After a year in the making, the law faculty of the University of Malaya (UM) has unveiled its first journal exclusively run by students.
Published on July 31, the inaugural UM Law Review is 170 pages long — featuring articles by UM law graduates and current students on topics such as Muslim polygamous marriages in Malaysia, attempted suicide, changes in the Companies Act 2016, and the lack of remedial provisions in the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 for disabled people who suffer discrimination.
With an editorial board of 16 students, the University of Malaya Law Review is headed by founding editor-in-chief Leeroy Ting Kah Sing — a third-year law student who was brave enough to take up the challenge given out by the faculty dean Associate Professor Dr Johan Shamsuddin Sabaruddin for students to produce their own journal.
“The whole idea was to get students involved in producing the publication and raise their profile in the academic world. We want to give students exposure, to be confident and to show to the world the quality of our graduates. Many people say that local graduates are not as good as those from overseas. So, this is an example of what kind of work they do and the level of academic standing that they have,” said Johan, who is also academic adviser of the UM Law Review.
While many law faculties at universities in Malaysia and abroad may have their own academic law journals, Ting said what differentiates UM’s is that all editorial decisions and all organisational choices are made by students and the faculty allows this independence.
“I think the faculty has always been fascinated by freedom of thought and speech. And before this, we have many students writing excellent papers for their subjects and assignments — getting good marks but lacking the recognition. Part of the reason for this journal is also to show a lot of the stored talents of our faculty,” he said.
So, who can contribute to the journal?
“We are open to legal practitioners and students all over Malaysia. It is not only limited to UM students. Because this is the first edition, I thought it would be prudent to narrow down our scope to an identifiable demographics. Moving forward, we want to be like more established law reviews where articles are gathered from even professors from other institutions,” said Ting.
Altogether there are 11 articles in the UM Law Review’s debut volume including two keynote articles from highly regarded members of the Malaysian legal fraternity, namely “Lim Kit Siang, Order 53 and the Future of Locus Standi in Public Interest Litigation” by former Federal Court Judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram and “Enhancing the Institutional Efficacy of Parliament: Problems and Prospects” by the holder of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Chair in the University of Malaya Law Faculty, Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi and the Selangor State Parliament Speaker Hannah Yeoh.
The other contributors are nine students authors — seven are fresh graduates, one a final-year and one third-year student.
“We’ve got about more than 30 submissions from students and people who recently graduated. We undertook a process of anonymous review, because we don’t want the background of certain students to be taken into consideration when we do publish an article,” said Ting.
“Members of the editorial board were encouraged to approach potential authors and ask them about topic that they want to write about. The authors then submit their work — it can be either a fresh piece, a work that started from scratch, or it may be based on past submissions which they update to reflect current events, that has yet to be published in another journal.
“Once we got the article, we separated the name of the authors from the content of the work. We looked through those works and decided which ones were to be published based on few criteria — among which are the depth of analysis, the freshness of the topic, and how well it fits with other journals that we’ve already selected to be published,” he elaborated.
Ting and his team sifted through all 30 assignments during their semester with the journal’s editorial adviser — senior lecturer Dr Sarah Tan.
“And at the end I think we are quite pleased with the result. The writers’ names were reattached to the articles and they were contacted to get the documented consent. So once the consent was given, we put it all together,” he said.
In the process of reviewing the writings, the editors sought the advice of either established legal professionals or law professors at the faculty.
“We feel it is important for us to consult law lecturers. From there we are clear on how the author interprets the law, or whether the author take into consideration developments in the law in the field that he or she is writing about. All the law lecturers were helpful,” he said.
Tan said the involvement of law lecturers and legal professionals were to maintain the academic integrity of the journal.
“They are undergraduate students after all. Some universities journals are published by postgraduate students. So because of that, we had every article vetted for academic accuracy by a lecturer who specialised in the particular area,” she said.
Asked about the editorial board, Tan said the current one is in force for a year’s duration.
“We have a process in place that would ensure continuity. Ting right now is the editor-in-chief, and then in the coming academic year in September, he will assume the position of adviser to the next committee,” she said.
With the young voices airing their opinion through the law review, would this be a step towards them having a say in the law-making processes and decisions?
Johan said it is an important step towards that.
“The government realises that young voices are the ones they need to attract. The notion that ‘the government knows best’ has passed and it is time for the voices of youth to be heard. We are giving a platform for the young and intellectuals to speak up but backed up with reasons, authorities, and facts. Not just simply talk. And this is one of the best platforms to do it. And it will be wonderful for the government to hear what they are saying about the laws, and laws can be reformed and made better for the future of the country.”