LLB(Hons) & CLP: My Legal Education
When I decided to come back to Malaysia in 2009, I was faced with a decision of which course to pursue for my undergraduate studies. Over the years, I realized that I did not like the meticulous and tedious nature of math and the sciences although I enjoyed understanding them.
(More about my time in Singapore here)
I have discovered that I was naturally better at language, arts and humanities. Hence, courses like engineering or accounting were out of the picture.
THE ROLE OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN MY DECISION
When I came back, I already knew that I wanted to explore entrepreneurship and try my best at making a difference in Malaysia (story here), and I also realized that the best way to learn about entrepreneurship is to actually do it. Honestly, I don’t think that entrepreneurship can be taught in a university, if there was a way to do it, it would be for students to actually start-up companies while they are in universities. That would be the only way to “teach” entrepreneurship.
Hence, it was pretty clear to me that I had to throw myself into the world of business and entrepreneurship to be able to learn about it, and that meant building my network, learning from mentors and actually starting a business. There wasn’t any university or undergraduate course that I could go for.
(More on how entrepreneurship inspired me here)
THE BACK UP PLAN
However, being conservative asian parents, my parents wanted me to complete me bachelor’s degree, and I can totally understand why they insisted on that. Being somewhat of a conservative and cautious person myself, I also agree that it is always good to have something to fall back on as a back-up plan, unless the product you built while you were in college gained tremendous traction like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates did, then that’s a different story altogether.
THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY FOR EXPLORATION
I viewed my undergraduate years as the perfect opportunity for me to explore the world of startups, investments and entrepreneurship, while enjoying the privileges of still being a student. If my startup takes off, that’s great; if not, I would have gained valuable experience that would better prepare me to build a successful venture when I graduate; or should I choose to not be an entrepreneur in the future, have something to fall back on.
(My ventures so far here)
LAW VS BUSINESS
With that in mind, it was a toss-up between business and law. Singaporean universities like NUS and SMU offered double degrees in business and law, which were really attractive to me because that’s where my interests lie. However, they were 5 year programs and I would also have to serve a 3 year bond if I enrolled in those courses; which amounted to too long a time to spend in school for me. Furthermore, due to my aging parents and me wanting to try my best in helping Malaysia fulfill its full potential, I have already decided to come back to Malaysia.
So they weren’t an option.
THE ATTRACTIVENESS OF A BUSINESS DEGREE
A business degree was attractive to me because I was interested in doing business, as entrepreneurship essentially involves the application of numerous business skills. I also relished at the prospect of meeting many business minded individuals whom I could start businesses with in the future.
However, I soon realized that whatever I can learn through a business course can be learnt through books, online materials or even better, through mentors who are successful businessmen doing actual businesses themselves. Furthermore, most of what a business student can learn is only limited to the theory side of business, even if students go for competitions or embark on student projects, there is still going to be a huge difference from starting your own company in the real world.
This is because as a business student doing a business project, you will still be perceived as being under the umbrella of the university you are studying in when you negotiate deals or have conversations with corporations. As a result, business students would usually be treated more leniently in view of the fact that you are still students, and the brand and reputation of the university you’re currently studying at would also be a huge boost to how they treat you.
The experience would be totally different if you were an independent start-up in the real world.
Furthermore, I also realized that the majority of business students don’t actually end up starting businesses, but end up helping big corporations manage their businesses as managers or executives; which is great, but might not be something that I would want to do.
I also realized that I could still build a network and make friends with business students simply by dropping by and saying hi even if I do not enroll in a business course.
WHY A PROFESSIONAL LAW DEGREE IS ALWAYS BETTER
A law degree, on the other hand, is an entirely different proposition.
While studying Knowledge & Inquiry as a subject back in ‘A’ Levels, I discovered that I love critical thinking & deciphering arguments logically, things that you get to do a lot in the study of law.
Furthermore, I also realized that a professional degree is always better than a general degree like business. This is because the subject matter of law cannot be learnt so easily via books or online sources. More guidance from professionals and academicians is needed for one to adequately understand the law and its applications.
