Caysseny Tean Boonsiri is currently a final-year student at the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya (‘UM’). To anyone unfamiliar with her legacy, Caysseny’s unique Thai name may be initially puzzling in its pronunciation. Hailing from Siamese and Chinese heritage, Caysseny is proud to be racially diverse in a country that celebrates multiculturalism. In the hallowed halls of the Faculty, Caysseny has established herself as a prominent mooter, representing UM in the prestigious Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition (‘Jessup Moot’) as early as in her second and third year. Nevertheless, Caysseny is more than just a name in the moot courts. Apart from her illustrious adventures in the mooting circuit, Caysseny’s passion for advocacy and aiding vulnerable communities became her driving force throughout law school, during which she progressively developed a strong affinity for human rights.
Caysseny’s journey to study law was not as straightforward. In high school, she was fond of reading thought-provoking materials, especially on history-related topics. This honourable penchant led her to her first stint in journalism. At that time, the Star Education Board was accepting fledgling student writers under the Starstruck! Young Writers Programme and Caysseny jumped on the opportunity immediately. She was tasked to come up with bulletins for two years under this programme. With every piece of writing she made, a fondness for chasing and writing stories was carved.
When Caysseny transitioned into matriculation, she started to perceive the social realities of Malaysia. She observed that racial segregation and discrimination was an ongoing issue, even within the confines of her matriculation college. Hence, young Caysseny realised that the Malaysian social landscape needed to change. In matriculation, her heart was ablaze with a fervent desire to build a better Malaysia.
However, in deciding her future career, Caysseny was stuck at crossroads. Knowing that her main priority was to further her cause in advocacy, she acknowledged that her pursuit for catalysing change could stem from any career as long as she was equipped with the right skills. When she realised that journalism was not the ultimatum pursuing her cause, she decided to put her background in journalism aside in favour of law school. Compared to the former, the latter might be a better place to hone a plethora of skills, nurturing her to be as versatile as she can be. Little did she know, her earnest hopes of changing Malaysia put her on a journey that changed her first.
Due to her prior exposure in writing and publishing, it was only natural for Caysseny to enter the University of Malaya Law Review (‘UMLR’). At the time, UMLR was colloquially dubbed the ‘baby of the Faculty’ as it was only a year into its establishment. Notwithstanding this, UMLR was considered, and continues to be, the pride of the Faculty as the very first student-run legal publication in Malaysia. Despite feeling a bit out of place as a bright-eyed first year, her kind seniors made her feel welcomed in the board. Their exemplary traits did not end at being amiable and adept in editing; they also comprised bright legal minds of the Faculty — embodying Caysseny’s first glimpse at inspiration in the Faculty. It was with their influence that she worked diligently to improve herself in the hopes of filling the big shoes they would soon leave behind. Her rigorous efforts as an editor bore fruit as dreams turned into reality; she was elected to be the Managing Editor for the 2018/2019 tenure, putting her at the forefront of UMLR’s operations.
Caysseny recalls her first task in UMLR on covering an event on the Rohingya Genocide as one which was way out of her comfort zone. Confronted with a steep learning curve, Caysseny was admittedly unnerved, but she managed to toil through nonetheless. The invaluable experience alone taught her innumerable lessons, including the crux of working in UMLR. According to Caysseny, meticulousness is a skill that all editors should be prudent to. That being said, she also emphasises enjoying the editing process. Although editing may be tedious, oftentimes, the process may turn out to be extremely enlightening as editors grapple with new and unfamiliar topics. Indeed, this was true for Caysseny as she attained excellent knowledge on the fine nuances of the Rohingya Genocide — a gratifying side effect of a job well done. Unbeknownst to her, her first taste of delving into a topic related to public international law foreshadowed the days she would one day spend preparing for the Jessup Moot.
