Rising Star of the legal world
They say you achieve true success only when you find your calling. The same couldn’t be more true for Etrus Tan Chen Hee. With a childhood dream of becoming a litigation lawyer, Etrus crossed unimaginable hurdles to emerge as a rising star in the Malaysian legal world. Only 28 years of age, he’s already the Managing Partner of the reputable law firm – Messrs Esther Ong Tengku Saiful & Sree.
Born in 1994 in a Chinese family, Etrus faced one hardship after another as he embarked upon his legal journey. “I wanted to be a lawyer since primary school. Both my parents merely attained secondary education, yet they strived hard so I could pursue my dream, regardless of how challenging their life was.”
The family’s first challenge came with the economic recession of 2008. Faced with severe financial crisis, Etrus’s father managed to earn a mild income to sustain the family. On his part, Etrus repaid him by scoring straight A’s in his Malaysian Certificate of Education, winning a scholarship for his A-Level, and obtaining ‘PTPTN Loan’ (National Higher Education Fund) for an LLB Programme by University of London.
In 2016, his father was diagnosed with 3rd stage colon cancer. Fortunately he beat the disease, but lost his earning capacity. Etrus completed his LLB in the shortest possible time and obtained the certificate for legal practice in 2017 in his first attempt at an exam which has a pass record of about only 20%.
He threw himself into work and continued his pupillage in a law firm where he got promoted to Head of Department. In 2018, he received a call from High Court of Malaya to be a legal practitioner. In October 2018, he was offered ‘Junior Partner’ at Messrs Esther Ong Tengku Saiful & Sree. Impressed with Etrus’s skill and dedication, they promoted him to Managing Partner in 2019.
It was Etrus’s strengths that helped him reach the pinnacle in record time. “My main strength is that I’m a highly independent person who can provide effective solutions for our law firm and clients. My second main strength would be eagerness to solve clients’ problems. I embrace the ideology of treating others’ problems as my own.”
Etrus’s expertise combined with his drive has seen him receive various global awards and honours. He has been conducting many trials and hearings independently as lead counsel, from lower courts up to Federal Court. He practices mainly in employment disputes, contentious commercial disputes, and intellectual property litigation matters.
An articulate speaker, he has been invited by numerous international organisations for legal talks, and interviewed by local press such as Sun Daily on legal issues. His list of awards comprise: Asian Legal Business Malaysia Rising Stars 2021; finalist of Asian Legal Business Managing Partner of the Year 2022 and Young Lawyer of the Year 2022; top 100 awardees of Lex-Falcon Awards 2022.
Etrus is quick to credit his success to his mentor, pastor Joshua Jung. “It is important to have a life mentor who can help, guide and support us. I am fortunate to have pastor Jung share with me the words of God and Jesus that have always guided me.”
He has also been instrumental in Etrus achieving a fine balance in his personal and professional life. “Instead of merely working hard, I always prefer to adopt the ideology of working smart and playing hard. I pre-plan my week and ensure my team completes work before deadlines so there is no unnecessary pressure or compromise on quality. Once I step out from office, I spend time with my family and churchmates, and practice my faith which includes praying, praising God, and serving God in church. I also take out ‘me time’ for exercise in order to relieve stress and achieve optimum fitness.”
A born leader, Etrus’s leadership style emphasizes active two-way communication between himself and the team. Under his management, Messrs gained 80% higher revenue in 2020 and 180% higher in 2021 as compared to 2019.
Etrus implemented a number of changes in the legal firm to sustain growth during the pandemic and after:
- Gave various online legal talks to the public, SME & SMI through NGO Platforms such as Wholistic Family Association and private organizations such as International Entrepreneur Network (IEN Networking Platform).
- Conducted internal training for young lawyers and pupils in the firm to equip them with more legal knowledge and practical must-knows on conducting litigation hearings and trials.
- Provided flexible payment scheme by way of installments to clients who suffered financial difficulties.
- Had one-to-one counselling sessions in the firm to provide psychological support to the staff.
- Launched the firm’s first branch after 22 years of being established.
- Promoted Corporate Social Responsibility.
All this, because Etrus firmly believes that law is not a mere profession, but a calling to serve the society.