December 31, 2008

My firm 2007 / 2008 year end barbeque as a marketing tool (revisited)

We had fun last year when we threw a party at our office rooftop with a few clients being invited and barbeque being cooked by me and my staff. It was not the over the top, drink as you can and full of non-fulfilling all out party. It was a family oriented kosher party with just the partners, our staff and some close clients, having good food and a karaoke session, in a full-lit room, in contrast to those dim-lit karaoke which you take an all male clients to. Clean good fun.

It was just a simple event where no business was discussed. Children were also in attendance and the makeshift karaoke entertainment system was my television and my partner's dvd player. One of the client who is a hardened karaoke sessionist, brought his own microphone and we had to ask him to stop after the fireworks ended as the party had started since 5pm and most were already tired after 1am. We watched the fireworks all around the office at 12pm a good fifteen minutes from Sunway Pyramid, Midvalley, 1 Utama, even very far away, KLCC and the Mines. A slight drizzle fell at 12.30 and made the outside area a bit wet. We wrapped up the party at 1.30am with food still aplenty which we distributed among us to take home.


The chef at the office's barbeque last year


I think it is important to maintain certain type of social gathering with clients on certain level. Even if you don't have the budget, at least once in a month for you to take them for a drink or even better if you can take them to lunch. Some business type people do more than that such as spa treat for the ladies or makeover session or even a shopping spree either in the local malls or further away in Bandung or Medan. Those who are savvy in sports such as golf, use these opportunity as the stepping stone to get to know their clients better. Nearly half of our client became friends after some times as we worked close with them in serving their customers and we believe being close make us understand their needs better.

The social gathering does not have to be lavish or even catered. It just have to be well organised and each persons need are attended to. Expect hiccups especially when there are children and like my office, with nearly most of the staff are women, ask them to be involved in mingling with the crowd and serving their need. Explain to the staff the need for the event and try to reward them for their time. Usually, the partners or the person in charge will have to be the life of the party as you will determine the heading of the party or the event.

This year, we may not held it as we just don't feel celebration is the way to go this year as we are bracing for a tough time ahead. Maybe we will just sit around the rooftop but with a simple dinner to bring the year to a close.

December 30, 2008

What 2008 had been to my business_Part 2

A continuation of yesterday's posting :

6) We attended conferences and talks accumulating new knowledges and understanding better old knowledges. Our new partner finished her MBA on top of her MAICSA degree, I continued my Islamic finance study which had turned from just another degree to a Master and my long-time partner started her Master in Law. All these are our life long studies journey and to better equip us on our business enhancement features.

7) We strengthened our grip on our forte which is real estate and even gain the trust in the heart of a new client who adopt my partner like a new daughter. We also made headway in intellectual property and corporate litigation but still treading cautiously by handling the matter ourselves without hiring new talent.

8) Our profit is still there but we are cautious in light of so many financial meltdown elsewhere in the world and we have readied ourselves of such situation since 2007 as that was the 10 year mark since the Asian financial crisis in 1997. We had also changed our tax regime as it seems we had been paying tax under a wrong system which was widespread among the legal community. Next year, we are going to be better equipped;

9) We had a few human resource problem as staff left us for greener pastures, unwanted pregnancy, miscarriage (not the same person), new computer system integration which is resisted by old staff and the normal demand for more benefits and bonuses. We weathered it by balancing our capabilities and our resources with the need to retain them to keep the business running;

10) We invested in 3 properties which we are now dreading to keep as we are going to receive the keys to them in a few weeks time but glad these investments can and had helped us in being liquid as we paid a fair amount of cash before taking loans for them;

December 29, 2008

What 2008 had been to my business

1) After moving to a new office in 31.8.07, we decided to throw a new year's eve barbeque as our office has a penthouse floor overlooking Sunway Pyramid. As it was a 'kosher' party, the inside was where the karaoke lounge was set up and the outside was the mingling area. A few bankers and developers staff turned up as we didn't invite the bosses to spoil the mood. It was successful albeit tiring as we did it on our own;




The rooftop view of our office overlooking Sunway




2) We changed the name of our firm in May from SNKS to KSH throwing away the SN and changed the position of my name to the first letter in our firm's name to fulfill my chauvinistic tendency in a firm full of women. Now, those who received our letter of demand on behalf of our financial institution client will curse my name first and those conveyancing client will ask for me first everytime our ill-informed client receive a letter bearing our letterhead. Oh, and judges at court will berate my firm's attorney by calling out my name first. Nice!;

3) We were appointed on a few more panel of banks but our proudest moment was still getting on the panel of the most high-end bank which finance purchase of ships, building of highways and massive IT related project. Then, we scrambled for cover (and to more senior lawyer's eloquency) when we were given litigation cases which are way over our head. At last count, there are nearly five. Help!;

4) On a personal level, my partner became one of the state's Bar Committee member charting the course of how lawyers deal with the land offices under the new government and I was appointed as a Trustee to a society conserving the environment, on top of my ongoing independent directorship of a listed second board company;

5) My 8 years old partner and me, who is nearly attached to the hip businesswise, had to contend with a top-level office politic between the partner we admitted in 2007 and our senior associate who just had to compete on every front. The money they brought in make it better but the cat-fight is a turn-off. Especially like just recently when they did it in front of a client in which we had to ask them both to go to attend due to our tight schedule. Hope they will resolve it fast but as the founding partners we are thankful we still see eye to eye like we were 8 years ago;

To be continued on 30.12.08...

December 28, 2008

Maal Hijrah

On 28.12.08, after Asar prayer, Muslims around the world would have read their end of the year doa' in hoping that Allah will forgive them for their sin in the final light of the year before. After Maghrib prayer, they would have read the first day of the new Hijriah prayer, hoping for a fulfilling new year ahead.

Muslims starts their day at Maghrib or sundown every day and our new year also starts at the same time. At the year's final day, it is a time to reflect what we have done all year round and what the new year will bring.

As a businessman, I pray for a better year ahead, a halal revenue and profit. May all of you, Muslims or whatever religion you embraced will have a better year than the last.

Have a blessed new year.... for us Muslims, its the 1430 Hijrah



The wordings to the doa'... basically saying, Prayers for End of Year and New Year

December 27, 2008

A Long December

There was this old song by the Counting Crows (which I bet younger sets never would have heard it except for the Xmas season) called Long December about bleak winters and such and when people gather to celebrate the season although it may not have been a good year. This song is one of my favourite song as it makes you feel the cold air swirling while sad tales or families gather around a hot fireplace. It is a song singing what that year had bring and hoping the next year to be better.

That brings me to this year. Malaysia have managed to weather the economic storm swirling around the globe which had uprooted massive global conglomerates especially in the United States. Powerhouse like German, Japan, United Kingdom and even the emerging China was brought down to its knee. The word recession is being whispered around by economic communities like an open secret everybody wish would never happen.

Malaysia seems to be in a protective globe which had given the people a false sense of security. The people are not in a state of denial although they are happy that the petrol price at the pump is getting lower and lower. They still grumble that the prices of essential goods are expensive although sales for non-essential goods seems to be for the whole month of December. Not everyone is buying. Government for the past 3 weeks have been annoncing stimulus packages and warning companies to not lay off worker without at least some form of compensation. The government, either statewise or federalwise, was caught with their pants down when Western Digital closed up their factory in Sarawak and lay off nearly 3000 workers.

The business communities keep sending mixed signal as there are those who readily admit next year will be tough and their industry might be hit hard. Some are trying to show that they know what to do to weather any type of economic slowdown. Research houses this time around do not holds bar as they warn for everyone to be prudent and change their business models if need to. Even without a major scandal or any one institution fail in its business in Malaysia, when the storm hit the window, we just hope our economic pane is strong enough.

So, it seems that as much as people are tired with so many holidays what's with the Eidul Adha at the start of the month, the Selangor's Sultan birthday (for Selangorian), Christmas, Maal Hijrah and New Year, isn't it best if we have a really looooooonnnnnnnggggg December and just let the wind past us without any damage at all. It may be wishful thinking but if it does hit, just be tough.

