LoyarBorak #2: How Relevant Is The Bar Council? (Part 1)

LoyarBorakLoyarBorak features discussions of selected issues in either written, video, or audio formats.

LoyarBorak #2 focuses on the role of the Bar Council, in view of the on-going Bar Council elections. Postal ballots must be returned by 30 November 2010, and the results are expected on 1 December 2010.

This LoyarBorak is moderated by Marcus van Geyzel (who also throws his views into the ring), and the borakkers are Adriana Leu, Foong Cheng Leong, Grace Wong, Lee Shih and Siti Shahrom, who all approach the discussion from their different experiences and positions in the legal profession. Please borak along in the comments section below.

If you’d like to be a borakker, email Marcus at marcus.van.geyzel[at]gmail.com

Justice League

Marcus: For you personally, what role do you expect the Bar Council to play?

Adriana:

As someone who has just recently sat for the CLP Professional Practice Paper, the first thing right off my mind would be section 42 of the Legal Profession Act 1976. However, technically speaking, section 42 describes the many roles that the Bar Council is empowered to perform.

Ideally, I would expect the Bar Council to be that unifying presence that protects the integrity of our profession and speaks effectively for its members in relation to all issues which affect us. Further, I expect it to be a leading force in our society in pursuing the cause of justice.

Cheng Leong:

The role of the Bar Council is already set out in the Legal Profession Act 1976 but for me personally, the Bar Council should play a bigger part in protecting its members.

Grace:

To me, the Bar Council has always been the representative body of the legal profession. Its wide range of functions include upholding the cause of justice without fear or favour, to represent, protect and assist members of the legal profession and to express its view on matters affecting legislation and the administration and practice of law in Malaysia. In essence, they act as the voice of the legal profession. (Ok, this is a blatant reproduction of the Legal Profession Act).

Lee Shih:

I recognise the great importance that the Bar Council plays in effecting the Bar’s object of upholding the cause of justice. The Bar Council representatives are our front-line in speaking out against injustice.

However at the same time, the Bar Council has to balance this role with that of protecting and advancing the interests of its members. Such a role would include improving the working conditions of lawyers and improving the standards of the profession, e.g. legal professional development.

Siti:

A professional body wearing many hats, led by honesty and integrity. This includes regulating the admission of competent and qualified lawyers, preserving the quality and reputation of the profession, supervising the conduct of lawyers and disciplining them, regulating the legal profession in the interests of the public, improving access to justice and educating the public on the law, representing and promoting the interests of lawyers, and be the leading voice on law reform and public interest campaigns. Ultimately, the Bar Council should be responsible for upholding the reputation of the profession, fairness and justice and, most importantly, be independent from all political influence.

Marcus:

The borakkers have addressed this quite comprehensively. For me, official scope aside, the Bar Council has two main functions: to look after the interests of its members and to use its position to speak out and lobby against injustice in general. Every Council member should be clear on this.

Walk For Justice

Marcus: Up until now, how would you rate the Bar Council’s performance of its role you mentioned above?

Adriana:

I doubt I am in any position to comment given my brief time in this profession. However I have had many opportunities to speak to experienced lawyers and received many diverse opinions about their views of the Bar Council and practice in general. I’ve come across many disillusioned ones, some are still hopeful and many others are finding ways to survive in this profession.

I think one thing that we can all agree on is that the Bar Council is definitely no fence-sitter. On many issues, it has spoken up and stood its grounds. But it is a thankless job and everyday we still hear grouses and complaints by legal practitioners about the KPIs, SRO compliance and enforcement and the Bench’s perceived lack of independence.

Funnily enough, I’ve noticed that the people who tend to criticise the most are also the ones who don’t bother to take part in the work of the Bar Council, or even to participate in elections, for example. So, perhaps before we start to rate the performance of the Bar Council, we should look at ourselves instead. The Bar Council is only a name. What it does, how it does it, how strong or effective it is ultimately depends on us, the members. So the question should perhaps be: how would we rate ourselves as members in making the Bar Council the force we want it to be?

One way to start is to look at those ballot papers members have just received. How many of us will bother to vote?

Cheng Leong:

Unfortunately, not up to my expectations. The Bar Council has turned into a press release machine. When the 3 legal aid lawyers were arrested for trying to assist people who were arrested in the Brickfields police station, all we were able to get was a Suhakam inquiry. When the lawyers who were distributing the “Red Book” were arrested (and subsequently released fortunately), a press statement was once again released, but there was no news worth mentioning. We are now at a stage where lawyers are arrested here and there. What happened to the days where lawyers were respected?