Caysseny with the University of Malaya Law Review Editorial Board of 2018/2019
Her notable editorial experiences in UMLR led to her involvement in the Journal of Malaysian and Comparative Law (‘JMCL’), a biannual academic journal published by our very own Faculty. When asked as to how she stumbled upon such a rare opportunity, Caysseny answered that it was due to the graciousness of Dr Sarah Tan Yen Ling, the Managing Editor of JMCL and then-advisor of UMLR, who first approached Caysseny and offered her an internship. Since the lecturers themselves commit to the brunt of the work in JMCL, Caysseny’s tasks as an editorial intern certainly differed from UMLR as she played a more supporting role. Besides assisting with minor edits of JMCL, she was also tasked with ensuring consistency on the journal’s website in pursuit of the journal’s indexing aims in selected international databases. Caysseny hopes to remain in JMCL if she could after her graduation. Although the tasks assigned to her are quite menial compared to the heavy-duty editing in UMLR, Caysseny finds it to be a refreshing experience. She is also able to polish her acquired editing skills, ensuring that they are engraved in her mind long after her departure from UMLR. Indubitably, her vast experiences in journalism and editorials have equipped her with a degree of proficiency in writing and editing that would come in handy in the future.
Aside from UMLR, Caysseny participated in various other Faculty activities and clubs. Lex Ordinem, in particular, is cherished amongst her other fond recollections. Admittedly, the event was not all rainbows and sunshine. She recollects as a first-year student, the facilitators being intimidating, stern and unwaveringly strict as they attempted to mould the fresh group of first years to the immaculate standard of the realm of excellence.
‘Lex Ordinem is very scary as the seniors would groom you to be the face of UM Law School. You will be trained to be prim, proper and courteous as you are the “cream of the crop”.’
While the experience overwhelmed first-year Caysseny, she later understood the necessity of the programme’s exacting nature. Lex Ordinem taught the first-year students ways to carry the image of the Faculty well, in addition to preparing them for the high demands of law school. Hence, Caysseny believes that Lex Ordinem is integral to the UM law school experience. Looking back on her own experience, she realised that she wanted to impart the same wisdom to her fellow juniors as well. Thus, Caysseny joined the Academic Bureau of Lex Ordinem 2018/2019 and later became the Head of the Academic Bureau in the following Lex Ordinem 2019/2020.
Caysseny alongside the Lex Ordinem Committee of 2019/2020
For Caysseny, the satisfaction derived from participating in Lex Ordinem as an Orientation Committee Member (‘JKO’) came from observing the up-and-coming law students blossom into their potential as they reach their further years. Caysseny personally experienced this when she coaxed a tearful first-year student who initially doubted the sufficiency of her current abilities to survive in the Faculty into believing in herself. Two years into the future, the junior is now an avid and accomplished mooter and student leader. Caysseny’s anecdote is a testament to the importance of Lex Ordinem for students who have yet to fulfil their immense potential, as the programme exposes new students to the vast window of opportunity law school presents. To Caysseny, these stories of growth justify the drawbacks of Lex Ordinem.
No one could go over Caysseny’s undertakings in law school without discussing her sterling mooting accolades. Caysseny confesses that she did not immediately start off her journey as a mooting luminary. In her first year, her interests in advocacy brought her to register for the audition for the Novice Arbitration Mooting Competition (‘NAMCO’) — her very first attempt at trying out competitive mooting. Albeit being high-spirited initially, her nerves unfortunately got the best of her as she was overcome with cold feet and decided not to attend her scheduled audition session. Funnily enough, she was also part of the University of Malaya Moot Club at the time, ushering other auditioning students into the very venue. She was — physically and metaphorically — so close, yet so far from her very first dip in mooting. She thought she was not ready to bare herself to the gruelling sport. However, when Raphael Kok, UM’s mooting coach, discovered her predicament, the words he uttered then grasped her and remain embedded in her mind until today:
‘You will never be ready.’
The seemingly ominous sentence became profound to her and prompted her to dismiss her convinced notions of unpreparedness. After the neglected NAMCO audition experience, Caysseny’s journey in mooting took a gilded path. She did not fall behind from being in the mooting know-how as opportunities started to pour in soon after. After being approached by a group of third years, she joined the Asian International Arbitration Centre Pre-Moot for Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot (‘AIAC Pre-Moot’) as a researcher. Little by little, Caysseny learned more about the intellectual sport. Through the training sessions that she partook in, she ascertained the essence of mooting while avoiding the most challenging and nerve-wracking part of mooting — oral submissions. Her path was a rather unorthodox method of assimilating into the mooting culture but was nevertheless an auspicious one for any emerging mooter.
