Soh Lip Shan, a final year student from the Faculty of Law, University Malaya.
Soh Lip Shan, adoringly known to many as Lip Shan, is a final year student from the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya. Like any Penangite, a bowl or two of mouth-watering authentic Penang laksa and cendol will always have her reminiscing her childhood home. Her undying love of reading fantasy novels, especially the Harry Potter and Game of Thrones series, and thrillers penned by Jeffrey Archer is balanced out by her interest and occasional practice in playing the piano, cross-stitching, and gaming.
Lip Shan, upon being crowned Prom Queen, during the annual Tuanku Bahiyah Residential College dinner.
More often than not, those who never tried conversing with her will think of her as ‘cold’ and ‘unfriendly’. Unbeknownst to many, she is really just reserved and awkward. She later discovered that dressing up and shopping to look presentable help boost her self-confidence. More so when she gets to bask in the limelight of being one of the best dressed, like when she was crowned Prom Queen during the Tuanku Bahiyah Residential College’s annual dinner in her second year. Due to her initial fret on being culturally influenced by exaggerated portrayals and idealism of the Asian community, Lip Shan paced the lonely road of self-awareness just to find that she fits seamlessly into the stereotypical Asian traits since birth. Recalling her childhood memories, her parents told her that she would burst into tears when she did not obtain full marks for spelling practices. She then realised her subtle hints of kiasu-ness developed into her pessimistic and perfectionist traits which often cause her to despair whenever she could not reach her goals.
Due to the wide array of options available to Science students, Lip Shan initially sets her mind on becoming either a psychiatrist or anesthetist, but the nauseating dread of having to perform autopsies in the course of a General Medicine Degree was just too much for her to bear. Eliminating that option, she considered the profession of a psychologist — unconventional by Asian standards. Although the idea of runways and applause sounded appealing to Lip Shan, she modestly asserted that she lacked the height and appeal necessary prior to a modeling career. Shortly before she finished her Cambridge A-Levels, Lip Shan went for a Dermatoglyphics Multiple Intelligence (‘DMI’) Test, a scientific method backed by research of assessing a candidate’s abilities and potential career paths based on their fingerprints which reflects one’s genetic compositions. Law ranked first in both lists, an option which maximises her potential happiness and excellence. Despite having slivers of doubt regarding the accuracy of such test, she started contemplating the prospect of attending law school and thought it would be fun to try it out. Nonetheless, she expressed her joy and enthusiasm in opting for law, albeit the unconventional deciding factor, as the subject did pique her interest.
Lip Shan and her teammates during International Maritime Law Arbitration Moot (‘IMLAM’) 2019.
On her past experience in mooting, she expressed utmost gratification to the challenges it posed. Due to her strong distaste for stagnancy, she found the process of overcoming complex challenges in mooting exhilarating, yet the thrill of achievements short-lived. Although she admitted her dislike for things that take time to master, she found mooting to be a rare exception to the usual premature give-ups. Along the way, she found tremendous joy in mooting. Having not foreseen the opportunity to moot at an international platform and to coach juniors in the ‘Route to Moot’ programme, she remains ultimately grateful to the faculty for the trust vested on her. The support system and friendships built from mooting are deeply cherished.
Lip Shan also credited the patience of her coaches — Marcus Lee, Mr. Raphael Kok, and Mr. Simon Wood — in guiding her until the crucial end, a tutelage unmatched and appreciated. She had the honour of working with profound teammates in multiple moot competitions, all of whom she deeply appreciates to this day for their patience and willingness in guiding her throughout the journey. The team synergy led to multiple feats, Lip Shan and her comrades were the Champions and recipients of the Best Memorial award of the Tun Suffian Moot Competition (‘TSMC’) 2018; first runner-ups of the International Humanitarian Law (‘IHL’) Moot Competition 2019 during which Lip Shan also bagged the Best Mooter award; and octo-finalists of the International Maritime Law Arbitration Moot (‘IMLAM’) 2019 during which she was ranked the overall 12th best mooter. As much as her journey in mooting was beautiful and memorable, it was also painstakingly challenging. Regrettably, Lip Shan often succumbed to the insecurity and fear of disappointing her coaches, given their detailed effort in training her. Mr. Raphael’s encouragement for her to join other moots after IHL 2019 added fuel to her already burning flame of passion in mooting and prompted her to participate in IMLAM 2020.
Lip Shan and her team during the Tun Suffian Moot Competition (‘TSMC’) 2018.