Grace:

I am indeed proud to say that the Bar (either through its various committees or otherwise) has lived up to its words when it comes to reaching out to its members. In fact, the Bar has gone beyond reaching out to its members; it now extends its “hands” to reach out to members of the general public through university visits, Orang Asli trips, and many other activities.

However, it is rather disappointing also to notice that the Bar in recent times seems to issue press releases and that’s it! This is noticeable in the recent amendments to the Subordinate Courts Act and even the implementation of the KPIs and the Fast Track System which affects the legal profession as a whole.

Although there are talks and forums organised, I would have thought the Bar ought to have taken a more active role in voicing the grouses of its members.

Lee Shih:

The Bar Council has definitely been vocal through the issuance of statements to speak out against injustice. When you look at other jurisdictions, the Bar Council’s equivalent body would focus very much inwardly at the interests of the members. Here, the Bar Council (representing the Malaysian Bar at large) has done well in creating awareness of issues.

In terms of advancing the interests of its members, while steps have been taken, I think more can be done in terms of improving conditions and standards in general. This is a point that Siti makes. While a separate body, the Disciplinary Board, is in charge of meting out disciplinary punishments, Rules and Rulings can constantly be revised and updated to ensure a high level of professional conduct. At the same time, if certain aspects of the Rules governing practice have become archaic or outmoded (for example, certain parts of the Publicity Rules), then these can also be updated to reflect modern practice.

Siti:

Frankly speaking, I think the Bar Council could and should do more in terms of improving the quality of lawyers in the country. Perhaps, the best way forward is to filter at the entry point and impose a strict system of monitoring the conduct of its members. Lee Shih made a good point about constantly revising Rules and Rulings governing practice. I am sure many would agree that lawyers who cheat, fail to abide by the Rules and tarnish the reputation of the profession should be suspended and in severe cases, disbarred, regardless of their social standing and political influence.

There should be no two ways about it. The Bar Council should be firm. Lawyers are (generally) not and not meant to be crooks. So, say no to corrupt lawyers. Say no to touts. Say no to killer lawyers.

Marcus:

Mediocre. Whilst realising that effecting change is difficult, I think the Bar Council’s efforts in addressing issues have been half-hearted. Cheng Leong mentioned “press release machine”, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard that phrase used to describe the Bar Council. When Ambiga was president, I used to have non-lawyers say to me that I should be proud of the Bar Council. This was largely due to the successful organisation of the “Walk For Justice”, as well as her attitude of continuing to speak up despite pressure and accusations of being an “opposition party”.

It has been downhill since then. Incidents come and go, and all the Bar Council does is cobble up a press release, which will be ignored, as everyone knows that there will be no strong follow-up. I wonder what Council members are thinking when they attend their meetings, hold their discussions, and … do nothing.

Why bother being on the Council if you don’t intend to do anything substantial? Perhaps there is some thrill or status in holding a position. It is hypocritical of Council members who say that the government lacks “political will” to implement change, when they themselves do nothing with their positions in the Bar Council. Rumours of insider politics and factions do not help to dispel the notion that the last thing some Council members have on their minds is justice, let alone the rights of members.

LoyarBorak continues in Part 2.

Adriana is barely a month into her life as a pupil in chambers. She has heard many horror stories about the practice of law even prior to reading law but has remained unfazed and determined to pursue this childhood ambition of hers whilst holding on to the basic ideals of Justice.

Cheng Leong is a blogger pretending to be a lawyer, and a lawyer pretending to be a blogger. When not earning money blogging at xes.cx, he picks up pocket money as an information technology / intellectual property lawyer. He tweets @xescx.

Grace is a young litigation lawyer. She moved from Ipoh to KL this year, and continues to have a love-hate relationship with the madness that is legal practice.

Lee Shih is a litigator in Kuala Lumpur. He just about still qualifies to be categorised as a young lawyer. He has been neglecting his blog but tries to find time to tweet over @iMleesh. He wishes he had as much pocket money as Cheng Leong.

Marcus is a corporate/commercial solicitor who, every year, struggles to find more than a handful of good candidates to vote for. He remains hopeful that a change will come, perhaps through the transperambulation of pseudo-cosmic antimatter. He tweets @vangeyzel.

Siti is a young, enthusiastic tax lawyer who loves travelling, eating good food and salivating over sports cars. She tweet-stalks @sitishahrom.

