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The Lowdown on Interning in a Lockdown

Over the past year, most countries have been in and out of various lockdowns due to the overwhelming volume of Covid-19 cases. Malaysia is no exception, with our plethora of differing lockdowns, such as MCO, CMCO, RMCO and the various other CO’s we can expect in the future. One of the most significant impacts of these measures is that a large portion of the workforce now has to work from home. Although the Bar Council confirmed that law firms are allowed to operate during MCO, most of us interns have been encouraged and even ordered to stay at home. Thus, having a virtual internship and working from home (be it from your bed or your couch, or even in your pyjamas) is very much the current reality of law students. But is this really as relaxing as it sounds? Taylor’s Lexicon interviewed Joel Tan and Joey Tan from Taylor’s Law School about their experience of working from home to break down the good and the bad for you.

The Good: Flexibility

Working from home means that you have the freedom to allocate your working time based on your own preferences. You have more control over your schedule and can work in your own way. You have the opportunity to sneak in a short nap during lunch hour if you need it and on some days, you might even have the luxury of being able to cook and prepare your meals. Further, working from home also means that you do not need to wake up as early as you once did since you no longer need to account for travelling time to the office. Your office hours might even end earlier provided that you have completed your work for the day. Lastly, being home pretty much 24/7 gives you the chance to have more family time if you’re staying in the same household (Though depending on who you ask, that could either be an upside or a downside).

The Good: Comfort

Working from home also means that you have the opportunity to work in a comfy environment, with comfy clothes on. Your office can be anywhere you want it to be. It can be your living room where you can work on the sofa while listening to your favourite music, your garden for a nice breath of fresh air or your bed with your favourite pyjamas on. Moreover, you do not need to wear formal clothes or uncomfortable office-wear all the time since you’ll no longer be working at the office. When you do have video calls, you can opt for the popular “Zoom Outfit”, business at the top, party at the bottom.

The Bad: Internship experience

Working from home is disadvantageous towards student’s internship experience as you have limited access to people, law books, handbooks and equipment. Given this limited access, the type of work that is assigned to you might now vary in nature. Your job scopes are limited to those that could be done remotely such as research, translating documents and drafting cause-paper. You might be deprived of the full “internship experience” as there will be no physical hearings and other physical visits in these prevailing circumstances. However, on the bright side, you might get to witness the future of the legal system. One of the interviewees, Joey, was given the opportunity to attend an e-hearing for civil case. The opportunity to familiarise yourself with the new, developing systems will come in handy in your future! Therefore, whether or not you’re deprived of the full “internship experience” really does depend on the law firm you are working at, your internship arrangements and your performance at work.

The Bad: Communication

It is not surprising that working from home had brought on new frustrations. Communication might not be as effective as in the office, as everything is communicated through WhatsApp and Emails. There might be miscommunications or misunderstandings which cannot be resolved instantaneously. According to Joey: “When I have questions or would like to have my work vetted, I can always approach my colleagues or bosses face-to-face and get an immediate reply. When working from home, I have to WhatsApp or call them and wait for a reply before proceeding with my work which is time-consuming.” On top of that, your social interaction is also limited as all client meetings and discussions are conducted through Zoom, where you might have realised, small talk and menial conversation is a lot harder.

The Bad: Time management and work-life balance

However, both Joel and Joey are of the view that although they do not have a full internship experience, their workload is pretty much the same as working from the office. What differs is that working from home requires strong self-discipline as it’s not easy to drag yourself out of bed at 8 am with nowhere to go. There also no longer exists a clear boundary between your work time and your personal time. You might have a hard time because working from home compels you to respond ASAP whether it is urgent or not. Thus, both Joel and Joey prefer working from the office as it is easier to focus in a working environment, you get to complete your work more efficiently and you aren’t forced to take your work home with you.

How to stay motivated and productive while working from home?

It is not easy to stay motivated and productive while working from home especially when you are not the only person working in the household. For Joel, the expectation from his mentor and deadlines keep him motivated. For Joey, having video calls with colleagues to work alongside them helps her to stay productive. Further, to stimulate the cold environment that reminds her of the office, she turns on her air-conditioning when she works from home. Optimize your working space as much as you can to stimulate the feel of an office to help solve your productivity problems. Have your colleagues on a call with you or get ready as if you were going to the office if that’s what will help you stay motivated and ensure productivity. And last and not least, grab a coffee whenever you feel sleepy. It can be the best “wake up call” or your best friend in this difficult time.

How to make the most of your online internship

Thus, in order to make the most of your online internship, setting up your goals and constantly communicating with your mentor is of utmost importance. It's easy to get lost and be unsure of your workload as an intern. Therefore, to meet your mentor’s expectations and submit quality work, do not be afraid to ask for feedback and help as at the end of the day we are there to learn and grow. Your internship experience is what you make of it so put in the extra effort needed to make up for the other things lost.

Further, try to get to know your coworkers as much as possible too. There's less of an opportunity to chit chat and get to know one another when you're not physically together, so you'll have to make more of an effort to get to know the people you work with. Last but not least, stick to your schedule and keep track of your work and deadlines as you do not want to leave a bad impression or be labelled as a procrastinator by your potential employers. Remember, the tasks they give you depend on how well you perform them. Show them that you are driven and will do a good job so that they trust you enough to give you more responsibilities despite not being able to monitor your work constantly.


It is undeniable that working from home has become the new normal in our lives. It has become a reality that we need to live with for the next few months. It could be a bummer for many interns as they are robbed from their ‘full-internship experience’. But then again, health comes first! With the constant spike of Covid-19 cases, working from home seems to be the best option. It also serves as a great reminder that we should always be grateful that we can secure an internship at such a difficult time, despite not having the full experience of it. In any case, it offers us a glimpse of what the new working world may be like, now that employers are adapting to more flexible work arrangements.

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