24 Asian Journal of Legal Education 10(1)
students used to take part in the course, technological issues encountered as part of their studies, whether
they perceived that remote training was inferior or superior to in-person training, and what were their
attitudes to specic issues in the remote course on advocacy including witness cheating, making objections,
team cooperation, sharing of workload and assessment of student participation and performance.
Remote or online learning2 brings with it a number of challenges that educators and educational
institutions have had to deal with at a rapid rate in the last two years during the SARS-2 coronavirus
pandemic, requiring constant adaptation and innovation. These matters include inadequate time for
adaptation, inequality of access, pedagogical approaches, mental health (of educators and learners), student
skill and knowledge assessment, resource access and institutional cooperation.3
These challenges certainly affect tertiary students also, who even early in the pandemic reported
increased difficulties managing not only their study obligations but also life in general.4
The Law Faculty at the University of Malaya runs a civil trial advocacy course for students in their final
year. It takes place over two semesters, and students must form teams representing either plaintiff or
defendant, and then prepare and argue a civil trial, taking it in turns to act as counsel for the mock litigants.
The course was first introduced into the curriculum over a decade ago as a way for students to gain practical
experience in civil trial advocacy. It was structured in a way to maximize the experiential learning that
students may have and enable them to implement many of the techniques and guidance given in the
guidebook Civil Trial Advocacy.5
The course is structured so that weekly lectures are given throughout both semesters in which various
aspects of trial advocacy are taught, so that students have a theoretical basis for understanding and applying
the key aspects of practical advocacy. Furthermore, tutors also give introductory classes in which the more
practical aspects of running a trial and the important procedural aspects (both pretrial and trial) are explained
As part of the course, students are required to draft the evidentiary and legal documents that are required
to prepare for and participate in any civil trial in Malaysia. This of course helps the students conceptualize
and comprehend how critical documents are in the civil trial process.
Although it is impossible to give complete training regarding all the procedural and evidentiary issues
that are relevant to trial practice, students study other courses during their ultimate year on civil procedure,
evidence and legal drafting which supplements and consolidates instruction and learning in addition to the
In early 2020 when the coronavirus struck the world, it was made compulsory for all courses within
University Malaya to be taught using a remote method of instruction. At that stage, the advocacy course
then in progress was in semester 2 and all the trials being undertaken for the 2019/2020 final year batch
of undergraduate law students were well underway. Because of the skills emphasis of the subject and the
unique practical methodology used, it was decided that the trials should be continued for the remainder
of the course and be conducted remotely using an appropriate remote audiovisual software platform.
The teaching staff decided that it was necessary to make additional guidelines for the remote conduct of the
trials for the remainder of semester 2. As it was a novel situation, staff made the guidelines flexible, meaning
that they could be subject to the discretion of the lecturer acting as judge controlling each of the 10 trials then
in progress. The guidelines covered all the practical aspects of the procedural and substantive issues of the trial
2 The terms are used interchangeably in this paper.
3 Conrad Hughes, Some Implications of COVID-19 for Remote Learning and the Future of Schooling (Series: In-Progress
Reflection No. 36 Current and Critical Issues in Curriculum, Learning and Assessment) UNESCO & International Bureau of
Education (19 April 2020, 3:35 pm), https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000373229.
4 Kari Almendingen et al., Student’s Experiences with Online Teaching Following COVID-19 Lockdown: A Mixed Methods
Explorative Study, plos one (31 Aug. 2021), https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0250378.
5 Gurdial Singh Nijar, Civil Trial Advocacy (2001).