On 17 March 2023, AmerBON’s Pupil-in-Chambers, Ms Sherise Sarah Vergis, was called to the Bar at the Kuala Lumpur High Court before YA Dato’ Ahmad Kamal Bin Md. Shahid. We thank Ms Annie Varghese a/p Thomas Varghese, for moving Sherise’s call.
Annie’s speech is reproduced below:
Dengan izin Yang Arif,
Saya Annie Varghese a/p Thomas Varghese, hadir bagi pihak Pempetisyen. Rakan-rakan bijaksana saya yang mewakili Peguam Negara Malaysia, Majlis Peguam Malaysia, dan Jawatankuasa Peguam Kuala Lumpur yang telah pun diperkenalkan kepada Yang Arif sebelum ini.
Dengan izin Yang Arif, saya dengan rendah diri memohon kebenaran untuk berhujah berkenaan Pempetisyen dalam Bahasa Inggeris.
May it please your Lordship,
The Petitioner is Sherise Sarah Vergis. She is the youngest of George Vergis and Elizabeth Zachariah’s three children, born and raised in Penang. The Petitioner attended SK Minden Heights’ primary school and then graduated from St. George’s Girls’ Secondary School. Growing up, if anyone asked her what she wanted to be when she was older, her answer would remain the same, unwavering — a doctor. The rationale for her interest in the long-standing and noble profession was that it would give her the opportunity to help those in need.
However, an experience she had during secondary school made her realise the importance of being able to stand up for oneself, and of advocating for those who have been wronged. That experience, combined with the realisation that she would indeed not enjoy a science-based career, led her down a different path. After that, when asked what she wanted to be, she would answer “a lawyer”; another profession that would give her the platform to help those in need. This resulted in consecutive conscious choices that brought her to where she is on this very day.
After secondary school, the Petitioner made the decision to pursue A-Level instead of enrolling in sixth form. This was not a decision she took lightly as it was a significant step out of the family norm, and she was keenly aware of the financial implications that would come along with it. She had her concerns, but she knew that this would be a necessary step for her to kickstart her legal career as she was not given a spot in the public tertiary education system — despite her academic achievement. This achievement, however, did help her to secure a significant scholarship to cover most of the cost of her A-Level education.
Following the completion of her A-Level, she moved to Kuala Lumpur to commence her law degree, where she developed an interest specifically in criminal law. After her first year, the Petitioner interned at the well-established non-governmental organisation, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), where her interest in human rights, and the laws related to them, was ignited. This exposure gave her further insights, and she learnt practical approaches to confront injustice and advocate the right to equality and non-discrimination. Upon completion of the final two years of her law degree, the Petitioner graduated from the University of London (External Programme), and then obtained her Certificate in Legal Practice in 2021, in the midst of the global pandemic.
The Petitioner commenced her pupillage in the chambers of AmerBON, Advocates in 2022, under the tutelage of Edmund Bon Tai Soon. She is grateful for the opportunities she had throughout her time at the firm, which enhanced her experience; and respects the work Edmund does and the causes he stands for. The nine months were difficult and full of challenges, but also a shaping experience. She made her fair share of mistakes throughout her pupillage but is thankful that she learnt through these mistakes and that they serve as reminders of what not to do in the future. At the firm, the Petitioner was expected to take responsibility for the files she was assigned to, which encompassed everything, including: file management; meeting, interacting with, and managing clients; researching; and drafting cause papers. She was often reminded of the importance of knowing the cases assigned to her like the back of her hand.
The Petitioner also had the privilege of assisting in and observing trials. She experienced first-hand the amount of hard work and dedication it takes to prepare for trial, understand all the documents and evidence in favour of the client, and formulate a narrative that is convincing, compelling, and properly evidenced. Researching incredibly specific aspects of the law could sometimes be discouraging, particularly when there seemed to be no answer to be found, but it also caused her to appreciate the value of understanding the finer points of law.
The Petitioner’s pupillage experience was further enriched by the time spent in the dock brief programme. Although originally given placement in the legal aid centre, the Petitioner appealed to be placed in the dock brief programme as she was especially drawn to working on criminal cases, being able to represent accused persons and mitigate for them, and having further exposure to advocacy. In a particularly memorable encounter during the dock brief programme, the Petitioner represented an accused, who was facing the possibility of six months imprisonment, a fine up to two thousand ringgit (RM2000.00), or both, for a charge under the Penal Code. The petitioner successfully mitigated his sentence and managed to convince the court to reduce the sentence to the minimum possible fine — one hundred ringgit (RM100.00). The petitioner was encouraged when the accused took the time to call the Malaysian Bar to extend his gratitude for the Petitioner’s assistance in mitigating his sentence and getting him out of lock-up on the very same day. This was an unexpected and deeply meaningful experience.
While she had been interested in criminal law since her degree, being exposed to criminal, civil, and public interest cases during her pupillage further solidified her interest in the area and brought about an enthusiasm for public interest cases as well. The dock brief programme taught the Petitioner the importance of eliciting pertinent and relevant information from her clients given time constraints, and how to present the facts in a way most beneficial for the accused person. It was an overall enriching and edifying part of her law journey.
The Petitioner would like to extend her gratitude to those who stood by her through the years. Above all, the Petitioner thanks God. She finds assurance in Deuteronomy 31:6, which says; “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.” She also extends her heartfelt gratitude to her parents; her sister, Rehanna; her aunt, Mary; her family and close friends; the heads of chambers of AmerBON, Advocates — Edmund Bon, her Pupil Master, and Amer Hamzah — for the opportunity to undergo her pupilage at the firm; and her colleagues at AmerBON, Advocates.
I believe that the Petitioner is of good character and is a fit and proper person to be admitted and enrolled as an Advocate and Solicitor of this Honourable Court and that her papers are in order. I believe, too, that my learned friends do not have any objections to this Petition. I, therefore, pray that the Petitioner, Sherise Sarah Vergis be duly admitted and registered as an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya.
I further crave leave from this Honourable Court, for Joshua Tay, a representative of the Petitioner’s Master, to robe the Petitioner on behalf of her Master.