Dr Kai-Cheung Leung is committed to giving a voice to the most marginalised people in society. As a criminal, civil and immigration litigator, he undertook a College of Law LLM to upskill in many of the practical skills he needed in terms of drafting, advocacy, and providing client advice. Insights caught up with Dr Kai-Cheung Leung about his College of Law experience, how it helped him in his career and practise, and what advice he might have for lawyers considering an LLM.
Q: What caused you to study an LLM? In particular, what made you choose family law and criminal law as a double major? Did it suit your work or client base?
I am a criminal, civil and immigration litigator. I studied the LLM at the College of Law because it provided the practical drafting and advocacy skills I require on a daily basis. I chose family and criminal law as a double major because a large portion of my caseload is related to family violence. The family law major gave me a very good introduction to both the basics of family law, as well as practical skills that I applied at work during the course itself.
Q: Where do you work now, and what kind of challenges does it involve?
I am working at Woodward Chrisp Lawyers, Gisborne, New Zealand. It is a semi-rural area in the East Coast of the North Island, New Zealand. I often help clients from a socially disadvantaged background; many of them are victims of domestic violence, mental health, and drug issues. It can be challenging, and take a lot of effort to gain trust from your clients, in order to establish the deeper issues in their matter.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
The most rewarding aspect of my work is being able to give a voice to the most marginalised people in society. It is very rewarding to help clients get their names cleared when they are inappropriately charged. In other cases, I also find it rewarding when I am able to get a rehabilitative sentence for my clients, which address the underlying issues of their offending, such as drugs and mental health issues, in order to break the vicious cycle of offending.
Q: How did studying with the College help you in your career? Did it help you better advise your clients, or progress your career?
Studying with The College of Law helped develop my practical skills in drafting and providing client advice. It’s particularly useful for lawyers wishing to expand their expertise in a new area of law. The programme is very helpful in career progression. I strongly recommend the College of Law LLM Programme for anyone who appears in the Court on regular basis.
Q: What advice would you have for LLM students looking to make the most of your study?
For students who are already practicing law, they should reflect on the skills they have just learned in their everyday work. In cases where one of their majors is outside their normal practice area, they can put their new skills into good use by offering to junior with a partner in cases covering that major. Students majoring in criminal law who have yet to secure work should observe court trials, and sign up to the Duty Lawyer training course in New Zealand. Not only will this provide some experience, but this may also help the students to network with other lawyers. For the same reasons, the students should join associations in their intended area of practice, such as the Criminal Bar Association, and explore activities to further build up their networks.
Q: What advice would you have for lawyers looking to break into your area of law?
They should apply for the College of Law LLM programme, build up their networks by joining into relevant associations, and offer to junior with barristers. We should all aim at getting our hands dirty.