Ananthan Moorthi is an alumnus of the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya ('UM'). More fondly referred to as Moots, he cruises through life as a bold risk-taker to continually broaden his horizons. Equipped with a free spirit, he embodied outstanding aptitudes as a prominent leader, sought-after moderator and mooter. He is currently a pupil-in-chambers at Steven Thiru & Sudhar Partnership after graduating in 2019.
Growing up in Ipoh, Ananthan described himself as a ‘happy-go-lucky’ guy with a penchant for living life in a light-hearted manner. ‘I don’t stress too much about what’s going to happen tomorrow. I’ll just think about today and that’s about it’. Owing to his go-with-the-flow style, Ananthan’s leap to the legal world was unanticipated as Law was never his aspiration; the original plan after Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) was to enter the field of economics. However, dilemma struck when he was offered placements in both Law and Economics at two different universities. The deal-breaker came when he received the Khazanah National Scholarship (Watan) offer to read law. His choice was subsequently made — UM Law became his path.
Fortunately, his decision has gone unregretted. Four years into the Faculty, Ananthan’s open perspective towards life helped carve his law school journey as he made a name for himself amongst his peers and student bodies. His involvement in a multitude of faculty activities and clubs showcased his charisma and competence to perform tasks on various ends of the spectrum. This includes the positions he held as an Executive Officer of UM Law Society 2015/2016 and the Vice Director of LawNite 2017: Phronesis.
Ananthan walking the Dean of the Law Faculty, Dato’ Associate Professor Dr Johan Shamsuddin Bin Hj Sabaruddin and the guest of honour, Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan to the officiating ceremony of LawNite 2017: Phronesis
More notably, Ananthan played a significant role in shaping the introductory chapter of the freshmen’s journey for three consecutive years. As part of the Disciplinary Bureau of the Orientation Week Committee (JKO), the strict and professional persona he donned during orientation week contrasted his otherwise generally approachable personality. He felt that the former was necessary for the position.
‘To me personally, the purpose of the discipline bureau is NOT to punish, but rather to correct and guide freshmen on their responsibilities and expectations as UM law students. We need to instil these things in a fast and effective way.’
He firmly believed that a firm hand was needed to infuse discipline in the freshmen and to create a lasting impression. The Disciplinary Bureau was strict on conduct and attire to ensure that the freshmen could avoid related mistakes in the future. Such valuable lessons would carry on throughout their time at the Faculty and later on in working life. However, Ananthan was not unreasonable; he knew that being unnecessarily harsh would overwhelm the freshmen and did not condone such behaviour from the seniors. Hence, he sought to rectify the situation.
During his third year, Ananthan helmed Orientation Week 2017/2018 as the Director. After spending considerable time as a JKO and experiencing the programme during his freshman days, it became apparent to Ananthan that the ‘totalitarian’ ways employed by previous JKOs were not entirely conducive. Thus, following in the footsteps of Ms Dayana Jainon, the previous Director of Orientation Week and a good friend to Ananthan, he cultivated a vision to enhance the programme by serving a more relaxed environment to better benefit the students in a ‘for the students, by the students’ fashion. Ultimately, he placed emphasis on assimilating first-year students into the Faculty seamlessly.
Ananthan with his committee of Orientation Week 2017/2018
Although Ananthan felt that his objective was not fully realised during his tenure, he believed that each new concept introduced for Orientation Week would be refined as the years go by.
‘I think that every year they try to do better as much as possible. It has not achieved a hundred percent during my time, maybe sixty percent. Then the following year perhaps seventy percent or eighty percent, and so forth.’
Since the programme had been revamped into Lex Ordinem, he trusts that it would continue to evolve and improve in the near future.
Besides his dedication in nurturing freshmen, Ananthan was an athlete with a keen passion for sports, evident in his role as the Director and Captain of the UM Law Football Club. Seeing that most activities in the Faculty were very academic-oriented, he yearned to bring the students together through sports. Under his captainship, he pushed for more participation in programmes beyond the Faculty and the university — for instance, the mini five-a-side football tournament in Desa Temuan and Twelfth College’s (KK 12) annual futsal tournament.
‘We used to join a lot of these tournaments. We put in our own money and we really went for it. I think that was important for us at the time because we were too comfortable with just being amongst ourselves. If you look at Sports Week, it was simply law students versus law students playing against each other at the end of the day. So, during my time, I tried to bring that out.’
Ananthan with the previous Captains of UM Law FC who laid the foundation for the club
Ananthan’s efforts in incorporating more external activities were telling of his dedication towards sports and UM Law FC. He sincerely appreciated his fellow peers who shared the same enthusiasm and actively backed his endeavours in expanding the club.
‘Of course, I couldn’t do it without the support of the current final years – people like Najib, Naufal, Lukman and many others.’
Aside from that, Ananthan was often the go-to person requested to moderate numerous events and forums organised by various societies. Among them were the In House Counsel Talk by UM Law Society, Forum on Youth Empowerment in Malaysia held by UM Consti Team during Constitution Carnival 2019, ALSA UM International Conference on Migrant Labours in 2016, ALSA UM International Conference on Child Protection: Safeguard of the Nation’s Pillars in 2017 and ALSA National Conference: Forum on the Rights of Destitute Persons in 2018. He amusedly recounted memories of being invited to moderate the International Conference for two years in a row, oblivious to why such invitations were so frequent. Even so, he took charge of the task given and made necessary preparations to acquaint himself with each topic.
‘I do prepare extensively. I try to know my subject matter really well. However, when it comes to the actual forum or the talk itself, I almost never prepare any questions. I don’t really prepare for what’s coming; I just go in prepped with the knowledge of the subject matter and go along with the forum. That’s always been my approach to moderating.’