Caysseny’s streak continued further. Post-AIAC Pre-Moot, she participated in the Internal Moot Competition (‘IMC’) with one of the Faculty’s mooting powerhouses, Hanan Khaleeda, alongside a bunch of other novice mooters. Even though IMC, as per its name, is only held within the Faculty, Hanan, being the dedicated teacher that she was, treated the competition as if the team was representing the Faculty for an external one. To this day, Caysseny is in awe of Hanan’s perseverance and patience — a mooter at her calibre teaming up with a group of clueless newbies. This demanding circumstance encouraged Caysseny to dive deeper into the intricacies of mooting, especially in writing submissions and oral argumentation. After long days and nights of continuous persistence, their team became the First Runner-up for the Open Category of IMC that year, losing only to Lily Sabreena and Lee Suan Cui, the two revered Faculty mooters. Caysseny was also crowned the Best Novice Mooter. It was that moment that Caysseny knew she revelled in mooting. Notwithstanding the arduous process of preparation and oral submission, she enjoyed every moment of it. Without a doubt, she wanted to do it all again — and that is what she did for the years to come.
‘It was like breathing life into a mooting problem; that was what I loved doing.’
Caysseny receiving the Best Novice Oralist Award
Caysseny struck her next mooting accolade in the National Rounds of the LAWASIA International Moot Competition 2018 (‘LAWASIA’). IMC may have been conditioned to simulate actual competitions, but this was the real deal — she was representing the Faculty in an external mooting competition for the first time! The National Rounds of LAWASIA posed multiple unique challenges to Caysseny and her team. Unlike previously, they had to train for both the Claimant and Respondent sides and prepare two separate scripts that contradicted one another. As such, the team exercised extra caution to avoid any confusion in the midst of priming their submissions. In the final battle where they fought against another UM team, Caysseny’s team emerged as the First Runner-up, establishing her prominence in the mooting scene.
Caysseny and her teammates, Ms Amiratu Al Amirat and Mr Tan Jia Shen, crowned as First Runner-ups of the National Rounds of LAWASIA 2018
The prime highlight of Caysseny’s mooting career is none other than the esteemed Jessup Moot. Caysseny reminisced the moment when she received the news of her selection as a Jessup mooter — she was floored and astounded! Due to Jessup Moot’s international prestige, only the best and most experienced mooters were sent to represent the Faculty. Caysseny considered herself an outlier; not only was she a second year, but she was also relatively fresh compared to her teammates as her experience at that point merely comprised one official tournament.
Still, her inexperience was not an excuse to avoid the high expectations placed upon her shoulders. She was determined to tackle them face forward. Her biggest hurdle was understanding the complexities of public international law, which was the main subject matter of Jessup Moot. Caysseny describes public international law as volatile; it is formed by international politics and its ever-changing interests, rather than the otherwise consistent and just principles governing domestic law. Hence, when confronting the moot problem, a Jessup mooter must be able to steer through the thicket of such intentions. Luckily for Caysseny, this burden was shared by her more experienced teammates, who aided her by serving as sources of guidance.
‘As a second year, I had only learned contract law. Going into Jessup, I really did not know anything. I was fortunate to have seniors who became my guiding hand.’
In the National Rounds of Jessup Moot 2019, UM was attempting a comeback to the national championship. The past couple of years has seen Universiti Teknologi Mara (‘UiTM’) being the Malaysian champion. However, UM brought something unique to the table that year. With superior advocacy skills, Caysseny and her team fended through all the rounds up until the finals, where they faced off against UiTM. Caysseny thought her seniors, who were leaps and bounds ahead of her, would be chosen as the oralists in the final round. She was shocked to discover that she had been given the opportunity instead. After a grandiose display of wits and legal knowledge, UM emerged as the National Round champion and Best Memorial Award winner. Caysseny’s stunning oral performance also awarded her the Best Oralist Award for the final round. She could not have imagined a better outcome from that fateful day where the mooting star within her truly shone.
