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International Women's Day: an interview with alumna Litsan Chong

The University of Law prides itself on encouraging and supporting students from all walks of life to follow their aspirations to pursue a career in what they love. To champion the achievements of our alumnae on International Women’s Day we decided to catch up with Litsan Chong, who currently works as the Counsel at Thailand Arbitration Centre (THAC), overseeing case management and administration in both domestic and international arbitration.

Litsan returned to Malaysia after graduating from the Bar Professional Training Course in 2013. Here she tells us why she chose to study law and her career highlights so far.

It may sound cliché but the main reason I chose law is to help people pursue justice. When I was still a student, I knew studying law would give me the necessary skills and knowledge to help people, as lawyers often say ‘know your rights’. The only way to know my rights and help others to do so is by studying law. As we all know, law can be a complex subject and intellectually challenging, and the fact that I enjoy reading, writing, and analysis made law seem like a perfect fit. Most importantly, I enjoy the mental gymnastics involved in forming two sides to an argument and engaging in pages and pages of verbose judgements. Lastly, I know law allows me to use my skills to make a difference to people's lives and stand up to injustice. It’s true that by studying law, it equipped me with the skillset needed to help people in life.

Law is not just a job, it’s a passion. At the end of the day, as the workload piles up, I want to be able to sit back and say to myself, in spite of this I still love what I am doing. As the Chinese philosopher, Confucius once said: ‘Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.’

What really got me interested in ULaw was the location, the facilities and the quality of teaching offered; they really were second to none. Bloomsbury was a perfect location, with its proximity to Holborn, the head of legal industry in London, and being close to the Inn of Courts, Royal Court of Justice, the Old Bailey, and barrister chambers. As part of the course all BPTC students are required to attend twelve dining sessions at the Inns. It was extremely convenient for me as Middle Temple was just a short walk away.

ULaw also provides state-of-the-art facilities, comprising of a well-resourced library and computer rooms. The long opening hours of the study room was also very thoughtful on the part of ULaw, allowing students to work late during the period of examinations. Tutors at ULaw are qualified barristers and therefore could provide the insights of their practice at the Bar and practical application of law.

One of the highlights of my time at ULaw would be the advocacy classes. The mock trials were so much fun. It was an enjoyable way to learn about advocacy in the setting of a real courtroom, providing the extra touch of realism as well as being informative. Of course, my time at ULaw would not have been the same without the lovely classmates and the friendships I made.

Anne-Marie Critchley (criminal law lecturer) was my favourite tutor at ULaw. She taught me everything I needed to know about presenting arguments in court. I still employ those same techniques for advocating on behalf of my clients in pro bono cases; techniques like the structure of arguments and the intonation of body language.

Upon completion of the BPTC, I returned to Malaysia to qualify as a lawyer. I applied online to a couple of law firms that I had my eye on. I went to interviews and picked the firm that most suited to my career objectives at that time. I believe the grade of ‘Very Competent’ certainly got my CV noticed. I ended up joining a top tier corporate firm in Malaysia and realised my true calling was in international arbitration.

Students need to believe in their dreams and not give up. Of course, one should come prepared, always do the necessary research and get as much work experience as possible. Also, not to forget to hone one’s soft skills. Importantly, one should recognise that there is no substitution for hard work.

I am currently the Counsel at Thailand Arbitration Centre (THAC). I oversee case management and administration, both domestic and international arbitration proceedings. Other than day-to-day case management work, I am tasked with developing the legal philosophy and strategy of the centre and policies work of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Thailand. I am leading a few exciting projects involving capacity-building and awareness raising of arbitration in Thailand. Many thrilling plans are in the pipeline, such as cooperation with other arbitral institutions, revision of rules and other ADR academy training for lawyers and the general public, as well as judicial exchange with other jurisdictions.

There are many highlights that have happened throughout my career. One in particular was a large international case that I was involved in while I was interning at an international law firm in Paris. We were representing an important corporate client against a French NGO in relation to an environmental claim. The case was highly publicised in local as well as international media. The whole process of how the team and the partners were handling the case was an eye-opening experience.

It is certainly a highlight to work alongside the brightest minds in the area of international arbitration. Furthermore, working closely with government agencies, like the Ministry of Justice and Foreign Affairs in the sphere of ADR was an exceptional experience as well.

My qualification in law has helped me in many ways and has opened many doors, from working for the United Nations to pursuing my legal career internationally. A law qualification is such a flexible tool to have on one’s CV as it demonstrates that you have the ability to think critically as well as possessing a great deal of other valuable professional skills.

Not many people know I was crowned as a second runner-up of Miss Malaysia Petite 2017. Participating in a beauty pageant is not something I would have considered a few years ago and it was certainly not in line with my career goals. That said, it was a wonderful experience and allowed me to gain a better understanding of the entertainment industry. I also speak six languages – English, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay and Hokkien.

 

To find out how a law qualification can help you to achieve your aspirations, check out our website.