Friday, September 21, 2018

Succeeding Law School

Two years ago, I spoke and wrote about 'Surviving Law School' to wide-eyed first-year students coming into the Law Faculty of University of Malaya (UM).

A new batch of freshies arrived just last week.

On hindsight, I think that the title of the talk needs changing.

Surviving law school? Heck, anyone who made it to law school can do that. Rarely do students drop out, or fail so badly that they have to extend their course beyond 4 years. Graduate from law school? It's really not a great feat.

Succeeding law school? Now, that's much harder to attain, and what you should really be concerned about and focusing on. Your goal shouldn't be graduating from law school, but graduating from law school with an impressive resume and reputation that employers are queuing up to hire you.

So here's an updated piece of advice to the barely surviving freshies, and also the older survivors in law school who haven't succeeded just yet (which, going by the definition below, includes all of you).

They stopped calling the red guy to speak after discovering that he graduated with a measly CGPA of 3.35

1. Be Great, Not Just Good

You beat thousands of other hopeful students to get into UM. Now you're in a pool of 100+ undergraduates. Safe to say, you can consider yourself as the Top 10% law students in Malaysia. Good enough, right?

No. 'Good' is never 'good enough' in UM. You should aim to be better. To go from good to great.

You shouldn't settle with being just another UM law student. Be the top of your class. Graduate with First Class. Take up leadership positions in societies. Join moot competitions

Aim to be the Top 10 of your batch, Top 1% in the country. Even better, win an international moot competition, and be top of the world.

2. Keep On Moving, Don't Just Settle

So you've done well in your first year. Got into the Dean's List (3.7 GPA), very active in projects, and won a local novice moot competition. Congratulations!

But you've only just begun. Success is not measured by the number of certificates in your file, or trophies on your cabinet. Success is a journey, not a destination.

As the saying goes: "form is temporary, class is permanent". Success in a single semester, a single project, a single competition - that could be due to a stroke of luck, or the efforts of other people. To have a streak of successes over the course of your four years of law school - now, that's solid proof that you're the real deal.

It's tempting to rest on your laurels, to shirk away from new challenges. You're afraid you won't repeat your previous success, that you'll taint your legacy. Well, better get over such insecurities right now. The real world you'll be facing post-graduation measures success as a marathon, not a sprint. You think four years of law school is tough? Wait till you face forty years at work.


Best Graduating Student of 2008

3. Build A Good Reputation, Not Just A Good Resume

Four years of law school almost done. Your resume looks sparkly. You're the top 10 of your batch. Congratulations!

But what do your lecturers and friends really think of you, deep down in their hearts? Are you the object of hate or envy? Or the object of admiration and inspiration? How many toes have you stepped and hearts you have broken on your way to success?

Your resume is just a piece of paper. Your reputation is what sticks in people's heads. Word gets around very fast in today's world. Positive recommendations can get you through doors even if your resume isn't too sparkly. A single negative warning can stick a red flag on the sparkiest of resumes.

Treat people with respect. Be kind and generous. Help your struggling classmates. Train your juniors. Engage in deep conversations with your lecturers on the complexities of law, love and life.

The Secret Of Success

What's the secret of success? In his legendary 2005 Stamford commencement speech, Steve Jobs says this right at the end: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."

Don't be blinded by your small sparkly successes.

Don't ever think you're good enough.

Don't settle for less.

Stay hungry, stay foolish.

Drop out from college -> build a successful tech company


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

We Are The Champions And Runners-Up (A LAWASIA Story)

A month ago, at LAWASIA Malaysia National Rounds, we came, we saw, and we conquered.

Our victory could not be any more complete and convincing.

There were three main prizes at stake - champion team, runners-up team, and best mooter.

And we won all prizes.

Final: UM v UM

History Is Made

Yes, Team University of Malaya (UM) absolutely rocked and ruled at the Malaysian National Rounds of the 13th LAWASIA International Moot Competition.

It's a competition that Team UM hasn't joined since the first edition in 2005. Back then, teams head straight to the International Rounds without any qualifying stage.

So our foray this year was our first attempt at the national level.

Beginner's luck? Not quite.

This year, a total of 30 teams from 11 institutions participated - the largest field ever.

We deployed 3 teams. And from start to finish, two teams went on a commanding winning streak all the way into the Final.

