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.
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.
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.
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