectives and angles of problem solving. If the CLP is your last level of study, it is the last time you are a student and able to try different things hence why it is important to try and make full use of the time on your hands to gain these experiences.

2. Attend law events 

What I found as the main advantage of being back in Malaysia compared to UK is the ease of connecting with your potential future employers through the events held from time to time. Many law firms conduct talks on legal knowledge and workshops for development of skills that are open to law students. These events are also a networking platform to get to know lawyers and partners to find out about their work. These conversations would enable you to understand the firm’s culture, the pupillage structure, and help you to be better prepared for interviews.

I had the opportunity to attend a coffee session with a partner of a boutique law firm with a small group of law students and it shed light on the differences of the prospective pathway of being made partner compared to setting up your own law firm after some years of practice. It definitely provided food for thought and gave me valuable tips of what I should keep in mind to develop and take my legal career one step further in future.

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Other than events held by law firms, the Malaysian Bar and KL Bar also regularly holds events open to law students. Some of these workshops help to improve legal skills such as drafting written submissions (source) and learning a thing or two from here may help in transitioning from degree-level academic exam answers to a more practical approach for CLP.

Some events touch on personal development such as one I attended which talked about business development and building a career beyond legal skills. Among the key points were to consider specialisation and to place importance on personal branding to put yourself out there and stand out from the crowd. Law school has little to offer on these aspects and it is through taking the initiative to go beyond what is provided that you equip yourself with an overarching mindset to make informed decisions.

3. A part-time job

Always wanted to be a barista or service staff at a cafe? Do it. Good at baking delicious treats? Make them for sale. Have passion for photography and video editing? Take up those projects. As I was interested in writing, I almost took up a part time copywriting job but the pay and logistics didn’t turn out to be favourable with my circumstances at that time so I had to give it a miss.

Taking up a part time job is a good way to channel your energy into your non-legal interests and earn some side income from it. It broadens your social circle out of the legal industry and develops people skills which might come in handy when dealing with clients from all walks of life.

4. Participate in student activities 

Within law school itself are plenty of opportunities you can take to have valuable gains. Join competitions like mooting and student events like firm tours, lawatan sambil belajar to different institutions to maximise your exposure. All in all, these will help promote a wholesome experience that will leave you feeling satisfied and fulfilled at the end of the day.

Of course, each of the above should be done in moderation with the ultimate focus being to pass the CLP examinations. But at the final stage as a student before becoming a working professional, going all out to take opportunities as they come by would be a good way to end this chapter knowing you’ve tried to be the best version of a student as you could be.

“In the end … We only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.” ― Lewis Carroll

About the proposed decision on 7 Tuition and Daycare Centres: Sharing is not caring

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They say sharing brings joy and happiness… but when the Malaysian Competition Commission comes knocking on your door? Not so much joy.

(Below is based on the Proposed Decision under Section 36 of the Competition Act – Infringement of Section 4(2)(a) of the Competition Act by 7 Tuition and Daycare Centre. When the full judgement is released, this post will be updated accordingly. Certain facts may be circumstantial or speculative.)

The facts are as follows. 7 tuition and day care centres were penalised with a financial penalty of RM33K for collectively agreeing to fix and standardise the fees charged for the tuition and day care services in the SS19 Subang Jaya area. The price fixing agreement caught the Commission’s attention and were penalised accordingly. (The Commission is allowed to impose a financial penalty not exceeding 10% of the undertaking’s worldwide revenue given in the Competition Act 2010)

Competitors collude more frequently than consumers might think and it is extremely naive to think that only high profile companies collude. It exists from your neighbourhood bakery sellers ((No. MyCC.0045.2013)) to ice manufacturers ((No. MyCC.700.2.0001.2014)) [Suggestion: the MYCC should come up with a shorter name for each case]. Healthy competition means competitors are striving to better serve customers than their rivals. As a result, competitors are never sure what their competitors will do next in trying to gain a competitive advantage. However, especially in oversaturated and concentrated markets, instead of going head-to-head with their competitors, why not just make a phone call to the CEO and collude? Where competition is stiff and there’s a lack of consumer choices in a concentrated market,  that sure seems like a win-win situation for the undertakings but not for consumers… or themselves when they find themselves within MYCC’s list.

Article 4(1) of the Competition Act 2010 states that “A horizontal or vertical agreement between enterprises is prohibited insofar as the agreement has the object or effect of significantly preventing, restricting or distorting competition in any market for goods or services.” (An improvisation of Article 101 TFEU) agreement cannot be examined in isolation from the earlier context, that is, from the factual or legal circumstances causing it to prevent, restrict or distort competition. Firstly, it is necessary to assess the impact on the relevant market and then weigh them with any possible efficiency gains or positive effects. Price-fixing agreements would predominantly fall under the object category because it’s quite clear that price-fixing would only benefit themselves and have pecuniary effects on the consumers.

It’s no surprise for information exchange to be regarded as a waving red flag to competition authorities for the presence of a cartel. In fact, information exchange is often considered as the no.1 ingredient of a cartel. However, information exchange can be a double edged sword. On one hand, information exchange allows concerted practice amongst undertakings which means this allows collusion amongst the parties. On the other hand, they may also be a source of efficiency gains to remedy some market failures such as information asymmetries. In Asnef‐Equifax case, information sharing can help to reduce the disparity between the information available to credit institutions and that held by potential borrowers.

So where does one cross the line when sharing information is deemed anti-competitive or not? As a general thought, information exchange restricts competition by object if the exchange of information is individualised (as opposed to aggregated) and the exchange concerns firms’ future conduct (removes strategic uncertainty). Features of the relevant market such as concentration, nature of the product or nature of the market plays an important role.

In Bananas (EU Case), the Commission found the bananas importers had engaged in direct bilateral pre-pricing communication had taken part in a concerted practice to coordinate quotation prices for bananas. It was found that the parties communicate frequently and the conversations which took place were about future pricing policies. It would be easy to assume that the undertakings would take the information into account when determining the policy which they intended to pursue on the market. The court laid down an interesting point where in Competition law, the requirement of independence precludes direct or indirect conduct between operators designed to disclose to actual or potential competitors decisions or intentions concerning their own conduct on the market.

There are however several circumstances where information sharing is legal such as between franchisors and franchisees since communication is vital for the success of both parties to profit. Another example is where the following criteria are satisfied: (i) the arrangement must contribute to improving the distribution of the services in question or economic progress as a whole; (ii) consumers must be allowed a fair share of the resulting benefit, (iii) it must not impose any non-essential restrictions on undertakings and (iv) it must not afford the possibility of eliminating competition in respect of a substantial part of the services in question. (Asnef‐Equifax)

Comment:

Price fixing is a straightforward case because it has a ‘pernicious’ effect on competition and to be so unlikely to produce efficiencies. This is why it is a “by object” restriction instead of “by effect” because to prove the latter is harder, takes longer time and more resources.

There are, however, many much more complicated situations. I’ll touch on what was the European Competition Commission’s biggest fine ever of £2.1million on an undertaking we used everyday– Google.

Sources:

  1. Proposed decision on seven tuition and day care centres for price fixing conduct
  2. Competition Act 2010
  3. MYCC Guidelines on Anti-competitive Agreements
  4. https://www.twobirds.com/en/news/articles/2007/ecj-preliminary-ruling-information-exchanges-between-competitors
  5. Jones & Sufrin Competition law