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Theng Tith Maria knows exactly what she wants to do with her life – a rare trait in anyone, let alone a 20-year-old student. “I want to be a lawyer,” she told Lift, explaining that by working in law she won’t be beholden to government or private institutions and she can “help the Cambodian people; my clients”.
The Cambodian legal system is often criticised for its lack of transparency. But if Theng Tith Maria is any indication of what the future generation of jurists could contribute, then there are young legal minds ready to use their expertise to improve their country through its courts.
The Cambodian Client Counseling Competition brings together legal teams comprised of students from various universities from around the country and tests their ability to provide on-the-spot legal advice to hypothetical clients. For two of the last three years, Theng Tith Maria, who is part of one of the teams representing the Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE), has taken first place honours.
After graduating from Wat Koh High School in 2006, Theng Tith Maria won a scholarship to study English literature at Institute of Foreign Language (IFL) and enrolled at RULE. Although she is one of the top students in her programme at IFL, she admits that her main focus is law.
“I have accepted that I cannot give everything to both majors at the same time,” she said, advising others to recognise their strengths and pursue success in that field.
Theng Tith Maria’s success in domestic client counseling competitions have won her trips around the world, including to last year’s Louis M Brown International Client Counselling Competition held in Las Vegas, Nevada, and most recently to Hong Kong. She was also part of a group of five students who represented Cambodia to join The Philip C Jessup International Moot Court Competition held in Washington DC, in March.
There is no secret to her success – besides hard work – but there are a few strategies that Theng Tith Maria employs to make her studying more efficient. She explained that while some people try to isolate themselves when they study, thinking they will focus better, she prefers to engage in discussion, which makes things easier to remember. “If I have to memorise lessons for exam, I join a group discussion and we all share different information,” she said. “Learning through action always works the best for me.”
Theng Marith, Maria’s proud father, said that, if anything, his daughter needs to study less. “I don’t have to worry about her being lazy,” he said. “But sometimes I worry that she is trying too hard.”