December 26, 2008

Hari-hari Terakhir Seorang YB (sebuah novel Malaysia) Episod 17

(I have stopped writing this fictionalised event of my life for quite a while and thought of turning it into a full novel as I already have publishers interested in it but then, I am still using this blos as my drawing board, so here goes... You can check the earlier episodes under the same headings)

Di Dubai, aku terpaksa berpindah dari satu hotel ke satu hotel selepas menumpang YB untuk satu malam. Pada malam pertama usahawan lampin itu tiba, kami dapat satu bilik di hotel itu. Bukan sahaja bilik biasa tetapi bilik suite yang mewah tetapi hanya mempunyai satu katil. Dua hari aku terpaksa berkongsi katil dengan orang-orang dewasa yang sudah lama tidak berkongsi katil kecuali dengan isteri (atau isteri-isteri mereka dalam kes usahawan lampin itu). Nasib baik orientasi seksual aku tidak ke arah sejenis yang sejak tahun 1999 menjadi jenaka rakyat Malaysia.

Tetapi hari berikutnya kami hanya berjaya memperolehi satu bilik dua katil di sebuah hotel di luar bandar Dubai. Ia hanyalah 3 bintang tetapi cukup sebagai tempat tidur kerana kami telah merancang untuk menghabiskan masa kami di Dubai dengan rombongan kerajaan negeri itu. Pagi-pagi lagi kami telah berada di hotel rombongan kerajaan negeri itu. Kami telah memberitahu awal-awal agen pelancongan yang mengendalikan logistik rombongan kerajaan negeri itu yang kami ingin mengikut mereka di dalam bas rombongan mereka. Agen itu walaupun dikatakan adalah sepupu kepada isteri Big Boss, adalah seorang yang baik dan hanya mensyaratkan jika tiada tempat di atas bas kami terpaksa mencari kenderaan pulang kami sendiri. Kami bernasib baik kerana setiap hari kami di sana kami mendapat tempat di atas bas itu.

Selain dari beberapa sesi pemadanan bisnes dengan usahawan di Dubai, kami banyak menemani YB ke pusat membeli belah yang bersepah-sepah di Dubai. Dia membeli jam tangan, suit, pelbagai hadiah untuk isterinya dan yang paling jauh kami keluar bertiga adalah ke Hard Rock Cafe Dubai kerana YB ingin membeli pelbagai baju kemeja HRC sebagai buahtangan untuk anak-anaknya. Hampir setiap jenis dan saiz diborong oleh YB.

Ramai yang dapat aku berkenalan dalam rombongan ini termasuklah YB yang kemudiannya terlibat dalam kontroversi kerana mempunyai sebuah banglo besar di bandar di raja negeri itu. Mendengar ceritanya tentang apa yang dilakukan sepanjang rombongan itu berada di Dubai, seperti ia adalah percutian rasmi kerajaan negeri itu dan bukan rombongan mencari bisnes. Mungkin ini dimaksudkan dengan kelebihan yang diperolehi apabila seseorang menjadi YB. Inilah juga agaknya yang menyebabkan rakyat akhirnya menyampah dan ia dilihatkan dengan undi yang diperolehi oleh parti politik YB pada pilihanraya yang mengubah segalanya.

December 25, 2008

Why can't we be friends?

Is there an underlying tone which no one dare to say when we talk about that one issue. With the realisation of touching a subject which may make me cross the line and be imprison for some things I say, I would write about it but not saying what it is. We have this law in Malaysia called the Internal Security Act which can get you send to prison for anything you say on that subject.

Paranoid you say? This is what I understand of the matter and it will be better to be safe than sorry.

Malaysia is a multi-cultural society with Malay, Chinese and Indian as the predominant races. There are other races but they are listed as 'Others' in the race column of various survey forms. Maybe to list them out will fill all the forms to the brink, as in there will be not enough space, but just imagine if your race actually is a dominant race in a state but you are lumped together with the minorities, it seems that it is a valid bane of contention.

So, why not let the government of the day think these issues over as there seems to be no problem to find issues to think of. Let me contribute to the matter by just a simple question to the politicians, who may not noticed that the rakyat are already fed-up with their ranting and their rhetoric and their non-stop Parliament arguments, which are not even funny anymore.

The question is, did they even notice that the rakyat are already at peace with each other, connecting through their neighbourhood gatherings, their blogs and their other social gatherings. These rakyat, whatever race they represent, are already friends. I know that most politicians of different divides are friends just like lawyers who represent different sides then go for coffee or tea after the courtroom brawl. Why can't these hidden friendship be translated to them working together as they represent the rakyat. Talking about losing touch with the grounds.

If you are really friends, then be friends at all occasions, be it in Parliament, at the lobby, totally outside of it and whatever forums they are thrown together. If they really are enemies, be like what is shown by the oppositions in Selangor and Penang, which keep on making issues out of nothing at all. Like that famous song.

If all those they represent are already friends, let us ask them again, why can't we all be friends?

December 24, 2008

Holiday season but business as usual

I overheard a conversation among some Starbucks baristas once about how much they can make if they work during Eid as no one really wants to work on that day. It seems that they can make quite a lot if they work on these days. As I never work anywhere where my employer followed the prerequisite minimum salary to be paid to workers working on holidays (as my work stints were always part-time and with family friends), I was forced to accept whatever payment they paid me which ranged from RM10 per day (at a Satay restaurant) to RM300 per month, at a small legal firm in KL.

Only when I have graduated and actually had employees of my own and had a bit of understanding of the Malaysian Labour Law, did I came to know that there are certain holidays which are considered a bit 'special' than the other holidays peppering Malaysia work landscape. Eidul Fitri, Labour Day and New Year are a few of them in which Malaysian employer must pay at least a double (or is it a triple) of the employee's salary. I'm a bit hazy on labour law as I am not an industrial court practitioner, although the cases that I referred to my lawyer friends who does can sometimes help me a month bills. Its just that better for a lawyer to choose a field to specialise in than just take whatever cases one is referred to.



Christmas in Kuala Lumpur, its still about the tree


Anyway, this year, as the year of economic gloom of 2009 is upon us, I see a lot of shops in malls keeping themselves open to tap on the holiday sesons which are the norms the world over without showing any sign of the impending doom as harked on by newspapers. Malaysian government is not denying it anymore and the private sectors seem to show a braver front. The research houses and the watchdogs are more concerned than the real business owners. They say (whoever they are) the economic impact will only be felt after 8 months that the economic catasthrope happened in the market. Should everyone stop the party and the celebration or should those who really have the right to celebrate Christmas (the Christians) really celebrate it by reflecting on the true meaning of the religious festival?

Business as usual but who's buying?

December 23, 2008

Malaysian artiste and lawyers

I was watching my favourite gossip magazine news, Melodi, the other day and finds that it is enlighting that Malaysian artiste seems to be saying the word "He brought his lawyer" or "I have referred this to my lawyer" or even the famous "He/She can contact my lawyer". Although this magazine show seems to skew towards Malay artists, it covers the entertainment industry quite well with concerts that happens in Malaysia and whatever celebrity news worth mentioning.

I think the use of lawyers to threaten others have been spearheaded by Malaysian politicians in recent years when they keep on suing, counter-suing and then defending themselves against their detractors and then some. As a lawyers, I would say, keep it up. As a person, I keep asking, is this healthy? Just look at the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide victims, it took them just a week to decide to sue. I think the presence of lawyers among the victims was a factor too.

I also had some brushes with such artistes and I nearly represented a few, even one famous drama producer and the party who sued this one big named artist. Until it was snatched from me by bigger firms. I was nearly going to be in Melodi that one time!

One of the best thing about having artiste as client is getting the news before anyone else. If not for not having a syarie license I would have been suing a now Dato' titled artist who was then stole her husband from another. I knew their affair nearly a good 6 months before they announced it.