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32 Responses to LoyarBorak #2: How Relevant Is The Bar Council? (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: A Bar Council member’s riposte to LoyarBorak #2 | LoyarBurok

  2. Jen

    Syahredzan: On a scale of 1 to 10, you measure the success of the "walk for justice" as?

    I find it a total failure because the BC did not consult its members as a whole as to the rationale behind the whole march – to hand 2 memorandums? How different is the BC from Hindraf then?

    A whole "organisation" of legal minds found that the most effective solution to the issue of a tainted judiciary is to hold a march which eventually brought about the (threat) bankruptcy of the BC?

    What was the outcome? And why did the BC sit patiently for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to find that there is a case against the lawyer in the controversial video clip issue before there was any misconduct inquiry? I am sure there would be a more effective way to deal with its "runt of the litter".

    Sorry, I still do not see how it is "successful" or relevant to the Bar as a whole when it was hastily organised with no clear intention in mind but merely to show our dissatisfaction. Perhaps a more effective way was to boycott the courts for a day or a week. Or to advocate the separation of powers be enforced.

    But no, march the lawyers did. Let us march for justice every time we are unhappy with something- that'd show them who's boss.

  3. Syahredzan Johan

    "On a separate note, Marcus, while the majority of us were not consulted on the “Walk for Justice” we were all made to pay for the costs of it. And then barely a year after, we were told, let’s hike up the subscription because we’re going broke! And here’s a list of things we spend on – CDs, Tshirts, buses ferrying marchers and what not.

    What utter rubbish. I hardly think it was “successful”."

    Ah yes, of course. Who cares whether the judiciary has been compromised. I have to pay for the walk, damn it!

    Looks like the problem is not only with the Bar Council, but the Malaysian Bar as a whole.

  4. Jen

    On a separate note, Marcus, while the majority of us were not consulted on the "Walk for Justice" we were all made to pay for the costs of it. And then barely a year after, we were told, let's hike up the subscription because we're going broke! And here's a list of things we spend on – CDs, Tshirts, buses ferrying marchers and what not.

    What utter rubbish. I hardly think it was "successful".

  5. Jen

    Many of us here are guilty of not participating or volunteering at the BC but yet we make quite a lot of noise about its inaction. I don't see the issue of how this self reflection of our inaction plays into expecting the BC to act for us and to protect our interests as its member.

    Firstly it must be mentioned that we PAY to be a member – subscription fees. If I didn't subscribe to the fees, I can't renew my Sijil Annual. So, it is quite a forced membership if I may say so. If I were given a choice, I choose not to be part of the Bar because so far all it has done is issue press statements, jump in the fray of "sensational issues" and give its two cents on issues of law on contentious matters. But when it comes to protecting its members, making working conditions better, or stopping the judiciary/prosecution from bullying the lot of us,I see zilch.

    When the new S51A was introduced, many of us in the criminal practice were forced to pay for the COMPULSORY supply of documents. What did the BC Criminal Committee do? Nothing. In fact they wrote a letter to confirm with the AG chambers that payment was indeed to be imposed and when the AG chambers confirmed, that was the end of the story. We had to fight it in the courts (all the way to the High Court) to make the supply of docs FOC. We even wrote to the BC to tell them we do not AGREE to its stand (mainly because we were not consulted on it).

    If one were not to be active in all these "legal frolicking with big names in the legal profession", we would not know a single person in the committee. If you do not rub shoulders with big firms or "big shot" lawyers, we would be left in the dark as to who these people who are running to be on the committee are. Is it truly the fault of the individual lawyer not to care about the celebrity-dom of these lawyers? Year in and year out, the candidates are the same. The proposer for the candidates are the same. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Perhaps there is a better system to getting people to serve on the BC? It shouldn't be a "here comes the election, here's a few pieces of paper of my achievements", these candidates should be "working" on a year long basis.If you must campaign, so be it. If you want me to vote for you, then show me why – not on paper, not based on what you yourself wrote about your achievements, but through your actions for the past year.

  6. (1) For you personally, what role do you expect the Bar Council to play?

    Suing the Government, the Home Ministry for continuing ISA, the PDRM Departments for not implementing IPCMC, or other Bureaucratic Departments when personnel step out of line – like in a lack of a voluntary clause in Forced Military Conscriptions or the lack of consultation with the people on Vehicular-APs or suing the Transport Ministry when it ratifies Toll Concessionaires with obviously profiteering paradigms.

    (2) Up until now, how would you rate the Bar Council’s performance of its role you mentioned above?

    Total Failure. -10 on a scale of Zero to Ten.

