February 28, 2009

Residents Association

Tonight the residents association within my area was elected to represent the residents in providing a voice to the people who live here. It was a simple meeting where the pro-tem committee presented their activities the whole 2008/2009 year and then the election was done for the real committee for 2009/2010. This new housing area can now try to build a platform for the betterment of the quality of living here. As a new housing area the place does not have to much problems. The people who were elected are capable enough to run the association.

The pro-tem committee at my place passing the baton

I am actually writing a book on matters relating to real estate and a part of it is in regard to resident association. The importance of it is not apparent in landed property like mine, especially where there are a lot of phases still in the midst of being build. The developer is still very much in control of the facilities and well-being of the residents. The importance of resident association is more important in strata development or buildings as each units depends on other units figuratively and literally.

Figuratively as in all residents need to support each other against their perennial 'other party' which is the developer and literally as each unit depends on the other units to be complete. Strata itself means 'on the air' and you can't have a condominium or an apartment or a duplex without another unit either being below, on top, at the right and the left of you. So, you are actually relying on other units within the development to even just exist.

In Malaysia, before 20th April 2007, before a strata title (a piece of paper issued by the land office) is given out to a stratified title development, all power to collect fees and maintain the well-being of the facilities of a stratified development was left to the developer. Yes, you guessed it, the developer, being a profit-making institution had managed to abuse this power resulting in bad press and worse, various maintenance problems. Arguments and finger pointing have always revolved around the failure of developer maintaining the facilities e.g. elevators and the developer had always had a problem in collecting the maintenance fees. It was like the chicken and egg story (a writer who was with a condo residents association once even wrote a book titled Chicken and Egg)

When a new Act was enacted to govern a new concept of giving the power to collect fees and maintain facilities to a type of a resident association which consist of the developer as a minority stakeholder and the residents as those with most interest, it was supposed to be a dawn of a new way on how management of stratified residential buildings in Malaysia. That was the plan. Now, nearly two years down the road, there is a lot things still to be desired and stories on power struggle within these developments are rampant. What I will try to do here is to start a series of sort on the power and the problem facing these residents association. It is more as a rough template of some of the topics within my book.
to be continued...

February 27, 2009

What if a lawyer give the wrong advice?

Information is power but some information need to be paid for before you can get it. Especially when you deal with professionals such as lawyers and doctors, to name a few. It is an occupational hazard where people always love to ask doctors and lawyers for free advices when they meet them socially. I, for one, consider it not that big a deal as legal work usually are not just what you can advice but what you do with the advice. These 'free advice liability' issue can be a posting on another day but let us look at the consequence of giving the wrong advice.

As always, every profession has it's own hazard. Some can kill you like for those who make a mistake in handling heavy machinery or driving a vehicle. Some can put you into a jail if you did not manage to complete the task according to plan (crime). Some can lead to you losing a few millions dollar of other people's money if you don't actually know what you are doing (bankers). For doctors, someone can lose a limb or a life, if the doctor does not follow procedure or is allowed to practice without any license which usually entails supervision, they could kill someone. 

As for lawyers, their client's life and livelihood are always in their hands. Someone might be sent to death row or to jail or get fined heavily if they did not do their job properly. In real estate deals, the authority might penalise the client for later registration or worse, cancel the transaction if timetables are not met on time. These can be a loss to the client which can sometimes transcend that particular case such as the client might have to rent another property before he or she can move in into his new place. So, it is not just the transaction will make him lose money, he might also be incurring additional cost. These are advices which even if it is just for the transaction of a sale and purchase of a cup of coffee, you can do a few things to get compensation from that lawyer.

As I have mentioned in one of my last post how to differentiate a criminal and civil case I wrote that a lawyer are subject to three liability if they do not do their work properly. The lawyers association or the Bar which license them. Here, their license can be revoked and they can be penalise monetarily. The police if their negligence is due to a breach of trust. Here they will be subjected to whatever breach of trust crime is punishable with. Then, they could also be sued in the civil court of law where the client can ask to be compensated monetarily for whatever damages he had suffered. Yes, lawyers do sue each other even to the point that in Malaysia, every year, the Bar which tries to enforce their law on the lawyers also got sued left and right. 

If ever you are not satisfied with the service your lawyer gave you, the best is to go to the authority that license them and not the police or whatever regulating bodies your case is being applied to. The lawyers themselves usually will listen to reason if you have a case as they themselves wouldn't want to lose their license. This is best if you need to have the lawyer to be on your side if you have another party to deal with as your lawyer still need to comply with conditions which have been set by the case. A divorce case where you keep changing lawyer will make you looks like you just couldn't make up your mind. A transaction involving property where you keep changing lawyer can make you lose the precious time to file your documents according to the schedule set.

In the first instance, choose your lawyer well before you even appoint him. Then you wouldn't have to suffer any problem of selecting the wrong lawyer...

February 26, 2009

Semi-detached business model

When I was a young lawyer who decides to have my own business, I am everything that an office need to function. I am the lawyer who will answer whatever you want to solve. I am the personal assistant who takes your call. I am the driver who went to court and bring you in my small-paid-by-my-parents-car although you have a much better car. I am the despatch who sent the documents to the land office or court to be filed. I am everything and then some. You can call me anytime, any hour and at any place. Even if two weeks ago I have reminded you I amgoing to be on holiday as the whole town is celebrating a religious holiday or some other obscure celebration.

In that early years, the word "you snooze, you lose" is a mantra that keep repeating itself over and over again without fail. I have trained myself to answer my cellphone in the middle of the night as if I was at the office burning the midnight oil trying to finish that brief although I was already off to sleep hours earlier. During that time the call could be about a client who was just caught again due to drugs or a client who had a late night discussion with his investor and wanted a second opinion on how the deal should be structured. Yes, I was the do-all-and-never-go-to-sleep superhuman. I was supposed to know all the law of the land at the tip of my finger. Corporate, criminal, civil and even the current by-law such as the leash law of a particular town.

It was a time when I was still single and I was still trying to find a footing in the legal business community. I was attached to a legal firm which basically is a criminal law practice but I was willing to take any brief as long as it pays. I could be in a court of law in one place at nine in the morning, lunch with a corporate executive some 80 miles from my office, back at my hometown at 6 pm to play tennis before having a meeting in Kuala Lumpur at night. By 2am I need to shoot back home, which is another 60 miles drive as I have another court date in the morning.

When you are everything that a legal firm can be, it is actually a good outfit. You will know each file by heart and you will earn enough for you to survive. During my stint with that kind of setup, I actually can say I have job satisfaction when a work was done well. A client got off from the crime he was accused of. An agreement was signed on time and the client loads of money from it. A client who sued because he was involved in an accident got a huge settlement from the insurance company. All clients were personal and I knew them personally.

Not anymore. Being medium size and relying on bulk work from corporations, I tend to treat everyone as a file. They are just someone who come and go through my office, attended by one of my staff and dealt with as soon as possible so we can get our bill paid. As much as I miss that early days, I now can concentrate on how my business grow and how to spread it among my staff and partners. You just lost touch with the humanity of the people on the ground but you can increase your own self-fulfillment. Is bad or good, both have it's own pros and cons.

February 25, 2009

Police reports here and there

I have often been asked by people what is the difference between a criminal and a civil cases. It is easy for all to say the one which you believe is a crime can be labelled as a criminal case and the civil case is the one where it is between 2 persons who have a dispute which each other. Easy right? Not so it seems when every other day, here in Malaysia, there seems to be a trend for a police report to be done on someone at the drop of a hat. Someone is not satisfied with his neighbour as his tree branch hangs on his area. Someone was ousted out of his official office through tricks and votes buyout. Apartments are not mamaintained properly. Who you gonna call?

