*below is an interview from May 2022 when the Bertemu initiative was known as the KingsConnect program, Cason has now moved on to pursue the coveted BCL at Oxford University. The Tapir Journal wishes him the best of luck.
Who is Cason Yong?
Mr Cason Yong is the first esteemed guest of the King’s College London Malaysian Society’s- KingsConnect program. The program is part of my manifesto as the society’s newly elected President to allow current alumni an open insight into successful Malaysians in the UK. We are extremely grateful that Mr Yong has taken time out of his busy schedule to humour this interview and we thank him dearly.
Mr Yong’s experience in the legal field speaks for itself, he has worked as a paralegal in London at Keystone Law for over a year and had internship opportunities at multiple Malaysian law firms including Skrine (the 2nd largest law firm in Malaysia) and Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill (the 5th largest law firm in Malaysia) where he worked closely with the top lawyers in Malaysia.
Our guest is also an esteemed Mooter and has represented King’s in multiple prestigious tournaments including the Oxford International Intellectual Property Moot 2022 where he was the Grand Finalist and the No5 Barristers Chambers LGBTQIA+ Moot Court Competition where he was crowned Champion.
This skill of oral advocacy has landed Mr Yong a Mini Pupillage at the Chambers of Tim Amos QC here in London and gained a coveted position as a Student Advisor at the King’s Legal Clinic. He is also the President of the Malaysian Law Students’ Network, a group that has over 1.9 thousand members.
Without further introduction please enjoy this interview:
Seeing from your LinkedIn profile, you were previously employed as a paralegal at Keystone Law here in London. Could you elaborate your personal experience on how you acquired the job and any challenges that came with it?
I have applied to Keystone (and other solicitor firms) in first year simply to test the waters of becoming a solicitor. I had made a direct application to Keystone via their firm website after speaking to them in a career event, and they contacted me shortly after. I have to undergo three rounds of interview, with an essay assignment task to complete prior to securing the role. The entire process took 3 months or so, and I have gotten the job right before the pandemic hits.
In terms of challenges, I find the essay assignment most challenging. I was expected to provide an opinion draft to a client on an area of property law (i.e., co-ownership) that I am not familiar with at all, since land law is only taught in Year 2 at King’s. Within 24 hours of the assignment time-slot, I was required to equip myself with the fundamental principles of co-ownership and then provide a draft commenting on one of the contentious areas in that realm. It was definitely not fun to learn about the complexities of the law in a short timeframe under pressure, but it eventually went well, and the rest is history.
We’re interested in knowing more about the job scope and nature of working in specific fields of law. Can you explain what area of law you were working in and the specific tasks involved in that field. Additionally, would you recommend this area of law for people who seek a more flexible work life balance?
In Keystone, I assist senior partners in handling Prime and super-prime residential London property transactions. Most of our clients are international, and have included foreign royal families, esteemed political leaders, and successful business owners. The nature of the work ranges from advising high-net-worth individuals and property companies on property finance deals and residential development projects (e.g., the Old War Office Residences, Regent’s Crescent etc) and I also assist partners in advising banks and companies on the ability of BVI companies to enter into property and other transactions.
The main areas of law that I deal with are property, company, and planning law, together with occasional trust and probate matters that come along. I usually help with extensive drafting and research tasks, like drafting leases, contracts, guarantees, and preparing reports on title, opinion notes for clients, and research findings for firm partners. I am hugely involved in handling the conveyancing process of property transactions, either on behalf of the seller-developer or the buyer, where I work closely with the Land Registry and local authorities in London. I have also attended frequent client meetings, where I acted as a Mandarin/Cantonese-to-English translator in facilitating the communication between firm partners and international clients.
The workload in this practice area could possibly be more taxing than others because of the time-zone differences that you’d have to take into account when meeting with international clients, as well as the extensive communication you’re expected to undertake with the planning authorities and the Land Registry. However, I am fortunate to say that Keystone prioritises work-life balance considerably, and firm partners are generally understanding and accommodating in the sense that they do not expect work to be done after contracted working hours.
You’ve had some experience interning in a Malaysian law firm as well, can you elaborately candidly on the differences in between firms in the UK and Malaysia in your own personal opinion?
To be frank, I would consider UK and Malaysian firms to be rather similar in many aspects, but three differences stood out upon comparison.
UK’s work culture tends to be slightly more independent and individualistic, where you are expected to handle tasks on your own even at an early stage of your role (oftentimes with limited guidance), whereas Malaysian firms gravitate towards a more collaborative style of working, where you usually undertake tasks that form part of a greater project.
The UK firm that I work with engage with many international clients, thus the nature of the work is usually more diverse and exciting. Considering that London is one of the major financial hubs in the world, it is therefore not surprising that there are more opportunities to get yourself involved in large-scale, global matters with huge funds at stake in UK firms when compared to Malaysia. Whilst not to discount the amount of high-profile international matters that Malaysian firms handle, I’d consider the nature of the work undertaken by Malaysian firms to be slightly circumscribed to a narrower range. Issues tend to revolve around typical corporate/commercial disputes that may be less idiosyncratic when compared to work dealt with in UK firms.
While I appreciate that both Malaysian and UK firms increasingly prioritise work-life balance (WLB), I would think that Malaysian firms (possibly due to a deeply embedded Asian ‘hardworking mentality’) remain slow in ensuring better WLB for their associates. UK firms adopt a more welcoming attitude to embracing WLB, as reflected by their shorter and more flexible working hours, and their openness in discussing stress and mental health issues stemming from work.
What do you recommend for students entering the law field to brush up on most prior to a position in a law and how would you recommend preparing for this?
Cliché as it sounds, but I think commercial awareness and good drafting are key building blocks to a successful legal career. Knowing the law well enough may be the route to excellence in law school, but, in my view, legal practice is more outcome-driven which requires a certain degree of commercial sensibility. Thus, developing a solid understanding of the wider (social and/or commercial) context in which the different laws are positioned in would be a good head start for you in preparing for a career in law.
In terms of preparation, signing up for legal newsletters, attending extra-curricular seminars and career events, and undertaking internships/work experience in firms would surely be helpful. Speaking to people who have worked in/tried out the practice areas you wish to venture into is also extremely useful because not only do you get to acquire insider insights from people working in the industry, but they would also be able to enlighten you as to the practical reality of your sector-of-choice, which would be important in grounding your expectations.
*Thank you for reading and thanks again to Mr Yong for his participation.
Written by Jerome Bun,
President of the KCL Malaysian Society
Editor-in-Chief of The Tapir Journal