As Office Parrots blog outlined last month, two “seasoned Malaysian legal professionals with more than ten years’ experience [recently came] together to launch TheMalaysianLawyer.com. Founded by Lee Shih, Partner with Skrine, and Marcus van Geyzel, Partner with Peter Ling & van Geyzel, who’s also founder of the widely-read Malaysian law blog LoyarBurok.com , TheMalaysianLawyer.com was founded to provide more “Malaysian law content online, and…more information on the legal profession” as van Geyzel outlined.
As a follow up to that Office Parrots interview, here’s more from van Geyzel on the inspiration for the blog, social media for lawyers and more:
How did your experience with LoyarBurok inform your decision to found TheMalaysianLawyer?
“Over the years of running LoyarBurok, I’ve seen first-hand the hunger for content about the Malaysian legal industry. LoyarBurok is an open platform, and we have lots of non-legal content, but whenever an article is published like a discussion on the relevance of the Bar Council (in two parts: Part One and Part Two , or law firm internships, or even how to dress like a lawyer, there has always been lots of interest and buzz. There’s such a lack of information about what it means to be a lawyer in Malaysia that I thought The Malaysian Lawyer would be well-received. There’s nothing else like it.
“One of the major inspirations for me to start The Malaysian Lawyer with Lee Shih was the regular comments I received from foreign lawyers and clients about the lack of Malaysian legal content being published. Many of the big law firms have their official newsletters being circulated, but clients often say that the content is very dry, and would be more suitable to be read by lawyers really. Clients are more interested in practical or commercially-tuned advice instead of reading a case summary, or an “article” about a new law which really just copies and pastes the sections of the relevant statute without much value-added analysis.
We expect The Malaysian Lawyer to publish a variety of content, and it should appeal to lawyers and non-lawyers, law students, and also a varied section of the public from big business owners to startup founders. It’s going to be great fun, and hopefully educational for the public as well.”
What are your predictions of the future of social media for lawyers in the Asia-Pacific Region?
“It’s obvious that there has been an increase in social media presence for lawyers and law firms in APAC. Some jurisdictions may not be too active due to the language barriers, but those jurisdictions which primarily use English in the legal industry should see even more social media growth in 2016. Most of the growth so far has been led by the big international law firms, who really are light years ahead in terms of publishing content on their websites and on social media. Eversheds notably has several Twitter accounts for its different practice areas, and even has one for trainees. It’s stating the obvious to say that social media is crucial for engagement with clients and other lawyers, as well increasing transparency in the legal industry, and encouraging knowledge-sharing which will benefit the public.
The big Malaysian law firms are quite embarrassingly behind the times when it comes to social media. Even the self-proclaimed innovative and modern big firms have zero social media presence. There’s still the generation-gap issue of not being comfortable with sharing too much publicly — knowledge is seen as too valuable to share, and is hoarded in in-house “knowledge banks” to be shared only internally or with paying clients.
There aren’t that many individual Malaysian lawyers who are active on social media anyway, so the legal fraternity is very much still living a largely technologically-backward existence. Other than the human rights lawyers who are used to being in the media and the public eye, how many Malaysian lawyers have a social media presence? I recall attending a legal forum on social media laws where three of the four panelists didn’t even have active social media accounts!
Since we launched The Malaysian Lawyer, we’ve seen quite a number of young lawyers starting or reviving their own blogs, so maybe 2016 will be the year that the Malaysian legal industry catches up with technology and social media — though of course we’re not claiming too much credit for that.”
How has social media affected the fortunes of Malaysia’s law firms, both large and small?
“I mentioned above how large firms are non-existent on social media. For small firms, it’s definitely leveled the playing field and allowed them to compete with the big boys. I remember in 2002 when I was looking for a law firm to do my pupillage at, law firms didn’t even have websites. All the information I had to go on was contained in the big online legal directories, which only listed at most 20 law firms.
With social media, a small law firm can get its name out there much easier. Great quality content speaks for itself, and the internet isn’t overly swayed by whether the content comes from a small firm or a big firm.”
What inspired you to devote so much time to writing?
“I’ve been passionate about writing (and reading) for a long time now, even before I read law. My writings (legal and non-legal) have been published in many newspapers, magazines, and websites — from a serious legal column I ran for many years to editorials in men’s magazines!”
What advice would you give a law student about the future of law?
“I tell young lawyers all the time that this is a great time to be a law graduate. There are so many career opportunities within and outside of the legal industry. With the internet and social media, students have no excuse for lacking knowledge. There is so much information out there about every aspect of legal practice.
Lawyers now have to ensure that their advice is not just legally-sound, but also commercially-relevant. Clients are very knowledgeable, and can find out what the law is online, but good lawyers add value by providing advice which applies the law in a manner which advances the business interests of the client. Lawyers can no longer draw a line between themselves and the commercial aspect of a client’s business — “I’m a lawyer and give the client a written legal opinion, it’s up to the client what to do with it”. Those who are unable to bridge this gap between textbook law and commercial reality will find themselves left behind. This is particularly important as more and more non-lawyers provide legal-related consultancy via the many innovative advisory and consultancy structures which have been and continue to be invented all over the world.
It’s a very exciting time for the legal industry in APAC, and I’m sure the next couple of years will see disruption and innovation from all angles.”