During her mooting days, she learned a plethora of new things. To summarise, she highlighted a few tips and tricks, the most important being to familiarise oneself with the script. In the course of mooting, one should always converse with the judges whilst keeping eye contact. Visualise from their perspective to better understand and address their queries. One can also learn to gauge whether judges are following the submission via observing their facial expression and body language. Next, she noted that logic always prevails; to never give a hard pill to swallow even if the law is draconian; and to make use of reasonable creativity when the law is not favorable to one’s case. In an attempt to be impactful, a mooter should place more weightage on their strongest points instead of overwhelming the panel with too many arguments. Holistically, she believes that mooting helped her grades soar by enhancing her legal application skills.
In keeping her anxiety at bay, Lip Shan treated every round as if it was her last. In a round against Hong Kong University during IMLAM, it occurred to her that her team might lose out and upon accepting that bitter fact, she gave her all, minus the emotional turmoil of attempting to maintain her track record for future selections. For the very first time, she felt that she engaged more with the panel than worrying about her possible blunders. Even though her journey was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she fondly recalled her greatest takeaway from the feat: she found comfort in her own skin and became a more outgoing and outspoken individual — a contrast of whom she initially was.
Lip Shan and her Moot Club committee members.
Aside from balancing her academics and mooting commitments, Lip Shan was also the first female Director of the Grand Asian Chess Challenge (‘GACC’) in 22 years and the youngest Director of Moot Club for the 2017/2018 tenure. Acknowledging the rocky start of her GACC tenure, she still gracefully pulled through with her team. When asked about her source of motivation, she revealed that it was her burning desire to overcome her shortcomings, be it in mooting or leading an organisation, which allowed her to execute her duties well. Similar to her take on mooting, she admitted that leadership is one of the many fields she forced herself into to improve her interpersonal, event-planning, and coordination skills. Albeit her introverted personality, she stepped out of her comfort zone and gave the opportunities a shot. Lip Shan also conceded that part of the reason why she took up the leadership roles was due to her desperation in proving herself, as she observed that introverts have been underappreciated in the faculty. Although she was thankful to Yik Kai, the previous Vice Director of Moot Club, for nominating her as a candidate for directorship, she was initially uncertain of her capabilities given the controversy of upholding two directorship positions. Despite her disposition, the assurance and faith of the previous Moot Club board moved and motivated her to continue her stride. She revealed that her proudest achievement was the harmonious relationship she fostered with both her committees. She took a softer approach by treating them as equals and checking up on them to work out difficulties together.
Whilst balancing her leadership roles, she disclosed that her life was fairly unorganised. She found herself struggling to complete her tutorials, she dozed off in class, and her GPA was also the lowest in her four years of studies — ranging from 3.30-3.35 for both semesters. In rebuilding herself, she acknowledged that the main cause to her downfall was her inability to accept that hard work is usually proportionate to academic results. Given her smooth-sailing life prior to law school, she realised that she took her exemplary results for granted and was subsequently taught a difficult lesson involving hard work through her failures. In an attempt to maximise her productivity, she refrained from utilising social media platforms over the years. She only decided to opt into the platforms this semester for the sole reason of capturing some passing memories in the faculty before graduating law school — that was until the Movement Control Order crushed her opportunities. Upon smoothing out the creases, her academics and overall prospect started to move uphill, she received the Dean’s Award during the first semester of the 2019/2020 academic session and was nominated as one of the finalists for Anugerah Tokoh Siswa 2019 — an award engineered by the Ministry of Higher Education for student leaders.
Lip Shan standing proud with her High Committee of the Grand Asian Chess Challenge (‘GACC’) 2018.
Adding to her extensive list of achievements, Lip Shan also committed herself to an internship in the Dispute Resolution department at Thomas Phillip Advocates & Solicitors after her third year. At the beginning, she was given a few research questions daily to complete. She was initially worried about not being up to par with the usual standard but was later reassured by the experience that practice makes perfect. Similar to many, she believes that the most daunting part of research is to obtain relevant supporting authorities within suffocating time frames. Starting with Google as the first point of reference, Lip Shan often seeks to gain basic understanding of the specific areas of law and the controversies surrounding them. However, if it is readily available at hand, she would refer to annotated statutes textbooks to pinpoint landmark cases. Subsequently, she would comb through legal databases for cases, especially LexisNexis and Current Law Journal. From her experience in analysing case laws complemented with the rigorous practice during mooting, she is able to better distinguish unfavourable cases when deemed necessary.
