On my first day as an intern at AzmiLaw, I did not know what to expect. I heard about the Firm whilst looking for internship opportunities; I lived in Thailand for a year after university and spent 6 months in Singapore on an exchange with NUS, so Malaysia would be a new experience.
There were relatively few opportunities for international internships and AzmiLaw was at the top of the list of those available. I did not know what the working culture would be like, but I was constantly surprised by the Firm, starting from the moment the Senior Partner, Dato’ Azmi personally replied to my application.
A key issue in my mind was having a work permit, but when I mentioned that I wanted a long-term internship, the Firm was kind enough to arrange it for me and made the whole process easy. As a consequence, my allowance was subjected to tax, so I’d like to think I made my contribution to the Malaysian economy.
When someone says the words “legal internship” the first thoughts that come to mind are probably citation checking, preparation of endless bundles and days of document review, without any substantive involvement with cases. This has not been my experience as an intern at AzmiLaw at all. As well as many opportunities to interact with clients, my first exposure to the Malaysian courts was accompanying a partner to the Federal Court! I have had the opportunity to attend the Federal Court and the Court of Appeal many times and my internship was not simply about being chained to a desk. The more you put into an internship the more you get out of it and by being active and asking different partners for work I had the opportunity to tackle legal problems in all areas of law.
AzmiLaw also places great emphasis on educating its lawyers and promoting all-round training; I have not encountered another firm which has sent its young associates on a two-day course on reading, analysing and interpreting corporate financial statements, for example, and where an international intern would also be sent on such a course.
Malaysian Legal System
Overall I have been impressed with the Malaysian legal system. Electronic filing is available, the courts are clearing backlogs and a commercial case can be dealt with at first instance in around 9 months, making them very competitive. There are a few very high-quality judges in the courts; I have personally been very impressed by Court of Appeal judge Yang Arif Dato’ Mohamad Ariff bin Mohd Yusof, both on the bench and during the discussions at the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration Conference 2014. The decisions of Dato’ Mary Lim Thiam Suan, a High Court judge demonstrate keen awareness of the need for Malaysia to develop its arbitration capacity.
In business cases the judgments of the courts tend to show commercial awareness and an effort to provide legal certainty to businesses, balanced with the need for fairness.
Coming from the UK system it was something of a shock to see the comparative ease with which a law graduate can obtain a pupillage in Malaysia and as a result, many young lawyers join law firms without having done any legal work experience. This means they do not know whether they are more inclined towards litigation or corporate work, but fortunately, firms such as AzmiLaw let pupils try a range of contentious and non-contentious work so they feel where their skills could be put to the best use.
Overall, my internship at AzmiLaw has been an excellent preparation for the next stage of my legal career. Thanks to the support of all members of the firm, from the staff to the senior partner, it has been a truly enjoyable experience and one I will always remember fondly. The Firm has truly been a welcoming firm in which interns from all over the globe were warmly received.