All these seems to make the police having too much on their hands even to those matters which are not within their jurisdiction. People just wouldn't take the initiative to really understand the law or at least get some lawyers' advices to make sure that what they are facing is a civil or a criminal matter. Of course there are the type of civil matter which seems to be of criminal in nature. It is called tort and the easiest example is assault and battery which resulted in damages or injury to the other person. You hit someone, you can press charge by making a police report and then still sue him or her in court for a sum of money if you suffer damages in whatever form.

Let us look at an accident. If you hit a vehicle in front of you due to whatever reason, even if your excuse is that the car brakes and you did not have time to follow suit, you are liable to be compounded by the traffic police a sum of MYR300-00. Of course you are then considered to have done a crime as the prosecutor is the one who brings you to court. Then you can also be sued by that car owner if there is any damage to the car or any injury to the person or anybody inside the vehicle. Two separate matters in which the first one is where the state (translation : the government) doing it's job in protecting and upholding the law. The second matter is a dispute between the two vehicle's owners. Easy right?

Now, there are some cases where there are three separate suits can be conducted. Two can happen in the court of law and one in another forum. Cases where a professional who has a license to conduct his practice is the best scenario for this. A lawyer, a doctor or an engineer are those whose services have the option to be in trouble thrice. There are other professions of course but these are those who you hear a lot of burdens are put on their shoulder. They can lose their license in which can be considered as an internal inquiry by his or her peers. In Malaysia, the license of lawyers can be revoked by the Bar Council Displinary Committee. Then if they did a breach of trust, the client can sue for their money if there are any involve and damages, if there are any. Then they can be charged by the public prosecutor on a separate criminal charge.

Easy right? Yeah, right...

February 24, 2009

Spouse's support

This is actually a topic for my other blog As Good As It Gets which discuss mostly the relationship between man and woman on a daily basis especially those that have relevance to my own experience. However, this is mostly with regards to work or working experience which happens when you are married or have a partner. Some have this arrangement where both work and some have arrangement where only one is working. Either you are childless or with children, although the schedule and dynamic might be different, you have your own way of dealing with it.

This is more about how one partner supports the other in whatever line of work the other have chosen. Sometimes both come from the same industry or line of work. A nurse and a doctor. A doctor and a doctor. A lawyer and a judge. A lawyer and a criminal? Sometimes they don't. Sometimes their line of work don't have any relevant from each other. There are the lawyer and the bus driver. The welder and the plumber. The artist and the politician. Various examples which depicts those who marries within or without their industry can be given and different scenario can also be given on how each couple handles their compatibility when it comes to the question of support.

The support I mean is the support that you need when you are committed to your work and you need some understanding on the long hours that you put which may not give enough compensation for it. You need to burn the midnight oil to finish a project. Travel around the world to finish an assignment given by your client or your employer. Such are the working environment nowadays. Enough to put pressure if you are doing it alone. Enough to make you breakdown even if you do a job well done. Enough for you to feel unappreciated or even feel animosity towards whoever you can put the blame on. That is if you are doing it all alone.

If you have somebody back home to support you, will it be better or will it just make you feel sorrier for yourself. Some people I know keep on doing what they do best even if they lack support at home. Some just do it as they have their own principle with or without emotional support. Some gave up after sometimes. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, same industry, same job title but I bet each have their own drive. Kate Winslett and Sam Mendes, same industry, different job description. Selma Hayek and her millionaire husband. High pressure job which can be used as an examples although unreal as all the movies they acted in.

Support in job is important as anything that can help you advance in your career. As much as a bra can lift a sagging breast, supports from spouses can sometimes help revive a flagging career. Just look what Agassi manage to do at the twilight of his career when he met Steffi Graf...

February 23, 2009

Dress for success

Although I hate dressing up for anything, sometimes, to have the look of someone who can solve problem for you, I have to wear that tie and that suit just for the sake of looking sharp. In my normal day at work, I will just wear a shirt, rarely with a tie and by 1pm will have already roll up my sleeve so that I can at least enjoy my lunch properly. Sometimes I do want to be like those lawyers who just couldn't care less about how they look. They wear this short sleeves which they wear under their jacket so they would look presentable in court but they look more like a slacker than anyone else. That is how bad they can look, wearing a jacket but looking like they need a comb for their hair.

Most style fashion guru nowadays ask people to be overdress than to be underdress. I take it with a pinch of salt and do sometimes look like I don't belong in certain functions that I have attended. I remember going to a function at a hotel in which there was a launch of credit card which ties up with the Bar Council of Malaysia. It was a Friday and as for me, Friday is the day I dress down, without a tie and usually with a khakis. It is easier to go Friday prayer in that attire than in something where I need to wear cufflinks. It was not as if I dress shabbily or anything but I was the only one without a suit in a room full with well dressed people except for the reporters who was there to cover the event. When I asked for a gift bag, the people at the counter were looking at me as if I am a vagabond crashing a party I am not invited to. At least I had my partner who is always overdress in whatever working day who looks good and made sure they were told who I was then.

The thing is, I was not the only person who was dressed as casually. There were a few well-known lawyers who wear as casually as me. They were in their 50s and 60s, quite well-known and of course, their clothing can be as simple as a man on the street. They are court brawlers who people wouldn't dare to cross path with and some were always there when you hear a landmark case had been decided somewhere in court. They just couldn't care less to dress up even for a formal occasion, especially those involving other lawyers. These other lawyers are the one who should be thankful that they (the senior lawyers) made an appearance at their event. Even I will admit that they have earned it and I am hoping to join their rank one day. 

All in all, dressing to look successful is overrated sometimes as this is how some conmen manage to con those who are gullible as people expect to go on their hands and knees when people dress well but they thumb their nose to those who don't. The measure of a man is not in their clothes but their heart. Nowadays, a pure and good heart are always hidden. Maybe the slacker generation which emphasise more on what they can produce and not how they look while producing it actually brought some good things to the work culture too (other than all these technology we have around us growing in leaps and bounds thanks to them)

February 22, 2009

Always too late

Why does the authority or the government always seems to be too late in doing or have knowledge of something especially when it comes to what is beneficial to or involve the people. Especially for those who can be considered as the youth. They keep on worrying about what the people wants but never translate it to anything worthwhile in the Parliament. They keep on harping about big projects which cost hundreds and millions of Ringgit. They sometimes do try to channel it by doing various activities which seems to never reach the target group.

I know a few of these politician personally and when I told them certain matters which I know is always at the peripheral of my vision, they seem surprised of these things happening all around. Or they may act surprise but are not doing anything about it as it is such a hassle to debate such matter. They became angry when the people within their constituency vote for the opposition as they are more on the ground than these representative. I am not sure how does other democracies around the world keep in touch with current issues, here in Malaysia they wait for the shit to hit the fan before they suddenly say this thing is of national crisis which need attention.

Here are a few examples which is inherent to Malaysia. There was this phenomenon which happened in 1990s when the coming of the new millineum brought along it's own new-age problem for Malaysia. There are these problems which were associated with youth. There were the bohsia, who are basically teenagers who seem willingly to have sex with multiple partners without shame or guilt. Sex party. Gay. Drugs. You must understand that Malaysia is considered as a very conservative Muslim country and when these matters came to light to the government, the phenomenon had became an accepted things among the youth. Trying to curb it 5 years after the fact did not even make any leeway at all.

