Often spotted sitting on one of the many wooden benches outside the law library — either chatting animatedly with her friends or typing furiously at her laptop — Carmel Grace Philip is one of the Faculty’s most cherished students. She has undoubtedly captured the hearts of many with her amicable personality and infectious positivity, generously flashing a wide grin to anyone who crosses her path. With her warmth and good-humoured nature, it is easy to see why many consider her presence and friendship an absolute delight.
Grace’s venture into law, like many, was not planned. In fact, law was not her first choice of study as she had developed an interest in economics during her STPM days. However, her parents encouraged her to consider reading law due to its challenging nature. Her parents’ advice led her to make a last-minute swap from economics to law when applying to universities — securing her fate in the Faculty of Law, Universiti Malaya (‘UM’).
Her friendships — not forgetting Sofea and Nathan absent from this picture — from her schooling days have withstood the test of time
True to her parents’ word, law indeed proved to be a challenging endeavour due to its demanding workload. To maintain a good cumulative grade point average, Grace believes that good time management is key in surviving the ruthless academic semester. With early planning, there is a higher likelihood to keep track of the progress of tasks. Good time management should also be accompanied by well-set organisational skills such as keeping track of deadlines and staying abreast with studies.
Furthermore, she opines that having motivating friends plays a significant role in pushing one to be better. By surrounding herself with high-achieving and admirable peers, Grace’s observations of her friends’ successes fuel her to challenge herself and strive for excellence. She admits to being a naturally laid-back person who needs an external force to inspire her ambition. While her parents and siblings used to act as her external force, she now finds this encouragement from her peers.
Grace’s core support group in the Faculty: Tang Jing Yi, Aisyah, and Buvanesh
Nonetheless, these helpful factors do not negate the struggles of law school. There are indeed days when Grace finds law school exceptionally taxing.
‘In moments like these, it is important to remember why you are doing what you are doing in order to ease your way through it.’
There is a presumption that one must be working tirelessly at all times in order to adhere to deadlines and produce quality work. Grace strongly disagrees with this culture of perfectionism and productivity. Instead, she ardently believes that one must listen closely to their bodies and minds, and take breaks when necessary. She practises taking a step back from work to clear her mind and gain clarity before resuming her tasks. According to Grace, cultivating the habit of listening to one's needs and working healthily definitely help to propel a person through the trials and tribulations of university.
Relentlessly rising above the ordeals that law school throws her way, Grace has always managed to showcase her undeniable academic prowess by performing excellently every semester. However, her achievements extend to beyond the classroom, thanks to her commendable leadership abilities.
She previously served as the Director of UM Lex ACT during the 2021/2022 tenure. Her term revolved around social awareness, with the highlight of her presidency being the webinars regarding autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (‘ADHD’). Grace wished to highlight the voices of those personally dealing with these neurodivergent conditions in said webinars. Under her guidance, UM Lex ACT managed to invite not only experts in this psychological field, but also people with relevant real-life experiences — including a mother of a child with autism. Grace even recalled striking a conversation with a woman whom she sat next to on a flight regarding the latter’s recent ADHD diagnosis. This kind stranger subsequently introduced Grace to a potential speaker, also diagnosed with ADHD, lending to the virtual event’s success and high turnout.
Grace together with the UM Lex Act Board 2021/2022 during the webinar, ‘An Inclusive Tomorrow; Uncovering the Truth of ADHD’
‘In the words of Simon Sinek, the most important qualities in a leader are to listen more than you speak and to be decisive.’
Grace opines that being a team player is essential in being a good leader. A good leader will only excel with a good team. Apart from having a good work ethic, one must also be considerate towards their fellow team members. For Grace, there are six fundamental pillars of being a good leader: a desire to contribute, an eagerness to learn, humility, social skills, mutual respect, and good manners.
Her ability to adapt to new team dynamics was put to the test during her first mooting encounter. Like most, her mooting interest first sparked following the Route to Moot programme. She is forever grateful to Ms Soh Lip Shan, who judged the round she was in, for recognising her potential and eventually giving her the confidence to join a moot competition. New to the competitive scene and armed with her previous experience in public speaking, Grace joined fellow batchmates Luc Choong Guong Sang and Akhmal Amaluddin in the LAWASIA International Moot Competition in 2020. Adjusting to an unfamiliar high-pressure setting, with a unique team dynamic and new friends — both exceptional mooters themselves — it was only natural for Grace to feel intimidated. Despite her insecurities, she managed to rise to the challenge thanks to her teammates’ endless reassurance and empowerment. Though the story closed on a bittersweet note with them ending up as Semi Finalists, Grace has gained invaluable confidence and the priceless gift of friendship. The trio — now fondly known as ‘The Temple’ — continue their friendship beyond the mooting scene.
Her suppliers of objective advice, brutal honesty, and unhinged humour: ‘The Temple’
Every milestone in her mooting journey imbued her with an aspiration to strive for excellence. For an outsider, mooting can seem glamourous, but there is an unspoken side to it all, she says. In sharing the hardships she faced when joining the Monroe E Price Media Law Moot Court Competition 2021, she recounts how she was benched from giving her oral submission during the International Rounds. Nonetheless, she sees the bigger picture and understands the need to prioritise the team’s victory. The expectation for excellence can be overwhelming, but it spurred her to continue improving.
‘This is the real part of mooting. The reality is this: if you underperform during oral trainings, you will need to channel your contributions elsewhere to help the team.’
Grace alongside her teammates for the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition 2021
Her consistent hard work and perseverance in mooting eventually paid off, as she later became part of the Champion team the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition 2021 (National Rounds) and the Foreign Direct Investment International Arbitration Moot (‘FDI’) 2022 (Asia-Pacific Rounds). Grateful for her wonderful teammates and the overall journey, Grace always encourages students to overcome their nerves and take that leap of faith into the mooting scene.
