Raising The Bar

What’s the difference between a good lawyer and a great lawyer? A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the judge.

When I was asked to write an article for this column, I thought a long time for a topic I should give my views on.

Several came to mind: Should I be promoting my legal knowledge (albeit limited) on corporate matters, or should I write about something more serious and heavy like the RM1.6bil to be spent on the new Parliament building and Istana Negara?

After much deliberation, I decided that before I criticise others, I should ensure that I, or more importantly the profession from where I hail, am beyond reproach or criticism. I therefore decided to write about my legal profession – the Bar.

1. Be professional in dispensing our duty

Firstly, but most importantly, we need to remember that we are professionals who have heavy responsibilities placed on our shoulders and understand that the public in general would not have the perception that lawyers are expensive liars/crooks if we dispense our duty with integrity and professionally.

To me, the problem arises when we are seen as a “hindrance” to the administration of justice – for example, by not being prepared, providing the court with inaccurate statements (mostly due to lack of preparation) and many other reasons which would as a consequence result in justice not being meted out.

Before we react to some of the judgments handed down by the courts (in that they are appalling or unbelievable), we should first ask ourselves whether we had in any way contributed to such judgments being handed down.

After all, the courts rely on the assistance and representation of lawyers in arriving at a conclusion on each set of facts.

2. Stop focusing on dollars and cents,

and start empowering the public and increasing their awareness of their rights.

We should constantly remind ourselves that our tasks as lawyers are not limited to just preparing for trial, defending our clients in court or drafting of commercial agreements.

We are fortunate enough to be legally trained to appreciate and made aware of the rights as well as remedies afforded to citizens in the event such rights are breached.

Instead of just using our knowledge as a tool in earning a living, we should step up and take on the role to spread and educate the public with our knowledge.

Certainly, a good effort by the Bar Council which should be applauded is the recently launched PerlembagaanKu / MyConstitution campaign, the first-of-its-kind national campaign to educate the Malaysian public and create greater awareness on the Federal Constitution.

We should work towards dispelling the notion that lawyers are only interested in dollars and cents and we should use our knowledge as a tool to contribute back to society.

3. Stop commercialising the profession

For litigation lawyers, a person’s freedom and liberty could be at stake, depending on the arguments put forth by the lawyer in court. For corporate lawyers, a transaction worth millions of dollars could be at stake, depending on the terms penned in the agreements.

The point is, our profession allows us certain privileges but it also comes with very heavy responsibilities.

Needless to say, the legal fees charged should therefore be commensurate to the responsibilities shouldered by us.

As much as we are eager to please our clients, we should not be forced to offer ridiculously low legal fees, which would inevitably result in a compromise on the quality of work.

The public should also be aware of the following. A good lawyer will spend laborious hours researching, focusing and trying his or her very best to offer the best solutions to clients, which would result in quality work.

By reducing legal fees to a ridiculous low, most lawyers would be forced to accept more briefs to maintain his or her earnings (to pay the bills) and naturally, would be forced to spend less time on each brief.

Consequently, quality of work would be compromised.

4. Give back to society

There is a difference between a good person and a great person.

A good person works hard for himself and his family, providing opportunities for his circle of friends.

However, a great person, while working towards supporting his family and friends, also strives to make the world a better place to live in.

The Bar should continue to support and create more avenues, such as charitable events, for members of the Bar to give back to society. The yearly Charity Night, brainchild of the Kuala Lumpur Bar Young Lawyers Committee, is an example.

Charity Night is an event where members of the legal fraternity, including pupils in chambers (trainee lawyers) and lawyers, showcase their other talents in the name of charity to raise funds, usually to be given to homes for abandoned children and the elderly.

This year, Charity Night takes place on July 2.

In conclusion, this writer believes that most members of the Bar do practise the above points and as such, the above points are only meant to serve as a reminder.

He humbly hopes that the same members of the Bar would indicate their acknowledgement of the same by contributing to Charity Night.

Inquiries can be made by contacting the Kuala Lumpur Bar Secretariat at 03 2693 3585. This writer will constantly be checking the fund box to see if he was right about his brothers and sisters at the Bar.

The writer is a young lawyer. Putik Lada, or pepper buds in Malay, captures the spirit and intention of this column – a platform for young lawyers to articulate their views and aspirations about the law, justice and a civil society. For more information about the young lawyers, please visit www.malaysianbar.org.my/nylc.

LB: This article was originally published in here.

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Posted on 24 June 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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