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.
Nurul Syafinas binti Ibrahim, a final year student at the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya
Nurul Syafinas binti Ibrahim, or more fondly known as Syafinas, is a final year student of the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya (UM). She is exceptionally well-regarded in the Faculty as the President of the UM Law Society 2017/2018. A charismatic leader whose definition of “being at ease” is to be “always on the go”, Syafinas was a mooter who represented the Faculty in the Novice Arbitration Moot Competition (NAMCO) 2016 and the International Maritime Law Arbitration Moot Competition (IMLAM) 2017. Currently, she helms the University of Malaya Law Review’s Online Editorial.
Syafinas recalled her first week in law school — her first step into this realm of excellence — was an intimidating one. However, it was not one that she lives to regret. She chose to embark on challenges with an open mind and push herself beyond the confines of comfort. A pivotal moment in her life was when she realised that “it did not matter how we started our journey, but rather that we are all here now, terrified and one step closer to achieving our dreams. So, I dived right in.” With that, she took her first dive by joining the UM Law Society.
Drawn to the aura of professionalism the UM Law Society portrayed, Syafinas decided that she wanted to be a part of its Executive Committee. Starting off in the Publicity Bureau, Syafinas considered herself to be an embodiment of the UM Faculty of Law as a whole, and it was this pride that groomed her to become a more polished individual and carry herself in a poised manner. Supervised by Liew Yik Kai, the then Secretary of the society, Syafinas learnt to work with a myriad of people from different backgrounds and to reach a consensus through active discussions. Syafinas also divulged that Yik Kai placed a high level of trust on her bureau, but at the same time took his time in guiding them through every step of the way. To this day, Yik Kai remains one of the key people who had helped shape Syafinas into the person she is today.
Syafinas (centre) with the High Committee of UM Law Society 2017/2018
Having gained a special Law Society family in her first year, Syafinas received strong support to run for the role of Vice Secretary in her second year. She stepped into the role of Vice Secretary envisioning the possibility of shaping other individuals to become better versions of themselves, the same way she was moulded during her first year. Although it was not the smoothest of journeys, her position as Vice Secretary taught her priceless lessons, such as striking a balance between her many commitments and her studies. She learnt the merits of carefulness and meticulousness, especially with her words and actions, as she realised that everything comes with its own set of consequences.
As she recalled, Syafinas had a hectic second year in 2016. Besides her important role in the Law Society, Syafinas was juggling between participating in a major mooting competition and being the Head of Publicity of the UM Moot Club. Despite all her responsibilities, Syafinas did not slow down. She felt that having a full schedule was part and parcel of university life. It was this learning curve that motivated Syafinas to run for President of the Law Society in her third year.
Syafinas (Bottom row, fifth from the right) with the UM Law Society 2017/2018
After an arduous battle where she faced a strong opponent, Syafinas managed to garner enough votes to successfully become the President of the Law Society in her third year. When running for office, she and her High Committee members had a goal — to positively impact the Executive Committee members who were under their wings so that they, too, can embark on their own amazing journeys in law school. Looking back, she succinctly described her time as President as “blessed”. Throughout her presidency, she was not only surrounded by her High Committee members with whom she worked well, but also an Executive Committee that was brimming with potential. Throughout the multitude of challenges she faced, her High Committee members stood as a strong support system, and for that she is truly grateful. The biggest lesson she learnt from her three-year experience in the UM Law Society was from the plethora of people she met — “Who taught me how to separate myself between work and play, and that there is a time and place for everything.” It was by this principle that she managed to juggle a part-time job at a nearby café, despite the hustle and bustle of her commitments in the Faculty.
Syafinas (bottom row, first from the right) with her NAMCO team mates in 2016.
Other than her involvements in the UM Law Society, Syafinas also took part in NAMCO in 2016 and IMLAM in 2017. Starting her mooting journey with a national competition, Syafinas recalled the experience as a relatively easy one, as the competition covered the areas of law with which she was already familiar. Although the team did not have an official coach, they did have the experience of working with various senior mooters and Mr Raphael Kok, who is now the mooting coach of the Faculty. These people played an integral role in guiding them through their first competition. Despite not bringing home any awards for NAMCO, the experience not only opened her eyes to the mooting culture, but also taught her critical research skills and honed her ability to work under pressure.
IMLAM, on the other hand, was in a league of its own. Seeing that it was an international moot competition and that it covered an area of law foreign to Syafinas, she found it to be very complex and technical. Although tough, IMLAM exposed her to opponents and judges from around the world, whilst her teammates and coach helped push her to excellence. Despite not achieving any awards in IMLAM, her team managed to proceed up to the quarter-finals, besting the University of Sydney along the way, who were the past champions of the competition. In her opinion, mooting had not only taught her better structure when it comes to her work and time management, but has also built her confidence to speak in front of a crowd and improved her oratory skills.
Syafinas (third from the left) with her IMLAM team mates and coach in 2017 (Picture Credit: UM Moot Club)
As a final year student, Syafinas’ parting advice to all law students who want to be active and excel during their time at the university would be — “It is okay to be afraid, as long as you don’t let that fear take over your life.” In her opinion, some fear is good as it acts as the push factor for a person to be better and strive for much more. However, she iterates that there is a fine balance in reaching an optimum amount of fear. She believes that this is because “too much (fear) can make you paralysed and unable to even take the first step towards something new”. Our person of the month sums up her thoughts on this with some words of wisdom - “No matter how intimidating something is, just remember that there are so many other people in the room who feel the exact same way as you do. So, take a leap — trust me, it’ll be worth it.”
If Syafinas could be turn back the clock to the beginning of her journey in the Faculty, the one piece of advice she would give to herself would be to not take life too seriously. In her words, “hard work and putting in a lot of effort into something is good, but going with the flow and knowing when to enjoy the moment is even better. It helps us to stay motivated and not burn out throughout the process of working towards our goal.”