Amazingly, after all these years and after having more young elected representatives as young as 26 years old in Parliament and state assemblies, the same mismatch in what happen on the street and what is brought up in Parliament is still apparent. Maybe there need to be a total decay of the fabric of society only then will people realise that what really matter is what concern the people on the street and not what your sponsors are asking you to do.

February 21, 2009

Good Cop, Bad Cop

When we handle situations in our firm with regards to indiscipline and even management issues, my partner and I, the two persons who has full control on administration, have developed this habit which is infamously used by cops in movies. Whether it really happened in real life or not is immaterial. It is just our way of shifting the blame of being the bad boss from one to the other as our employees then will take precaution against taking us for granted. They will also wouldn't be able to say that one of us is biased towards them or just wouldn't listen to reason. We sometimes are used to it that when one of us really feel negative on one subject, we let the other say the positive thing about the matter.

What is this management style actually do? In a good cop, bad cop situation, one of the cop who interrogate the suspect will be so angry with the suspect that he/she will start to make threat and demand the suspect to reveal the whereabout of the loot or the victim. In some extreme situation, the bad cop will already have the suspect in his grip and will already beating the guy like a punching bag. The good cop will then step in, just at the moment the bad cop nearly hit the suspect or stop the bad cop from killing the guy, will ask the bad cop to go out of the interrogation room and sit down in front of the suspect. He/She will then proceed to talk nicely to the suspect and said that he/she is actually on the suspect's side. Usually the suspect will buy the story and tell his deepest secret.

Although real detective work wouldn't be as easy as this, or maybe much easier, you might wonder on how do my partner and I apply it in managing our 15 strong legal firm. We are actually not believers in suffocating our staff with rules. They are allowed to have breakfast whenever they feel like it. They are allowed to have smoke breaks but must limit it to once every session (either morning or afternoon). They are allowed to take time-off to settle personal matters. They can take longer lunch break if necessary. I don't think there is a more lenient bosses than the two of us. We also know when we are being made fools hence that is the time we tap our acting gene to get the best result. And sometimes this skill is used during appraisal or negotiation of terms with our other associate/partner. And when we do it, we are heartless as any lawyer could be in that situation.

We usually open up the discussion on how or what is the issue at hand. We also propose them a solution which my partner and I would have agreed beforehand to be the best solution. We would then hear out the person's take on the matter. If, and that is a big if, there is a need for one of us to show his or her displeasure on the solution, one of us will disagree on it and the other one will try to find a reason to like it. What do we accomplish from this bad acting? The person who is on the other side will then approach the one who is the 'good cop' and will pour her or his out to him or her making us easier to come to a decision on the matter. 

Another time it is applied is when something both of us have agreed to disagree but only one of us will tell the whole office of the decision. For a few weeks or months, that one person will hold the esteemed or cavoted title as the Bad Boss, which is normally bestowed on most boss around the world, which I am proud to be a part of. I still think we are better than a friend I know who owns his own legal firm who likes to tell his staff, I have my name on the nameplate outside, when you have yours, you can decide on the matter according to your whims and fancies.

February 20, 2009

Paradigm Shift

Of course, this is the most cliche business advise as any guru would have said this words at least once every time the economic situation warrants such changes to be suggested. I have lambasted it once, which attracted attention of a few other lawyers and business associates when I said the current economic situation was brought about by greed. In the posting titled Appetite for Destruction which is a kind of my criticism of the way people do business taken from a layman point of view, I basically said we should just let the economy to fail although it might hurt a lot of people. This time around, I want to strengthen my argument with a new approach. It might not be original but it is not going to be popular.

I hereby say that we need to go back to simpler time, put our shoulder to the grind, work for every penny, do not take any loan and live as frugally as we were thousands of years ago. No more divisions between the wealthy and the poor. Even if there are, the wealthy should be the leaders that have been elected fairly by all and must first declare their asset BEFORE they are elected and then when they are elected, declare their asset, again and again, year after year. All leaders must be known in the area they are elected. Like leaders of old, these leaders must tell their charges where is the next place to move to economically to ensure they have enough food on their table. No more handouts but they must participate in doing the work or the project like any layman.

How do you ensure that there will be no more bank failures or people going out of work, becoming bankrupt and such? The answers are already being given by personal financing coach like Suze Orman and locally here in Malaysia, Azizi Ali. Live within your means. That's it. Do you really know what this mean? They say, pay everything in cash and don't take any debt beyond the means to pay it. Will this make the bank survive? I don't think so. Banks will be bankrupt in a matter of months. If they keep on selling their products to those who don't really need it and then say to them they can now go on that vacation. Buy that big screen LCD television. Buy that gold and diamond. Or that Louise Vuitton handbags. If you really live within your means, there will be a lot of industries which will go out of business and most of them are the businesses which had the word 'entertainment', 'leisure' and 'luxury' as their tagline.

Brand will be a thing of the past. A steak will be a steak whether you buy it in a restaurant down the street or a five star hotel. Why do you pay a bag that is made with the same calf skin a higher price although it may even come from the same cow or region, but where one is sold in a high end boutique and another is at a factory outlet in Indonesia? How do you finance your purchase? That 'credit' card? Cash from personal financing which you pay months on end? Did you calculate what you can afford before you receive the financing? If bank couldn't convince people to take financing with them, would there be any more banks? Can bank survive if they give out loan just up to the assets that they have. No more overcapitalisation. No more issuing bonds for a promise that they can't keep.

In short, what I propose here is to go back to basic. Ditch that BMW and Mercedes. Sell that big house where there are only the two of you. Go see to that agriculture land you have always wanted to till. Eat what you sow. Know how to plant and keep that chicken. Start back small. Then give that surplus money to your neighbours. Your mosque or your church. Your government through tax and zakat. You will be healthier and happier in the long run.

Will this advice ever be taken seriously? Will I do it myself? Nah.... All these are just pipe dream and wishful thinking. Too modern for our own good. And to proud of it.

See you at the soup kitchen line....

February 19, 2009

Sometimes they come back

The title may sound like a title to a horror movie but this is with regards to employees who left you and then comes back to work for you. Never happened to you? It has happened to my small legal firm  a few times. 3 times actually. Twice were when the employee really quit by tendering their resignation. Once was when this girl had to go back to her hometown to care for her mother who was sick and might not came back to work for us. She did come back after 4 months of  sabbatical. The others went off to their various new jobs but then one day we get a call or a visit from them asking us whether us whether we would want to take them back. As our firm is always expanding, we took them back but not all of them last. One have resigned and we actually wanted to get rid of her but she quit before we needed to.

Does this tantamount to taking back your words or in Malay sayings, like licking back your spit (gross right?, but it is a saying). I mean, usually, when an employee left you, there will always be at least a negotiation between you and him or her as you will want to have her at his or her position which you have train her for so long. Training and developing an employee is one of the expensive and necessary investment a company have to do. You sent them to seminars, train them yourself on how to do a particular job, tell them some confidential information and gave them access to various area of the office. We basically taught them the whole nine yard on how to be good at that particular position.

In my case, we have a legal management system which we had bought from an IT vendor which nearly everyone had gone for training for. It is supposed to revolutionise how we do our work. We could keep track of all the dateline and the templates which we can install in the system will ensure there will be less mistake on documents especially those which we need to file with various authorities. This system need to be taught and learned by any newbie who come into our firm as it is a system which is already accepted by everyone. We spent quite a lot on it and expected everyone to come up to speed at least 2 months after they joined us. So, when any one of the employee who is already trained for it resign, just imagine the backlog that would happen. That is why we usually agree to these returning employee, grateful even, although it is akin to lowering your standard a bit.