APPLYING THE LAW TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP
I also realized that in any business, you would have to engage two types of professionals, one being accountants and the other being lawyers.
So, wouldn’t it be great if I could be one of them?
THE FLEXIBILITY & ESSENCE OF A LAW DEGREE
It was also a huge plus point that a law degree is one of the most general of all the professional degrees available. This is because by pursuing a law degree, one does not just study the subject matter of law, but also develops important critical thinking and problem solving skills that can be applied in any industry or any business. That explains why many successful HR managers, politicians or businessmen all had a background in law.
The same can also be said for an engineering degree, the only difference being law graduates look at problems in words and arguments while engineering graduates look at problems in numbers and formulas, but they both give us the critical thinking and problem solving skills required to succeed in any industry. That is why there are also many engineers who are successful businessmen.
But since I do not like numbers and formulas and am naturally better at language and arguments, law seemed to be the obvious choice for me, and so I went for it.
WHY THE UNIVERSITY OF LONDON PROGRAM WAS PERFECT FOR ME
I enrolled in the University of London External Degree program at Advance Tertiary College (ATC), which turned out to be perfect for me. This was because although it was one of the toughest and most prestigious external law degree programs in the world, I only had to sit for an exam once a year. There are no graded coursework or assignments that you need to submit. Your results would all depend on the 4 papers you had to sit for every year.
While it can be daunting for some because it is like sitting for your ‘A’ Levels or STPM every year, I actually liked it very much, because this meant that I could focus on learning the ropes of investing, business and running a business for most of the year and only study for a few weeks a year to prepare for the examinations.
Furthermore, most of ATC’s classes are on weekends as they bring in practicing lawyers as lecturers to give us an idea of how the law is applied in practice, which I thought was an excellent idea. That also allowed me to be busy with my business and investments during weekdays while still being able to attend lectures on weekends.
It worked out great for me!
EARLY OUTINGS & TRIPS WITH MY LLB MATES!
DISCOVERING MY LOVE FOR LAW
During the course of my study, I realized that I really loved the law and found it very relevant to what I am doing and my everyday life. For example, it made me aware of the legal implications of having certain words or clauses in a contract, an advertisement or even in the way I structure my companies.
Given more time, or the lack of a dream to help Malaysia fulfill its full potential, which requires me going into entrepreneurship, I think I would enjoy studying the law in much greater depth and practicing law as a lawyer very much.
Throughout the course of my LLB studies, I only spent an average of 16 days a year (4 days per subject) during the period leading up to the exams really studying. I never really did any assignments but for the one from my first class to get a taste of what a legal essay should look like, which I did quite well for so I thought it was okay.
I enjoyed attending lectures and listening to stories from practitioners, but other than that I skipped most tutorials (that were held during weekdays). For me, the examinations each year would be the first time I actually wrote an essay, but I was glad that manage to do alright each time and did not have to re-sit for any paper given the comparatively little effort that I put in.
CLP was a little bulkier, and I had to spend a bit more time studying for it, but I personally found it more interesting because it was more on practically applying the law rather than an academic study of it. I am also extremely grateful to have completed it in one year.
However, one of the greatest regrets that I have from my legal studies is the lack of time to participate in ATC’s moot team, which won many prestigious competitions such as the LAWASIA Moot Championships many times over. But fortunately, I got to know the great & fun bunch of mooters whom are now my good friends and are all rising stars in the legal profession.
AMAZING LAWYERS & FRIENDS
Besides that, the highlights of my legal education were mostly on my great bunch of classmates whom I would hang out with and have random outings with. They are the people who gave me a “school life”.
All in all, I had fun studying law. I had a great time with my course mates, made many friends and also learnt a great deal about the law which I find extremely relevant and applicable to what I am doing right now.
Anyway, here are some pictures from my journey. Enjoy!
PENANG TRIP WITH THE MOOT TEAM!
OUTINGS & TRIPS
RECENT OUTINGS & GATHERINGS
“A professional degree is always better than a general degree, and a law degree is one of the most general of all professional degrees…”