Caysseny and her teammates, Ms Lily Sabreena, Ms Amiratu Al Amirat, Mr Gabrielle Nicholas and Ms Nur Aliya, together with coach Mr Raphael, proudly presenting the awards received from the National Rounds of Jessup Moot 2019
Winning the National Rounds qualified UM for the International Rounds held in Washington DC. The International Rounds were a completely different ball game; UM was now facing against the world’s best mooters. Caysseny did not have much time being starry-eyed over the views in Washington DC because most of her time was spent perfecting her submissions. She recollects that the team would camp out in the hotel to ensure their case was airtight while subsisting only on microwaved foods. Even after knocking out the mooters from Canada, France, Portugal and Kyrgyzstan in the preliminaries, UM remained in top form. The days spent training were indeed not for nought as they succeeded to the Octo-Finals, beating the University of Sydney in the Round of 32.
Caysseny and her team engaged against the National University of Singapore (‘NUS’) — UM’s regional rivals — in the Octo-Finals. Both teams did not falter; every strong point NUS provided as the Applicant was sharply countered by UM as the Respondent. After a heated bout, the judges had a tough call to make. True enough, UM narrowly missed the win against NUS by a hair as the latter won by 5 to 4 points. Nonetheless, their loss in the Octo-Finals did not detract from the team’s exemplary performance in advancing the furthest in recent years amongst Malaysian teams in the International Rounds. This was truly a historical feat to behold.
Caysseny and her teammates posing in front of the Lincoln Monument
Having had such a memorable experience in the competition regarded as the Olympics of mooting, Caysseny continues her endeavours to satiate her thirst for excellence. Searching for a personal comeback, Caysseny once again represented UM for Jessup Moot in 2020, this time no longer green and abundant with nerves. In contrast to the previous year, public international law was not unfamiliar territory; experience enabled her to dissect judgments faster and frame solid arguments on the fly. As the most experienced mooter of the newly assembled team, she had to assume the leadership role. This disparate responsibility gave Caysseny an entirely new perspective that kept her on her toes.
The air in the National Rounds was also very distinct compared to the past year. UM’s presence was feared; they were the defending champions. Teams wishing to claim the championship marked UM as their primary adversary. In light of the taxing pressure, Caysseny’s team remained resolute and fought hard to maintain their crown. They won all four matches in the Preliminary Rounds and prevailed over IIUM in the finals, with the Best Overall Memorial Award in tow.
Caysseny with the all-girl Jessup Moot team — Ms Esther Hong, Ms Jessica Lim, Ms Makaela Fehlhaber, Ms Nurul Zafirah; coach, Mr Raphael; and faithful Faculty supporters, all smiles after winning the National Rounds
When queried as to what she felt during the National Rounds, Caysseny confessed that the crippling pressure was a heavy load on her shoulders. She doubted her final performance in the National Rounds as defending a championship is significantly more challenging than winning it. When it was announced that they emerged victorious, a relief far greater than a sense of accomplishment washed over Caysseny.
‘The first time we won, I could feel the ecstasy of winning. When I won the National Rounds the second time, I felt more relieved due to the anticipation.’
The team would have continued their path to the International Rounds soon after. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic caused global travel restrictions, and the cancelled International Rounds left UM to settle as the National Rounds champion — a bittersweet ending to a tumultuous year. Still, the experience was no less incredible. Caysseny is thankful to end her mooting journey as the reigning champion of the Malaysian National Rounds of Jessup Moot 2020.
Besides that, Caysseny has also ventured into the organisational portion of moot competitions. Her two-year experience in Jessup Moot left her intrigued about the task of being the Regional Administrator of Jessup Moot in 2021, which was conducted fully online to adapt to the ongoing pandemic. As part of a six-person committee, Caysseny helmed the organisation of the Asia-Pacific Regional Rounds, comprising of twenty-five teams from over six countries.
Organising such international virtual events was a massive administrative and organisational undertaking. A peculiar problem that Caysseny confronted was coordinating schedules according to different time zones. As there were seventy judges of twenty-two differing nationalities, Caysseny’s team had to be meticulous and cautious — the last thing the committee wanted was to impose any unreasonableness upon the esteemed judges. However, despite the new model of the tournament, it was evident by the end that not even a virtual barrier could pose a major setback to the quality of Jessup Moot. The competition proceeded successfully. Though she was working behind the scenes, Caysseny was nonetheless satisfied that she could observe the teams perform exceptionally.
