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.
Neoh Kai Sheng, a final year student at the Faculty of Law, University Malaya
Neoh Kai Sheng, commonly known as Kai Sheng is a final year student at the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya. In the eyes of individuals who have yet to make his acquaintance, Kai Sheng is placed on a pedestal, boasting excellent academic records while dominating the mooting scene. However, behind these staggering accomplishments, lies a genuine, multifaceted individual who began his journey in law school with humble beginnings.
Hailing from Chung Ling High School, the self-proclaimed ‘nerd’ was surprisingly introverted, interacting mostly with people of his own race while abstaining from joining extracurricular activities. During matriculation, Kai Sheng decided to take a leap of faith to broaden his horizons by mingling with more diverse groups and being more participative in events. This transformation was catalysed by his new-found hunger to overcome mediocrity, leading to the outstanding Kai Sheng we are all accustomed to now.
Being a semi-introvert seemingly does not bode well with the notion of a mooter. That was what Kai Sheng thought as well. He never envisioned himself being a mooter until he participated in the Novice Moot Competition, as a last-minute addition to his team. Kai Sheng’s anxiety was balanced with the comfort of knowing that this was merely an internal competition with fellow novices on the same level of expertise. It was then when Kai Sheng became cognizant of his untapped potential in mooting due to the encouraging feedback received from the judges.
Kai Sheng along his fellow teammates in the International Maritime Law Arbitration Moot (IMLAM) 2018
The spike in confidence propelled Kai Sheng to dive into more mooting competitions. However, this burst of inspiration was hamstrung in his most memorable mooting experience, the International Maritime Law Arbitration Moot (IMLAM) 2018. Being the youngest member in his team, Kai Sheng constantly felt inadequate, believing that he was the Achilles' heel of his team. Despite his insecurities, Kai Sheng persisted. His persistence in overcoming the trials and tribulations was not in vain, as his team broke into semi-finals, and he bagged the Best Oralist Award in the general rounds.
He attributed his perseverance to two main factors. Firstly, his innate belief that one must give all one’s got to reach their goal. As he had already spent copious amount of effort researching, drafting memorials and perfecting his script, this sunk cost would be in vain should he give up halfway. Secondly, supportive senior teammates, who balanced constructive criticism with emotional support. They would package critique as an opportunity for him to grow, illustrating the mechanisms to overcome his problems while still reminding him that he is an outstanding mooter. As a plus point, one of his teammates was a good listener. Although she could not always provide resolutions to his predicaments, the act of her listening and validating his concerns provided some catharsis for Kai Sheng.
Kai Sheng and his team in the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition
Following his success in IMLAM 2018, Kai Sheng’s team emerged as the First Runner-up in the Regional Rounds of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition 2018 in Beijing amidst stiff competition from all over Asia Pacific. He continued his spectacular performance at Oxford, before bowing out in the quarterfinals of the International Rounds. Continuing UM’s tradition, his team bagged the Best Memorial Award, which was previously dominated by Singapore Management University.
The team that brought UM its first victory in the UM-NUS Friendly Moot Competition
Another impressing feat of his was winning the 15th UM-NUS Friendly Moot Competition. His team created history by being the first UM team to defeat National University of Singapore, aside from the hybrid competition organised last year where both schools shared the top prize. The dream remained a dream until Kai Sheng and his team finally smashed through the barrier. The cherry on top for Kai Sheng was bagging the Best Oralist while his team won the Best Memorial Award.
Rewinding to 2016, winning the Novice Moot Competition may pale in comparison to his other mooting achievements, but it depicted his high aptitude in mooting, one that came into force a few years later.
Some of his other notable achievements include being crowned the Cyberlaw Moot Competition 2019 champion and best oralist in both the general and final rounds. Besides, he also triumphed over various competitors in conquering the Moot Court Competition on Competition Law in 2018, bringing back the championship while being awarded the Best Oralist in the Final Round.
However, the euphoria of winning is not a guarantee and losses remain part and parcel of mooting. The dark side of mooting is that the efforts invested do not always translate to celebration. Although the feeling of losing a tournament is not crippling, it does linger. His thoughts would linger on his performance that could have been executed better, even months after the tournament. The losses were demotivating to Kai Sheng, but he opted to learn from his mistakes, coming back stronger in his next submission. The privilege to represent this decorated institution does have its demerits. As Kai Sheng strives to defend University of Malaya’s impressive reputation in the mooting scene, it regrettably piles on the pressure for him, and sometimes adds to the disappointment of a loss.
If he could have turned back the clock, Kai Sheng would have returned to Georgetown more frequently to spend time with his family. As most of his time was spent on mooting, this deprived him the opportunity to be in proximity with his loved ones, especially those who were ill.
Had Kai Sheng not joined moot, he would have chosen to partake in more student activities, learning skills like networking with not only peers but also superiors. He believes that he lacks the requisite networking skills, which could have been refined earlier on.
Kai Sheng alongside his members of the UM Consti Team 2017/2018
That being said, Kai Sheng is far from a one-trick pony. While being involved in the Competition Law Moot and IMLAM, he also held the position of Vice Director of the University of Malaya Consti Team. Surprisingly, he joined the Consti Team with little knowledge on the actual role of the society. Fortunately, the members of his tenure were very accommodating. His involvement equipped him with a myriad of skills, as he learnt the intricacies of event management, where every minute detail counts in ensuring its success. Besides, he harnessed invaluable interpersonal skills through his tenure. He realised that communication between members and including them in a general plan or direction is of paramount importance. Admittedly, being in a position of power is no simple task, but he is grateful for his tenure and all the invaluable lessons.
