Alumna Mariam Munang is an Associate Legal Officer at the United Nations (UN), which takes actions on issues confronting humanity in the 21st century. Based in its New York headquarters, she secured the job through the UN’s highly competitive Young Professionals Programme (YPP). She now works with colleagues across the world and travels internationally to work on major UN inquiries. Mariam is part of a new generation of lawyers who started their careers at ULaw, having studied our Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC); here, she talks about her exciting career.
I am currently a Legal Officer at UN’s Office of Staff Legal Assistance. Where there are disputes between the staff member and the organisation, the General Assembly has established an internal justice system to handle claims and disciplinary matters. I provide independent legal advice to staff members and also represent them as their legal counsel as they navigate the UN’s internal justice system. As an advocate for my clients, my day-to-day work is varied; I may be arguing their cases before the tribunal, negotiating on their behalf or drafting written submissions.
I feel privileged to be able to assist colleagues who do very important work on behalf of the UN. This, for me, is the best part of the job: meeting fellow UN staff of various nationalities and learning about the critical work they do in all corners of the world. It’s so humbling to meet so many talented and passionate men and women who dedicate their lives to serve the UN and the ideals it stands for.
The highlight of my career so far is the time I was selected to assist with a UN Board of Inquiry [these review any serious incidents of concern to the UN, including those that have occurred during peacekeeping or special political missions]. It gave me the opportunity to learn from various experts, meet senior government representatives and travel to places that would otherwise be inaccessible. We were a small team and it was hard work and above all fulfilling, knowing that I was doing important work.
Working for the UN was something that I had considered, but I thought it was a distant dream. I applied for my job through its YPP, where I had to pass an exam and interview. Even now, I still catch myself thinking how lucky I am to have ended up here at the New York headquarters.
To me, success means celebrating any achievement in my day-to-day work. As a lawyer, people come to me for legal advice and I try my very best to guide and help them reach the best possible outcomes. Each time I am able to do this, I feel that I am making a difference. This, to me, is success and whether I receive a note of thanks or conclude a settlement agreement, each one is an achievement.
I chose to study at ULaw because of its strong emphasis on honing practical legal skills, such as drafting and advocacy. To this day, I prepare for trial in much the same way I prepared for mock trials at ULaw.
As an international student, it was important for me to get a qualification that would enable me to also practice law back home in Malaysia. After I completed the BPTC and was called to the Bar, I eventually returned to Malaysia where I was called to the Malayan Bar. I began my legal career as a litigation lawyer at a large law firm in Kuala Lumpur.
ULaw gave me the skills and confidence that helped me get to where I am today. The BPTC gave me the opportunity to develop my own way of working by giving me the space and opportunity to make errors, learn from them, and hone my own style.
My secret to success? Take every task seriously, no matter how small or large the responsibility. Over and above all, strive to deliver something you can be proud of. This way, you will build a reputation for yourself for being professional and reliable – important characteristics as you climb the career ladder.
Find out how you too can set yourself up for success by coming to one of our Open Days.