In the early days, lawyers that are mentioned in Melodi would be syarie lawyers when the artistes got divorce from the spouses. Nowadays, it involves breach of contract, assault and even defamation. There seems to be a lot of animosities among the artistes, their associations, the event managements, the producers, record companies and such. They sue, counter sue, got haul to court for drug abuses, for assaults on other people or fellow artiste and some were even sensationaly in artiste-for-hire-as-sex-object cases.

This post is intentionally here to ask one question, was Malaysia like this in its hey day of Studio Jalan Ampas or is this a new phenomena? Hmmmm....

p/s - Bring it on...

December 22, 2008

Full local education

I am the product of a full local education from kindergarden to primary to secondary and tertiary. Now, I am pursuing my Masters in Islamic finance in a local institution. I went to 2 years of kindergarden in a small place call Mentakab in Pahang for 2 years and had my primary school in a place called Temerloh for 1 year and 1 week. My Standard 2 was in Seremban until I was in Standard 4 when my mom seen leaving me with my grandmother made me not learning anything at all.

I was brought to the deep interior of Pahang in Jengka and as I was warned that I would be schooling with the natives. Managed to get good result in such a place and went to a local religious boarding school where I lasted until Form 4 when I was caught doing something. Was then schooling a very well known school in Seremban but was monitored closely by my mom where I learnt for the first time to mingle with other races. That was the only time I got other races other than Malay as my classmates. I fared no better in the local university that I attended to get my Legus Legum Bachaleuratte degree which entailed me to practice as a lawyer. All my education was local. All through this school system which are said to be sub-par.

Why this reminiscence? Its because of the debate by all the politician on the need to speak English in certain subjects and the need to be eloquent in English. To me, it is a lot of bull as the pupils will never would want to read or be good in something, whatever the languange, unless they have the will and influenced by their peers or siblings or parents to do so. Most teenagers nowadays learn about sex from their peers and not their school. Even if there is a sex education class, I bet that will only be an ancillary place for them to get to know more about sex but not the main one.

How did I learn English? Reading, reading and reading. It made me fell in love with my wife and managed to make me at level par with a lot of people who had studied in foreign universities, who sometimes fared no better than me at public speaking or knowledge. My wife is also a local graduate with only a diploma who was living in a low cost unit in the middle of Kuala Lumpur. She is now an English-Malay certified translator.

I never had to be asked to love English or even literature for that matter. I just do. My parents and my eldest brother who was educated in the USA influenced me to read, which I start off with translated Enid Blyton book, then I graduated to the real Enid Blyton as I grew older. There was no real influence from the teachers as my mother had influence enough over me by awarding me books if I get certain grades in school or if I was found to be good and deserve a prize. I was given a quota of 5 books every month and I took advantage of it by buying lots and lots of it, sometimes exceeding the quota.

I then learnt to read more serious novel when my brother who came back from USA in 1999 start introducing me to bestsellers novel by Robet Ludlum, Michael Chricton and a few others. When I start working, I started to read non-fiction and books to self-improve myself. These self-improvement books are important in developing my minds on going-ons of the world.

I think that is what is lack in Malaysia education system. Self-belief and self-development. With that, no one will have a problem in whatever language they are taught. Stop the arguments and just focus on the students. Stop the exam-oriented education and start educating them on their self-development. There will not be enough time to educate everyone personally so educating them to educate themselves is the best option.

Just my 2 cents as I am not an educator...

December 21, 2008

Complimenting your LL.B

So, you are now a full-fledged lawyer who leads a successful career in a leading legal firm in town. Are you fullfilled emotionally? This is not another posting about happiness, in a way, but more about furthering your studies in other sector other than law and creating value for yourself in the long run. This is especially true if you are not that ambitious to begin with.

In 1998, when I graduated, I was told, lawyers in Malaysia were around the amount of 9,000 and now after 10 years, the amount is at 12,000. Why just 4,000 growth although there are so many law schools nowadays either in Malaysia itself or in other countries? There must be something wrong with the industry as many leave to do something else. Some actually practice law not as lawyers but as legal officers in companies and institutions. Some are better in the law of the lands than lawyers but they lack the practsing certificate allowing them to argue in court. These are the people who if they goes back to practising are better lawyers than us who have been practising for quite some times.

I have been a practitioner since I am out the university in 1998. As I now has become more of a business owner than a lawyer, as I don't go to court, I am actually losing touch with trial advocacy. My job description will be marketing, managing the office and the accounts of the firm. As good as I am at all this, I won't be accepted as a manager if I am to apply for such job.

That is why I took the CIFP course which I am pursuing at INCEIF. Islamic finance is a personal passion. I hate having to read and doing things according to schedules and being a part-timer I only have to make sure I send in my assigments and take the exams. I don't do tutorials and I rarely seen at the university grounds. Furthermore, the tuition fees are cheap. It is perfect for me.

What really push me to take another course is when I got to know one of my much older friend, 70 years of age to be exact, is currently taking a degree in a local university. He is rich enough to have a 6 acres bungalow in the middle of Shah Alam and basically don't have a need to study. I for one is still far from rich and knowing another skill set is always a need.

December 20, 2008

What is Islamic finance? (1st posting)

I am still a student of Certified Islamic Finance Professional (CIFP), a Master equivalent course of International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF), a division of Bank Negara Malaysia, but have reached the second stage of my course which can at least give me a bit of credibility to write a bit on a very basic level the meaning of Islamic finance. As I seem to learn quite well when I write, I am using this platform to dessiminate information on what I have learned while revising on my lessons especially as I am in the middle of my exams.

As I am still a student, although my legal firm has been offering retail Islamic banking to banks since its inception 8 years ago, I would welcome interaction or even comments on the concept I am going to write about. It is not going to be a formal writing or even an analyis. It will be off the cuff writing which most of you have been familiar with if you ever read my writing that is. May not be an academician cup of tea but from I know, even some academicians are not so keen on how they write. Its just that it is an industry standard. So, here is my take on Islamic finance.

The first question - What is Islamic finance?

Certain disciplines like praying and the spiritual part of Islam have been outlined by our Prophet and haven't change since Islam was gifted to us. This is the part of Islam called IBADAH and where it greatly differ from one religion to another. In Islam, this is our communication with Allah where we pray 5 times a day and do all the things which have been outline in RUKUN ISLAM. It outline the main things that we have to do in Islam to be considered as a Muslim but Ibadah does not restrict itself to this list only. Ibadah is a Muslim whole life. That is why Islam is a way of life and not just bits and pieces which one choose to take and discard. This is where we come to another component of Islam.

Islamic finance is a part of another discipline called MUAMALAT which is how Muslim interact with other people in his life. Its not that IBADAH does not require you to interact with people, Ibadah is done frequently between fellow Muslim but you do pick up points (PAHALA) if you help fellow human beings. There is this story about a person helping a dog to drink by scooping water from a well with his shoes and that is consider ibadah. Muamalat is where we trade among ourselves and how we do economic transaction among us. That is the basic of Islamic finance.

The nitty gritty part of it will be dissect later in various other postings which I hope to write later...

December 19, 2008

Lawyers and happiness, is there such a thing?

I saw a survey once done by a website specialising in providing free email for lawyers in the United States but did not really read the article, about there are so many unhappy lawyers out there. I was thinking that it may not just localised there but is also true everywhere as lawyers are never associated with the word happiness. This is true either to the lawyer him/herself or to the clients of the lawyers.

I had always associated the business of lawyering as the business of 'when shit has hit the fan' even if everyday you, as a lawyer, draft agreements and don't go to court. Just ask yourself (if you are a lawyer, that is) why do you draft that agreement? To ensure that your client would never have to go to court, right? So, it is still about making sure the shit would never hit the fan. As for the one who goes to court, you need to make sure that fan won't cut your client's lifeline (in a worse case scenario) and if it is just civil cases that you deal, the monetary loss will never be that substantial or none at all. The better.

