London, United Kingdom 2013

Since graduating from university in 2003, I’ve not paid a visit to the United Kingdom. But after leaving the place for almost 10 years, I went back to the United Kingdom to visit Liverpool and London.

I didn’t like London as much as I did the last time I came to London. I guess I didn’t like the long walks as I don’t walk a lot in Kuala Lumpur. In fact, I had blisters on my feet for few days!

In our first week, we stayed at Croydon,  a small town located at Zone 5. It’s so far away that it costs me 100 pounds of taxi fare just to get there from Heathrow Airport! 

Fortunately, we moved to a friend’s apartment at Maida Vale at Zone 2. She just moved out from her apartment and we had the whole apartment for ourselves! Her place is strategically located few minutes away from the tube. There’s also a great coffee place by the name Elgin. I went there so many times until the baristas recognise me.

I visited places that I have been before and never been before. I find that every part of London is very different. One place could be extremely posh whereas the other looks like a dumpster. 

We visited a few markets such as Borough Market, Portobello Market, Convent Garden Market and Camden Market. I was hoping to find some antiques but I couldn’t find anything interesting.

St Christopher’s Place @ Oxford Street. This place has an interesting entrance. It’s unassuming but once you step through the narrow alley, you’ll find yourself in pedestrianised streets with boutiques and restaurants.

We also made a trip to British Museum again. I find that most of the stuff is still the same. But this time round, I got to see stuff I missed last time.

Lindow Man , a well preserved human body found in a peat-bog at Lindow Moss, near Manchester. He was killed sometime around 2BC – 119A. Poor chap looks like dried cuttlefish.

Contract for a sale of land craved on a rock – 1033BC!

Roman coins

We came at the time when Catherine Middleton gave birth to Prince George Alexander Louis. Since the Royal couple did not announce whether they are having a boy and a girl, most Royal baby commemorative items were unisex. I also didn’t see any commemorative items bearing the Prince’s name. However, the Daily Mail reported that cybersquatters registered nearly 200 domain names connected to the royal baby!

We were in Austria when the royal baby was born. The Buckingham Palace was filled with well wishers when the royal baby was born. When we came back, my wife and I visited the palace hoping to witness the celebration but it was already over. It was back to its tourisy self.

We also signed up for the London Haunted Tour to check out the haunted scenes of London. However, I find this walk more of an historical walk than a haunted tour. The so-called haunted stories were so old that they are not scary anymore. However, I enjoyed the walk to all the historical places and obscure places.

This is where the original London Bridge started

One of the oldest parts of London. Narrow streets and once infested with the plague. Was told that night soil was normally through from the top floor!

One of the many obscure old pubs hidden in the lanes of London city

Leadenhall Market, one of the oldest markets in London dating back to the 14th Century. This place was featured in the movie Harry Potter.

Mice fight over cheese on a ledge in Philpot Lane. One of the smallest sculptures in London.

We visited the site where the first coffee house stood.

Statue of George Peabody – touch his shoes for good luck, I think.

Before we left London for home, we managed to catch Wicked, a musical based on the classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Apollo Victoria Theater, where the play was shown, is huge hall but with a small foyer. Although it was hot and stuffy in the hall, I enjoyed the musical very much. We sat quite far from the stage. My wife rented a binocular for a pound.

Mobile Working

Since I practice some sort of mobile office system, I have a few words about this.

Mobile working is affordable in the UK. The place in we stayed in Maida Vale doesn’t have broadband. Also, it’s not easy to find free WiFi in London.

Hence, I got a Three Mobile Simcard for 1 pound topped it with 10 pounds worth of credit. I then use an iPhone to tether the Internet connection so that I can go online with my Samsung Ultrabook.

But Three Mobile’s connection is pretty crap. It’s slow and unreliable.

It’s amazing what one can do with a mobile office. When I was in Austria, I filed a trade mark application for a client online!

Law firms

As usual, I met some lawyers from a UK law firm that I work with. I’ve worked with some of them for many years whereas some just recently. It’s interesting to note that these lawyers are of many nationalities such as Spanish, Polish, Indian and American!

This firm also has a very strong data protection department. Due to their capabilities, they expanded their practice to Europe and recently in California. Surprising, one of them knows a Chinese lawyer that I met in Chiang Mai few years ago. What a small world! 

I saw one law firm in Liverpool with a retail outlet as their office. They offer very low fixed fee legal services and these services are generally for individuals. Such modal makes legal access cheaper to the public. Unfortunately, such modal is not acceptable in Malaysia.