Apart from personal growth, his journey through the Consti team had apprised Kai Sheng of the importance of constitutional literacy. He noticed that most discourse in regard to constitutional issues stemmed from uninformed individuals who reduced the constitution to a mere buzzword. As the majority of current issues we face pertain to the Constitution, the importance of the Consti Team and the events organised by them cannot be understated. Therefore, he encourages the members of the faculty to actively participate in the events hosted by the Consti Team.
As outstanding as his accomplishment may be, both as a Vice Director and a decorated mooting powerhouse, what truly sets Kai Sheng apart is his courage and tenacity. Venturing into both fields without any prior experience or knowledge, he went to great pains in becoming who he is today. This is a testament to one of Kai Sheng’s main beliefs, which is to never give up. Hailing from a vernacular school, his command of English was a constant pain in relation to mooting, but he chose to refine his grammar. Being the introvert that he is, he struggled to speak in front of a crowd. However, with his slow but steady pace during practice, he had finally accustomed himself to being comfortable in speaking eloquently in front of a crowd. As a firm believer that it is never too late to flourish, he succinctly summarised his attitude by purporting:
“If you have achieved nothing in the 20 years of your life, you may achieve something when you reach 21”.
Kai Sheng’s success does not halt at his extracurricular activities, as his academic achievements nevertheless fall within the realm of a high achiever. He has received the Dean’s List Award thrice, in semester 1 of 2016/2017, semester 2 of 2017/2018 and semester 2 of 2018/2019.
Kai Sheng trounces this seemingly impossible task of juggling his academics and mooting by spending his time as efficiently as possible. Although most of his time is dedicated to mooting, he does not forgo being attentive and participative in tutorials. He also ensures that his assignments are up to the mark. The process of studying is then made easier since he is already familiar with the syllabus through tutorials. The amalgamation of his work ethic and high carry marks resulted in his outstanding academic achievements.
Kai Sheng performing guitar during talent night
When dealing with stress, he chooses to converse with his close friends or isolate himself to a game of DOTA. Besides socialising with friends and facing his virtual demons in DOTA, Kai Sheng eases his mind by playing the guitar. Inspired by Sungha Jung, a guitarist who, in Kai Sheng’s opinion, ignited the trend of playing fingerstyle guitar, Kai Sheng picked up the guitar at the age of 15 and was in love with it ever since. His hidden musical talent was unearthed when he performed during Lawnite and became the Runner-up of the Talent Night organised by the Law Society.
Kai Sheng is not impervious to the stress that is attached to law school, as he still falls victim to the occasional feeling of wanting to throw in the towel. However, Kai Sheng reverts to his belief that investing so much effort into a goal should only mean we follow through with it and not let the effort go in vain. It will be a waste to finish so many assignments and memorise a bunch of cases only to give up halfway.
The inevitable opportunity cost to his thriving achievements is forgoing time in some of his friendships. At times of self-contemplation, he would be reminded of his various pockets of friends whom he has grown distant with. Lucky for Kai Sheng, he is blessed with friends who sympathise and accommodate to his hectic schedule. In fact, Kai Sheng attributes part of his academic prowess to his friends in law school.
“My friends helped me immensely in my studies, especially during moments of peak workload. They have been there to take over when I am stretched with work. So, I could not have managed all aspects of my commitment without their selfless help, and I am extremely grateful to have them. It is important to have friends! You help each other”.
Kai Sheng and friends as the representatives of the Kyushu University Exchange Programme 2019
Kai Sheng’s stellar accomplishments granted him the opportunity to be selected as the Malaysian Representative in the Kyushu University Exchange Programme 2019. Although Kai Sheng had met students of other nationalities in mooting competitions, the chance to experience the nuances of diverse cultures only occurred in this exchange program. Besides socialising with friends from the Philippines, Germany and Japan, Kai Sheng was intellectually stimulated by the symposium they attended. He recalled:
“Students from each university had to present their own topic of research. On our part, we presented mainly on the religious aspect of our country, to introduce the multicultural background of our society. Also, the topics of our discussion included: Copyright in Manga and Competition Law issues with Artificial intelligence”.
Sightseeing was also an unforgettable experience for him, being able to satisfy his wanderlust by touring around every nook and cranny of Kyushu.
As for the future, Kai Sheng would ideally venture into practice, though he is malleable in his upcoming plans. He envisions gathering enough experience to be able to return to his roots, and to open his own law firm in Georgetown. His hometown has a more relaxed work culture, one that he would prefer in the long term.
To summarise, Kai Sheng is the embodiment of a work ethic we all dream of having. He is a committed individual who will only settle for mediocrity after trying his very best. He believes in the virtue of trying, as there is an intrinsic value in it. He believes that trying enables us to identify areas in which we have a high aptitude in, allowing us to excel in said area.
The introverted boy with the poor grammar who chose to stray away from activities in high school is now the shining star of the law faculty. This transformation not only warrants respect, but serves as an inspiration to all members of our faculty. Kai Sheng is the living proof that regardless of one’s beginnings, you can reach the sky if you set your mind to it.
When asked on a message to future law students, Kai Sheng implores them to work hard in overcoming their flaws. As he succinctly summarised the pillar of his life mantras:
“Your flaws should not be a hurdle in attaining your goals so long as you put in sufficient effort in overcoming it”.
Written by Luc Choong.