Syariah Court, Inter alia

December 21, 2006

Okay, my lawyer actually brought me to Syariah Court for a Pre-Trial Conference (hereafter “PTC”)! Upon receiving the invite yesterday at approximately 3.30pm, I proceeded to plan to get a white long sleeved shirt and full black pants to wear for court (even though it was only a PTC). I felt excited because I finally actually get to see another glimpse of a life of a lawyer, fighting it out for your clients. The case itself was interesting in some aspects and was not the usual divorce case since the husband has a criminal record and the husband has not jatuh talak to his wife yet so technically they are still married.

Just to back track, yesterday (or shall I say Tuesday) was a mad rush after work to get the perfect set of clothes for my first day in court for a actual case (rather than simply going to send some documents to the Probate Counter at the Subordinate Courts)! In the end I decided to get the ones from G2000 since it was the best deal in Tampines Mall and Century Square combined! The white long sleeved shirt was $39/- and the black pants was $29.40 after 40% discount. Thanks to Fatma for accompanying me around both malls to survey and get the perfect set and her advise on the rule to only wear 5 accessories for suits (though I personally do not feel a need in the near future to dress so well if I’m only a lowly law student.. heeheehee)

One of the lawyers warned me that Syariah Court was quite informal and recountered an experience in which the judge actually proceeded to cross examine the Plaintiff from where he was sitting and not in the stand and under oath. But though I never went to an actual trial, what I realised that it was informal but in a positive way in the sense that there is a strong sense of community among the lawyers and even the clerks in the Syariah Court. Though the number of Malay speaking Indian Muslim lawyers outnumber the Malay lawyers, everyone knows each other well to say Hi and lament to each other on various cases. Administrative inefficiencies aside, the clerks themselves know the lawyers personally and their dispatch clerks/workers since there are so few of them around.

Before speaking in front of the Registrar, the lawyers had to wait in what I was told was called a Bar Room which gives the lawyers a private space to relax and read up on their case before being called. And another observation that struck me was the fact that there isn’t such a thing as a stereotypical Malay lawyer. All are very different in their own quirky idiosyncratic way, from the utterly messy, to the rather calm and composed, from being motherly to being rather flirtatious in front of beautiful women! So it really depends on who you really are and how much you yourself make of the law profession that reflects your abilities as a lawyer in the court of law. And the fact that all of them are effectively bilingual inspired me to want to try to speak more Malay fluently at home and with friends to help myself achieve more being a Malay lawyer (if I do so in the future…)

Overall, it was thoroughly an eye opening experience. Though some lessons to be learnt – I need to get rid of my juvenile looking Blue Billabong wallet. Though it served its purpose in JC and army, it does not belong in the hands of a lawyer! (as most people got the impression when I was wearing the suit and tie in the court building) And this also includes my “I don’t discriminate, I hate everyone!” sling bag (or handbag as Vasaant adamantly reminds me!) which totally did not go with the suit. And I need to buy a suit (since I borrowed the one I wore from another lawyer), dress shoes, tie and belt so that I am ready in case he asks me to go along again!

And guess what? He asked me if I wanted to go to prison today and I said yes! Hahahahahaha. My lawyer is a fantastic guy for someone who is willing to teach someone who knows so little of the law. I am in total gratitude to him and I hope I can learn more from him in the next two days. By the way, I’m actually working with another firm (though in the same office) for another lawyer since his secretary is currently on marital leave. So far, secretarial work has been good. Even if I’m not learning about being a lawyer itself, I do get to handle court documents and is exposed to the things the secretary has to go through in order for lawyer to do his job effectively. I really appreciate all the help my fellow collegues have given me as I grapple which how to proceed with the Interlocutory Judgment to confirm liability in a personal injury claim or who should sign the Consent To Dispense Sureties in the list of beneficiaries of the estate. It has been fun and exciting and irritating at times!

Okay parents going off to perform Ibadah Haji tomorrow! Wishing them a safe journey ahead!