Continuing the series of interviews with young lawyers, Mohd Hayyatuddin Haji Muhamad shared some of his thoughts with Valerie Choo recently. Called to the Malaysian Bar in 2008, he obtained his LLB from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) in 2006.
Mohd Hayyatuddin is currently practicing in Kuala Terengganu. His area of practice is primarily criminal litigation. He is currently the chairperson of Terengganu Bar’s Young Lawyers Committee and also a committee member of the IT Publication Committee.
1.Generally, how do you find legal practice in Terengganu?
Legal practice is Terengganu is enjoyable, since as young lawyers, we need to be guided. Most of the senior lawyers are very helpful and welcome us to learn in any area of practice.
2.Was it your all-time ambition to become a lawyer? Which field would you be venturing into if it had not been law?
Since I was in secondary school, I remembered that I wanted to be a teacher. I was really interested in the daily task of that profession, such as research and writing, but I love public speaking, debates and mooting. That was a starting point for my entry into the legal profession.Many people become lawyers for monetary reasons. Some people become lawyers because of a sense of social responsibility and to carry on a family tradition in the profession. Honestly, I’m seeking self-satisfaction in life by being a respected lawyer.
3.How does it feel to be leading the Terengganu Young Lawyers Committee (YLC) this term? What are your present and future plans for young lawyers in Terengganu? What steps would you take to encourage more young lawyers to join and participate in the YLC?
I have been nominated to serve in NYLC in my first year of practice. I really appreciate the fact that the Terengganu Bar wants me to lead the young lawyers. Alhamdulillah in this year, the YLC will support the many State Bar’s programmes. Some of the young and energetic lawyers have been appointed to assist in arranging plans and programmes for common benefits especially for young lawyers.
4.You completed your pupilage not too long ago. How do you think the pupilage system can be improved across the board?I was called to the Bar in 2008 under the supervision of a good criminal lawyer, Mr Mazlan Mohd Zain. I received a good training from him and other criminal lawyers and I should be thankful to the system that benefits me a lot. I am of the view that the pupilage system itself does not have an external monitoring of the skills acquired or any way of ascertaining the competence of a pupil. This system merely provides a 9-months period of training and a pupil is assumed to have gained all the skills required to be a competent advocate. I suggest that the present system incorporates some compulsory courses to enhance the skills acquired.
5.Should the Bar Council make it compulsory for all young lawyers to attend courses every now and then?It depends on the content of those courses. Many of the courses presently offered are very good for personal enrichment besides providing general knowledge.
6.As an employee as well as a young lawyer, what do you think employers can do to improve the working conditions of young lawyers which would help to create a better working environment? I am strongly against the low initial starting salary and very long working hours. Some of us are also denied various allowances. I think employers must respect the “rights” of young lawyers by giving what they deserve.
7.Many young lawyers are excited when they start at the Bar but soon suffer from burn-out and decide to leave the profession. On the other hand, some choose to leave Malaysia for other countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, etc that provide better remuneration schemes. What is your opinion on this? Would you consider practicing in other countries in the near future?
The practice of law is not for everyone. I do understand why some people enter legal profession and then leave because this field can be stressful. Many young lawyers may find that they simply don’t like the work. Secondly, some other reasons why they leave are the dissatisfaction with their professional lives, and opting for better remuneration schemes in other countries. It’s all about money!
8.As a young lawyer, what are some of the challenges that you face in practice and how do you think these challenges can be met?As young lawyers, we lack one great thing - experience. We can’t gain it by 1 or 2 years of practice. As a lawyer, we need to identify risk, assess the true value of disputes and try to resolve the issues at hand. In short, there is no short cut- get help from some kind seniors and books!
9.Lately discussion has been rife on whether or not domestic helpers from Indonesia should be paid a minimum monthly salary of RM800. What are your views on this? Most Malaysians are generally very kind to them except in some isolated cases. The Government cannot make a strict policy on this issue of salary - it depends totally on the financial ability of the employers.
10.The government is looking at amending the Internal Security Act and Police Act to allow detention periods to be shortened and public gatherings in certain locations to be allowed without police permit. What do you have to say about this?No detention without trial. This is my firm personal stand. No person should be deprived of their rights subject to the exception of public interest. I strongly support the government when they decided to amend and not to repeal the Act. I really hope that the new “brand” of ISA has more concern for the rights of the public.