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Armour up, Workforce Warriors!

By Ernis Erna binti Yahya

Workforce Warriors is a Pro-bono Virtual Legal Clinic initiated by 8 law students from Taylor’s Law School, seeking to tackle the ongoing employment law issues by providing pro-bono legal advice to the affected employees and employers in Malaysia amidst COVID-19 outbreak. Ernis Erna, one of the founding members, shared with us her experience in executing the project.

Ernis’ reflection

Our team was initially motivated in focusing on the rights of employees (from small and medium enterprise companies to public listed companies) because their rights were severely affected in the wake of the current pandemic. In the midst of doing research, we came to notice how employers were struggling as well with sustaining their businesses with the announcement of the Movement Control Order in Malaysia. Therefore, we thought it was imperative to incorporate these two affected groups into the focus of our project. With that in mind, we were inspired to name ourselves ‘Workforce Warriors.’ The issues concerning the rights of employers and employees that were swarming over the global newsfeed caught our eyes. We were determined to help these people solve their issues pertaining to rights regarding layoffs, unfair dismissals and probation periods. 

As a virtual pro-bono legal clinic, the Workforce Warriors utilised several online platforms to reach out to the public in search of our potential clients who are adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the outset of the project, we received valuable advice from our module lecturer, Dr. Sia Chin Chin on ways to conduct online surveys to understand the grievance faced by the workforce community. We used Google Forms as a starting point to determine the needs of our clients accurately. 

To interact with our targeted clients, we set up an Instagram page as a communicating platform. We also uploaded weekly articles concerning the rights and responsibilities of the workforce at our website page to further convey knowledge to the general public.

Keeping in mind that the general public may not be familiar with legal jargon, we ensured that the articles were written in layman terms for ease in understanding. We would revise the information provided regularly so that it was up-to-date to avoid confusion amongst readers. For our targeted clients, we tried our best to provide personalised and relevant advice based on their needs. Upon delivering the service, we would obtain feedback from the clients for future improvements. 

We believe that this project benefited the public especially those who had financial restrains as our services were provided on a pro-bono basis. This helped alleviate the financial burden of clients who were already struggling to put food on the table. Further, with the help of various online platforms, we were able to provide our services more efficiently since the public could access our page anytime, anywhere.

However, running a legal clinic proved to be a tough row to hoe. As our clients came from a plethora of corporate backgrounds, we had to deal with various legal issues in different contexts. It was quite challenging for us to tackle each case from a practical perspective because as students, we barely had any knowledge about the realities of workforce employment. Hence, we occasionally felt unconfident about advising clients due to our lack of knowledge and experience. Despite that, we invested a lot of time and effort into conducting extensive research and tried to manage ourselves calmly to leave a positive impression during the meetings, all with the goal of providing the best advice to our clients. Working as a team definitely allowed us to brace through these challenges with ease. 

After months of preparation and execution, our legal clinic ended with success. When we first started, we did not expect such a great outcome as it was our first time running a virtual legal clinic. In comparison with classroom lectures, operating a virtual legal clinic was a lot more fun despite the heavy workload. It strengthened our enthusiasm for studying law and provided us with a great opportunity to expose ourselves to legal practice in the real world. We learnt how to interact with real clients, how to respond to clients’ needs and how to address their problems amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Looking back now, we definitely enjoyed ourselves in executing this project. We believe that the skills we developed from this project will serve us well in our future legal careers. We are deeply grateful for this experience and for the opportunity to challenge ourselves,  and we look forward to delivering a more effective project in the future. 

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