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Life as an Intern: Legal Edn @ International Law Firm

Updated: Apr 28, 2020


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

Really, I chose to intern at Trowers & Hamlins out of sheer curiosity. I wasn’t sure what to expect – what sort of setting it would be, what kind of expectations they would set for their interns, even how the office would look like. Although representatives from this firm did give a brief overview regarding their practice in Islamic finance during a recent talk in Taylor’s, it wasn’t their only field of practice and I was interested in learning about the way an international firm would handle legal matters when other countries are involved as well, and how it would all jive with the Malaysian legal system.



Could you share your overall experience as an intern at an international law firm?  i.e. What was your role as an intern (ie filing, researching etc)? What was your most memorable experience during the internship?

My internship experience at Trowers & Hamlins could be summarised into one word: surprising.


There I was on my first day, the only intern in the firm for the next two weeks, with a prepared list of tasks sitting before me on the table. I was determined. I was ready to bear all expectations. I had made up my mind to do one thing and one thing only: to earn my allowance.


Instead I found myself frowning determinedly at the screen in an effort not to burst into laughter from the sound of lighthearted banter echoing throughout the office. Worse yet, the jokes often came from the firm’s partners. Between trying not to laugh when the lawyers referenced silly movies or threw blocks of cheese around – yes, that happened once – and waiting for some of them try to figure out, “Who does this intern look like?”, I got the chance to sit down with a few of them and listen to their experience in the legal field, as well as listen to briefings on certain cases. They had me do quite a bit of legal and commercial research in addition to the tasks on ‘The List’, too.


My most memorable experience at Trowers would’ve definitely been the mandatory presentation on my last day. The jitters were real; I was so afraid of getting my facts right, so worried about saying the correct things. But it all melted away when they asked questions and made comments with their usual sense of humour. Truly, their positivity made the experience very fun.



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

Being in a law firm is not like sitting in during lectures. For one, you have to be very proactive. If you don’t ask questions, you’ll never know how to get the job done. If you don’t get up and talk to people, you won’t really benefit from the whole experience. The research work is also both very broad and very precise; lawyers always seem to want a particular endgame, and it’s your job to figure out how to get there, even if the case law seems to work against your favour. Also, you don’t have to worry about OSCOLA citations and Turnitin, but you do have to worry about being accurate and getting all the facts right.



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

Not really. This is probably because I’m still halfway through my second year and I haven’t really dabbled much in the Personal Data Protection Act or taxation laws. Still, there was quite a bit of Tort and Contract in the work I was doing, and whatever I didn’t understand, I eventually learned with the help of both the lawyers and the office executives. It was a steep learning curve, but definitely one that was very worthwhile.



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

Be nice. Weird takeaway, I know. But if there is one thing the wonderful people (both lawyers and office staff alike) at that firm taught me, it’s that it pays in the long run to be nice and mild-tempered, especially when clients are giving you a headache. Keep your cool when people lose theirs, and eventually they will come around and depend on your level-headedness. Just be nice and don’t lose yourself in the stress.


Also, ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. If you don’t ask, you will never know. It’s better to admit your bowl is empty than to go hungry. I’m pretty sure I learned a lot more from those two brief weeks, but these two takeaways were the most valuable – and unexpected – lessons for me.



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

One particular area of corporate law that really piqued my interest was where projects are involved. Basically, a firm works with two or more parties to get a particular project done: for instance, a construction project. As the lawyer working on the project, you’re basically expected to ensure everyone’s wishes blend well together and everybody gets what they want. You’re also expected to hold everybody accountable. As one of the lawyers put it, you’re sort of like a project manager. It’s interesting when one gets to work on a large-scale project.


So, yes. I’m keeping an open mind to the option of pursuing this area of the law, especially where other countries are involved. It is fascinating to see how all the different legal systems work together in the ‘playground’, as our lecturer, Mr Lai Mun Onn, would say.



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

Ask questions. I cannot stress its importance enough. Keep an open mind, even if you realise halfway that maybe the area of the law you’re involved in isn’t as interesting as you thought it would be. If you can, try to see what other areas of the law the other lawyers practice in the particular firm at which you’re interning, and maybe get some work from them, however menial the task. If they tell you to do a random task regarding an area of the law that you know nothing about, put on that ‘finals attitude’ and attempt to become an expert of that particular subject overnight. Bear in mind, however, that they know that law students only pretend to know things, so they’re probably not expecting you to know everything on your first try.


Which brings me to my last tip: try everything. Throw yourself into the void. Do your best and you’ll surprise yourself. Good luck!

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