Caysseny with the administrators of the Asia Pacific National Rounds 2021 — Mr Wong Yan Zhang, Ms Yang Shu Yee, Mr Jeremy Pang, Ms Elisa Oyenz Jeson and Ms Jessica Lim
Caysseny believes that mooting is not as straightforward as it seems; memorials and submissions are only the tip of the iceberg. When asked why she chooses to continue mooting despite the difficulty it holds, Caysseny recites her fondness for international issues. To her, the research process and the formation of arguments can be intellectually invigorating. She enjoys delving into a moot problem as if she is solving a perpetual puzzle where new pieces would be uncovered day by day. If the pieces of a puzzle were to form brilliant displays of art, piecing a moot problem together with its solutions would construct excellent memorials and submissions.
Her advice to upcoming mooters is that the key to an efficacious moot preparation is to always have an end goal in mind, ensuring that consistency is maintained. To Caysseny, consistency is what keeps one grounded and motivated, especially on the more stressful days. In line with being consistent, she suggests working on the moot problem little by little, instead of attempting to solve it in one go. Caysseny also regards her teammates as an essential source of motivation; recognising that mooting is a team sport enables one to realise that everyone is dependent on each other. No matter how large or minuscule, individual failures and successes will be felt by the entire team. This constitutes an incentive for Caysseny to keep going, irrespective of how long the climb might be.
Participating in Jessup Moot proved to have many benefits outside of mooting as well. Her contacts grew as she met many aspiring individuals from all over the world who are extremely ardent in public international law. As Jessup Moot highly values itself as a platform for mooters and judges to congregate, Caysseny keeps in contact with the international friends she made along the way. This delightful kinship is embodied in Jessup Moot’s motto: ‘In the future, world leaders will look upon each other differently, because they met here first, as friends.’
Though her time was occupied with mooting endeavours, Caysseny made sure not to focus on her overarching intent to transform Malaysia. She nurtured her desire to aid the needy by participating in the Legal Aid Clinic (‘KBGUM’), which showed Caysseny the humane side of the law, countering the usual negative preconceptions that the law is only utilised for self-benefit. She is grateful to Madam Aisyah and Madam Zuraida for instilling the innate belief that legal practice should not be limited to securing a high income. Caysseny was reminded that it is easy for the average practising lawyer to be caught up in the vicissitudes of legal practice to the point of forgetting the main purpose of the law — executing justice. For this precise reason, KBGUM resonated with her passion for advocacy and helping vulnerable communities.
As a student advisor, Caysseny was tasked to interview clients and draft legal advice. The stakes were much higher this time around. Legal problems were no longer mere imaginary persons in exam questions as KBGUM’s clientele were real people with genuine legal issues. Throughout her time there, Caysseny regularly received downhearted stories, such as of foreigners being evicted from their homes and unable to find representation; of people being cheated; and of tenants whose rights were abused. Looking at how these issues directly affected real-life individuals incentivised her to be more conscientious in her cause to help the vulnerable. Her biggest takeaway from KBGUM was that the law in the courts is not the only solution to a client’s problem. At times, alternative forms of resolution such as negotiations and settlements may provide better forms of justice. Hence, she believes that every lawyer should strive for what justice truly resembles and not merely what the law in courts may be.
Caysseny’s desire to help others has also extended beyond the Faculty through empowerment camps such as Little Inspire, organised by the Malaysian Students’ Council of Australia (‘MASCA’), and Seeds of Deeds, organised by Small Changes — in the latter acting as a Module Director and Facilitator. Seeking to narrow the education gap, these empowerment camps strive to increase English literacy and self-confidence among students in rural areas. Aside from facilitating the participants directly, in Seeds of Deeds, Caysseny was in charge of discovering entertaining ways for students to break out of their shells via treasure hunts, pitching activities and even dancing. Her main focus was to forge close friendships with the participants in hopes that they would feel confident enough to confide in the facilitators and be inspired to speak English. This was to counter the discouraging norm in rural areas: learning English is trivial. Those who could speak English are often deserted and mocked — ‘Apa ni speaking?’ — dampening their confidence in utilising English. She reckons that empowerment camps are one of the best mediums to break this denigrating perception through the education of children.
