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Developing a love of law

Malaysia's Daniel Chua, who graduated with a First Class LLB in 2013, talks about studying law in Malaysia, mooting, and offers some study tips. 30 September 2014.

Written by Suraya Saleh |

Daniel Chua
"Generally, intelligence is not a birthright. Success comes from the effort and determination that one is able to put into their work" Daniel Chua.

What sparked your interest in law?
Truth be told, my initial interest and foray into law was not one which was fuelled by any lifelong yearning for law, justice, or anything like that. It was my parents who encouraged me to read law. Indeed, the idea of pursuing a degree in the field of law had always been the lifelong yearning of my mother, who, due to the prevailing circumstances at the time, had to take a different route in life. I initially undertook law as a way of fulfilling my mother’s lifelong aspiration.

Be that as it may, as I furthered my reading in law with the University, I am happy to admit that I do not regret having taken this road. Having read law with the University, I have been exposed to a diverse range of material which piqued my interest in law, and I am currently unable to see myself as doing anything else unrelated to this field.

Why did you choose to study with the University of London International Programmes?
Why not? At first, the main reason I chose the University of London International Programmes was because of the prospect of actually staying in my hometown of Penang and obtaining a law degree which would enable me to qualify for practice in Malaysia. Having been raised in a close-knit family, I found myself extremely reluctant to leave my hometown and family.

As I soldiered on through the course, I think I stuck to the programme because of the profound respect proffered to the course due to its reputed difficulty, as well as the prospects that the programme would have in building a legal career here in Malaysia. There is a sizeable fraternity of University of London graduates here in the legal sector, as the presence of the University of London LLB programme has served the legal profession in Malaysia well for decades. And, indeed, a number of legal luminaries had their genesis in their careers from reading law with the University of London.

What did you enjoy most about your studies?
I especially enjoyed the challenge and academic formation that was brought about by reading law with the University. In my formative years in secondary school, I was not given much opportunity or encouragement to express critical opinions in a way which would merit any marks. Being a student with the University of London changed this entirely, as critical reflection is not only encouraged, but expected of a student.

The dynamics and synergy between the University programme and the College’s pedagogy has given me nothing short of a full experience in reading law.

I am also especially fortunate that I was both a student of the University of London, as well as a student of Advance Tertiary College (ATC). The dynamics and synergy between the University programme and the College’s pedagogy has given me nothing short of a full experience in reading law. The UoL degree has set highly challenging and stimulating material as the subject of our study in law, where critical reflective thinking is the standard and norm expected by the University. ATC itself offers a wide range of support in terms of academic support, physical facilities, as well as opportunities to participate in moot competitions, which served to complement my study in law with UoL.

How did you feel when you found out you had received a First Class degree?
I found out about my results while I was waiting for a tour bus during my family vacation in Melbourne. To say that I was nothing but overjoyed would be an understatement. I, personally, never expected to attain such results. I would like to take this opportunity to thank God for having sustained me in more ways than I deserve. I would also like to thank my parents, who have given me so much support, which I can only hope that I may repay in my lifetime. To my lecturers whose dedication to students is unparalleled. Finally, but not in any way least, to my friends, whose precious companionship and valuable opinions proved instrumental in motivating me. To all the above I owe my achievement of a First Class.

What advice or tips would give to someone taking the LLB?
I defer to fellow University of London LLB graduate Ms Eeshah Khalid, who achieved the top mark worldwide in the LLB, as well as my senior in ATC and now fellow UoL alumni, Mr Brandon Chan. They have so graciously shared their advice on London Connection and I highly recommend it as essential reading for law students.

For my part, I am only able to add some technical and practical tips by sharing my experience in reading law.

On studying technique, it is important to make one’s own notes on a subject matter. Reliance on notes that are not made by oneself would not be the most effective study method, for that would amount to reading the summary of another person’s understanding and material on a particular subject matter.

I believe the key is to surround yourself with like-minded people who are willing and honest in helping you out. For me, I had the pleasure of reading law with a bunch of people I now call friends, whose camaraderie I am honoured to have partaken.

Did you have any particularly challenging times during your studies?
The most arduous challenge I had was in my final year, where I chose to undertake the Laws Dissertation subject. Since the subject is by its nature one which is mostly self-study, I found that the learning curve was particularly steep, and that formal support was rather limited.