Grace and her teammates for the Foreign Direct Investment International Arbitration Moot (‘FDI’) 2022 at the International Rounds held in King’s College, London
‘Go for it, just audition! I am definitely not sugar-coating it as it can be intimidating. However, truly, the pros outweigh the cons.’
Moot undeniably teaches one to handle constructive criticism. Her high tendency for self-doubt may have made criticism a hard pill to swallow, but she soon realised the value of improving on the feedback from her coaches. Apart from that, understanding the fusion of different skill sets in a group is important in reaching a team’s full potential. The nature of mooting is typically divided into the procedural grounds and merits-based grounds. The former typically deals with matters including jurisdictional or evidential issues while the latter deals with the substantive law relating to the moot problem. As Grace is used to covering the merits-based grounds, it was initially challenging for her to tackle the procedural issues of a moot problem. Nonetheless, Grace successfully overcame this obstacle, and even brought home the Best Oralist Award during the Finals Round in the Foreign Direct Investment International Arbitration Moot (‘FDI Moot’).
Grace sharing her mooting wisdom during the Advocacy and Etiquette segment for Route to Moot alongside Ignatius Joel Nathan
While many more challenges lie ahead of Grace in her legal pursuits, moot has given her the confidence to — pun intended — gracefully face anything life throws her way.
This courage followed Grace in her internship at Thomas Philip, Advocates & Solicitors. Her days encompassed writing letters, writing a written submission, conducting case searches relating to the judicial Electronic Filing System (‘EFS’), translating, transcribing, and researching on legal matters. Although research was common in her mooting journey, it differed somewhat in legal practice.
‘It requires a more practical approach. I learned that it is more important to find cases similar in facts and to draw analogies than to have an abundance of case law.’
Thanks to her supervisor, Rachel Ng Li Hui, her internship grew to become an experience close to her heart. Grace highly recommends fellow law students to intern under Rachel due to her exceptional mentoring skills. This wonderful intern-supervisor relationship provided Grace reassurance while also pushing her to be highly meticulous and precise in her work.
Grace alongside her fellow interns of Thomas Philip Advocates & Solicitors
Her passion in playing music provides solace in times of hardship
With her mother’s sweet singing being an accompaniment to Grace’s early childhood memories, it comes as no surprise that her talents have only continued to grow with their support. She fondly remembers how her mother was always ready to accept song requests and sing without complaint. Family has always been inextricably linked with her love for music. Most of all, Grace treasures the jamming sessions she has with her siblings, cousins, and friends, preferring to play by ear and letting her creativity run free.
A well-known music enthusiast among her peers, Grace often invites her friends to watch the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre with her. Grace always found herself yearning to be a part of an orchestra; craving to add her melody into a sea of harmonies. Sure enough — after years of practice, determination, and her parents’ support — she has proudly joined the cello section in the Selangor Philharmonic Orchestra and is currently practising for a concert in March.
Grace’s creative streak also extends to her passion for fashion and makeup. An avid beauty enthusiast and fashionista since her early years, she even recollects being five years old and adamantly insisting on turning up to her grandmother’s funeral in a bright red dress with equally bright red lipstick — shocking her relatives who were dressed in muted colours. Now, she enjoys experimenting with these mediums and coming up with various types of visual aesthetics.
It is evidently impossible to pigeonhole Grace in just one box. Contrary to the popular saying, it really does seem like she is both jack and master of all trades. From her academic excellence to her flourishing creative passions, the world is blessed to witness her incredible skills and empathetic nature.
With graduation nearing, Grace may not have a specific path in mind, but she pictures her future to be filled with numerous possibilities and excitement. As of now, she envisions herself becoming a litigator in either the civil or criminal field in the future. Wherever the winds of her career take her, she is prepared to take on the challenges with her usual determination and perseverance.
Grace’s closest friends who know her better than she knows herself
Grace wishes to express her gratitude to her closest friends, Tan Jing Yi and Nik Mohamad Haikal, for always having her back, being honest in the way only good friends can be, and keeping her grounded with their sagely advice. Not forgetting her esteemed moot coaches — Mr Raphael Ren, Ms Saradha Lakshmi, and Ms Lee Suan Cui — who constantly encouraged her talents, patiently sharpened her rough edges, and urged her to join more moot competitions.
Lastly, she is eternally grateful to her family — especially her parents — who have supported her throughout her life. Raising her in the suburban area of Section 27, Shah Alam, Selangor, Grace’s parents brought her up with a stern but affectionate hand, befitting their nature as lecturers. She is deeply indebted to the both of them for creating a safe and secure environment to grow with her elder siblings, William Ben and Eleanor. Through her parents, Grace has learned the value of hard work, gratitude, and family. Hoping to mirror their love and affection someday, she also aspires to get married and have children of her own eventually.
Grace with her family who have provided endless support, love, and affection
‘My parents have given me the very necessary reality checks of life when they see me fall short. With that being said, they never stop showing me an equal amount of affection. I am so lucky for what I have received, and I would not have been able to pursue my dreams without them.’
Grace also thanks her beloved grandmother for her endless faith in her abilities and for always making it a point to light candles to pray for her during her exams. Grace is appreciative of all the help given to her on this journey of finding herself.
While she continues to soar higher and embark on new journeys, there is not a shadow of a doubt that Grace’s wonderful symphony will end in a marvellous crescendo.
Written by Parvaneetha Subramaniam.
Reviewed by Siti Nur Radhwa, Chrystal Foo, and Pravena Sreetharan.