Let's not start with lawyers whose service is sought during divorce matters, they never are loved but always needed. In Malaysia, in most cases, the amount of money involve is usually neglegible but the heartbreak of the people involve, especially the children, is always an unwanted collateral damage.

So, how can lawyers make people happy? Some may say when they helped close deals worth millions or make plaintiff wins millions or make sure damages are compensated. Yeah, right... No one goes to court if they are happy...Let's not start about money buying happiness. Especially of you just lose your leg to an accident. Or your love one has just been buried under tonnes of rubbles.

As for lawyers, you can never run from unhappiness, especially if you offer services suing or defending people in courts. If you just draft agreements for people be it a simple Sale & Purchase Agreement or complex underwriting agreements for financial institution, deadline will make you need that aspirin in an instant. As a business owner, like me, lawyers are asked to bear cost and be a buffer to bigger institutions which people would think would never need anyone's help. Even government bodies or agencies!

This post is just a preamble of further topics I want to write about lawyer and the word happiness as I am suppose to study for my exams tomorrow but just some food for thought...

December 18, 2008

What I learned at the legal technology conference...

It was a shame really. This conference had prominent speakers from various big firms (with more than 15 lawyers according to Malaysian standard as the biggest had 200 lawyers in comparison in USA the medium has thousands of lawyer). It also had the support industry, which was the IT industry, which had lawyers or ex-lawyers as their consultants.

The attendance was pathetic as the attendees were mostly the guests of the speakers of the conference, which include me. As I had upgraded the system at my firm recently, I considered the topic of the conference was interesting but was not interesting enough for me to spend the more than RM1000-00 for it. Although that money would have helped me in my tax exemption next year, I was bracing my firm for tough time ahead.

As I posted in my earlier posting which you can read here (http://kruel-legalcat.blogspot.com/2008/12/migrating-to-better-technology.html), I was the guest of Eddie Law who was speaking about harnessing technological advancement by small firm in order for them to compete with bigger firm. I also met the vendor of my legal documents management system which had the opportunity to introduce her products to the conference participants. Their document management system shows potential and I had asked them to tweak a bit of their program to accommodate a few of my firm's need.
In the two days I was there, I learned that the internet, if properly harness can be a great marketing tool, even for a restricted industry like us. Our archaic law (to coin a phrase used extensively by critical bloggers of our legal system) seems to not want lawyers to publicise themselves which may make the profession looks bad. In my personal experience, the reputation of my profession has exceed itself and lawyers had always been the butt of joke of most conversation in whatever level of society you are in. So, what reputation, I ask?

The speakers who are lawyers were mostly from the Big 5 (if there such a thing in legal firms in Malaysia) and they told us how their firm sued the technological advancement to ensure best performance during trials, marketing without contravening the rule and the traps that you may fell into if you are not careful in using technology be it the internet or the hardware. Defamation law was discussed and jurisdiction for such contravention was also looked into.

As for the non-legal speakers, they proposed more usage of the internet, the idea of certifying yourself using other industry standard (although the speaker didn't make any in-depth research on legal firm, making her look foolish when it comes to answering questions) and the upgrading of the system that you are currently using. All this are not that worthwhile compared to the last final presenters. One is a lawyer in Lee, Hishammudin, Allen & Gledhill, a Mr. Koh, who I admired greatly as he seems to be quite an innovator and user of technology although being quite late in the years. He had been using technology since lawyers never heard of the term of e-courtroom. That brought us to last presenter who was doing the e-court system for the past five years in Malaysia and updated us on why Malaysian courts have problems in implementing the system. It seems that the court had already using it internally but not all stakeholders are ecstatic of migrating to better technology. Mr. Rizan showed us a few hilarious video, which showed the US attorneys rapping and US courts tagging files to make sure it won't be lost. Good luck I say to making sure Malaysian lawyers and courtroom to be the same. Bereaucracy you say? That's the least of your worry.

Anyway, I now know the direction that I want to take my firm and the further technological advancement I want to implement in order to compete on a more level playing field. They say that necessity is the mother of invention and even if you are not allowed to do most things when it comes to marketing, there are ways to skirt around it.

December 17, 2008

Another conference at a hotel...

It is not that I don't appreciate the place or the ambiance, in contrast, say to a classroom or a lecture hall at a local university (where a lot of this has been going on too), but going to conference after conference in a hotel somewhere in the middle of Kuala Lumpur does become a tiring routine sometimes. This is true especially if you have been doing it the whole 2 months. As one writer in the Star did mention, people seems to push the events one after another in Malaysia exactly after Eidul Fitri (she was talking about fashion shows but I tend to agree that its the same with conferences)

For the past 2 months, there were at least 5 big Islamic finance forum and another 5 quite as important law conferences. As I am a student of the former through my current alma mater and as a profession in the other, I have to pick and choose the conference that I wanted to attend. Another factor is affordability as most of this conference were marketed internationally and were quite expensive. I actually attended those I was invited to for free and that already made me having to go at least one every other week.

Its good that Malaysia manage to promote itself as a MICE or Meeting, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibition venue. There are a lot of facilities in the Klang Valley either already operational or in the middle of being build. There is the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, which is THE exhibition centre to be. It displaced Putra World Trade Centre, which is still going strong and is competing with Mid Valley Convention Centre. There is also various other new malls with attached exhibition centre like Sunway Pyramid, SACC Mall (yet to be finished) and such. There is also the government run exhibition centre like the Putrajaya Convention Centre.

Let's not forget the hotels which had cried foul when the government decided to not do anymore conferences at their facilities. Each hotel has at least one ballroom, a few seminar rooms and a business centre. Even if their occupancy is not at the break even number of 40% they can at least manage to cover their cost in a month from the conferences and the event organising (this is of course on top of the REAL money making F&B)

So, these conferences that I attended did support the business of these places and then some. Some were well attended and was a hit among the targetted audience but some were just fillers to the end of the year time. Most were just finishing off their calendar. There were some good conferences but there were those which were just harping the same agenda. As there were too many to attend to, I just went to the free one or the least expensive one and still gain new or updated knowledge.

As they say, there are always new things to be learnt....

December 16, 2008

Migrating to better technology

Today and tomorrow will see me attending a conference on Legal Technology which will talk about how law business and technology can be put together and generate more income for legal firms. This is all thanks to my friend, Eddie Law of http://www.elawyer.com.my/ a local online portal specifically design with lawyers in mind.

I have always been an advocate of legal technology and in my legal firm, my department, which is the litigation department has been spearheading the drive as we manage to generate notice of demands and summonses at lightning speed. This is due to most legal document management system which had templates using Windows Words. It is easy for us litigators to just copy the standard notice of demand and summonses making them into templates. Furthermore, my department is one of the smallest in the firm serving just two banks.

Its not so easy for the conveyancing department with nearly five to six banks whith each having nearly 10 types of documents to migrate to the new system. We are currently training our conveyancing staff to do the migration but being bogged down with the current work, it has been a slow task.

This is the first time my firm embark in a systematic approach to doing things. Being medium sized and without having any advice from an outside consultant, which have been the norm since we started the firm, we have to rely on our own knowledge when we do a new thing. Some of the things that we managed to implement successfully over the year include the registration system of files, mapping of old files in our storage area, communication using the intranet system and sharing of files through the network. All this was done through our own knowledge and we had to do it through trial and error. Tedious but cheap. Up until now, we have done it our way.

We now realised that there are always a better way of doing things. Although we are small, people seems to see the potential in our firm. We use that as leverage to get better deals when we buy or rent something. We have been embarking on this new mentality ever since we moved our office from a small one where you wouldn't believe that there's a law firm there (although we are not the only one) to an office so big that we can double our staff without needing to move again. We even have an unused penthouse which have now been rented out to one of our associate.

Its not that we have suddenly hit an unknown jackpot (unknown as I'm the one managing account and know nothing of it), it is more due to realising the need for us to catch up with the bigger firm in town. Being small, technology can be a big advantage for you. They will help you reach out to your current clients and even the potential clients.

