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Life as an Intern: Legal Edn @ Civil Law Firm

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

Was there a specific reason as to why you chose to intern at a civil law firm/this specific law firm?

There are more areas of practice than imagined when it comes to civil law, with an array of work varying depending on the department, type and size of the firm. I wasn’t able to get a taste of that many areas during my last internship. Hence I decided to opt for another civil law firm this time round. Indeed in Zaid Ibrahim & Co (“ZICO”) I had the opportunity to be exposed to different areas such as Projects & Infrastructure, Litigation, Compliance & Governance, Debt Capital Markets and so forth. As for why ZICO specifically, I was attracted to its international network of firms which extends to ASEAN countries like Vietnam and Cambodia. Some of the projects or tasks I had the opportunity to assist with were not always strictly confined to Malaysian law.

Could you share your overall experience as an intern at a civil law firm?  i.e. What was your role as an intern (ie filing, researching etc)?

My role was pretty flexible and varied depending on who or which department I was working for. However, broadly speaking, my tasks predominantly involved research, drafting and proof-reading.

A great amount of research is involved as an intern, especially under the litigation department, because research can be rather time-consuming. Most lawyers would require assistance in terms of presenting research findings for ease of reference.

I was also given tasks such as translating affidavits, proof-reading agreements, drafting documents including publications and contracts, as well as contacting governmental representatives.

What was your most memorable experience during the internship?

The first time I submitted a task. As a newcomer I was fairly hesitant in approaching anyone for work, especially partners who usually sit in their respective offices busily working away. Eventually I mustered enough courage to ask for some work but then doubt started kicking in. What if I do a terrible job? Will I get fired? I suppose these feelings are fairly common for an intern. Thankfully I got pretty decent feedback and some constructive criticism to improve!

In your opinion, how is the experience compared to in-class learning?

In class we spend a good amount of time trying to decipher, digest and understand legal principles. During my internship, I observed and learned the practical as well as procedural aspects instead – how things actually take place beyond books.

Switching to a working environment, I believe many would also realise that an internship differs because tasks become more goal-oriented. There is so much work to complete and deadlines piling all the time. There were many times I was not questioned to a tee on how or why I came to a particular conclusion.

Instead the emphasis was placed on coming up with workable solutions within given deadlines and being able to justify them if so required. Hence, a lot of speedy self-learning and picking up by observation was involved at work.

Were you able to relate what you have learned in class during your internship?

Definitely. Whilst on the job I came across many terms, phrases and cases which made me think “Hey, that sounds really familiar!”. Modules such as company law, land law and contract law really came to life because many issues revolve around them. Of course, I had to make use of the firm’s library to do further reading when working on assigned tasks. However it really helped to already have a brief idea of what the legal issue was about.

What are a few key takeaways you have gained during this experience?

The main takeaway for me is that we need to have a positive and open mind at work. There will be instances where we doubt ourselves and feel discouraged, perhaps due to bad feedback or rejected ideas.  I learned how to not take these instances too personally because an internship is a demanding process.

Setbacks are to be expected. What’s important is we maintain that passion to learn and improve. Take a break, read some motivational quotes, get yourself a little pick-me-up and keep going. I believe genuine effort does not go unnoticed or unappreciated at the end of the day.

In the future, do you think you would continue pursuing this area?

It’s still too early for me to speak definitively at this point. If possible, I would like to try another placement in a firm which practices criminal law before I make any career choices. However, I am definitely not against pursuing civil practice in the future as I truly experienced a fulfilling internship. There was always something new for me to learn and work on.

Do you have any tips or advice for future interns when they go on to do internships?

My advice is to just give everything your best without over fretting. As much as we strive to impress by delivering perfection in every task, we will definitely make mistakes and that’s normal. Take the opportunity to learn from them because ultimately that is what an intern is meant to do.

Try and speak to others about their work, the firm culture and practices whenever appropriate. This helped me get a clearer picture of the firm and what is it that I may wish to pursue in the future. Some areas of practice turned out to be far more interesting and different than imagined, whilst some just weren’t my cup of tea. Stay positive and deliver your work, no matter how complicated or menial, on time. You will get the due recognition you deserve.

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