In my own opinion, it is nothing wrong to take back good employee. You already know them as someone who can do the job and they would already know on how to handle the things that you give them to be responsibility on. Although I have a few disgruntle employees, which is a norm in any organisation, I think I rarely be not fair to all their needs as long as they themselves understand and support our business. As long as they are there for us, we are there for them too. When the going got rough, we try to have a heart to heart talk with them without compromising our business, which is the first thing that everyone, either us or them, to be able to sustain the weather.

February 18, 2009

Comfort Zone

I had an interesting conversation the other day with an old friend. The last time I saw him was on his wedding day nearly 10 years ago. He was of a different faculty when I was taking my law degree but he was living with one of my batch. We do share stories and ambitions together as that particular bachelor pad was lived by high achiever. I was the slacker who was living at another unit but they loved my company as I always have business ideas which I loved sharing with them. When cyber cafe was a new concept (this was between 1994 to 1998 after all), I had this idea where people can surf and watch television and play games all at this cool places where there is a real bar and such. Someone beat us to it a few years later and cyber cafe becomes redundant as cheap netbooks and broadbands are the norm nowadays.

He came to my office that day to ask about certain legal matters and we ended up having lunch. During lunch, I asked him on how he came to be what he is now. He was a Teaching English As Second Language graduate who is usually tied up with the government for several years as they are fully sponsored by Malaysian Ministry of Education. It seems that he never became a teacher, paid what he owed the government, became a lecturer but stayed in his hometown somewhere on the East Coast of Malaysia which is considered the rural Malaysia. It is so rural, going there would be like going back to nature and I love the particular state for it's islands and beaches.

He told me about a friend of his who tried convincing him to quit his job and moved to Kuala Lumpur in 2004. He was asked by his parents to keep teaching where his parents are still staying and although he longed for the adventure, he decided to let his ambition go. In 2007, after hearing of the success of his friend business and after heart to heart talk with his parents and wife, he decided to quit his teaching job and went into business. That business is providing security services to condominiums and buildings which seems to be making quite a lot of money as there are a lot of demand for it in Malaysia nowadays. Other than this, he also opened up another company with another friend developing an IT platform for businesses and with another friend he is planting chillies, which are also in high demand. 

As he was still gaining his footing, he is actually the ultimate entrepeneur who I did once aspire to be. As we talked and talked I realised he was me when I started my legal firm. I was still looking for a foothold then, not really knowing what to do and was willing to take on any challenge whatever the cost, either monetarily, personally or how it will affect me socially. I think I burnt quite a few thousands in a few pipe dream schemes and not to mention various manhour as I invested in basically ideas I thought can make a few bucks. Even when I opened up the legal firm, I was following a few entrepeneur themselves who did not really make it in their business. But, I learnt to value this experience as I still think entrepeneurship need a risk appetite not all can stomach.

I did say to him, I am now in a comfort zone which I know is not as safe as I would like it to be. My firm has been running quite smoothly for years now and there are still a few bookorders which we are waiting to fulfill. We have the trust of a few select clients and we know they are quite strong in their sales. I have good staff and good technology which I hope can weather the impending economic storm. That is where I am wrong in my assumption and my planning. As an entrepeneur, I must always look for new business which may or may not be in line with my current business. I must always look for new revenue and take calculated risk on new venture. Personally, for the past two years, the two blogs I have is my only new achievement. The books I have started and my post graduate studies are still in progress (and I don't even take them both seriously enough).

I think I need new motivation and new friends to motivate me. Or maybe an old friend who turns up suddenly who may have (or not) an idea or two to share...

February 17, 2009

What's in a brand?

In my line of work, branding is not a priority when you are starting out. Some legal firms do have the capability and the vision to start out strong building the reputation of the brand until no one really knows or even cares who owns the firm as long as they are serviced by the firm. Some lawyers don't even need for people to know their firm as they are the brand. In Malaysia, one of the legal firm which managed to attain the 'brand' status is the legal firm of Zaid Ibrahim & Co. who's founding partner already left the firm but their business is still growing year after year. Their growth is not just locally but have reached the shore of the middle east as they have a strong Islamic finance division, among others. Internationally, Norton Rose is one of the most recognisable legal firm. Both are just examples in a world full with lawyers and legal firm.

So, is brand as important to legal firm as any other company like McDonald's and Coca Cola? It seems that it depends on what is the product that you are selling. And your target customers. Which means basically the answer is yes to the question. You do need branding. Even a small sized firm like mine which concentrate on real estate, which is losing it's lustre as the economic slowdown hits the Malaysian shore. People usually trust the brand they have a loyalty to. People expect McDonald's in China to have the same Big Mac or Quarter Pounder that they can get in the United States. And the same Diet Coke. That was why these well known brand will try to assert themselves in places which are considered sacred but of high traffic and visibility. This happened to Starbucks before they finally relented and packed-up after they realised that having a branch within the Forbidden City wall was not a good idea (though they still have other branches around Beijing and other part of China)

When a legal firm or a lawyer is branded to be the best brand that one can have, people expected a few assurance from them. People expect they will win a case when so and so is representing them in a murder trial. At least they may not be hanged for bringing a tonne of cocaine. They might just be jailed for the rest of their life and there is always the possibility of being released if they are on good behaviour whilst they are in jail. Just having the best lawyer representing you already elevate your status to a different degree. Other than people respect you because you have the money to hire these lawyers, people also will say you are guilty as hell as you need the best lawyer to get you off (some lawyer jokes there for you)

As for my firm, we have been selling ourselves as a medium size legal firm which is actually a small sized one which can turnaround a property files from the property purchase agreement to the loan agreement to any type of solutions which you may need with regards with property. From the cheapest houses which are low costs, as it is known here to the high end type where the real owner rarely made an appearance. From one file to bulk files which you need to settle within 14 days. We are ready for it. But, in these coming years where there might or might not be a property sale slowdown, we have line up ourselves to be more. Like Islamic finance and intellectual property. Survival of the fittest is always the key to good business.

February 16, 2009

Do blogs need to be legally compliance?

When I started out blogging, although I come from the legal profession, I thought there was no legal tangle which might put me in harms way as I intend to blog about my career in one and about relationship in the other. As I began to understand how blogging work, which is like any other mass media, I tried to learn on my own on how to make sure my blogs are not going to jeopardise me in getting into any legal problem. I thought blog was just a place where you can write about anything and then people will come to see what I have written without much of a hassle. 

Then when the reality of what owning a blog means, which are a place where you can do all that but you have to advertise it, make it interesting and then aggregate the blogs for the world to know your existence, much like any other mass media, I started to play along like any other bloggers. Borrowing from other websites things like pictures, music and ideas. As I am an intellectual property lawyer here in Malaysia, I did give credit where credit is due but it was not as clear cut as it seems. Some pictures are not actually owned by the website which you took it from and you are still open to litigation.

As much as litigation on website is not easy, technology which is supposed to help you do whatever you want by being anonymous or being another country while you show the picture of that celebrity couple stealing a kiss, you can also be found out using technology. They can now traced the culprit of such infringement using free technology provided on the web. An IP is an address and now google have also let you track down your old friend like CIA looking for terrorist. Even a court summons are now allowed to be served on the intended recipient  The way of the process server seems to be numbered (like Seth Rogan in Pineapple Express) as internet technology becomes the way of the world.