We still have no website of our own but we will in the near future. We were already being teased on not having a website by a government agency who wants to promote us. Maybe this forum will help me understand more on how to harness technology. This blog is my starting point.

I'll post about it properly after I have attended it.

December 15, 2008

Lakeview Terrace : A lesson in racism, environment and neighbourliness

The poster of the movie at GSC Cineleisure


This movie was lost in the slew of popular movies at the end of the year in Malaysia such as Transporter 3, Bolt, Twilight and others. Malaysian movie theatres were actually quite bad in scheduling movies as this movie was quite late in coming to our shore.

The actor carrying the movie is Samuel L. Jackson who was known to carry a few movie including Shaft and Snake on a Plane. I think he was also worth the ticket to see in the new Star Wars trilogy as the CGI destroyed the film in a way. And the love story part.

Lakeview Terrace backdrop was an affluent neighbourhood in California where a bushfire was threatening to engulf the hill, miles away at first in the opening of the movie. The movie itself is passably good and the lessons which they tried to get across were more important.

Its about a black man who felt that it is wrong for a white man to marry a colored woman. That's it. That's the main message.

The ancillary message was police brutality and the suspicion that they have to endure when they are doing their jobs. The environment being exploited as a background to the area being burned down and finally, the need to have good neighbours when you move to a new home. They will ensure your safety and your well-being. They will ensure that your house is watched over and your kids are safe on the street.

So, choose your neighbours well, especially if you are living in a multi-cultural country like Malaysia. You may not care in the early part of your life but when you need help, the nearest place you can go will always be your neighbours. The tragedy like the landslide in Bukit Antarabangsa showed that when the going get tough, not all neighbours are willing to rough it.

For now, I am thankful for my neighbourhood which has its supporters and detractors of all the events held by the neighbourhood committees. No neighbourhood are perfect but at least let's be nice to each other, shall we.

If not, that's what's my profession are for...

December 14, 2008

Let there be light

I usually don't switch off the light in my room as when we designed the office layout, I wanted to have a window which will face my table and lighted up my whole room. As the window is nearly from floor to ceiling, the lights from the window are enough to ensure this.

Here are some pictures of the window with the blind turn down and the room.




Sometimes, I do have to switch on the lights when the day is overcast and there is just not enough natural light to light up my room but I do what I can in keeping the unnecessary lights turn off.

Maybe its a small gesture but at least that's my small contribution for the environment. What's yours?

December 13, 2008

Sold Soul (a fiction of epic proportion) continues...

(It has been sometimes since I wrote the chapters of this fictionalised events. You can refer the labels at the sidebar to catch-up on how this chapter begins)

My relationship dynamic with the Turkish businessman changed when he came the second time to Malaysia. He had been liasing with me using email while he was away and he asid in his email that he had decided to make Malaysia the hub for his investment in Asia. I was ecstatic expecting the business to be handled by my legal firm.

Before I knew him, the only thing I knew about Turkey was the footballer by the name of Hasan Sukur who played a big part in Turkey campaign during the 1998 World Cup. I said so to him when I met him for the first time and he was delighted that I know of one of his countrymen. He seemed to have this built-in pride in anything or anyone who came from his country.

When he came for the second time, he came alone and Mr. N was very much still in the picture and had arranged for his hotel room and transport. When Mr. N told him that I would rarely be in Kuala Lumpur as I was still commuting between Seremban and Kuala Lumpur, he asked Mr. N to get me a room to at the hotel he was staying. Mr. N had a brighter idea, he booked an apartment with 2 rooms which allowed us to meet within the room itself for our meeting as it also has a dining area and even a kitchen.

As the joke of the day then was about man being molested by man, thanks to our former Deputy Prime Minister, I was warned by Mr. N and his entourage to be careful as Arabs were known to like men (boys?) I smirked at their remark and called them racist but did locked my door during the night (Just in case)

During breakfast, I was initiated into the Turkish culture when he showed me the real breakfast of a Turkish man. Cheese, lots of it and fruits. He had this one bag of luggage full of various smelly cheese and he had it served on the table of the apartment. He ate with gusto while I sneaked out and had real Malaysian breakfast of nasi lemak at the downstairs' restaurant serving normal Malaysian buffet breakfast. As much as I tried to, I just had to have oily food full with unhealthy things early in the morning.

Then, he decided that he needed a new office and we went around Kuala Lumpur day in, day out, looking for one. He seemed to find all the wrong things an office block could have whether the office was in the business district of Kuala Lumpur, a bit outskirt in area such as Ampang or in urban area such as Shah Alam. He then changed his mind about looking for an office as he maintained the temporary office he had rented in Menara Lion then, Menara Citibank now. This office was rented by him unbeknownst to us as he seemed to want to show that he knew some things that we didn't know and he has enough friends around to shake things around.

That was also when we get to know another side of him in which every caucasian is a CIA agent and he was amassing a wealth of fortune for we don't know what. That was many months before I enjoyed quite a sum of money and autonomy as I was given an apartment, a car and even enough money every month to ensure his operation in Malaysia was done accordingly.

December 12, 2008

Charisma

Picture taken from Yasmin Ahmad's website The Storyteller, Part II


I was eating at the Loaf at Pavilion the other day when the co-owner of the bakery came into the shop with his wife. His 5 men entourage came in led by him and he was greeted by the staff of the bakery with enthuiasm. They kissed his hand and when he passed my table, he stopped when I said "Tun", but before I could put down the spoon in my hand, which was used to spoon the Italian onion into my mouth, other waiters were swarming already him and the moment passed.

To tell you the truth I didn't really intend of standing up to shake his hand. I think it was intruding as he seemed to be going into a meeting. The other co-owner, I think the name is Suzuki, was also seen walking in later. We know beforehand of Tun's imminent arrival as we were informed by the waiter who was serving us. The word that he used to described Tun's involvement in the management of the restaurant was "Fussy" meaning that he dislike untidy things and expect things to be in a tip top condition.


The Loaf, Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur.


When he walked in, people stopped what they were doing and looked like they were expecting him to make a speech. He was calm and composed and still wear his favourite Nehru jacket (so I was told). Being 80, he didn't look 80. He look around 60s and was very much different from his wife, who was there too. His presence changed the perception of the room as people seemed to know that an important person was there.

That is what I call charisma.

I may not admire all that he had done but I still admire him nonetheless. I posted a posting about his blog once which grew by leaps and bounds. You can read that here - http://kruel-legalcat.blogspot.com/2008/11/milestone-as-blogger.html. It was quite staggering the amount of traffic in his site. The issue on charisma was written in the posting by one of the respected film director I know, Yasmin Ahmad, although I don't agree with her on the person she referred to in the blog who she said had charisma. You can read it here
http://yasminthefilmmaker.blogspot.com/2008/11/that-rare-elusive-quality-they-call.html. Anyway, to each his or her own.

Nowadays, with the upcoming UMNO election in March 2009, our former Prime Minister has a new tree to shake. He even made his usual sarcastic remarks on the ISA and blogging at one swipe when he said if he reveal the name of the UMNO members who practised money politic, if he is caught under the ISA, wouldn't he be released back just like anyone else, especially that infamous blogger in Malaysia? People still jump when he says something.

I have always wanted to have a business such as that but on a smaller scale. A small restaurant which serve a speciality or two, admired for its taste and easy enough to be closed on certain days. Being the former Prime Minister, he has the advantage of bringing his name into the brand. Any other normal rakyat, would have to work from the ground up.

December 11, 2008

Lawyers and tax

To show the world how much lawyers are bad at managing their own money, here's a tale for you. It will be a bit embarrasing for lawyers but its a reality which many will deny (we are lawyers after all).

Yesterday, on 10.12.08, there was a briefing by the Bar Council's tax consultant who had been advising us on the predicament which lawyers had to face due to a series of event when it was discovered that lawyers have been paying taxes the wrong way since forever. That series of event were triggered by a lawyer based in Kuala Lumpur when his firm was audit by LHDN or IRB sometimes in 2006.