We met up with Sow in London for dinner and drinks.

Sow in 2005

Sow was my barf bag holder for few years before leaving to UK for good.

Although its been 5 years since we hung out together, we had a great time catching up and drinking. We had dinner and a few pints at a pub called Hornimen @ Hays, London Bridge. After than Sow brought us one of those obscure hipster cocktail bars. You wont find a fancy entrance but a small door with a small sign. The one we went to had an oriental theme at the 4th floor of a restaurant. Their drinks were divided into types of alcohol eg champagne, vermont, vodka and whisky.

After drinks, we followed Sow to Chinatown for supper. Never felt so fat in my life before.

I also met up with Liz, one of my Multilaw friends whom I met in Chiangmai, Thailand. We had lunch in Tower Hill. She even brought me to the law firm where she works. The reception looks pretty modern and their open plan office is behind the reception. The firm recently had a merger and a few lawyers got laid off. It’s not the first time I hear lawyers being laid off and it is common in the UK and the US. However, I’ve not heard of lawyers being laid off in Kuala Lumpur!


After 2 weeks, we finally left the United Kingdom for home. I came to the realization that metropolitan life is not for me. I still like my semi hermit lifestyle and driving around whenever I want to. I guess I don’t like spending British Pounds when I’m earning in Ringgit Malaysia.

Nevertheless, I’ll come back to London again – when Ringgit Malaysia foreign exchange rate improves!

Echelon 2013 @ Singapore

I think I’m addicted to attending startup conferences. It’s certainly more enjoyable than the international intellectual property conferences that I attended. I guess it because the crowd in startup conferences are young and there are loads of interesting business ideas. Some of these ideas are applicable to the legal industry. 

In June, I made a trip to Singapore to attend Echelon, an Asia focused tech startup conference. I went with Mellissa of Perkpool again.

Porcelain Hotel

It was only a one-night trip and I stayed at Porcelain Hotel, Chinatown. It’s about SGD150 for a small single room. Just enough for a toilet and a bed. There was no space for a chair!

Echelon had one sponsoring company by the name Uber that provides private executive transport. Uber gave a SGD50 credit to all Echelon participants. All you need to do is to book a ride using their App. The App is able to calculate the distance and estimated fees for you too. Once you book the car, they will send you a text to confirm.

Mellissa redeemed hers and she got a Mercedes to pick her up. Apparently, Uber also has Bentley cars!

However, I couldn’t redeem mine as the Uber Android App doesn’t support Malaysian mobile numbers -_-

Networking 101 – Go to each booth, ask them what their Apps do and exchange namecards.

The conference also utilised Pigeonhole Live for their Q&A sessions. All delegates can participate in the session by using their Internet browser to visit and use the event password to ask questions and vote for the questions you want the panelists to answer. The questions are posted on the screens.

I find that the 2-days conference is not as interesting as the Startup Asia Conference 2013. I couldn’t connect with many of the speakers and panelists but I must say that the ecommerce panelists were the most interesting. The panelists shared how they promoted their eCommerce side. In Japan, they find that television commercials are effective. In other countries,  billboards were used. In Philippines, they rely on popular Facebook pages to promote for them. I wonder if there are already companies managing advertisements for popular Facebook pages like how Nuffnang manages advertisements for blogs. Sounds like a great idea but I know that Facebook strictly controls advertisements by people other than Facebook.

“Looking for funding” seems to be the buzzword around the startup arena. Initially I was wondering why do they need funding if they could have used their own money to expand or run the business. Some told me that they need funds to scale faster. However, one said, “Why use your own money when you can use others”.

Interesting startups

Waygo – Winner of Echelon 2013’s Most Promising Startup. This is an App which recognises Chinese text on menu and signboards. For example, if a food menu is all Chinese,  you can place your smart phone on the menu and get it translated real time. Unfortunately,  not available on Android yet.


Tutu – a marriage between toys and an App. The App, made especially for children, comes with a soft toy like cover. The App creates a virtual playmate for the child. The child can feed the toy or even brush the toy’s teeth using specially made devices (in a form of a milk carton, carrot and tooth brush).

MyLegalWhiz – I spent some time chatting with the co-founder of the App. It’s a Philippines based subscription based legal information service provider. MyLegalWhiz allows lawyers, academias and students to do legal research. MyLegalWhiz is interested to expand to other countries hence I gave them some information about the Malaysian legal industry. I also showed them the FCL&Co Unreported Case Law Search.