    @Shawn said :

    " . . . members of the Bar, have every right to expect more of our leaders, and to question and criticise them when they do not do enough. The problem is that many people think that criticism and complaining is wrong. It is not. It is the hallmark of any mature society or organisation. "

    The problem is NOT that many people think that criticism and complaining is wrong, it is even more wrong *not to run against* offending committee members or cliques that make use of BC posts to declare their pro-establishment mentalities in hopes of gaining favour or to prevent BC from acting on the above issues answered in Q1 and Q2. Toppling decayed personalities in committees is the hallmark of any mature society or organisation.

  7. Lee Shih

    Adriana made the point on us members also having to reflect on ourselves, and this issue has also been touched on by some of the above comments.

    It is important that we too have to ask ourselves whether we have done our part in improving matters and contributing to the Bar. It can be exercising your right to vote at the Bar Council elections or State Bar AGMs, both of which attract very low votes in general. When there was uproar along the Court corridors when the KPIs were first implemented, an EGM was staged for members to voice their concerns but the turnout was very low. When the Bar Council seeks our views on matters, the replies are also low.

    I have re-read what we Borakkers wrote and I don't see us just rehashing complaints. Personal views were given and credit attributed where credit was due.

    I made the point about the Bar Council being vocal, and I know that often, the Bar Council is the lone voice in speaking out against injustice. I would like to think the public at large still gives a lot of weight to what the Bar's views are.

    At the Royal Commission of the VK Lingam video tape, it was the Bar Council's team that largely contributed to the many findings made against the individuals. Post-Royal Commission, there is zero action by the AG but we do know that there are Disciplinary Board proceedings pending.

    Both Shanmuga and Dipendra commented on improvements to the LPA. Whether it will be to incorporate a form of Limited Liability model, or to tweak the composition of the Bar Council, these are all very worthwhile options to pursue. But statutory amendments take time to push through. So, I come back to my comment on Rules under the LPA and Bar Council Rulings, which I understand can all largely be implemented by the Bar Council. Revamps to these Rules or Rulings can then be made a lot quicker for practitioners to keep pace with ever changing circumstances.

    For instance, the Bar Council Ruling on websites of law firms. How many law firm websites, and blawgs like LoyarBurok, comply with the terms of the Website Ruling or the Publicity Rules? Can't there be a faster pace of revamp and modification? If there already is non-compliance, and non-enforcement, then why are such rules still in place?

    We are also facing the fast approaching future where foreign law firms, in some shape or form, will be entering the Malaysian legal market. Will our professional conduct framework – covering disciplinary proceedings, issues such as publicity, professional etiquette – be nimble enough to take into account this new legal landscape?

  8. go vote

    Watch this video: http://adsoftheworld.com/media/ambient/hungarian_

    It was a campaign to educate and urge people to vote in Hungary. This should be done for the BC elections

  9. @ladymissazira

    "The bar does not claim to be the communion of saints. It only claims to be a noble organization of fallible men, in a fallible society. It concedes that all lawyers sometimes blunder in a professional service; that many sometimes sin against professional duty; that some are incompetent and some are vicious. But it asserts its own dignity and integrity, by a greater contempt than the world has for its dunces, by a severer reprobation of its knaves."

    Edmund G. Ryan

    ^_^

  10. H R Dipendra

    Dear Mhini,

    Thank you for pointing out the grammatical error. It should have read "mindlessly". My apologies. It is a cheapshot but noted, nevertheless.

    Sycophancy, in any loose understanding, means brown nosing and favour seeking. I used it in a context to describe individuals who try to appease one section in favour of another. All, at the same time being in the same divide.

    But I am sure you know that. Anyway, and moving on, I feel that you have missed the point. I am not against criticism whether emotional or otherwise. Criticise by all means but understand what you are criticising. Be constructive rather than blind "mindless" condemnation.

    I have read many statements in the past about the failings of the BC. A lot of it stems from a lack of undertstanding on how the BC operates. It does not help that the committee of 2007-2009 had set a high standard for the rest of the Bar who now expects the same.

    Thus, my suggestion that we amend the LPA to reflect the growing demands of younger members of the Bar and by members who have lost faith in how the BC conducts itself. Change, is inevitable.

    Contrary to what the tweets say, I am not defending the BC. Nor am I "buddy-buddy" with anyone in the BC. Some of them are my friends and I work with them but some of them, I dont even like.

    The BC deserves many of the criticisms it gets. But in criticising, lets us do so fairly and with reason. If you are legally trained, you will appreciate reason.