So, to any Malaysian who are interested, I am actually promoting an event by a friend of mine aptly titled Blogging & Law, which covers the topic of the law of blogging. It is not specifically for Malaysian bloggers as every blogger know that being grounded in one place does not mean you are not subject to the law in another place. This conference happens on 14th March 2009 and the media sponsors are some of the most influential media partners such as MalaysiaKini and Nuffnang. It is organised by eLawyer.com.my, an online portal for lawyers. If not for the Bar Council's Annual General Meeting which happens on the same day, I would be the first there but I will only be able to attend the tailend of it. Do go and learn your rights. The flyers is down below :-

or visit eLawyer.com.my  for more information. And did I mention that it is a FREE seminar?

February 15, 2009

A historical site gone wrong

On Saturday, my wife and I was in a town which is deemed to be where Malaysia had it's birth. It was also where the Malaysian royalty supposedly came from. Malacca was the name of the town in English but it's true name is Melaka. The name came from a tree where a king called Parameswara fell asleep and dreamt of a deer fighting off dogs which is considered as an omen of good things which could happened there. That was when Melaka was found and then became a port where the East and West met. 

That was hundreds of years ago. Now, Melaka is just a small town where it's histories are taught and learnt areound the world by all Malaysian schoolchildren who will then goes to visit all these places that they read. Most schoolchildren in Malaysia including me will at least have one trip to Melaka to see the A'Famosa, the Stadhuys, the Hang Li Po well to name a few. All these will be visited again and again by the Malaysian people and the tourist from all over the world. Most of these sites can be found in the centre of Melaka town and it was seen the minute you turn a corner at one point of the town.

The announcement of Melaka as World Heritage City

Ten years ago, Melaka started to lose it's lustre. These old buildings are just old buildings no matter it's history. People come and go but never really contribute to the coffer of the local council and the state government. So, a rejuvenation was seen made by the state government. There was an empty filed just before A'Famosa where it was used by the locals to have picnics on weekends and where most tourist use it as a landmark to get their bearing of the Melaka town. Just of the field, the Melaka straits can be seen.

The Melaka government started something a few years ago. They built a mall on the field. A sunken mall where people can come buy stuff as there is now a Carrefoure to serve the people. The river is cleaned up as much as they can and through the nine kilometer that served as a boat cruise area, they also tidied up it's riverbank. These was all done with a lot of haggling with the shopowners who some of them protested as they had to change the way they have done business all these years. Last year, a coup de grace happened when Melaka together with Penang were admitted into the acclaimed UNESCO Heritage Site where a city is considered as a historical site like anyone of those found around the world.

The A'Famosa

As I mentioned earlier, the solution to turn the town from a normal historical site to a profit centre by the government has been critisised by a lot of people. When I came to the town on Saturday, I didn't understand at first why is it so. The town looks clean. There was ample parking and the tourists seem to have come back. There are these trishaws which dominates the scene with their yellow colour as they were sponsored by  a telecommunication company in Malaysia which use them as advertisement boards. 
Then, when I start to take out my wallet, I realised that coming to the town can cause one a few hundreds ringgit in parking fees, entry fees and all the normal amusement park charges. I also realised what the government is doing was turning it from a cost centre where they have to bear the price of everything for the people, who might or might not appreciate it, to a profit centre. That may be the price that one has to pay for a historical site to be preserve. It just a shame really as I heard even the pyramids of Giza might also be taken off the site that one can visit as the cost of maintaining them has become more and more expensive.
The newly added mall which is NOT historical at all

February 14, 2009


I scratch your back and you scratch my back.

The mantra of doing business in Malaysia and a few other Asian countries (or is it the world over?). Anyone who points out that this is happening in any of these places, will be shunned and condemned, especially if those who are alleged to have done the crime have the weight to do damages to those that have alleged. The damages can mean making life harder for those allegor by the alleged using the authority that they have to delay, coerce or even threaten the allegor's life, even. It can also mean the allegor will never get the service that they come for in the first place. It may even mean that the alleging party may have to pay a heavy price of being labelled as a whistle blower.

This business of backscratching have actually been going on for so long as anyone can remember.I have a few stories which has even been picked up by the current Chief Judge of Malaysia who was a lawyer once who knows the going on at the registration counters in Malaysian courthouses. There is this one notorious courthouse which are so well known for 'losing' the files of lawyers which will magically appear if the lawyer play ball. I know a few staff who has been running this scam for nearly more than 15 years and it seems they are still there. From what I know, the situation there is still the same although a few years ago the local Bar Committee did ask lawyers to list out the cases which they have come across but it seems no one wanted to shake the boat.

Thanks for the scratch, I'll do you later...

The problems with lawyers, we are too jaded and know too well of the time and effort needed for a court case to come to trial and accusing someone of wrongdoings will not solve a client's problem. I just hope this new Chief Judge will look into this matter as he did say he knows of such matter taking place, which was then used back against him by the oppositions in Parliament to accuse him of malpractice which make him unqualified to be the Chief Judge of Malaysia. It seems that he dodged the bullet as he managed to explain how he obtained the knowledge.

This backscratching problem is rampant throughout the justice system as the police were too well-known of practising it in which I knew a few officers who are given the a few nightclubs to look after which will then give some area for them to hangout in. Traffic polices are so well known for this that they have to run a campaign which targetted traffic police in which they wore a button stating that they don't accept bribe. How about politicians? If their sons or daughters or their siblings control a particular company which then get a contract from the government or one of the government controlled company, it is considered as not a bribe but just a bit of a conflict. They even let that company get the contract as long as the politician do not sit in the meeting which approve the awarding the contract. If the politician is the leader of the other politicians in the meeting, would anyone DARE not approving the contract to the company the leader has connection with?

Here, we are so good in doing these backscratching deals we have taken it as part of our culture and even if there are new government, which are willing for a total revamp of the 'system', it is business as usual. From what I know, the current government of certain state are doing what has been practiced long ago as they also need to satisfy their supporters.

Of course, all these are hearsays and I don't have proof and none of you should ever take me seriously as I will deny knowing it firsthand, if ever these stories ever come to light...

February 13, 2009

Dream Job : Fantasy v. Reality

I have always wanted to be a restaurant owner. Scratch that. Not a restaurant. More of a cafe. Just a small one for me to oversee. In a place where I can ogle people. I would go there, have a cup of my favourite coffee and eat my favourite food. A place to hang out for friends. To entertain the clients of my firm. To have dinner at night. And if it is really well run and promoted enough, I might even manage to turn a profit. That is the fantasy part of the dream job.

The reality? When I have the cafe, especially when it is just a small one, I have to manage it properly. I have to hire someone to cook, to be the waiter and I have to entrust the job of managing the place to someone who is trustworthy enough as he or she will handle the till collecting the money from paying customers. I have to wake up at ungodly hour, drive to the fish market (which usually have the best fishes at these ungodly hour) and I have to drive these things to the cafe, open up the cafe and wait for my manager to come in, discuss any problems before finally I can have that coffee. Why I do this by myself? As a practical person, who owns a small cafe, I couldn't possibly afford to hire someone to do all this, unless I have  siblings or relatives (which I don't) whom I can trust to do all this without bothering me. I will also need to at least make sure the cafe can survive pass it's first 3 months before it can recoup the investments I put in.