Consequently, Ananthan’s method of spontaneously questioning the panellists based on their presentation and bouncing off interactions made for a free-flowing conversation which benefited both him and the audience. The discussions were never rigid. This interactive exchange was perhaps the rationale behind his growing list of moderating contributions, he mused.
Ananthan moderating the ALSA UM International Conference
With all the talks moderated by Ananthan, there was one event that remained remarkable in his memories. He recalled one of ALSA UM’s International Conferences, in which delegates from Indonesia, Thailand, Wales and China formed a panel and represented their views on a controversial topic concerning freedom of speech. It was fascinating to hear the honest opinions they held regarding the existing laws on free speech in their respective countries.
‘It’s almost impossible to read up on this kind of thing — to know how other people see their government, how they look at their own legal system, how actual students in Indonesia perceive their judiciary. I don’t think these are the kind of things that you can simply read in articles online.’
The fresh perspectives he gathered were certainly eye-opening, and he relished such opportunities afforded as the moderator.
Apart from that, his competent verbal skills manifested in mooting as well. A glimpse of his brilliance was seen through his performance in the Internal Moot Competition (IMC) 2019. Ananthan initially has no interest in mooting ever since he was exposed to it in his first year. However, because of the senior-junior themed concept introduced by Moot Club in IMC 2019, Ananthan decided to try his hand in mooting in his final year. Despite being a first-timer in competitive mooting, he managed to emerge as the Best Oralist for the Preliminary Rounds. Together with his teammates, his team was crowned Champions and awarded the Best Memorial Award. This incredible feat ended his final year with a bang.
Ananthan with his teammates, holding the trophies they garnered at IMC 2019
Although Ananthan is honoured with this mooting accomplishment, he thinks that excelling in mooting is not the only means of measuring success in the Faculty. He fervently believes that the standards of an exemplary law student should not be limited to achievements in mooting alone.
Nonetheless, Ananthan’s unique experiences moulded his talents and equipped him with the skill sets necessary to advance into the next stage of his life. Beginning with his internship at the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC KL) under the supervision of Tuan Azeezi bin Nordin, a Deputy Public Prosecutor who mostly dealt with murder cases and drug-related offences, he experienced the life of a prosecutor. He spent his time assisting research for trial cases and was constantly in and out of the courts — shadowing his supervisor to morning briefings with Investigating Officers, gaining access to classified investigation papers and even observing witness briefings before a trial.
Indubitably, the comprehensive and wholesome exposure to the mechanics of the Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence Act in criminal cases was an unforgettable experience. This internship motivated him further and affirmed his decision to become a lawyer.
Ananthan with Tuan Azeezi bin Nordin during his internship at the AGC
Afterwards, he opted to challenge himself by venturing into civil litigation for his pupillage at Steven Thiru & Sudhar Partnership. As a pupil-in-chambers, the immense amount of stress due to the overwhelming workload and steep learning curve was always at the forefront of his mind. Ananthan personally felt it is something a student cannot truly prepare for until the time comes.
For many, pupillage is known for being the most trying phase in life, but Ananthan did not share this sentiment. However, he did admit that there are some truths in the generalised statement.
‘I wouldn’t say it’s the toughest time in my life. Looking back on the year, there were some tough times, really tough times. I don’t think they will ever go away. It’s only going to get tougher from here on out, but I think the key here is learning to adapt.’
Ananthan with his colleagues at Steven Thiru & Sudhar Partnership
His wise advice laid weight to the gravity of the work involved. Finding out how to adjust to drastic changes, knowing the extent of his capabilities and discovering the limits of his skills were essential whilst trying to survive the nine-month period. While enduring the difficult times, he enjoyed the chance to further his capabilities and was grateful to the firm for the opportunity. Ananthan suggested that students should undergo pupillage even if they do not plan to practice as the learning experience justifies the sacrifice.
‘It is nine months of your life that come at the very start and goes by very quickly. Whether you decide to stay in practice or leave practice later on, at least you have that with you.’
After four years of law school and almost one year working in the legal field, needless to say, Ananthan has had his share of hardships. To deal with them, he always found solace in the people around him, especially his batchmates with whom he fostered close friendships.
Ananthan with his Saville housemates during his final year
He also understands that most students in the Faculty are over-stressed to meet high expectations of their own.
‘Everyone has probably been a debater, or gotten straight As, or never failed a subject in their life. When a snag comes along the way, the people in our Faculty especially tend to take it a little harder than the rest. People are so expectant of success, so equipped to getting top results and so used to getting what they want. That’s why people find it tough, I feel.’
The important takeaway is that mistakes are intrinsic to life, and we should not fault ourselves for being human. Ananthan lives by this mantra, and it reassured him not to be too hard on himself whenever slip-ups occurred. With this in mind, Ananthan did not have any regrets from his law school days. If anything, he wished he had put in more time and effort into his studies, as it was the core purpose of going to law school.
That being said, he advises that we should always be confident in ourselves and in what we do. Have courage and take the chance to try something new, regardless of the conventional standards that others have established.
‘I feel that excellence is what you define yourself. It is subjective and that subjectivity should come from you. You set the standards and you set the bar at the end of the day.’
Ananthan is ready to face his future head-on
With that, Ananthan ended his days as a student reminiscent of the good times he had. Considering that his pupillage is now coming to an end, Ananthan will further his journey as a Legal Associate in the same firm. As for the distant future, he does not have any plans yet. Spontaneity has yet to fail him so far in the past five years, and he looks forward to what the future has in store for him. Suffice to say, we will be expecting great things from Ananthan.
Staying true to himself, he aptly concluded,
‘If an opportunity comes along and it feels right, I think I’ll just take it up. I will let life take its course.’
Written by Azra Athirah.