For context, here are some facts and figures:
  • Our champion team (code-named 'Tean Stardust') won all 4 matches in the Preliminary Round, all 2 matches in the Semi-Final Round, and the Final by unanimous vote. Meaning to say, 21 out of 21 judges ruled in their favour. PERFECT! FLAWLESS VICTORY! It's the tennis equivalent of winning a Grand Slam without dropping a set. Or the football equivalent of winning the World Cup without conceding a single goal.
  • Our runners-up team (affectionately known as 'Team Al') won all 6 matches as well, until they lost in the Final to Team Stardust.
  • In the Preliminary Round, Team Stardust was ranked 1st (scoring a maximum of 24 round points - no other team matched their perfect record of winning all judges), whilst Team Al was ranked 2nd (with the highest raw score).
  • In the Semi-Final Round, Team Al was ranked 1st, whilst Team Stardust was ranked 2nd.
The champions (l-r): Aliya, Lily & Suan Cui

In the Semi-Final Round contested between the 12 highest-ranking teams from the Preliminary Round, both Team Al and Team Stardust edged over their rivals by a slim margin. 5 teams were tied with 2 wins and 12 round points (unanimous votes from 6 judges - each judge's vote carries 2 points). So, the top 5 teams were determined based on their total raw score. Team Al - 1065.5, Team Stardust - 1044, 3rd place team - 1041, 4th place team - 1040. Crazy close, huh?

Still, consider that both our teams topped the Preliminary Round and Semi-Final Round. And they had the best combined record at both stages:
  • Team Stardust had the highest round points
  • Team Al had the highest raw score

Deserving finalists? Definitely. The organisers remarked that it's rare for the finalists to advance in such dominating fashion (last year, the top-ranked team of the Preliminary Round fail to make it to the Final). Throughout the competition, our teams proved to be the most consistent.

In our debut appearance in LAWASIA Malaysia, we finished as champions and runners-up. Victory can't get any sweeter than that.

The runners-up (l-r): Jia Shen, Amiratu & Caysenny

Stars Are Born

Perhaps the most satisfying part of LAWASIA was unearthing the hidden gems in our ranks.

Aside from our collective victory, our individual brilliance also shone brightest. In the overall oralist ranking (based on average scores), Team UM had 4 mooters ranked in the Top 10 - far more than any other institution.

All 9 mooters from our 3 teams rose to the challenge. Win or lose, their gallant efforts are worthy of admiration and applause.

Here's the credits roll (in alphabetical order):

Amiratu Al Amirat - Winner of the Best Mooter award. Spoke for all 7 rounds in 2 days (more than anyone else). And most astoundingly, it's her first ever external moot competition! Where has she been hiding all this while?

Caysenny Tean Boonsiri - Another newbie, just fresh out of her first year. Instead of succumbing to nerves and stage fright, she instead racked up an average score of 90.17 - the highest in the competition!

Lee Suan Cui - A veteran mooter. Quarter-finalists in IMLAM 2017 and Price Media 2018. And now, in her first domestic competition, she's proven that she can enthrall lawyers at home as well as abroad.

Lily Sabreena - Whilst prepping for LAWASIA, she's also juggling IMLAM 2018 (semi-finalist) and internship (scored 'A'). Living proof that girls are great multi-taskers. The Force is strong... oh no, is she tapping into the Dark Side?

Najihah binti Yusoff - First year, first moot. Still rough around the edges, still brimming with potential. In the face of adversity, she puts on a brave face. The future is bright, young Padawan!

Nur Aliya binti Ayob - Captain of Team Stardust, the glue that keeps all 3 teams together. She's faced off Justice Gopal Sri Ram in the moot court before, and survived his barrage of questioning unscathed - how many lawyers can say the same?

Tan Jia Shen - First year, second moot. Runners-up in NAMCO earlier this year, runners-up in LAWASIA now. What a great mooting resume so far! As they say: no guts, no glory. And this youngling is full of guts!

Tan Soo Yew - Head filled with knowledge, heart filled with passion. Such a joy listening to his high-level arguments. Comes across too much like a scholar though. Add a dose of charm to his charisma, and he can own the room.

Thomas Tan - Smart and sharp, just like his BFF Soo Yew. His aura of calm and control complements well with Soo Yew's more combative style. With some more polish, he can rise up the mooting ranks.

Mooting's a show, and we all play our parts. Without each of their contribution, Team UM could not have secured such an epic and historic victory.

Valiant fallen comrades (l-r): Thomas, Najihah & Soo Yew

Show Goes On

This isn't the end just yet. A chapter has closed, but a new adventure beckons.

Next mission: Siem Reap, Cambodia.

In November, Team UM will battle out on the international stage. Facing off against teams across Asia-Pacific such as Singapore, India, China and Japan. There, the true test of our mettle awaits.

We're the Champions of Malaysia (as well as Runners-Up).

It's time, baby. LAWASIA's coming home.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

I Am Not Crazy, Rich, Nor Even Asian

I'm boring and poor, Asian only in flesh and blood. 

And yet, the Hollywood blockbuster 'Crazy Rich Asian' strikes a deep chord in my soul. That's because I'm surrounded by crazy rich Asians - or at least, people who think themselves as crazy, rich and Asian.

The movie is surreal, but realistic. It reflects the very society I grew up with, and can't get away from as much as I try.

Shopping

They're everywhere!