At the expense of sounding abstract, to overcome such an obstacle, as with any other kind of obstacle, I believe the key is to surround yourself with like-minded people who are willing and honest in helping you out. For me, I had the pleasure of reading law with a bunch of people I now call friends, whose camaraderie I am honoured to have partaken.

I am thankful and blessed that I had trustworthy people who supported me. From going through the draft of my work to offering valuable criticism, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow LLB friends for their selflessness, especially those who worked as tireless sounding boards, listening to my almost endless tirades about my research without a hint of tedium (not visible on their faces, at least).

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Alumni Inspiration: watch an interview with Daniel Chua, LLB, Malaysia

Are there any particular skills you gained from your degree that you believe will be especially valuable in the future?
If I may quote fellow LLB alumni Mr Brandon Chan, “self-study in itself is a skill and remains one of the best forms of education”. Studying the UoL degree has especially cultivated my attitude towards self-study. Taking a step back and having a look at the greater scheme of things, I believe that undertaking this degree with UoL has led me to become a more proactive person. The ability to be proactive, in my opinion, is often overlooked, and on the reverse, sometimes overstated without a proper understanding of what it means and what it takes to be proactive. Proactivity in itself is a rare and especially useful skill, which would be a valuable asset in just about any sector. It does not breed complacency, and indeed branches out to develop more specific subsets of skills.

In my case, the University experience has imparted and helped me inculcate specific legal skills, as well as other transferable skills. I have refined my legal research skills, developed a keen eye to identifying problems and inculcated an attitude of paying attention to detail in solving problems. In tandem with ATC, I have also developed skills in advocacy and critical thinking through mooting.

In addition to the above skills, which are in themselves transferable, the ability to take the initiative would be a skill which would be more difficult to obtain had I chosen to read law internally. A pertinent and practical example is my attitude towards my studies and work, where I ensure that all the necessary resources and materials have been referred to whenever I read on a subject matter. In short, I learned not to be complacent. My meticulous disposition towards my work, and in the way I work and study, is directly attributable to the experience I had studying the UoL LLB degree.

What’s your fondest memory of university?
From being named the Best Mooter in the 7th LAWASIA International Moot Competition (Malaysia National Rounds) (pictured left), to obtaining a First Class Honours degree, to just sitting in my college library studying with my fellow LLB classmates, I can’t say for certain that I have any one particularly fond memory during my time studying, as I had plenty of ups and downs throughout. Perhaps I may draw a memorable theme instead: that once you’ve been through the toughest part of your life (so far) with a bunch of people, I think they tend to stick around for life. Having been through such a difficult and demanding course, the entirety of the journey to graduating from this course is of itself a fond memory.

So, what are you up to, a year on from finishing the programme?
Time has indeed flown fast since I finished the programme. For starters, I attended two graduation ceremonies: the first by Advance Tertiary College in Kuala Lumpur, and the second in London. Each ceremony was a great experience, but taking a step back, I began to appreciate the uniqueness of pursuing a University of London course with local academic support.

In a way, I was exposed to the alumni and prestige of the University at both the local and international environment. The global recognition of the University's degree is definitely not merely lip service, as I had the opportunity to develop my professional network at both local and international level.

What are your career plans?
At the moment, I don’t exactly have a detailed roadmap on my career plans. While the programme had inculcated in me a deep appreciation of the academic side of law, I have grown more enamoured with the practical application of law in legal practice with each passing day. That said, I would like to pursue, if possible, a career in both, as I believe that any lawyer must be both professionally and academically proficient.

The University offers people from all walks of life the opportunity to attain a globally recognised degree in law which is prestigious, affordable, and flexible.

Would you recommend the University of London International Programmes?
I would highly recommend the University of London International Programmes. I believe I speak not only on behalf of myself, but for fellow graduates and LLB alumni across the globe, that I have nothing but the utmost respect for the University of London for its initiative in truly endeavouring to provide education to the masses in an increasingly borderless global landscape. The University offers people from all walks of life the opportunity to attain a globally recognised degree in law which is prestigious, affordable, and flexible.

To those who are afraid of doing an LLB degree with the UoL because it is reputed to be difficult, I can say that, having completed the course, it really is as difficult as is reputed. But in retrospect, I think it takes a certain breed of character, mettle and intellectual gumption to undertake the University’s LLB degree, and its difficulty, really, only adds to its well-deserved prestige. You’ll be obtaining a highly respected degree, so don’t be afraid. You only live once, anyway. #YOL