Understandably, the constant effort in pursuing intensive research is draining, and Lip Shan gladly attest to that. After going through new research questions, she would internally hype herself up to garner interest for the answer-seeking quest. Sometimes she would even pretend that she is the lawyer working on the case and that she must deliver to the client to keep herself going. To mitigate her stress, she would take breaks when things get overwhelming for her and despite having other pressing deadlines, she tries to keep them out of her mind to ground herself. By focusing on one task at a time, she gets to limit the unnecessary internal struggle that wears her out.
Aside from that, as a member of the UM Student Parliamentary Reformation Ad-Hoc Committee, she was also involved in drafting the rules to be observed by Student Representatives of UM. She considered her team fortunate as they had the Malaysian Parliament Rules (‘Peraturan-peraturan Majlis Mesyuarat — Dewan Rakyat’) as their point of reference, as that painted a clearer picture on how a Parliament works through the rules. Based on that, her team altered some of the procedures and regulations to suit the Student Parliament. Although the task was not as complex as rule drafting at the Malaysian Parliament, it did open their eyes to multiple facets of concern in rule drafting — particularly to strike a balance between rigidity and flexibility, order and democracy, and most of all its viability. Speaking from experience, Lip Shan noticed that rules for student bodies were made and subsequently forgotten. She still holds high hopes for the rules to be established and complied with by the Student Parliament one day, with amendments made after testing out the rules’ feasibility.
Lip Shan and her roommates during International Humanitarian Law (‘IHL’) Moot Competition 2019.
Despite the ironwoman front that she poses to the world, Lip Shan revealed that her Achilles’ heel has always been her fickle emotions. Her self-conscious nature crippled her into a vulnerable people-pleaser. At her lowest point, she lost sight of light at the end of the tunnel. Given time and acceptance, slowly, she got over it by adjusting her mental state. She credited her growth to her support system — her friends. One of them being her bureau-mate, Yee Lin, who took the time to meet her when she was off-duty in the faculty orientation programme Lex Ordinem and found her being one of the most reliable listeners. She found comfort and aide in Jia Shen during moots and he opened her eyes to the ways in which a team player and leader carries himself. In Jessica she found emotional compatibility through mooting and dessert dates alike. She also found solace in her three-year roommates and neighbours who put up with her random emotional outbursts. They even came to watch her moot despite not being law students, she added. Albeit genuinely appreciating everyone in her social circle, she would like to dedicate her love to her IMLAM team, Chill & Co and Serenity & Co. Given that her loved ones at home are of considerable distance, she avoids confiding in them as to not invoke sleepless nights and worried phone calls.
Although Lip Shan is more of a “follow the flow” type of person, she still gave some thought on her upcoming journey. In the near future, she is determined to land a short internship position at the judiciary, followed by pupillage at a legal firm — which will hopefully comprise of litigation and arbitration, not that she would mind a mixture of non-litigation work. At the ages of 16 and 20, Lip Shan missed out on the ASEAN scholarship to go to Singapore and Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam’s (‘JPA’) Bursary Program which discontinued its overseas sponsorship the year she started her degree. Glancing back, she remains hopeful on the prospects of furthering her studies abroad, ideally within a couple of years either in the United States, Australia, or United Kingdom. This is partly due to her thirst of adventuring to foreign places with fine architecture and picturesque sceneries as depicted by books and pictures. As for the distant future, she has yet to concoct a concrete plan, but the idea of working with United Nations when she reaches her early thirties may — although vaguely — be her calling.
Lip Shan with the final year JKOs during Lex Ordinem.
As idealistic as it sounds, Lip Shan always wished that she could have a second go at life. Given the benefit of hindsight, she would not change anything she did, but she would rather execute her roles better. Applying this to her academics and all her tenures in Law Society, Moot Club, Lex Ordinem, Legal Aid Clinic, GACC and also in mooting, she believes that she could have achieved more colourful results. She would not have shied away from her peers too, as she did in her first two years, so she could have known some of the people dear to her earlier on and a lot better — like her advocacy teammates, Chill & Co.
Lip Shan is a devout believer of the “fake it until you make it” mindset.
In her opinion, the saying “fake it until you make it” and, quoting her friend Jacqueline, “do not let fear limit yourself” best capture the reflection of her university life. Lacking a sense of belonging for two years, she felt like a passing presence for her silence felt condemned. To this day, sometimes she would look back in disbelief at how far she has come in life, from a silent passerby to a leader of student bodies and a well-established mooter. She honestly believes that if she can come this far, so can anyone else. As a prominent member of Lex Ordinem, Lip Shan believes that drive and persistence are the most promising values a law student can possess, despite highlighting that no particular quality should prevail over the others. Feeling fortunate as a recipient of guidance and compassion, she relishes in the opportunity to give back to the student body who seeks her aide.
Written by Ee Jie.