What it takes to become a barrister

By Danielle Sendou Ringgit

THE CLOSEST I EVER got to the idea about what a lawyer does is from the US television series, ‘Suits’. Apart from the entertaining and amusing bromance between Mike Ross and Harvey Specter and their liberal usage of complicated yet sophisticated lawyer-y terms when discussing or sometimes arguing a case (which I think is pretty awesome even though I can only sometimes understand half of it), the other reason for me to watch the show is Donna Paulsen, Harvey’s feisty secretary, played by actress Sarah Rafferty.


HONOURABELE JUDGES: From left; Datuk Panglima Sulong Matjeraie, college principal Elina Tiu, and Patrick Maddams

ESTEEMED GUESTS: (From left) Datuk Panglima Sulong Matjeraie, Segi college principal Elina Tiu, and Patrick Maddams


On August 20th 2014, Patrick Maddams and Datuk Panglima Sulong Matjeraie were invited to give a talk on ‘Becoming a Barrister: Insight into the of Study Law in the UK’ by Kuching Branch of the Advocate’s Association of Sarawak (AAS) at Segi College, Sarawak.

“What do you think a barrister is and what do you think a barrister does?” Maddams asked the crowd at the start of his talk.


Maddams during a Q&A session

Maddams during a Q&A session


Generally, a barrister is the person in charge of presenting a case to the court on behalf of their client, as explained by Maddams, the sub-treasurer of the Inner Temple.

Generally, the role of a barrister is to appear before the court to represent their client through written legal documents provided by the solicitors to the very best of their ability. The difference between the two is that the latter is in charge of dealing with the client but is not allowed to stand before the court.

“But you have another duty to complete. You have a duty to represent your client, and you have a duty to the court, never to deliberately misrepresent, never to tell a lie,” he said.

As the sub treasurer of the Inner Temple, it is Maddams’ responsibility to handle the day-to-day management of the Inner Temple.

The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple or commonly known as the Inner Temple, is one of the four Inns of the Court (The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, and The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn).

Basically, the Inns are a professional association in England and Wales for barristers in which they have supervisory and disciplinary functions over their members. The Inns run an extensive programme of training for students, pupils, new practitioners and established practitioners.

Together with the Bar Council and Bar Standards Board, the Inns of Court also perform supervisory and disciplinary functions over student members and hold the exclusive rights to call candidates to practice as barristers at the Bar of England and Wales.

According to Maddams, the qualification for students who want to become a member of the Inner Court include having a law degree but for those who are studying another subject in university like Science or English, they must do a one-year conversion course related to law.

Provided that a student has a law degree or has done a conversion course, they are then qualified to join the Inner Court as a member where they have to sign a declaration stating they do not have any criminal record or filed for bankruptcy.

“As young lawyers here in Sarawak, or perhaps some of you who come and study with us in England, you are going into an international community,” he said.

“But, do you know who Malaysia most famous member?” he later asked the crowd.

Many may know him as the Father of Independence, but back then, before he became our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman was a student studying in the Inner Temple.

Now, in the present, also a member of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple is Datuk Panglima Sulong Matjeraie, who was also a former Malaysian Superior Court Judge.


Sulong during a Q&A session

Sulong during a Q&A session


Of more than 30 years of legal and judicial experience, Sulong served as a member of the Malaysian Judiciary for 15 years, beginning as High Court Judge from 1988 to 2007, a judge of the Court of Appeal Malaysia from 2007 to 2012 and a Federal Court Judge from 2012 until 2013.

As of February 2013, he was appointed by the Prime Minister as one of the four eminent persons to serve on the Judicial Appointments Commission.

Recalling his past, Sulong said he was not always involved with law throughout his career.

At the young age of 17, he was appointed as a probationary Sarawak Administrative Officer (SAO) in the Sarawak Civil Service in 1964. And then at the age of 23, he became the youngest District Officer (DO) in Malaysia when he was appointed the DO of Bintulu.

He, like Maddams stressed that anyone wishing to become a barrister has to balance between staying loyal to the client and at the same time abiding by the law in court.


ILLUMINATING: The speakers along with the participants gather for a photo shoot at the end of the illuminating talk

ILLUMINATING: The speakers along with the participants gather for a photo shoot at the end of the illuminating talk


For those interested in pursuing a law programme at Segi College Sarawak, email [email protected] or call 082-252566 or visit the campus at 211 Jalan Bukit Mata, Kuching.
To know more about the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple check out their website at: http://www.innertemple.org.uk/

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