    If the point is about the BC not doing enough for its members, please set it out and take them to task. I am all for that. Please fell free to include suggestions or offer to assist. A lot of us are overstretched.

    The points made by Adriana Leu, Foong Cheng Leong, Grace Wong, Lee Shih, Marcus van Geyzel and Siti Shahrom are what we should take heed in making the BC a better place. I hope something really positive comes out of this and this post is used to initiate the change we need. The Bar AGM is in about 4 months time. Resolutions can be passed compelling the incoming committee to take decisive action.

    But one thing is for sure- I will not stand for mindless criticisms because it is fashionable to do so. That is just plain wrong and unjust.

    All the best and good luck,

    Dipendra

  11. Loh Siew Cheang

    As we practice, along the way, we forget.

    Temptations. Fame. Money. Girls.

    We are swayed.

    Sometimes, we forget – the reason why we went to law school.

  12. Syahredzan Johan

    1.

    Out of the 36 Bar Council members, 12 are elected from the floor, 2 are the immediate President and Vice President of the Bar and the rest are the Chairpersons and representatives of the various State Bar Committees.

    2.

    If we think that the Bar Council is not doing enough, then is it not time for us to elect into the Bar Council members who can and do something for a better Bar?

    3.

    Yet, on average we get around 3,000 ballot papers returned, more or less. Out of 13,000.

    4.

    State Bar committee attendances are also abysmal.

    5.

    Everyone complains about the KPI. But when an EGM is held to discuss it, how many members turned up?

    6.

    So if we have think there could be a better Bar Council, why don’t we do something about it?

    7.

    Let's start by voting into the Bar Council, the people who will bring about a better Bar.

    As for Marcus' questions:

    1) This has been answered by my more learned peers.

    2) Bar Council is doing great work for Malaysia as a whole. But not enough for members of the Bar. Bar Council be more responsive and understand the needs of members of the Bar. More can be done to improve practice conditions so that members may find meaning and fulfilment in practice.

  13. mhini

    I read with interest the article/discussion, and the comments that followed.

    One thing that struck me, and which happens in a lot of comment sessions on this website, is that the comments always have to turn to name-calling, in some form or another.

    HR Dipendra said, and I quote (unchanged, including grammatical error): "In between and to compound matters, posts like this enables sycophantic individuals who have no understanding of how the BC operates to mindless attack the BC for its failings."

    What a sad part of what was otherwise a quite well written comment entry. Let's forget the fact that he uses the word "sycophantic" totally out of context. A sycophant is someone who flatters; yet he uses it to talk about critics. Anyway, the point is this: Do I need to have an understanding of how the BC operates to comment? No. Does the fact that I am not buddy-buddy with the BC members mean that my criticism is a "mindless attack"? No.

    Just because someone disagrees with your view, or expresses it in a perhaps more emotional manner than you, does not make him or her "mindless" Mr HR Dipendra.

  14. Pingback: LoyarBorak #2: How Relevant Is The Bar Council? (Part 2) | LoyarBurok

  15. A quick response to Dipendra:

    You mentioned in your comment: "Finally, I note that a sequel to this post is in the offing. It speaks of the 'Hendons of the Bar'."

    I'd just like to point out that we did not use that description for Part 2. The comment was made in the comments section, and subsequently picked up and repeated.

    The LoyarBorak panel certainly did not come into this with the intention to bash the Bar Council. It is an open and honest expression of their views to the questions posed.

    Thanks for commenting.

  16. Kenneth Wong

    Again, kudos to the team for having this discussion, which I believe, has generated very good replies from some people above. It is always good to see individuals from different area of practices, different years of experience in practice and of course the non-practicing individuals voicing their opinion on this issue. Correct me if I am wrong, but the fact that people actually criticise the Bar Council because they have certain expectation of the Bar Council, so to me, it's actually a good sign.

    What bothers me, and will be a huge issue for the BC to solve, is when its members no longer bother nor care about what's happening in the BC and from some of the replies to this discussion, I'm afraid quite a fair bit has lost hope. So the BC would need to address this issue to ensure that its members actually cares again – be it in the criticising side or the supportive side.

    Anyway, before I answer, i have to concur with Seira's opinion, that the panel should consist of a wider variety of lawyers, especially those whom are in practice for more than 10 years.

    (1) For you personally, what role do you expect the Bar Council to play?

    Call me idealistic, but I always believe that the BC should play a more proactive role in managing various issues that are affecting its members (which are too many to name them here), for e.g. the follow up on Linggam's Inquiry, TBH's inquest, KPI issues, SRO issues, Subcourt rules etc. I dont know how, and not wanting to offend Seira by just complaining, this is something the BC is expected and should take note of.