Caysseny’s ambition to march towards a better Malaysia manifests itself through the multiple channels she tries to be involved with. Her inspiring efforts lend credence to the vitality of our impact on the community. Surely, we have not seen the last of Caysseny’s many deeds as she continues to work towards improving the country.
Caysseny with the Small Changes crew
Caysseny has even ventured into the intimidating working world. From July to September 2020, Caysseny underwent an internship at the Securities Commission. As she was bonded to the Securities Commission under their scholarship programme, this served as the perfect opportunity to adapt to the future nature of her work. The crux of her tasks revolved around prosecution for securities offences which allowed her to have an immediate understanding of criminal proceedings. As an intern, she had the privilege of shadowing court proceedings as well. It was eye-opening to observe how trials are conducted, especially when juxtaposed to mooting. Working as an intern enabled her to perceive the real practicalities of the law that are distinct from the abstract legal concepts learned within the confines of a classroom.
Currently, Caysseny is also working as a paralegal in Lim Chee Wee Partnership. Her responsibilities range from research to document preparation, legal drafting and translation. Already a year into her job, she notes that the transition from law school into the legal fraternity can be quite intimidating. As her firm is situated in the hustle and bustle of Klang Valley, it is not a surprise that legal practice there may turn out to be incredibly hectic. Caysseny reminds herself to always be flexible in adjusting to this chaotic environment.
That being said, Caysseny hopes to eventually brave further into her areas of interest. With a growing affinity for human rights, she dreams of one day obtaining a Master’s degree to pursue a career in the United Nations. Additionally, she wishes to practise in areas that tend to refugees and Orang Asli, continuing on her quest to aid vulnerable communities.
After assuming numerous responsibilities, it is a wonder how Caysseny managed to maintain a work-life balance throughout her years in law school. In terms of time management, Caysseny confesses that she is no stranger to procrastination and leaving tasks to the eleventh hour. To curb this bad habit, she makes a point to create and abide by personal deadlines. This enables her to evade the constant feeling of dread that any student senses due to an incomplete task looming over his or her head. Emotionally, she stresses the importance of having a core group of friends in law school — she would have succumbed to the weight of juggling between academics and mooting if not for her friends, who were incredibly generous and gracious to cover entire syllabuses with her the day before exams.
She would like to dedicate a portion of this article to her parents, especially her mother, for supporting her throughout her life. Caysseny is particularly grateful for her mother, who never stops giving her much-needed reminders to complete her work early and stop procrastinating during the pandemic. She also would like to shout out her closest group of friends — Aleysha Kaur, Farah Nabihah, Christina Erin Ong, Tan Jia Shen and Badrul Amin Roslan — for braving through the thick and thin of law school with her. She extends her utmost gratitude to the lecturers of the Faculty, whom all teach like they do their own children, and who have imparted unforgettable lessons not only on the law, but on building a meaningful life. Lastly, she would also like to thank the Securities Commission, for without them, she might not have embarked on the law school journey that shaped her into who she is now.
‘I maintained my sanity in law school with a strong group of friends who had my back and supported me through all the hardships.’
Caysseny is thankful for her core group of friends, Ms Aleysha Kaur Bhatia, Ms Farah Nabihah, Mr Badrul Amin Roslan and Ms Christina Erin Ong
Caysseny’s tale demonstrates that learning does not only happen within lecture halls and tutorial rooms. It is important to step outside of one’s classroom, as taking that first step could unravel your inspiring tale. The law may be as interesting as it can be, but nothing is more exhilarating than learning and reflecting on the many experiences one went through in law school. Hence, Caysseny imparts her final message to our dear readers to seize most, if not all, of the opportunities that come before you. Who knows, you might be the next Caysseny — a wake-up call at a moot audition may change your law school life in an instant!
Written by Eizad Arian.