When it was discovered by the auditor that the legal firm had been paying their tax according to the receipt basis rule, the auditor was ready to penalise the firm as the way all business paid their tax was in the accrual basis. The receipt basis is when you pay according to what was paid to you and accrual basis is when you pay what was billed by you. The former is where you pay where you have the money owed by your client in your hands or accounts but the second, as long as the client owe you a debt, whether its paid or not, you have to pay your tax accordingly.

There's a HUGE difference.

That firm contended that there was an understanding between IRB and the Bar Council that they agreed to let lawyers pay their tax according to the receipt basis. When asked for proof, the legal firm's owner, who was influential in one of the Bar Committee called the Bar Council and asked for the supposed letter which the Bar Council had in their possession.

There was no such letter.

The guy then met IRB and brought a former Bar Councillor who was supposed to know the whole matter front to back but IRB insisted on the letter.

There was know such letter.

In the end, the tax consultant was brought in, negotiate with the IRB and we were given a concession in Year of Assessment 2008 and 2009, in which we would need to pay any amount received by us of bills issued before 2008 and align back all our previous years tax. In 2010, we would be expected to finish our alignment. During the concession, if we were found through audit by the IRB to be paying according to the receipt basis the previous Year of Assessment, we only need to pay the shortage without any penalty.

What I hate about the tax consultant yesterday was the smirk on his face and his colleague faces when we asked him a few questions about the matter. It showed that he thought all lawyers were fools when it came to tax (which I don't deny is the fact) but come on, you are paid by us. Have some decency. Oh, I forgot, we don't deserve it. Too many lawyers wcrewed too many people to deserve it.

We got the circular way back in 2007 of this matter and I have paid my Year of Assessment 2007 tax according to the accrual basis.

The amount nearly caused me a heart attack but being the good citizen of Malaysia, we paid accordingly with the right amount of tax break.

I hope. for the sake of themselves, all my lawyer friends had changed their tax regime as by Year of Assessment 2010, we would be paying the like any other business.

Nowadays, after paying so much, I am more caring what the government do with my taxpayer money.

Its really true when they say that there is nothing certain except for tax and death.

December 10, 2008

Why the name Legal Cat-asthrophe...

Have you ever observe cats?

I have four of them... they show character and grace.

Just my thoughts seem to skew towards them even when I am not with them.

Here's a combo of my cats (kids)...


A cat in my mom's flower nursery, Bell, due to his belly..
A cat weighting 11kg
Mine, by the name of Cookie...
Gemuk, looking for things to do outside... maybe he is thinking of the other cat he met yesterday
Our bed, their playground...
My blogging buddy...
My silver tabby...


p/s - my wife commented once for a blog named Legal Cat-asthrophe, there are not that many pictures of cats. Here's to you...

December 9, 2008

Help wanted! But no takers?

I am not looking for help in the sense of employment. I am actually referring to the landslide at Bukit Antarabangsa Kuala Lumpur (Selangor?) which killed 4 and injured a few. It also made nearly 3,000 to 5,000 people homeless for a few days as they were not allowed to go to their own homes as there were threat of further landslides.

There are so many articles and blog postings already playing the blame game of who's to blame for this disaster and all the other disaster happening around Malaysia for the past weeks. Some put it on the government either government agencies, local, state or federal. Some blame it on the private sectors such as greedy developers (Are they all? Not even one good developer?), land surveyors, architects and engineers. Some even have the gall of blaming the people who lives there which they claim are rich enough that they deserve what had befell them. Some politicians even take up this blame it on the people attitude as they advised the people there to be always 'aware' of their surroundings.

So, I don't want to get into all that as there will be enough blames to be shared by all.

What I want to know is on how to help when disaster such as this happens? I read the blog of the daughter of our former Prime Minister, Marina Mahathir, who asked Malaysians to help bring mineral waters and even charged handphone to the area as the people there were holed up in a surau near there without electricity. I did said this outloud to my wife but never being a volunteer in whatever program any NGOs in Malaysia ever done just made us clueless on how to help.

We were also thinking that the authorities already have their hands full with all the help that they can give and need. We called our friends who were living there to check on them and we were relieved that they are alive and well. They told us of the harrowing experience of having to reach down to safety using a makeshift path through the forest as the landslide cut one side of Bukit Antarabangsa off from their access road.

My friend who is living there told us that they don't know how they will go to work as they have left their belongings, car and everything at their unaccessible house (up until now). One day after the landslide, there seem to be an ongoing festival there of people milling around and the army trying to solve the logistics. Stalls by a mamak shop and local politician seems to cover the basic need of the people. I hope what are shown on TV are true and there is no need for small people like me to get involve.

My contribution will be localise to those people I know personally if they need a roof to stay while their home become accessible again. Just that if it happens to a place where the people are poorer the same treatments will apply...

December 8, 2008

End of the year = salary review?

At the end of every year, there will be a scramble for a few things to be done. The social calendar will also be full with wedding invitations, fashion shows, sales and the scrambling of private companies to consolidate their spending to get favourable tax treatment. Some spend it on their staff by taking them on trips or to suddenly make them go for that training which the company had planned for some times. Some, like me, do their tax reduction measures by increasing my overhead from early in the year.

That overhead increase will of course be to increase the benefits for the staff which mostly by increasing their salary. The increment standard in legal firm is no standard at all. If you need to know, the legal firm workers, be it lawyers who work for other people or legal clerk or the lower support staff such as despatch riders and receptionist and the tea lady, do not have a union to call their own or even a place to exchange ideas on their working conditions.

I may stir a hornets nest here but that's a fact. The rate of salary and increment for the staff will be set by legal firm owners themselves by referring to how much their lawyers got paid in their earlier employment. I only review the allowance of my chambering student upward from the previous RM500 to the new amount of RM1000-00 when I found out that no one wants to become a chambering student if they are paid the previous amount. In 1998, I was paid RM300 with no claims for my master to take me as her chambering student.

Back in its original state, in the olden days, chambering student was the one needed to pay their master. Its a grateful gesture by them to appreciate all the  Okay, yes I know, its already 2008, so why do we need to follow the tradition of 1800s. So let's pay them according to their worth and we can then be justified to treat them like slaves unlike me and my partner when we were chambering being paid very little but still treated like slaves.



We took them for dinner during Ramadhan, isn't that enough?


However, I do review the salaries of my satff at the end of the year but the chambering students in my firm do not get the same treatment. We do take them into account when we gave out ang pow for Eid celebration. They got their 'duit raya' the same as the other staff.

This year, the staff has started their campaign on their bonuses by talking loudly about other companies which had given out their bonuses. For now, due to unfavourable economic status, we kept mum first. We have been discussing about their salary, but we still haven't make our decision yet.

Much like Santa, we are watching who's bad and who's good but in the management style of way.

I hate this part right here, to quote a phrase...

December 7, 2008

RM3.7 Million wristwatch

I was fortunate enough to be invited to an event which is not possible if not for my banker friend who was not even there as the event unfolded. I had just been to another event  by the same company promoting a different brand of watch a week ago. I did blog about it here - http://kruel-legalcat.blogspot.com/2008/11/while-people-talk-about-recession.html. That week also saw me went to a very, very, very (1000 times very) lavish wedding. All these three events were interconnected in the owner of the company selling the products.




The invitation



Anyway, a few days ago saw me going to see the unveiling of another brand of watch known for its price and complication (for the automatic watch buff). I was given a lesson on how to value a wristwatch by one of the sale people who saw me wandering into the actual shop. There was the other part of the showcase where they cordonned off, tastefully, with sheer white cloth flowing from the makeshift stands which were built around the shop which was in the middle of the groundfloor of the mall, Pavilion.

I had to listen to the guy droning about how certain wristwatch are built using spring and lock as old as time and how the Titanic was also used by the same company to built a wristwatch worth hundred of thousands. I listened politely while in my mind I was reminded of Sylar of the Heroes series in which he was a boring wristwatch maker before he discovered his power to absorb other people's power. Now I know how boring a watchmaker life could be but was hoping the guy does not goes all evil on me and absorb whatever power I have. Like standing listening him droned...

