Cassandra Lee knew early on in life that not only did she want to be a lawyer – but that she wanted to specialize in litigation. In this interview with Asia Law Portal, Lee describes what inspired her career in law, how her practice humanizes the litigation process, her advice for aspiring lawyers, and how social media plays an important role in her legal career.
Tell us more about your law practice as Partner with Thomas Philip Advocates and Solicitors
I am part of the firm’s Corporate and Commercial Litigation team where I also helm the firm’s Contentious Probate portfolio. The firm prides itself as the largest dispute resolution only firm in Malaysia in that our core practice is focused primarily on litigation, arbitration and mediation. My practice areas include bankruptcy & insolvency, contractual disputes, corporate & commercial litigation, estate & probate claims, shareholders disputes and trusts. I am also experienced in cross-border estate disputes.
Collectively as a firm, we strive to provide clients with services and solutions which are practical, commercially sound, innovative, personalized and cost effective. This is the core principle of my law practice at Thomas Philip. I very much share the vision of our founder and Managing Partner, Mr. Mathew Thomas Philip, that at the heart of our practice, we should pride ourselves not only on excellence in advocacy and trial skills, but also in recognising the importance of solutions that preserve relationships and serve our clients’ long-term interests.
In your practice profile, you indicated that you seek to humanise the litigation process. Can you tell us more about this?
This ties in very much with the fact that providing clients with solutions that preserve relationships and serve their long-term interests is what I strive for in my practice. I believe that a lot of times, especially as litigators practising in fast-paced, high pressure environments, we can get caught up in billable hours and wanting to increase speed and efficiency in our work at the expense of forgetting that we are in the business of servicing or dealing with people with potentially life-changing legal problems. This is especially so in my practice involving estate disputes.
As clichéd as it sounds, I think a lot of times litigators get caught up in the litigation process with one end game in mind, which is to win. In my experience, it is not uncommon to wonder if sometimes, litigators are advancing their clients’ interests or their ego-driven interests. I seek a practice where I am not only litigating disputes but am also resolving them.
You studied law in Cardiff. What was that experience like? What inspired you to become a lawyer? And what recommendations do you have about legal study and a future law career for aspiring lawyers?
I often say that my 4 years in Cardiff were some of the best years of my life. It was initially a challenging experience given that I had to adapt to life in a different country, with a different culture which of course seeps through the classroom. For example, my British classmates were often far more vocal and critical in their responses in tutorials. It was something which I took some time getting used to.
I have an uncle who is a litigator and who has pretty much encouraged my interest in becoming a lawyer from a very young age. As I understood more about the practice of law, I knew advocacy was something I would enjoy very much given my talkative and argumentative nature! I knew from very early on that I not only wanted to be a lawyer, but a litigation lawyer.
My advice to those pursuing legal study and aspiring lawyers is to put some thought into why would they want to be a lawyer. Hopefully, it is not because they want to make a lot of money because I think if money is the motivation, then there are other better and easier ways to make money than being a lawyer. To me, legal practice is a calling and a service profession. In most, if not all practice areas, you will deal with real people with real life problems. You need to recognise that your work may have serious consequences on these people’s lives.
Social media, particularly Twitter, has always been more of my personal platform for stress release. My Twitter account started with just my closest circle of friends and served as a platform for me to vent about my daily struggles in life and in legal practice. As I viewed it to be somewhat of my personal journal shared only with just a few close friends, my tweets are often raw and honest as to how I feel at a particular point in time.
I don’t know the exact point in time where I started to gain a small (and increasing) following of fellow lawyers and aspiring lawyers who seem to appreciate my musings on life and legal practice.
I see social media as a great platform for lawyers to not only market themselves but a great platform for sharing experiences and learning from each other.
The same goes with my recently established blog. It was something I wanted to do for many years now but never felt ready enough to do so until recently. The responses, messages and feedback I have received on Twitter encouraged me to believe that I have something of value to share.
I hope to continue blogging about issues which are relevant to legal practice and close to my heart as well as my personal experiences in legal practice. I hope to continue to be as honest as I am with my struggles and lessons learnt throughout the years because I see a gap in the profession which I can and want to fill. I was once a young lawyer who wondered if I was the only one struggling. I hope to fuel more discussion through my writings on certain issues relevant to legal practice in Malaysia and the changing times.