How about a job requiring you hanging out at the small island like the one offered by the Australian government? Isn't that something? Lounging around doing nothing? Alone? Where you have to bear elements by yourself. Much like what the character of Tom Hanks had to endure in the movie Castaway. Of course it will not be as bad as that as you will be given enough supply of everything and the people who send you there will know your location. But, still... Maybe it is more for beach bum who always know how to entertain themselves but it is so not for me.

How about being the richest man on earth? Like Rupert Murdoch. No worries? Yeah, right...

Socialite? Like Paris Hilton. Even if you don't wear an underwear becomes a hot topic.

Million dollar selling artist? Like Rihanna and Chris Brown. Happiness is so far away, it seems.

Am I someone who don't know how to have fun and always see all things in black and white? I think, it is just practicallity. Getting a dream job is one think but living the dream job is another thing altogether....

Where everyday you wake up to this will it mean you have your dream job

February 12, 2009

Ethics for lawyers

There is this test nowadays for pupils in chamber or lawyers in training to be taken by them within the 9 months in which they basically become intern to senior lawyers who have more than 7 years of experience. These test was not made compulsory during my times 10 years ago when it was my turn to do the internship. 2 years after that I started to hear horror stories from my juniors of the high passing mark that is required to pass the exam. They will have to also suffer through various courses call ethic courses and then sit for the exams with questions like, if a client who is a well known criminal ask you to hold some money for you, should you do it or should you report him under the newly enacted Anti-Money Laundering Act?

Why did the Bar Council of Malaysia require this ethic course to be the yardstick for a chambering students to pass their internship and make the grades as lawyers? Isn't there a module in the law schools of the universities which hand out scrolls to law graduates which teaches them ethics that lawyers should live by. Apparently there are so many laws for undergraduates to learn when they were in their alma maters that they were not thought on how to deal with their clients. Even the best law school in Malaysia only teaches the technical side of meeting a client, asking them questions and interviewing them regarding their case. As the employer to a few of these chambering students, I also lamented the fact that I lose their services a few days within the 9 months they are attach to my office but I think it will benefit them in the long run.

Basically, what usually happens when a law graduate comes out of the univesity, the moral compass that he or she use to conduct the business of lawyering, especially those who manage to open up a legal firm on their own, is their own (however skewed towards immorality that may be) or some of their immediate peers and family.

That is why, there are so many cases of lawyers being found guilty of criminal breach of trust and some got suspended or lose totally their license to practice. These was not a good image that the Bar Council of Malaysia wants the public to think of lawyers. Be that it may, lawyer jokes are a dime a dozen in media and around the world that lawyers do not anchor their morality to anything, even. It is something commendable for them to fight a losing battle as everyone who can think will answer the question that I ask earlier, even if they are not a lawyer, by saying "I'll hold the money for you, as long as I get a percentage out of it?"

Whither ethics?

February 11, 2009

Do bosses have Monday blues?

Every Monday and every other week on the Garfield comic strip, there will be the cry of "Monday blues". The traffic jam. The need to wake up early. The lousy boss(es) - which I may be one of them, no matter how nice I act. The gossiping colleagues. The disgruntle clients. The office. Basically, everything. Who wakes up on Monday with a smile on their face?

The bosses I guess. Or is it?

For us, whom people call 'the boss' which is basically saying that we own the place of business, we are also apprehensive when it comes to the time that we have to go to work. When we know that we are needed to solve those matters which are not solvable by our hired hands. When the time are tough and the cash flow are bad. When we have to let go of someone. When we know there is a difficult matter for us to solve and it will involve some shouting and even harsh words. When we know that it is a bad decision but it is the only decision that we have to make. When we need to say goodbye to good employee. When we need to tell them bad news.

So, in short, as much fun as it is to be 'the boss', we may not be where everyone would wants to be. In this time of economic hardship, which thank God, we are still not there yet, we just hope our small office will still be there when the time will come for things to be more economically stable. We were employees once, although in my case just for a little while before I struck out on my own, and Monday blues were the norm. We just hope that the employees out there will come to appreciate it as not having any Monday blues at all may mean not having work at all.

Which is bad...

February 10, 2009

Business travel

Do you travel a lot in your business?

If you are the type who are given the blank cheque of choosing your own travel mode in whatever type of class, you are lucky until you feel the pressure of the work as you globetrot all over the world. Some are given this liberty to travel as the business require it. The other type is to fulfill the need of their clients who are trying to break new market in faraway lands. Some will just do it to start anew. Some just couldn't travel unless their private jet is the one which transfer them from one place to another. Remember those CEOs of auto industry in the United States? Hmmm, no wonder their products are not well bought and well used. Even they are not willing to stake their business on them.

In my early days of being a lawyer, I was a trial lawyer. I have this one partner who is good in doing criminal trial and our office is in this small town called Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, just 50 kilometer or 30 miles of Kuala Lumpur. We don't have any other branches although we travel the whole of Malaysia which is in length nearly 800 kilometer or 500 miles. As we were a very lean business model. Basically, we do everything. We are the marketeer. We are the executor of the work. We manage the office. We do trials. We interview the clients. We visit prisons. We are basically THE FIRM. I mean, where we are then, that is the firm. We don't really need the office but as a base.

So, we have this one state down south called Johor Bharu where we travel nearly every other month which are  located 300 kilometers or 170 miles from our office. My partner was a former public prosecutor from that state and his contacts were good as his friends whom he had worked for nearly 10 years would tell him of any new criminal who needs representation (it is not a breach of any rule as we are only told of the case and we still have to meet and market our service). Some cases are referred to by the court itself as they always need someone to represent a client who cannot afford a lawyer especially in capital punishment cases. Yes, Malaysia is a place where the whole country subscribe to the death penalty in cases like drugs and causing death.

How do we travel in those days? I have this small car which was the first car which my parent kind of gifted to me as my graduation's gift. They actually was hoping i would stay in this small town but I then moved on. The car was my transportation to go around the town and then I also used it to travel inter-cities. We would drive out of the town at 4am, in which I would drive first then if I am too tired, we would change places and we would stop in a few places to pray and to eat breakfast. Court starts at 9 o'clock in the morning and we usually arrive just in time. By evening we would be back in our own town and sometimes into office doing work. I think I did drive a few time while I was sleeping. I know, crazy, but I am too stubborn to stop over and have some sleep before going on. Luckily and thank God I am still alive today.

That was my business travel experience. Today, my travellings are mostly for holidays and if I am doing any business travel, it will be on a plane somewhere to close deals. I did have a few years of travelling around the world when my politician client keep on insisting me accompany him as an excuse for him to bring his other 'business associate'. Read whatever you will in that...I may tell the story about it one day.

February 9, 2009

You learn, you work, you die...

This may be a simplistic view. I mean, of course there are more to life than this. But, career-wise, are not all the three things here are that that you do when you  go through life. Most goes through all this and does not even make a dent in the annal of history except to those who are really close to them. Not really an accomplished life right? Is it our own fault or does the world reduce us to this. I mean, just going through it and then not really realising our other choices? I mean, there are those who do other things and not following all these sets of rules which societies have set. I know that some just try to trudge along life without making a mark and some just trying to survive.

Let us look through a person's life. You will start formal learning when you are 6 and earlier for some. You finish learning when you are 24 for some but earlier for some other. You then put your shoulder to the grind before you may or may not retire at 55 or 65 or whatever age the government said you should retire, whether you are ready for it or not. Then? You wait to die... 

Some do it with all the pomp and flourish of an accomplish person. The respect they managed to accumulate when they were working. They were a head of department. They were a chief executive officer. They were the leader of a political party. They were the university's rectors. They have managed to be an accomplished criminal. They were lawyers who conducted trials all their live until they die. They were the one who grace silver screens as if they are invincible until suddenly their name are never heard again.

