About this segment: Person of the Month is an initiative by the University of Malaya Law Review which aims to feature a prominent member of the University of Malaya’s Law Faculty towards the end of each month. The purpose of this segment is twofold. Firstly, to give due recognition to the contributions of our student leaders and secondly, so that their achievements might inspire other members of the faculty towards greater success.
Sahira Sha’ari, a final year student at the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya
As the spark of light in the dim halls of the Faculty, Sahira Sha’ari has never failed to cheer her fellow peers up. Known to many as Sahira, her multifaceted achievements speak volumes, cementing her as an all-rounder in juggling leadership roles in student bodies and moots simultaneously. Soon to be stepping out of law school, Sahira has set her eyes on either an overseas fellowship program or a paralegal position in a law firm before delving into the civil litigation field.
Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Sahira reflected that as much as she enjoyed studying science, her experience in both English and Bahasa Malaysia debates during high school sparked her joy in analysing arguments critically and allowed her to learn the art of persuasion, which justified her cause in venturing into this field of study. “It also taught me that there are always two sides of a coin – alike arguments presented in court. I guess this intrigued me to pursue law in order to further develop these skills and knowledge I already have under my sleeves and how they would work in reality,” she recalled her starry objective.
Sahira expressed her interest in mooting early in her first year and, since she has debated before, she thought that mooting was somewhat similar and equally fun to debates. She then said, “I was half correct on the former, although mooting is almost alike debating, I’ve come to learn that mooting pays more attention to the legal substance and court etiquettes, as compared to debating. Despite the inability to throw banter in mooting which, to me, is better, I believe both forms of activities have their pros and cons and, ultimately, it just depends on your passion and which one interests you more.” Hell-bent on leaving a mark in the Faculty, Sahira decided to participate in the Novice Arbitration Mooting Competition (“NAMCO”) after consulting her seniors.
Sahira (middle) with her NAMCO teammates, posing with the Best Memorial Award
Adamant to be selected into the NAMCO team, Sahira readied herself by participating in the Novice Mooting Competition (“NMC”) where she showcased her abilities alongside her co-counsel, Mira Mashor, and managed to reach the semi-finals of the competition. It was her golden ticket in securing her NAMCO dream, aside from succeeding in the interview. For her first major mooting competition, team University of Malaya (“UM”) emerged as the top four teams in the nation and bagged the Best Memorial Award. Although her feat in NAMCO was sufficient to many, she begged to differ. “I was not able to satiate my hunger for greater success. I felt like I could go further and transcend my former achievement if I tried out for another international mooting competition. NAMCO, to me, was only the beginning of my humble mooting career,” she explained.
Setting her sights further, Sahira participated in the 11th Monroe E. Price Media Law Moot Court Competition (Beijing Regional Rounds) held at the University of Renmin, China. Sahira and her teammates emerged as the First Runner-Up in the region. This ultimately qualified them to the much-awaited International Rounds in Oxford. Unfortunately, the monumental stress attained from preparing for the International Rounds resulted in her weight loss and neglect of other commitments. Nevertheless, it was a dream come true for Sahira to moot in a top tier international competition at the age of 20.
Sahira (third from left) in a photo session with her teammates and their opposing counsels at the International Rounds in Oxford
All her hard work paid off when Sahira and her team qualified to the Quarterfinals of the competition and emerged as Top 7 out of 42 teams. This achievement was momentous, but she regarded it as an experience to learn from mistakes. “When I went to Oxford, I found out that many of the other mooters who carried the same role as I did, did not extensively touch on the difficult issue at hand and instead, focused on other strong points. Some barely acknowledged the weak points despite being the elephant in the room,” she said. She admitted that they felt accomplished in that sense after some judges complimented that their research skills were one of a kind. They managed to astound the judges with their bold and creative approach in addressing the difficult issue in spite of its high risk.
Sahira submitting before the judges
According to Sahira, her experience in mooting essentially shaped the way she views things and daily issues. “It’s like a spectrum, there is no such thing as one answer to every question, and there are countless possibilities of grey areas to consider,” she emphasised. Mooting also taught her to trust people whom she has never worked with before and, in order to win the game, her team would require her to be a strong team player. It is safe to say that teamwork can definitely make the dream work. Aside from the technicalities of mooting, one will sometimes require a significant amount of moral boosting and she was lucky to have a strong support system to comfort her during her times of need. It is also equally essential in life that, when things get out of hand and once they are resolved, you will need to learn to let go and learn from your shortcomings.
Besides mooting, Sahira also ventured into student bodies and landed herself in the position of Vice Secretary of Asian Law Students’ Association (“ALSA”). It was a huge step forward in developing her passion for ALSA, as she has always been interested in working with the acclaimed international organisation whilst catering to the needs of the students. Being selected as Vice Secretary gave her the confidence to run as the President of ALSA as she still had the burning desire to help the students in nurturing their potential within the organisation. Initially, she contemplated between furthering her career in mooting or running as President. Much to her relief, her run for the Presidency was one of the best decisions she has made in law school.
Sahira giving a speech during the Cultural Night of the Student Exchange Programme
As prestigious as it may seem, being President was not all sunshine and rainbows for her, especially when her personal goal must also be parallel with the committee members having the same vision and passion for ALSA. Another challenge was in regard to juggling everyone’s needs and interests, specifically from the delegates, students and faculty. According to her, everyone has different standards and interests, and to cater to all would be tiresome and highly impossible. Nevertheless, she persisted and put up a good fight. “I’ve learnt from being President that it’s impossible to have everyone to agree with you and to like you despite whatever efforts you have exhausted during your tenure. Thus, it’s important to put these negative feelings aside, and to stand firm with your principles in order to focus on your priorities.”
Sahira handing the token of appreciation to Mr Gurmit Singh, a guest speaker and an environmentalist
When it comes to the life lessons learnt during mooting, Sahira claimed that she did not fully comprehend the extent of the necessary sacrifices that needed to be made until she was involved with Price Media. According to her, most aspiring mooters are intrigued by the prospects of travelling abroad, but on the flip side this comes with strings attached — the pressure of living up to the Faculty’s expectations, added responsibilities and commitment. She added, “Not being a mooter or a president doesn’t make you a lesser person in general. I’ve learnt that ‘having it all’ does not make you feel in control of your life or be more worthy of a person.”
In navigating through the academic demands of law school, Sahira admitted with a hint of regret that her hectic schedule resulted in her having minimal time to focus on her academic commitments. Nonetheless, she puts emphasis on proper time management and studying smart. At the end of the day, it all comes down to their own grit and cutting out all forms of procrastination. She further added that it is also important to ask yourself at least three questions in the pursuit of self-fulfilment — what do you want to achieve, what are the stakes at hand to achieve it, and how will it help develop your character as a law student? She advised that acing law school may be everyone’s goal, but one can always ace it in different ways, through various courses and avenues.
Sahira with her Price Media teammates, Iqbal Harith and Lee Suan Cui in Oxford
When asked about her life motto, Sahira revealed that it changes in accordance with the task she partakes in at the time. Currently, she holds firm to the understanding that we must detach from past regrets and uncertain future events. In addition, always focus on the ‘now’ and at times, do take a step back to breathe and reflect. Only then will you have a clearer view of your destination. She stressed that her ability to practice a strong work ethic prevails over any other achievements in her curriculum vitae — with her exceptional work ethic, she will always try to give her best, regardless of the significance of the task.
Written by Karim Ariez. Edited by Zafirah Jaya and Qi Hui.