Originally from Malaysia, Tay Chuen Siang did his undergraduate degree in accounting, before moving on to work for both Deloitte in Taiwan and Ernst & Young in Singapore; he's currently working in insurance in Malaysia. He was always interested in law, but never had a chance to study it until he started his Distance Learning LL.M. from the University of London International Programmes in 2010. He spoke to LLM GUIDE about the distance learning experience, as well as how the LL.M. has helped his career since graduating in 2014.
What’s your background, and why did you decide to do an LL.M.? What were your goals when enrolling?
After finishing my undergraduate studies, I was working with Arthur Andersen Malaysia for two years, dealing with audit and assurance. Then I got an offer from Deloitte Taiwan to join their intellectual properties consulting team, and I spent almost seven years doing IP audits, internal audits and BCP [business continuity planning]. I chose to return to Singapore after the birth of my eldest son, and joined Ernst & Young for another year doing Sarbanes Oxley audits before I called it quits.
For the sake of my young children, I chose to stay away from regional flying and opt for a more desk-bound job with a general insurance agency in Johor Bahru, my hometown. I joined this agency in 2008, and am primarily responsible for clients and claims management. After two years with the agency, I thought that it would be good for me to do a LL.M. (in Insurance Law), so that I have a better understanding of the industry, and at the same time, fulfill my dream of studying law.
Why did you choose to do a distance learning LL.M.? Did you consider other programs?
As said earlier, doing law was my dream. Given that I still needed to work to support my family, it naturally made sense for me to do a distance learning LL.M., which allows me to be flexible in my studying times, and cost a lot less. Plus there are already too many MBAs in this part of the world, so I don't want to be just another dude following the crowd.
What was the experience like?
The main advantages would have been cost savings and flexible time management. The main disadvantages would have been the lack of proper guidance by the relevant professors, the lack of peers studying on the same modules to get together for some serious discussions and the absence of experiencing campus life.
My favorite module would have been International Rights of Children. Human rights are neither respected nor readily applied in this part of the world, and so when I was doing this particular module, it really opened my eyes to the developments and challenges of children's rights. I was especially affected when I went through this module, because I shivered at the thought of those potentially unjust mistreatments happening to my own children. After I've passed this module, I told myself that I will always remember it, and share it with my children, family members and friends, so that all of us can contribute in one way or another to eventually terminate all forms of abuses and mistreatments of children.
Many say that it can be challenging to balance an LL.M. with work/home life. Did you find this to be the case?
I am thankful for a truly understanding family, especially my wife, who's ever so accommodating to my studying schedules, and taking care of the house and kids on her own. Without her understanding and support, it would not have been possible for me to complete this LL.M. At the same time, I was fortunate that my director at work was also allowing me time off to prepare for my studies and exams, in exchange for my continuous commitment and loyalty to the firm upon the completion of my studies. And I've never imagined myself to be so self-disciplined in studies! Haha!
How has the LL.M. helped you?
Ever since I've gotten my new name card with the LL.M. imprinted below my name, I guess a lot of my clients are treating me in a more positive manner. After all, the number of LL.M. graduates are probably just a tiny fraction of the mass of MBAs. So scarcity does makes us LL.M. graduates seems more ... prestigious? At the same time, insurance companies that I'm dealing with are more cautious in coming up with excuses to protect their firms' interests, in particular when I am now aware of the relevant case laws that are applicable to my claims. That definitely helps facilitate my negotiation for better terms and conditions within the various insurance policies.
The LL.M. process trains me to think without setting any assumptions, considering counter-arguments against my stance, and understanding the complexity of apply law to our daily routines.
In terms of career advancement, for now, I'm happy with where I am, but I'm sure my LL.M. will add on to whatever considerations that either my superior or management have on me when it comes to an amicable remuneration package.