Whether in my neighbourhood hot spots, or some European city I'm visiting. There's always a Chinese contingent marching, shoving and yelling at the top of their lungs. Lugging bags, pushing carts, pulling trolleys. Man or woman, young or old, they're all in a race to grab the best bargains.

Whenever I see them clambering down some tour bus down the road, instinctively my head and shoulders slump. I'll smile sheepishly at any random stranger nearby, as if to say, "Hey dude, they're not with me, I didn't bring them here, it's not my fault!". And then beat a hasty retreat before things get ugly.

You would think that the advent of smartphones and e-commerce would stop the Asian invasion, but no, the world is worse off. They treat such technology like a radar and scanner, to find places and compare prices. It whets their shopping appetite even more. If Genghis Khan had GPS access back in the day, his hordes would have probably conquered America first.

For myself, I do keep a constant lookout for any sale going on in the city or my neighbourhood - so that I'll know where not to go this weekend.


ADIDAS - All Day I Dream About SHOPPING!!! ;)  

Food

Look, I love food. I appreciate a well-cooked dish. I'm intrigued of the cultural history behind traditional recipes. I have cravings too.

But food, first and foremost, is for my hungry stomach - and not to be paraded on social media. Just sit, eat, and walk out.

Seriously, why is there a need to share photos of what we eat with the whole wide world? Sure, it may look good, but does it taste good? Are we now supposed to judge food by its cover? And if you're really enthused about a particular restaurant, then blog about it properly (instead of posting every meal you eat outside). If you're really proud of your home-cooked dinner, then invite your friends over (instead of humble-bragging that it's your first attempt blah blah).

For some of us, food fills up half of our Instagram pages. Social media is akin to a personal diary. Imagine when you're old and looking back at your younger days...

"On 1st March 2018, I drank Milo Dinosaur at Nasmeer Mamak... Next day, I ate Korean BBQ at..."

Yeah, crazy exciting life you had there, grandma.

Marriage

I've already previously ranted extensively on Chinese weddings.

For instance, on ang pows:
"The amount of money inside the 'ang-pow' depends on the individuals. Yet, there is an unspoken rule that every guest should at the bare minimum bear the cost of one's meal, which can roughly be ascertained based on the choice of venue...
...Why throw a lavish party to begin with, if you require monetary assistance to fund it? Why does it feel like I'm paying cover-charge to enter a night-club? If I'm invited to any other party - birthday, baby shower, graduation, etc. - I'm not expected to pay money at the door. So why is a wedding any different?
The idea of giving 'ang pow' is even more mind-boggling, when I'm invited to a wedding of someone I'm not close to (see Point 1 above). Right, after years of not keeping in touch, and bam, suddenly a wedding invite via Facebook out of the blue with the implicit request for financing? Oh wait, the wedding is just three months away? I see, that means I'm on the backup list, and you're scrambling to fill up the tables already booked for guests who backed out last-minutely. Right? RIGHT?"

(I also ranted about the frivolous ceremonies, like jip san leong, that are bound to occur in every Chinese Wedding in Malaysia)

Just to be clear, the wedding in the movie was beautiful to behold. Stunning gown, nice touch with the water flowing down the aisle, and Kina Grannis' soulful rendition of 'Can't Help Falling In Love' nearly moved me to tears.

But would I pay hundreds of dollars of ang pow to attend such an extravagant wedding? Nope, no thanks.

(In the movie, the guests probably weren't obliged to give any ang-pow. Heck, probably the wedding was even sponsored by the media and brands for marketing. That's how real crazy rich Asians roll.)

After all, I can always look at the photos leaking on social media anyway.

Some Lord of the Rings theme going there (without the GIANT EAGLES)
Friendship

Ultimately, the irony of the movie is that it depicts the lives of an average Asian more than a crazy rich Asian.

I happen to know a crazy rich Singaporean. He walks into bars and clubs without queuing, the bouncers just nod and wave him through. He travels around the world. He drives a fancy car. And yet, he's polite, down-to-earth, and perhaps most tellingly, almost never talks about himself

(And he pulls this off so well because of the encyclopedic knowledge he has about everything - if you're a lawyer, he can talk about law with you; if you're into tech, he can talk about startups, and so on.)

Yes, he's very much like Nick Young in the movie. And funnily enough, his much poorer friends and acquaintances comes off as crazier and richer than him - loud, boisterous, and rude. Whilst I envy his good fortune, I can't help but feeling a bit sad to be in his shoes - how would you know who your true friends are?

It must be really difficult to forge genuine relationships, when people are just gravitating towards you to bask in your starlight. It must be really difficult to forge genuine relationships when you're a crazy rich Asian.

I No Asian

It ain't easy being a crazy, rich Asian.

I'm glad I wasn't born as one. Life would be rather boring otherwise.

Then again, I would not hesitate to marry a crazy rich Asian brainy beauty like Astrid... and stay loyal to her for the rest of our lives...