Anyway, as I was wandering and waiting for the unveiling of the real star of the show, which the guy keep telling me will be in a while, I saw that the prices of the other watch displayed in their own case was already astounding. There were a few as expensive as my house at RM250,000-00 plus. There were some which were at the half a million Ringgit Malaysia mark and then I had the gall asking the guy how much is the wristwatch that they were going to unveil. Here's where I blacked out and asked for him to say it again.

He told me that it was - RM3,700,000-00 or USD1,000,000-00 or in short, not in my lifetime, even if I have the spare catch...

Here's the image of the watch....

That's diamond all around the strap and inside the face, in case you are wondering

As my wife and I drove back, we wonder if there are such wealth where you spend for self-satisfaction while knowing people dies in certain country for not having a dime to eat...

Hmmm....

December 6, 2008

My sis-in-law wedding (a pictorial)

A few pictures to show that the spirit of Malay wedding where food are cooked by the whole village and everybody helped out :

The kids happily helping out
The food being cooked..
The solemnisation ceremony at the mosque...
Things in the goody bags
The boys are in charge of cleaning the plates
The ladies preparing the food for the brides
Our cook, a pakcik who is well-known there and his finished products
The kompang serenading the brides (look at that boy in the middle)
Got ayam golek / barbequed chickens, some more

It really take a village to raise a child here...

December 5, 2008

How my firm starts_4

In 2002, I started to realise that J was on a freefall although he had a strong political affiliation and ambition. We met once a month with the intention of repairing the damage that was apparent in the management of accounts and also of the office.

J's branch in Klang also have this lady who was his office manager. This lady was given a room and ensure everthing was properly managed in the office. After some times, we also got to know that this lady had invested money in J's branch. She also brought in her husband who is a banker to oversee the operation of the firm. When she had invested the money, the husband and wife wanted to have control of the firm especially on where is the direction of the firm going to be.

At first, S and I were agreeable to the arrangement although we were actually blindsided by J as we were not told of his arrangement with his office manager. We were also not quite comfortable with the idea of a non-professional taking over a legal firm, although its not our branch. The lady had nearly 15 years of experience as a legal clerk and knows what to do in any given task either regarding office management or conveyancing matters. We gave her the benefit of the doubt on her credentials as we had also asked for her advice on certain matters including when we got a big project to handle that year requiring us to manage a launch of 800+ apartments in the middle of Kuala Lumpur. She managed to help us through that.

However, when we started to have meetings with them at their office every month, we saw that the real person who was in charge was the husband and they were clueless in how a legal firm need to be accountable for every single sen that came out of their accounts. Their management were so topsy turvy that they had problem retaining the workers in their office, they were some unexplained discrepancies in the account and we were in danger of being sued. The clincher was when they keep on asking us to let them in on certain projects to help them survive.

In August that year (2002), I met a senior of mine who had just set up a firm in Seremban after 12 years working with the same medium-sized firm in Seremban. The medium-sized firm also had this weird concept of franchise in which they lend their name to anyone who want to set up a branch anywhere in Malaysia, where they still have no office yet. So, in the first instance, my senior wanted to do that but later changed his mind and set up his own firm in his own name in Seremban. He only have one staff, who was himself.

When I proposed to him to establish a new entity with his name at the forefront, ours coming in second and third while having separate accounts and establishment, he jumped at the idea as he wanted to get himself out of the doldrum of being alone without any partner to discuss on the direction of his firm.

When he set up his firm in March 2002, he called me quite a few times as he wanted to know the nitty gritty of a firm. Although he was my senior, there were not many of my peers there who had set up their own firm. Maybe it was also being alumnus of the university also bound us over. I helped him with the documentations and in 1.2.2002, his firm was born.

That was why when I proposed to join him and bring with me a few panel, he agreed and ion 1.9.2002, our partnership started. This time S and I made an ironclad agreement in which the name can never be changed and those who wants to leave must also leave their name behind. We also agree to help each other manage the firm as a whole especially when the time comes for the renewal of our Practising Certificate every year.

This firm was where the tide of our fortunes turn and this was where we make our mark...

December 4, 2008

Tun Salleh Abas talks...

The invitation to the talk


On 3rd December 2008, I was given the chance to hear one person's point of view on the Malaysian judiciary but that one person is at the centre of the storm in the current issue affecting one lawyer fights against the system. That lawyer was just fired from his own party due to 'sleeping with the enemy'. The talk was the 9th Ahmad Ibrahim Memorial Lecture which was held at Crown Princess Hotel (a bad place to have a conference now with no access from Jalan Ampang and the renovation of Yow Chuan Plaza)

It was a very sad affair (to me at least) as one of the controversial figure in the attack on the judiciary in 1988 gave his take on a topic not alien to controversy itself titled "50 years of Constitutional Government in Malaysia" which was much different from the topic presented to us on the Invitation Card which stated that the topic was to be "Mahkamah dan Keadilan / Court and Justice". There were barely people who came to hear his talk, in contrast when I was attending the talk by Tony Blair who was the ex-Prime Minister of United Kingdom and his only experience was practising law in his younger day. Tony Blair was invited by University Malaya and it was in honour of Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak's lecture. The seats were so full in the ballroom of Mandarin Oriental Hotel that they have to bring more seats.


The program on the day of the talk

On that day in Crown Princess, there were so many empty seats and it was mostly full of students and just one judge. Either there was a blanket ban on people attending or there was not many people interested in hearing an old ex-judge, and Chief Justice to boot, say his piece. I attended as I was intrigued by the prospect of him mouthing off...

It was not meant to be, at first. He was so civil that when the hotel staff adjusted the flower, the microphone and the rostrum to accommodate his lack of height, he just kept on reading his text. The text itself was quite a lesson in the history of how Malaysia came to be with the emphasise on the formation of the government of Malaysia and how Malayan Union was opposed up until Singapore got out of the federation.

Then, he started to talk about the monarchy and how they were the backbone of the struggle by the so-called freedom fighters of Malaysia like Tok Janggut et al. Then he said that Malayan Union had created a few political parties including UMNO, MCA, PAS and others. Then he said the magic word : The most trustworthy institution east of India. He was referring to Malaysian judiciary before the judiciary crisis, of course.

Other big words that he used was 'the ouster clause', 'social contract' and a few significant numbers connoting years. 'Ouster clause' is the immunity of authority from being sued if doing something within their power which are apparent in a few Malaysian law. Then when he injected the Articles from the Constitution of Malaysia which showed the protection which was supposed to be received by the monarchy, but was removed in 1993 and then 2001, the crowd went wild (as any sleepy crowd, me included, in a sombre afternoon session of legal talk can). His talk was controversial in the suggestions that he put forth but these suggestions were put in subtlely in between the lines. There was no names, no finger pointings and not even a peek into his thoughts about all the controversies surrounding him.

In parting, he compared Malaysia to Rome (Really!). There was this concept in Rome once when it was thriving and people from all places came to work and live there. The citizens were given special privileges but outsiders were given Rome's version of red identity cards, in which when the Roman have accepted them for who they were, they let them into their fold and accepted them. Then, they were called Palladiums (couldn't clarify the term but found the term Peregrinus) to show that they have been assimilated into the Roman empire.

In short, he said, why couldn't we follow the Roman way. Try to live together and change our law especially the Constitution to reflect the acceptance of the other race, other than the native Malay, which is still debatable whether they are even native or not...

A great afternoon but nonetheless, it was like what Malaysian said "Anjing menyalak bukit / dog barking at the hill".

December 3, 2008

Significant date of my business...

20.9.2000 - My legal firm business with S starts. We started by sharing an office with our junior then our client.

1.5.2001 - We dissolved our first business and joined a friend in which we managed a branch of the legal firm in Petaling Jaya while he was in Shah Alam before moving to Klang. We made a break businesswise in May 2002 when we were appointed as a panel lawyer for a housing project with 824 units of houses. We only had 2 staffs and was ill-prepared but we did managed.