Stamp’s patent pending device

Stamp – This Thailand based retail loyalty App is different from the rest. It has a patent pending device that authenticates transactions. Retail outlets will rent the stamp from Stamp and use the stamp to “stamp” on virtual loyalty cards. It also can be used for other transactions such as to authenticate banking transactions. 

Spaceout – This Aussie website allows people with extra car park spaces to list and rent it out to other people. Doubt it will work in Malaysia as we lack traffic offence enforcement. You can park anywhere in Malaysia and get away with it. I did a little bit research on this Spaceout and it seems that they also list other spaces such as office and storage places.

Duet – As many of you know, many Filipinos can sing and love to sing. Duet allows you to pair up with your friends anywhere in the world to sing a song together using your phone! The lyrics will be on the phone and you can use a headphone to listen to the music while you sing the lyrics.

Startup and Legal Services

One thing I learn from the startup scene is the term “marketplace”. Apps are sold in a virtual market (eg Google Play, Apple Appstore) and even within some Apps itself, there are also marketplaces (eg mobile chat App, Line, which sell virtual stickers to be used on the chat). These marketplaces serve as a goto point for users to seek new services and experience. Owners of marketplaces generally get a cut for each sale.

If I use the same concept in the legal services industry, a law firm is equivalent to a marketplace. The lawyers are the apps. Hence, to attract clients and maximize revenue, law firm owners may consider building a law firm with good lawyers with specific skills and the latter will then take a cut from each deal made by the latter.

In the current traditional set up of law firms, equity partners (generally the senior partners) will take most of the profit and distribute them according to the performance of the junior partners. This arrangement is beneficial to equity partners but may create a level of dissatisfaction amongst the junior partners. Junior partners normally complain that they don’t get enough for the time they put in hence resulting in junior partners leaving for greener pastures (eg setting up their own firm). With the “marketplace” model based on “a cut from each deal” (+ administrative costs eg HR, accounting, library etc), a law firm may retain their best talents. One may argue that the equity partners will lose revenue substantially. But this is the price one pays to lessen the risk of disruption, loss of talents and clients, and re-training new lawyers. This also allows junior partners to work harder as they know that substantial profits will be theirs and they know what they will get end of the day. ‘

I have not thought of the specific details. Perhaps, the equity partners of a marketplace concept law firm can take 20% off each department’s net profit (after deducting department cost e.g. staff, space rental and fixed utility costs like electricity). The 20% will be taken by the equity partner as their revenue and be used to deduct administrative costs. With a fixed budget, equity partners will have to think of ways to lower administrative cost instead of playing golf every day.

In the meantime, the equity partners can work out individual arrangement for specific briefs. Also, if the client is a client of the firm, the arrangement will be different when a brief originate is referred from the equity partners.

Non-performing partners, of course, will be shown the door or given alternative arrangements.

Beijing, China 2013 – Day 5 – XiuShui Market, Summer Palace, Olympic Stadiums

Our fifth day started late. Our driver and guide picked us up at 11AM as opposed to the usual 9AM (we are usually late cause we always oversleep).

Our first stop was Xiushui market. It’s an indoor shopping centre with hundreds of fashion outlets. There are some toys and electronic shops too. Bargaining is a must here. Some shop keepers can be quite aggressive and rude but if you maintain your calm, you’ll probably get the price that you want.

Counterfeits are ample in this place. I was expecting many outlets using fake brand names just like the fake Apple store. However, there were not many of them but there is one Ferrerri.

Summer Palace was next.

Although the place was huge, we only took short and quick stroll. It’s quite scenic and we got to see the frozen man-made Kunming Lake. We even walked on top of it but we were told it is dangerous to do so. Imagine falling through the ice!

However, whenever I think of this place I would think how Empress Dowager Ci Xi diverted China’s navy funds to repair and build this palace.

The Marble Boat is one of the many structures rebuilt or repaired using the navy funds.

Our last outing was to the Chinese Olympics stadiums. It was just another stroll along the Olympics venue to see the birds’ nest stadium.

I wouldn’t recommend anyone to go here as there was nothing much to do or see here. We headed back to our hotel after that. To end our night, we went for foot reflexology. It’s quite similar to what we have in Malaysia.

This post marks the end of the my Beijing trip. China was an eye opener. I would certainly go back to China again. Next stop, Shanghai!