Insert a few things like exceptional holidays, building a home and family but the two main factors in your life will be learning and working. So, are you enjoying what you do. In this short life, have you found your ideal work and are you doing what you have wanted all this time?

If not, shouldn't you?

Stuck here all your life? In my case, it is the most likely scenario... 
(but I am enjoying it)

February 8, 2009

Too many off days...

Today, in Malaysia will be another Monday which is not going to be a working day. Not in every states in Malaysia but nearly in every one of them. As the federal government have decided Thaipusam is a holiday for federal territory, it can be considered that Malaysia close down for this event. Thaipusam is a religious ceremony which is widely taut as the ultimate 'to see' things for those who would like to see how Hindus in Malaysia put themselves through pain to achieve a religious vigor.

Anyway, the issue here is not about the event which made headlines all around the world. The issue here is about too many day off from work. Another long weekend as Thaipusam fell on a Monday. Even if the working class wouldn't feel the Monday blues, I bet they will feel the Monday blues on the Tuesday they came back to work. And feel even worse when with this too many holidays their workload becomes more and more as they have to push the time to finish their work which sometimes more than their working hour. If they are clerks and they do some overtime, of course they will get paid for that time spent. If they are executives, rarely there are any overtime paid by their employers.

Most lawyers have deadline when they took up the job. They have to file certain documents within a certain timeframe. They have to go to court if the state that they work in is on holiday but the state where the court is located is not declaring that day as a public holiday. Those who don't go also have their own deadline. Filing of certain documents in the land office to ensure that the particular registration is within time and their client will not incur any additional cost. For those who are called 'corporate lawyer' who lives in the upper echelon of lawyerdom (as in lawyer kingdom), their time will be more at the mercy of their client who will want them to be at their beck and call as they are being paid in hundreds of thousands and sometimes in millions according to the complicity of the issue at hand. 

Back to this long holidays and long weekends issue. There are too many of them and it actually is killing the productivity of the workers. They of course are glad of the time off but the same rule applies. They need to see through all the work that had been entrusted to them without fail. I have a few good employees who do their work without considering the time of the day. They would come up to the office, work late, take the job home (if permissible) and even do all this on holidays. If not for them, I don't think there would be a proper working office in my legal firm.

February 7, 2009

It is already the second month of 2009...

...what have you been doing?

Achieve anything new business-wise or personally? Did you get that raise? Did you manage to retain your old job? Did you make that call? Did you manage to get that corner office? In this time of hardship, are you still where you were one year ago? Better pasture? Better benefit? Better worker?

All new years have passed. The Muslims new year in December. The Christians or the one where everyone has acknowledged as theirs. The Jews new year. The Chinese new year.

Resolutions have been made. Business also have close their account for last year. The profit are being calculated. The tax for last year are tabulated and if it can be lowered (through whatever means) it is being done.

All these have passed. Any changes?

Did you achieve your milestone yet?

February 6, 2009

Why I am in private practice

I never planned to be a lawyer although the signs are there since I am in school. Arguing non-stop and the word "exactly like a lawyer" to describe me did not make me think I will become one. Being in science stream classes and the pressure from my parents to become something more commendable like a doctor had also nearly derail anyone's plan to turn me into one of those who was said to be paid the best fees, once. Even when I was in law school, I was still not sure where would I be when I graduated. Whether I would join the service, becoming one of the minions of the government and hoping that all the perks of government servant will satisfy me or working for some company drafting agreements for the benefit of others.

If you ever really read my posting, I have told countless accounts on how I came to be where I am today. I started small, with no help or contacts which is the norm in this country of mine and I was not really good in lawyering. Being a businessman and a marketeer or salesman, is another thing. If an eskimo need a refrigerator, with me, he would buy it because of not of the refrigerator but what he will receive if he buys himself that fridge. Heck, he would even buy the things to be stock in the fridge from me double the price although he can get fishes by fishing just outside his igloo. As what I am saying is my trade secret, let us leave it at that.

Anyway, I am still doing what I am doing because I love the law but more for what it can help to do to my personal wealth. Although in Malaysia most lawyers becomes rich when they use their legal upbringing as a stepping stone into a political career or a business career (but mostly the former than the latter). I still think there are money to be made in becoming a good legal firm by strengthening your knowledge in the many various subject of law such as intellectual property, real estate, banking, Islamic finance and civil litigation, to name a few. In the blue ocean theory, law is a red ocean business. The different between one lawyer with another is discernible and will always be very vague. Technology and system is the key to gain more market share and no one can deny that this business which people rarely think in their equation of doing business can make people as rich as they one, without even having to have any ancillary income.

Here's to all the lawyers around the world, specifically those in private practice

February 5, 2009

Never stop being a lawyer

Time is hard for a business owner and may be getting harder still as we go deeper into the year if all the news are to be believed. I am still trying to be positive either in the business front or the personal front as I have committed myself to my business and had invested a lot in it. Reading the news and talking to bankers have made me more worried and doubt is starting to crept in whether being where I am is the best place to be. I want to keep on practising as a lawyer, owning my own firm and although even if I have to work hard, I know at the end of the day all the money paid to the firm, I have a stake in it. Nowadays, the clients of my firm cannot be quantified as individuals as most of them are companies which we are a part of their panel of lawyers. I didn't set out in my earlier year as a lawyer to be like this.

I started my business as a lawyer in 1999 when Malaysia just came on the back of a recession where businesses failed and people were feeling the pinch. As a new graduate and who had just finished my chambering which made me qualified to practice as a lawyer, I did not really understand the hardship that was faced by the nation. I was still living with my parents, driving their car which I treated as  my own and I was set to be a legal assistant (a term use to describe a lawyer who work for someone else here in Malaysia) in a small firm in my town just south of Kuala Lumpur. I chose a different path when I didn't accept the job but took the chance of plying my trade and pursuing what I wanted most. To look like that lawyers in LA Law which I saw years ago and to be the best damn lawyer that small town have ever seen performing in the courtroom day in, day out. 

Alas, you can say I sold out. I became the lawyer who only stay in the office, goes through documents everyday and never really meet my client unless it is something that any one of my hired hands cannot contend with. Which is rare. They are now better at lawyering than me and I sometimes rely too much on them. But I do dirtied my hands on occasions to ensure I don't lose my touch. I sometimes question why I am still a lawyer although I sometime had the chance to change my course in life and become something else. I don't think I will ever become something else other than a lawyer. Maybe I will add on to my resume but the part of being a lawyer will always be there. I actually even accept the fact a lawyer never retire and I am hoping to still have a valid practising certificate when I die.

Let just say I am tenacious when it comes to being a stubborn person

February 4, 2009

Film industry

Malaysia film industry to be exact. I was quite sceptical with it for a while. The same star. The same slapstick humour. Until I was proven wrong.

I am always too engrossed in the film industry of the Hollywood kind which I thought was the benchmark of film industry the world over. That was the case between 1990s, when I watch any Hollywood film of any kind as long as it is in the Top 10 box office of that week. Seriously, I watched every single one. I had even had this one session where I would sit in my room for 8 straight hours trying to finish the VHS that I just rented from the video store and then I changed these VHSes for another batch for for late night viewing.