    (2) Up until now, how would you rate the Bar Council’s performance of its role you mentioned above?

    Mediocre at best. The BC must be more vocal, less press statement, more action. Should revamp the election process, and perhaps, have a rule saying that out of the 36 members, 15 must be from practice experience of 10 years or less – to give different direction and to inject the BC with fresher ideas. The legal fraternity has changed, the BC needs to change with time and not go on the argument that 'well, that was how it was when we practice or it was much worse last time'. Get out of that attitude 'It's better now' because we should not be contented but always try to improve.

  17. Joanne

    Q1:

    s.42 of the Legal Profession Act says it all. Bar Council representatives are all well qualified lawyers. Reading a particular section of a piece of the legislation shouldn’t be too difficult for them.

    Q2:

    I have only been in this profession for a very short time. I wasn’t even around when they did ‘walk of justice’. However, comparing ‘then’ and now, I have to say that the current BC is hardly doing anything. For eg:

    1) the 5 lawyers being arrested at a police station while dispensing their duties. We had an EGM, we passed motions and we had our inquiry at Suhakam. So? I bet some members of the Bar probably have already forgotten about this incident.

    2) Amendments to the Subordinate Courts Act. I understand that the BC was only informed at the 11th hour that the bill was going to be tabled at Parliament. But looking deeper, why is the BC not being consulted in the first place? Is the relationship between BC and the government (or government bodies) that estranged?

    3) Press statements. One for every issue. And then??

    To be fair, they did perform (albeit little) and should be praised for that. The MyConsti campaign by BC is a good example of what the BC should be doing.

    In order to change the stigma members have (that BC is not doing anything/not enough) there must be a change in approach. I am a firm believer in change. Hence I supported the Candidate Watch Campaign by the KL Bar Young Lawyers Committee because every member of the Bar has the right to know what kind of person(s) will be representing the BC. If someone couldn’t be bothered to answer 7 simple questions, how is it possible for the same person to answer questions from the 13,000 members?

    Stop acting and start fighting for a better bar!

  18. Right To Speak

    The problem most lawyers have with the BC is not their failure to help lawyers, or make change happen for justice.

    It is that they do not even have the intention to try.

    Their reasons for running for office are not genuine.

  19. H R Dipendra

    My attention was drawn to this post by the incessant number of tweets by LB that there was a "Bar Council Bashing" session going on. So my interest was piqued.

    Be that as it may, it is often very hard NOT to prey on an easy target. The BC is always everyone's favourite battering ram and perhaps justified by the goings-on in the past 2 years.

    Inevitably comparisons are made between the current leadership to that of the previous 2 years so. It is unfair, really. It is like comparing a Mercedes with a Mitsubishi or broccoli with a turnip. We make do with what we have and we initiate change from within.

    In between and to compound matters, posts like this enables sycophantic individuals who have no understanding of how the BC operates to mindless attack the BC for its failings. It also equally applies to those who have developed frustrations with the Bar to surreptitiously attack the BC. What do they expect the BC to do? Take up arms and wage a war?

    Let’s not forget it is still a voluntary role although I have seen how being in the BC has enabled many individuals to achieve “stardom” that they would have only dreamed off had they not been allowed to sit in the BC. Sometimes, the amount of intellectual dishonesty that goes on is frankly, worrying.

    Anyway and moving on, I first wish to comment on a post made by 'Shanmuga K'. He does indeed put forward a good case save for his argument on freedom of association. To my mind, Shanmuga’s view is, for a want of a better word, unpractical.

    I do not think that the legal profession is matured enough not to be bound collectively under an “association”. The constraints placed by the LPA and the associated rules are still, in my view, the best method to govern how we practice. Whilst Shanmuga K may run a very prudent and honest practice, I cannot say the same for others. Some sacrifices have to be made if we want a profession filled with integrity and respect. We need to have a sense of balance and circumspection in matters of this nature.

    Otherwise, chaos would ensue.

    If I can add to Shanmuga’s points – we need to amend the LPA. The LPA conceived in the 1970s when there were only about 500 members. The exponential growth of the profession has resulted in the LPA bursting from its seams trying to keep up with technology, demands by members, novel methods of publicity and advertising, voting rights of members and indeed liability placed on all of us as lawyers. The traditional way of applying antiquated settings into modern settings can lead to a lot of chaos. Even the objectives stated in Section 42 needs to be enlarged and refined. I am sure the Parliamentary draftsmen did not have Edmund Bon in mind when he crafted Section 42.