1.9.2001 - We moved to a proper office of our own. 500 square feet with 1 room.

1.9.2002 - We (S and I) parted way with the friend and joined another friend who owns a legal firm and has an office in Seremban. We remain at the same office and operated a branch of the legal firm in Petaling Jaya. We entered into an agreement where we agreed to manage our own accounts separately but the auditing and management will be consolidated every year before applications for licenses from the Bar Council were done.

1.5.2004 - We parted ways with the partner in Seremban but retained the business as per our agreement. He joined another partnership in which the same initial name was used.

2007 - We admitted a new partner. No name change.

The current workforce at the current set-up during the launch in 2007


1.9.2007 - We changed premises of our office from 2 units of 500 square feet and 800 square feet of offices to a 3650 square feet of 1 unit office with a penthouse to boot.

30.11.2007 - We officiated our office with a proper opening ceremony.

21.12.2008 - We did a new year party / gathering which made us quite happy to know we have 360 degree of fireworks view up until Midvalley from our rooftop.

1.5.2008 - We changed the name to reflect the real partners in the firm as there were cases where in court, both our files and our old partner's name were called and two lwayers stood up. One was from our firm but the other was our old partner's firm.

1.12.08 - Still standing and bracing for an economic slowdown. Hope to celebrate the new year 2009 and reach 20.3.09 in which I will be 10 years in practice...

December 2, 2008

Hari-hari Terakhir Seorang YB (sebuah novel Malaysia) Episod 16

Hari aku tiba, boss YB masih belum tiba. Oleh kerana tiada program diaturkan, aku dan YB bersama dengan seorang kawannya, seorang usahawan balak pergi berjalan-jalan di merata Dubai bersiar-siar dan membeli belah. Mereka membeli-belah. Aku hanya mengikut saja tanpa apa-apa niat untuk berbelanja. Walaupun masa itu adalah Festival Membeli Belah Dubai.

Kami dibawa berjalan-jalan oleh rakan YB itu ke pelbagai tempat yang dia biasa pergi di Dubai. YB pula sibuk ingin ke satu kedai menjual kain yang pernah dikunjunginya 5 tahun sebelum itu dan di mana gambarnya diambil dan dipamerkan di dada satu akhbar sehingga kemudian menimbulkan kontroversi kerana dikatakan rombongan kerajaan negeri itu pergi membeli belah dan bukannya mempromosikan negeri itu. YB beruntung kerana di dalam gambar yang dipamerkan itu, bossnya, pada masa itu, berada di hadapannya dan dia hanya sedang berdiri melihat bossnya itu meneliti kain yang ingin dibelikan.

Di dalam teksi yang kami naiki, YB menceritakan yang kedai kain itu terkenal kerana kedai itu membekalkan kain pada harga yang murah kepada pramugara dan pramugari MAS yang seterusnya menjualkan kain-kain itu kepada rakan-rakan dan keluarga di Malaysia. Itulah sebabnya pemilik kedai itu sehingga pandai bercakap bahasa Melayu sikit-sikit. Setibanya kami di sana, kami bertemu dengan dua tiga orang YB lain yang sedang meneliti pelbagai kain yang ingin mereka beli. Ada yang datang dengan kawan-kawan dan ada yang datang dengan isteri. Ada yang sedang menelefon isteri (teman wanita?) di Malaysia bertanya tentang ela yang sesuai untuk dibeli dan ada yang membeli pakaian siap. YB pula sebaik kami masuk ke dalam kedai itu terus menunjukkan gambar yang diceritakan tadi yang telah dibingkai dan dinaikkan di dinding kedai itu.

Aku pada awalnya tiada niat untuk membeli kerana aku baru berkahwin 5 bulan sebelum itu dan masih mempunyai banyak kain yang dihadiahkan oleh kawan-kawan aku. Baju bertunang aku pun baru hanya sekali aku pakai. Bila YB nampak aku duduk tanpa niat membeli, dia terus menyuruh aku memilih kerana dia nak belanja. Aku apa lagi. Aku beli untuk aku dan isteri ku kain cukup untuk 2 pasang seorang.

Festival Membeli Belah itu juga menyebabkan semua hotel di Dubai penuh. Aku yang tidak ditempah hotel oleh orang yang men'sponsor' aku berkemungkinan terpaksa menumpang semula rumah bakal ibu mertua rakankongsi ku yang cerewet itu. Aku tidak sanggup untuk meminta dari orang yang susah hendak memberi. Aku membuat keputusan untuk bertanya YB tentang masalah ku.

Sebelum sempat aku bertanya, ada seorang pegawai yang agak tinggi jawatannya dalam kerajaan negeri telah memberi satu nasihat yang membuat aku terkedu. "Kita mesti hargai dapat duduk makan dan berborak dengan orang macam YB ni. Bukan senang dia nak luangkan masa dengan kita. Jangan lepaskan peluang dapat berinteraksi dengan dia dalam rombongan macam ni". Itu semasa makan tengahari. Aku yang tidak ada tempat nak tidur bertanyakan hal aku kepada YB di depan pegawai itu.

"YB, saya ada masalah sikit ni takde tempat tidur. Boleh tumpang bilik?", tanya aku.

"Menyusahkan betullah budak ni... Kau tidur tak berdengkurkan? Kalau kau berdengkur, aku suruh kau tidur luar...", jawab YB sambil ketawa.

Selesai masalah tempat tidur aku dan merah padam muka pegawai itu kerana dia lihat aku akrab dengan YB lebih dari yang dijangkakan...

December 1, 2008

A suggestion to the toll concessionaire...

When I met a guy who was well to do in his life but refused to buy the Touch N Go card due to his 'principle', I was quite intrigue. I asked him why, expecting that he has a better formula to pay his toll or there is a way for him to bypass any tolled road. What I didn't expect was a lecture on the basic rule of retail business. His basic premise was why does one pay in advance cash to someone who don't even give one sen of concession to the payee. These toll concessionaires take but never give, especially if you pay using the Touch N Go card.
Everyone seems to take for granted that the Touch N Go card to be something that they don't have a choice but to have in order for them to have the convenience of not having to hunt for spare change or queue up at the toll booth, especially at peak hours. The convenience of  Touch N Go was imposed to the masses when all other smart cards were 'retired' and Touch N Go became the monopoly prepaid card for highway concessionaires.

Some did protest the erection of toll booth at tolled road when it was first erected like what had happened in Sunway at the New Pantai Expressway where even the current elected representative promise to find a solution to ensure the nearby residents living adjacent to the NPE highway doesn't need to pay for toll going to and fro their housing area. That promise is still just a dream as toll highways are under the purview of the federal government which is not that particular elected representative's political party. I wish her the best of luck... (which may come true earlier if her political party REALLY take over the federal government)

Just a suggestion to toll concessionaires. Why don't they view the user of their highways as customers to be pampered and to be valued. Don't view them as drivers who had no choice but to use their highways. These highways had encroached areas which had been the ancestral homes or just plain homes of various people. They had also displaced million of people with the hopes of making millions of cash. I have seen proposals to various politicians for new highways which would actually leave the Klang Valley looking like one big road with no living areas in sight. All in the name of progress...

They should emulate Germany where the cost of highways are borne by the local government and if the local government don't have the money, the highway will end at the part not yet built and will continue back at parts where the local government is able to built their part of the highway. That's why they are call Autobahn where there are no toll but just good roads. Maybe this will be too farfetch to happen in our country but one can always dream...

Customers shouldn't be asked to pay the same amount of toll when they have paid in advance. I know that the concessionares do not get the money in advance but why don't they cut a deal with the company which issue the Touch N Go cards to give discounts when customers buy a certain amount of prepaid. This will at least make more economic sense to the consumers and it will even endear the card to them.

Don't they want more customers? Is monopoly more important than making your customers happy?

But, this is just but a thought...
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