I think I know now why I am wearing such a high-powered lenses. That was how much I love Hollywood films. I even watched bad movies like what M. Night had to offer before he became famous for the 6th Sense or what Leornado DiCaprio looks like when he played a mentally unstable boy with Johnny Depp (it was not that bad though as DiCaprio was nominated for an Oscar for it) or even those Kid n Play with their own brand of 'black' humour. Award shows and television shows on movies became my favourite sources to see which movies were worthwhile for me to rent although it become redundant as I still watched whatever movie which came out of the 'dream factory'.

I was asked by one of my client to attend this premiere screening of a local Malaysian movie last Saturday as my client's company had bought 10 seats and they need to fill it up. The legal officer of the company was the one who ask me to do her a favour as she was flying off to Siem Reap for a short holiday making her unable to attend the event. My partner's birthday was the next day but as we were told by the one who was trying to get us to go that one of the company's highest ranked officer we have been trying to meet for awhile is there, we relented. As the event started at 8pm, we targetted by 9.30pm we could make our escape when the light in the ballroom are dimmed for the film to be shown.

In the first hour, the producing company, cast members and the director of the film was on hand to talk a bit about the film and how the film was conceived. The director is an Indian from India itself and had been famously made a film using a few storylines which intermingle and finally culminated in one finale. My partner and I both did not watched that film although it was said to be as good as 'Love Actually' in which there are similarities to it. As for the actors, all are well-known in Malaysia especially this one guy who is getting married to a famous dancer who is much, much older than him. So, he was going to be the next actor-actress couple in the making. The lady beside us keep telling us that she is jealous of the would-be bride. Hold down your horses (panty?) auntie.
Anyway, when the film was shown, I didn't go out the ballroom until the film was truly over unlike my partner who already had some birthday event planned with her girlfriends. Even she was reluctant to go but as it was, it was her birthday. I really enjoyed the movie. It was an action comedy with just a dose of slapstick which was not incoherent like some of Seth Rogen's movies or too gross like the Farrely's. And it may be safe to say it has some elements of Fargo or those movies made by the other famous Hollywood siblings. I truly enjoyed it and is even willing to go and see it when it is properly released in 3 to 4 months time (it was a charity event after all).
There may be hope yet for Malaysia film industry...

February 3, 2009

Social gathering as marketing tool

I have always have a short attention span when it comes to meeting client in a formal setting. You are asked to sit at the conference room, CEO's inner sanctum or even corporate offices where you are not in control of the unfolding event at hand. It will be the same if you are hosting people in your own office. Although I have an office which have all the best features to entertain any type of client which also even have a penthouse overlooking Sunway Pyramid, a mall with a view, it doesn't help makes meeting less stuffy.

My personal favourite in first meetings have always been social gatherings as no one has an advantage over the other person. Even if the host is the one you are targetting as your would-be client, there is always a chance for you to disarm him if you know how to. In social gathering, unless there are VIPs who are cordoned off within a certain area, there are always chances for anyone to get to know somebody else within the place.

In Malaysia, there seems to be a few social gatherings for businessmen to mingle around and even there are quite a few where it was not intended for business but is used as such. Open houses, which have now extended to all the cultural and religious events, although it was exclusive for Eid Fitri in the early part, are events which are great to intorduce oneself informally before you go to the office's of those whom you meet to further strengthen the relationship. I know that sometimes it does not work out but nearly 60% of those people whom I meet at such events manage to garner me a few long lasting businesses.

Last week saw me going to one such event as I was asked to attend an event which was intended for the sports club of a client. The event was a film premiere of a local movie. This client is an old client but they are changing it's top management. This was where my partner and I gather information informally on who's who as we were placed one table after the VIP tables and we make a point to introduced ourselves, albeit briefly. Next week, the new CEO of that company will start work and we will also wiggle ourselves to getting an appointment through someone we met at the event.

How's that for throwing two birds with one stone?

February 2, 2009

Job Satisfaction

Everyone crave it when they start to join the workforce and those with ideal will even be prepared to not work at all unless the job can fulfill certain ideals that they have. They would love to have their own room. Have their own secretary. Have their own people to direct to do this and that. All this if you are targetting to be someone who works from the office. How about those burger seller? Those fishmonger? Those pilots? Those artistes? Don't they have their own benchmark on being successful and having a job satisfaction. Some who do seems to have everything, jobwise that is, still does not feel satisfied.

So, what is job satisfaction? Being satisfied with the work you are doing day in, day out or being satisfied with all that your current job is offering? Or even on a particular job you are doing, which sometimes are not necessary mean work? I mean, does doing a particular job correctly and on time will make you satisfied with your job. Or you just take a day at a time to get that pay cheque at the end of the day? Even if you own your own business, like me, I do keep track of my spending as I will only take my pay at the end of the month like any of my employee.

All are true in a sense. You crave for a time for you having not to have to work and just relax at home. Waking up at 10am or even later everyday. Travel the world. Doing nothing but still getting paid. Some already reach this plateau by being born with a silver spoon. But looking all around the world, those who have this privileges (Paris Hilton anyone?) still work for her money, although she does have a personal worth of utmost envy. Don't she want to just hang back and let her money, which comes from her studio album, handbags and her TV shows (movies?).

I think it is about filling your time. My own mother should have retired long ago and this is a bone of contention between me and her, but she still goes to work everyday where she supervised her small landscaping company and her small plantation. An ex-politician I know is currently building a development company and is also involve in plantations. Both of them have enough money to just sit back and enjoy. I think to both of them, job satisfaction is more important than just going to the office.

What about you?

February 1, 2009

Starting from scratch

You have just been laid off from work or you have just graduated from a university or a college with a scroll in hand. What do you do? Prepare a resume telling people of how you can fill the void left by it's former employee and receive the paltry sum that most employers are willing to pay these past few years. Or start a business by being your own boss without having a safety net to fall back?

In my earlier business life, I have chosen the latter. I have decided to jump into the bandwagon of owning my own business albeit by looking for an established lawyer who need another lawyer as his or her partner. I found my former partner offering his business alone after quitting his Deputy Public Prosecutor post on his own 6 months before I met him but with experience rivalling anyone who has been a lawyer for quite sometime. He was offering his service as a criminal and divorce lawyer. He actually takes on any job that comes his way and when I offer to freelance for him, he said yes. Imagine that, a fresh graduate who just got his license supposing to help him on cases which may send the client to the gallows if not done properly.

Although during the year I started my practice was not the year of doom and gloom such as now, I actually have no idea what I was doing. None in my family is or was a lawyer. Distant relatives are just lawyers who work for people who don't really know how to run a legal firm. I was as clueless as anyone who just been hired on his first job. So, I actually went around asking people whether what I did was wise or just plain stupid and whether it is too soon. I parted ways with most of those who I asked for advice to ensure to keep me with my feet on theground and to slap me on the face once in a while to ensure as such.
I can say that starting from scratch without guidance is not easy. I had to follow all the lead that I got without fear or favour and sometimes it lead to nothing. I followed one of my uncle, travelling with him on road trips which he liked to take, which is a disguise for his escapade with his mistress, and covered for him with my auntie. As he was a developer that particular time, he promised to give me legal jobs. Did I get it? Nope, just  a whole lesson on how to travel to southern Thailand without a passport and even a warning from my auntie that she knows what I was up to.
But, the advice that my uncle said to me still stick to my mind until this day. He told me to keep all my friends I knew along the year close and to remember that these friends may be my ticket to wealth as I have still along way to go especially when these friends get to certain positions in their line of work. Thanks to this particular advice, I do get jobs from my friends who became head of department and even successful businesspersons on their own.
Maybe, those trips are not so useless after all...
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