    The LPA must be amended comprehensively. It cannot be dealt with on a piece meal basis. The areas of practice must be protected. The SRO needs to be codified and if I may add, with penal consequences if we are serious about protecting the conveyancing industry. These days we have insurance agents drafting contracts, real estate agents pretending to be conveyancers and pseudo lawyers pretending to be litigators.

    Partly too, in our quest to be cheap in fees, lawyers have cheapened themselves by conveniently allowing the services that we provide to be measured by popular yet disparate concept like free market and economies of scale etc. It is fine if you are a blooming production worker in a sweatshop in China or Bolivia. I hardly think it should apply to us lawyers.

    The BC should go back to the drawing board and ask itself whether it wants to be a public champion or to protect its members. It is a difficult decision but ultimately will be a rewarding one. The time is ripe for such soul searching failing which we will see the deep suspicion by its members manifesting itself into cancerous consequences.

    Like Shanmuga, I feel the latter should triumph over the former.

    Much has been said about the KPI system promulgated by the erudite CJ. It has brought much angst and deep resentment among practising lawyers. It will be a bane for all of us until the entire system is compromised.

    The suggestion to reduce practical suggestions into practice directions is timely. Also, it would help to study what are the long term consequences that will arise from this new KPI system on young and senior lawyers.

    Finally, I note that a sequel to this post is in the offing. It speaks of the “Hendons of the Bar”. I hope an objective assessment is drawn rather than obnoxious bashing of selected individuals in the BC simply because they have “overstayed” their welcome. I will state that I have a modicum of respect for some of the senior members of the Bar because as I grow older, I am wise enough to see the role that they currently play and the role that they could play in times of crisis. Everything has to have its balance. The BC included.

    All best

    Dipendra

  20. Alan

    I pretty much can't be bothered with the Bar Council. To me, it's just like an ornament.

    When the KPI comes up and the courts go haywire, we lawyers are dragged into the net too. Cases have to proceed regardless of whatever reasons even if counsel is medically unfit to work. Court cases dragged to even 7.30pm on fasting month. Witnesses give evidence without counsel being present. Short notice given for hearing dates and non-negotiable.

    Lawyer get criticised for accepting too many cases than he can chew. However, these cases were all accepted way before the KPI kicks in. There were complaining by all the lawyers and EGM were held so what? but what did the BC do?

    No dialogue- no compromise – no solution. We suffer and they get to rub shoulders with the CJ and hopefully becomes JC one day.

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  22. Eric Choo

    (1) I support Foo's answer that the Bar Council should first look after the interests of its members. There is simply no point crying foul at the injustice outside the house when you are not doing justice to your own members. This is the same reason why a good number of our bests have left to Singapore, Hong Kong, China and the better ones, United Kingdom.

    (2) Not satisfactory at all. Look at the answers of some of our candidates standing for the Bar Council election. How many actually tell us that the working condition in the older days was worse? What's the point of running for office if they are already satisfied with the current condition, that it's better than before? Not many (or maybe none) tell us how they seek to improve the working condition (not only in terms of pay although should be primary consideration) in their term of office. Further, it seems like the SRO is merely an Order passed but unenforced. The Bar Council must thus clean up the mess in the house immediately!

  23. ZW

    Bar Council = Cowards. No need single out, everyone knows who are posers. Best part? If they even read this, they won't give a shit. And all their suck-up followers will tell them they're doing such a goooooood job. Kakaka.

  24. Foo

    (1) The obvious answers. But I think looking after lawyers should be primary, with duty to society close second.

    (2) Embarassingly bad. You see some of them who don't even have a proper writeup in candidate description, and refuse to answer questions from YLC. So arrogant. I think only two/three are doing their job & can be proud. The rest just take up space & buddy buddy politics for personal profiling. They should look in the mirror & question their intentions.

  25. Seira,

    Yes the intention was to have a blend of those between 0-7 years’ practice experience. This was discussed at the planning stage, and we believe that the more senior lawyers and “big names” have ample opportunity and platform to air their views. Hopefully they will write up an article for LoyarBurok, which we will be glad to publish.

    To be fair to the borak-kers, my two questions did not ask for a solution (by the way, Part 2 will be up tomorrow, which may interest you).

    Also, perhaps you (and a lot of others) may hear the same complaints all the time, but there are many who do not have access to these views, or do not mix in the same circles, and therefore it is hoped that the ventilation of these views here would be an interesting read for them.

