Monday, November 13, 2006

My Call to the Bar (the non-alcoholic one)

The blog has been a little quiet of late owing to my mom and dad coming over for my call to the bar. Now that they are safely back home, I can actually begin narrating the whirlwind that was last week.

Essentially a call to the Bar in Malaysia entails the High Court giving an order granting the petitioner (the pupil) admission as an advocate and solicitor of the High Courts of Malaya, hence qualifying her to practice as a barrister and as a solicitor.

Digressing a little, in England - the heartland of our common law inheritance, only barristers are licensed to appear before the courts while solicitors concern themselves with out-of-court legal practice. And only barristers are called to the bar. A solicitor is "admitted and enrolled as a solicitor". So there you go, I have equip you with a morsel of utterly useless information.

Anyway, my call ceremony went quite smoothly, despite both my master and my mover arriving at the court house on the dot, hence rendering me close to a cardiac arrest during the final minutes before Dato' Wan Afrah, High Court Judge, entered the courtroom. My mover is a highly respected litigator and a partner of one of KL's more outstanding legal firms and so I am very glad he took the time to move my call.

After the bloke before me was called, the court interpreter hollered my name and petition number. My mover stood up with me and he narrated my personal history to the court beginning from when I was born (I am not kidding. This is standard procedure!).

Then my mover deviated from the script I sent him earlier by mentioning how I failed the darn CLP exams so many times only to rise again from the ashes to finally become a lawyer. He was of course making the point of reaping the rewards of hardwork and dedication but that didn't stop me from cringing when he mentioned how many times I had to retake the exams. While his delivery was flawless and inspiring, for which I am forever grateful, I wished he had warned me first so that I didn’t look so shocked.

And after the representatives from the Bar Council, Attorney General’s Chambers and the KL Bar disclosed their non-objection, Dato’ Wan Afrah granted the said order. My master then helped me put on the heavy black robes. And that was it. I felt like walking on air.

There were 8 other pupils after me and it was a long wait before court was dismissed. Besides my mover and master, KC, Sean and SSL came to my call too and I was so glad they stayed for the tea reception afterwards.

While it felt fantastic, I did feel a deep pang of embarrassment as I had made an enormous faus pax. I had not personally invited a senior partner to attend my call. Apparently he was quite taken aback as not to have received an invitation.

It all boiled down to how differently we each perceived the significance of the long call. I for one did not invite that many people to attend the ceremony as I viewed it as a vulgar display of vanity. Getting people to take time out from their busy schedules to come hear my virtues is altogether a bit embarrassing for me. However as I discovered to my dismay on that day, to most lawyers, the senior ones especially, such invitation is an honour. And oh, how I insulted him by not inviting him for the occasion. I doubt that the hastily misspelled sms I sent him in the morning was enough to sooth him.

It was a wonderful day.

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