It is compulsory for a law graduate intending to practise in Malaysia to undergo chambering, a practical training of nine months at a law firm. Also called a pupillage, chambering pupils practise under the supervision of a senior lawyer and at the end of the term, the pupils will be admitted to the High Court of Malaya as an advocate and solicitor. In other words, they become a full-fledged lawyer.
There is also the possibility of being retained as an associate at the end of the chambering period, which means one less headache when it comes to looking for a job.
If you’re a chambering pupil, here are several tips on how to make a good first impression.
Get to know the people
In most law firms, work is usually done collaboratively and will surely involve a certain amount of interaction between associates and senior members. As such, it makes perfect sense to get to know as many members of the profession as possible, not merely other pupils.
Beyond friendly smiles and small talk, it helps to introduce yourself to them by email as it’s a non-intrusive way to connect. People work better with those that they’re comfortable with and this holds true everywhere, especially in a law firm. Keep your email short and pleasant, making sure to emphasise that you are keen to learn. A little initiative goes a long way!
Questions, questions, questions
Make your time at the firm count – you’re there to learn as much as you can about the area of practice so whether it’s about how the law is applied in real life situations, the best way to handle clients and files, or what you can or cannot do when it comes to court representations, take advantage of the working knowledge that the seniors have to offer.
Also, it’s no secret that people love talking about themselves and in a law firm, your senior members would surely have loads experience and anecdotes to share. Ask them about their work, what challenges they face, and what you can do to help. Most importantly, make sure you are a keen member of the audience!
Don’t be a rumour-monger
The office gossip is usually an unsavoury character you find in every office and one that is detested by everyone, so you wouldn’t want to be branded as such. Although it may seem harmless on the surface, gossip can be malicious and lead to negative consequences for you. It creates trust issues among colleagues and shows you to be insecure, definitely not something you’d want to advertise when you’re trying to make a good impression. In short, stay focused on your work and don’t join the fray – you don’t need the bad press!
Beyond taking the initiative, there are many other ways to make a good impression and one of them is to be conscientious. You are assigned a task – even something as menial as transcribing and note-taking – do it as though your life depended on it!
Go the extra mile, focus on producing work that is well done and present your work in a professional manner. If you make mistakes – which you will – take responsibility for it and take steps to improve. This speaks volumes about your character and shows that you take your work seriously. As a chambering pupil, conscientiousness will definitely make you stand out – positively.
Find your passion
Your Law degree may give you a good foundation in the basic principles and terms of law and hone your critical and analytical thinking skills. But it’s a whole different ball game when you’re in the thick of things and working on a client’s case.
To determine what drives you, try to work in different departments at the firm to get a feel of the different areas of specialisation and exposure to as wide a variety of work as possible. This also helps you understand what you like – or dislike – when it comes to legal work. Law is a demanding profession and it helps tremendously if you’re passionate about what you do.