  26. Seira Sacha

    Marcus

    I noticed that the Borakkers consist of relatively young lawyers. I feel that maybe you guys should have included senior lawyers who have been in practice between 10-15 years. I’d love to see their views on Q1 & Q2 above. After all, the general sentiment I see here are that members are disillussioned by the state of the BC. Your questions were directed at members who have yet to touch their 7 years practice! Are those who have been in practice for, say 15 years, feel the same?

    And all the Borakkers did was complaint, complaint, complaint. Any solution? I dont have any, so dont come and ask me. But if you can complaint, can you give solution too? We hear these kind of complaints ALL THE FRICCKING TIME, letih la.

    On that note, my answer to Q1 & Q2:

    1. s42 of the Legal Profession Act. Enough said.

    2. Mediocre. Agree with you on this :-) But I think ultimately what the BC does is a reflection of its members – if you have members who cant be arsed, you have a BC that cant be arsed. It’s like cancer you know. It spreads around. Did anybody even bothered to organise anything else? Forum? Rally? WFJ2? Mana? Mana?? So when I hear members said things like, “I cant be bothered to vote”, or “I gave up on BC long time ago”, or “the candidate list is lame”, my reply is, “Really??!”. Why? Why do they feel like that? Why is Hendon still in BC?? Why she never replied to Candidate Watch? So, you have the whiners, and no shakers. Look at AGM. How many even bothered to show up? Look at election. How many bothered to vote? And then you end up with a lame BC. I say, with that ballot paper, lets aim for a better Bar.

  27. Shawn

    The Lone Gunman,

    I do not know Bernard personally, so I don’t have inside knowledge that you have of his “complaining and whining”. However, my view is that we, as members of the Bar, have every right to expect more of our leaders, and to question and criticise them when they do not do enough. As leaders, they should rightly be held to high standards, and they should be open to accepting criticism, and hopefully reflecting on how they can lead better. Is that not the point of being a leader, to lead?

    The problem is that many people think that criticism and complaining is wrong. It is not. It is the hallmark of any mature society or organisation. It is how we grow, and improve.

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  29. The Lone Gunman

    Dear Bernard,

    What have you done lately besides just complaining and whining about the situation?

    As they say, you deserve the representatives you get. So think about that.

  30. (1) My enforced membership of the Malaysian Bar, purely because I wish to work as a lawyer in Malaysia, is an affront to my freedom of association no matter what the Federal Court said in Sivarasa Rasiah’s case. Considering that I am forced to be a member, and forced to pay subscriptions, the primary role of the Bar Council must be to safeguard and protect my interests as a lawyer. For the most part, that would also serve the public since if we are able to do our jobs properly, the administration of justice would be better served. Their secondary role should be to promote the rule of law generally in the country.

    (2) On their secondary role of promoting the rule of law, they do fairly well. Press statement machine notwithstanding, the Borakkers do not give concrete examples of what they expect the BC to do. Remember that the MyConsti campaign is a Bar Council led initiative. However, in their primary role in protecting and advancing the interests of lawyers in the practice of our profession, the Bar Council does, with respect, a rather poor job.

    3 examples suffice:

    a. Our libray, though better than before, is still not as good as the libraries of some big law firms.

    b. The whole administration of KPI justice shenanigans. Can’t BC issue suggested practice directions and ask the Judiciary to adopt them instead of just reacting after the event, and wringing their hands in dismay? e.g. Court hours extending to 8pm.

    c. Outdated rules of professional practice. For example, I want to practice as a Sdn Bhd, just like doctors and valuers etc. Why can’t I? Why must I be open to personal liability and potentially bankrupted if I make a mistake, when the two directors of a small company which sells defective machinery which causes loss (perhaps even injury) get away scot free personally?

  31. bernard

    Dear Adriana, you are just starting, so I will forgive you your idealistic view.
    But let me say that saying that members are to blame is wrong. You must understand
    the issue is result of years and years of rubbish.

    Why vote? Have you seen candidate list? Pathetic except for a few. Too few. You know, I believe
    that people who go for elections for status and fake ego boost will be ridiculed in future. They have
    no legacy. Ragunath, Chee Wee, George, all good politicians. But members rights? Hah! And I haven’t even
    mentioned the Hendons of the BC.

    I gave up on BC long ago. Just mind my practice, build my firm here, and ignore them.

  32. To the readers: Once you’ve read Part 1 above, do share YOUR answers to the two questions in this comments section.

    (1) For you personally, what role do you expect the Bar Council to play?

    (2) Up until now, how would you rate the Bar Council’s performance of its role you mentioned above?