Friday, April 21, 2017

Practice Is Easy, And That's Why I'm Staying Out

"Would you ever consider going back to practice?"

Of the many queries I get from people, that ranks highly on the FAQ list. 'Going back to practice', in legal-speak, simply means becoming a lawyer again.

Yes, it's been a while since I last worked as a lawyer. Why do people keep asking me that? Maybe I still look like one. Or maybe they think I have the skills to excel in practice. Or maybe they can't see me doing anything else useful.

Or maybe I look good in suits

Missing Practice?

Well, whatever the reason, it's a valid question. But often times, it comes packaged with these other related questions:

"Did you enjoy practice?" Yes, it was fun and enjoyable while it lasted.

"Did you miss practice?" Not really, what I'm doing now is more enjoyable.

"Would you ever consider going back to practice?" Maybe, anything can happen, who knows what the future holds, never say never.

Well, if you were really sharp and persistent, you could dig deeper in the cross-examination and ask...

"What is the likelihood of you returning to practice within the next 5 years, based on where you're at in life right now?"

Ah, that's a good one. And I would say: Very unlikely, less than 10% chance.

As to why I would say that, well, I believe I've explained myself many times before, so I won't go there (I'm aiming for the stars, and I want to be an astronaut).

Back To Practice?

The other possible line of inquiry would be assuming, for whatever reason, I actually do decide to come back to practice...

"Are you worried of being able to keep up with practice after being away for so long?"

Definitely not! In fact, I'm actually more worried about practice keeping up with me. Sounds a tad bit cocky, I know. But let me explain myself.

First, consider the static nature of law. It takes years for governments to pass new laws (especially the Malaysian government). It takes just as long for courts to lay down ground-breaking legal principles, as courts usually take a conservative line to 'interpret' law, and not 'create' law (especially Malaysian courts). Yes, changes in the law do happen. But the changes are so incremental and gradual, that it's not hard to keep track of them through quick research and reading. 

Secondly, consider that I do stay abreast with the latest developments in law, all across the world. Ironically, I'm able to keep up more after leaving practice. In practice, lawyers are so busy with their own work in their own specialised area of law, that they rarely have time and energy to venture far beyond their limited comfort zone. Stepping out of practice frees one from the shackles of 'hard law', and to explore the emerging developments in business and technology due to crystallise into law in the near future.

Practice - then and now

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

I left practice because after a tipping point, I felt practice was holding me back from growing. And by staying out of it, I could speed faster and further ahead of the curve.

So does that mean lawyers should quit practice in order to advance their knowledge of the law? Not necessarily. As long as you take some good time off from your stuffy legal work every once in a while to focus on your continuous legal education, you're doing good.

And when I say 'continuous legal education', I don't mean attending those bullshit talks where they lecture on basic stuff you already know for the sake of collecting CPD points. What I mean is doing serious learning. Read cases from more dynamic jurisdictions like the UK and Australia. Take online courses. Subscribe to intellectual journals like The Economist.

(To be fair, this knowledge deficit doesn't only happen to lawyers in practice. I also see it happening to academicians in universities, and legal counsels in companies. Everyone's just contented with the current knowledge base they have, blissfully and arrogantly ignorant to the changes to the legal landscape. The world is changing faster than before, and dinosaurs who don't keep up will be left behind, rot and die - as they should be.)

Never stop learning, kids!

Practice Is Easy

Anyway, back to the original question: Yes, I'm pretty confident that I'll fit right into practice, if I ever do come back. It'll take a mental shift of gears, of course. The hard part is bringing myself down to earth. Gravity's a bitch.

Life in practice is easy-peasy. And that's exactly why I don't plan on returning anytime soon. Sure, practice has its own set of challenges. But it sure ain't half as exhilarating and enjoyable as flying through space amongst the stars, in search of new discoveries, where possibilities are infinite and endless.

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