Julia Poyong joined us from Malaysia to study the Accelerated LLB at our London Bloomsbury campus in 2019. We caught up with her to discuss her ambitions of becoming a barrister and eventually running her own law firm.
I chose to pursue further education at The University of Law because of the faster LLB course which was more practical and cheaper for me compared with a normal three-year LLB at a traditional university. Aside from that, ULaw was my university of choice because of the availability of pro bono cases that students can undertake to further their legal knowledge and experience prior to graduating. This golden opportunity could help jump start any law student’s career before they even leave school and help them decide which area of law they would like to specialise in.
To me, the word ‘ambition’ symbolises your goals and dreams, both in your personal life and your professional career. It is the desire to realise your aspirations that will help you overcome adversities and setbacks. In other words, your ambition could be your guiding light when you feel lost and also serve as reminder of how far you have come.
My career ambition is to pass the bar and practice as a barrister. I aspire to help change the lives of those who need a helping hand and who have suffered injustice. I want to meet people from all walks of life who need legal advice and find solutions to their problems. Every case would be a learning experience but I do not mind this at all as I would gain a great deal of knowledge in a variety of different areas, which is necessary to be an excellent barrister.
I would also like to contribute to the native community in my hometown of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. The current native court system is used by the entire native population of Sabah. Unfortunately, people in remote areas cannot access the court as easily as they should. This has caused issues for a lot of natives who do not know their rights. Therefore, it is a dream of mine to help my people resolve issues that they should not even have in the first place.
I have always wanted to study overseas. When I joined ULaw this ambition was fulfilled. I am able to broaden my horizons and travel to countries which were previously too far from Malaysia, such as Spain and Morocco. Making friends with individuals from different cultural backgrounds has also made me realise that we are all not that different after all.
My professional ambitions have not changed after joining ULaw. However, after I started the LLB, I have identified the type of law that I enjoy the most. I particularly enjoyed learning tort law and contract law; I could see myself working on cases in both fields. As I am only in my first year of the Accelerated LLB, I am sure that I will find other interesting areas of law. After that, I’ll be able to choose the legal field I would like to work in.
I haven’t joined any teams or groups yet. As a first year student, I was busy balancing weekly workshop tasks and reading lists. As I enter my second year soon, I’m looking forward to joining the pro bono team and learning from them.
One of the people who inspired me to become a barrister is the one and only Mahatma Gandhi. I watched a movie about him and realised that his beginnings were the same as mine. He was an Asian student in London studying law. Of course, Gandhi was later successfully called to the bar and became a barrister. I look up to him in times when I feel that my ambitions are out of reach. This mostly happens when I overthink and underestimate my capabilities. So, if Gandhi can do it, so can I.
I will be using the academic knowledge I have learned from my time in ULaw as the foundation for my career as a barrister. The next important thing that I will take with me is the practical tips that every teacher, irrespective of the subject, has given me. These will be useful when there is a common culture used in daily practice and it differs completely from the law. Discipline is also an important trait that I am learning at ULaw. The ability to juggle between your social life and studies may be admirable but it comes at a price if you do not have the discipline to prioritise your studies and set boundaries to concentrate on your academic performance.
My peers have similar ambitions, in terms of either wanting to be a solicitor or a barrister. However, they also made me realise there is a variety of job options beyond the usual solicitor or barrister route. There is an option to do a conversion exam for your law degree in order to be able to work elsewhere or enter a completely new field.
In five years, I see myself working as a barrister in the UK. I like the idea of working for a big law firm so I can observe their working culture and have access to a wide range of networking opportunities with other professionals. As I climb my way up to the top, I could also learn from more experienced lawyers in terms of negotiating contracts, bringing new clients to the firm, etc. This is particularly useful information to know as I want to own and run my own law firm someday.
If I could give my younger self some advice, I would remind myself that I can achieve whatever I put my heart into. It takes dedication and discipline to do anything well and it is not always easy. For example, learning law can sometimes be difficult. However, there are people that can guide you in your studies. For that, I am thankful that many of the tutors at ULaw are qualified lawyers and have in-depth legal knowledge in their respective fields. They help students understand confusing legal concepts by simplifying it and explaining it thoroughly.
My advice to new ULaw students is to be prepared. Get ready for the amount of knowledge that will be introduced to you. Studying law is challenging but also very interesting.
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