This article was originally published on The Malaysian Insider.
Dear Lord Bobo, what’s a “long call” and why is it so important? Shouldn’t we save time by just allowing lawyers to file the necessary papers over a counter somewhere? Also, why waste time with those long speeches? (Lawyer-to-be, via email)
It was once the case that becoming a lawyer was prestigious, and an achievement on its own. You would be seen to be a person of higher learning. Pupils used to pay their pupil-masters to experience the trade, or at the very least they would work for no pay. Clients used to treat lawyers with reverence, rather than just viewing lawyers as performing some unavoidable administrative function. Lawyers had a special standing in any community.
Those days are long gone.
Today, you could randomly toss a LoyarBurok cufflink out a window and have a very high chance of hitting lawyer (and not just at Solaris Dutamas). Rumour has it that some local universities pass 90% of the law students a year — which one could either put down to the excellent quality of local law graduates or the low standards required to pass in local universities. We know which one we’re leaning towards. Compare this to the notoriously difficult practical exams which foreign graduates have to go through — some graduates have to re-sit these exams more than once — such as the Bar Professional Training Course in the UK, or the CLP in Malaysia, and you see a reason right at the start as to why there is such a drastic difference in quality between qualified lawyers.
But it’s not just the fault of lawyers, of course. The good work of good lawyers is devalued when clients expect massive discounts and rock bottom prices. The fact is, many clients don’t give a baboon’s colourful arse whether the standard of work is good or not — they just want things to get done, and to make money. Rubbish lawyers work their connections and get work they cannot do, and get by with delivering poor quality.
Anyway, if you treat lawyering like any other job then by all means discard the call ceremony and the speeches that go with it. But if you see it as a profession, an honourable profession, then there is much more that a call provides. A call speech recaps a pupil’s journey and affirms the pledge to uphold the Bar’s calling in section 42 of the Legal Profession Act (no, it is not “to make as much money as possible”).
Because one must be a “fit and proper” person to be called to the Bar, the call is a public testimony of the pupil’s adherence to the practise of the law honestly and faithfully in front of his or her family and the Court. It is in the Court’s corresponding act before admitting the pupil to repose its faith in the pupil – that the pupil will be guided to do his or her best in discharge of an advocate’s work.
His Supreme Eminenceness is greatly troubled by the goings-on in Malaysian legal profession, and is sad that recent years in particular have seen so many lawyers flooding the market. Becoming a lawyer should not be easy, and it is far too easy in Malaysia at the moment. While it is good that becoming a lawyer is no longer a privilege enjoyed only by the elite or super-rich, there is a middle ground which must be found, and it should not be so ridiculously easy to qualify to be lawyer. The basic quality standards of legal work must be maintained at all costs. It should be accepted that not everyone is good enough to be a lawyer (and we mean in terms of quality and knowledge, not family background or social status).
A holistic review of the profession and law courses is required to bring back the former lustre of the profession. Of course, Lord Bobo knows that this will not happen, and unless something else is done soon to address the problem then unfortunately a “lawyer” will end up being just another job (if it isn’t already one).
Lord Bobo, why are some lawyers so fussy about dressing conservatively? I read on Twitter recently that a member of the public was asked by a judge to leave the courtroom for wearing a short skirt. Do lawyers and judges think they are more special than the rest of Malaysia? (Fashionista, via email)
This is a problem. Lawyers are “supposed” to dress in a certain way because the profession used to be seen as an elitist one. It used to be that only those of “higher learning” or from a privileged background could become lawyers, and appear in court. Only the rich could afford to read law. It all has roots in stuffy ol England you see. Lawyers were therefore asked to wear wigs, gowns and robes to signify some sort of self-importance. While it may be an honourable profession, these lawyers wanted to stand out from the ordinary human on the street to stroke their ample egos.
The reason this ridiculous expectation continues today is that some lawyers refuse to move on, clinging onto the lame excuse of “tradition”. Those who insist on imposing an archaic dress code do so without realising that the elite class continues to oppress and plunder. Dressing therefore identifies these lawyers with that class while at the same time subconsciously convinces them that they are “above” the rest.
Once young lawyers are caught up in the mentality of conformity and discipline, we get what we see today. There is no rational reason to require long skirts or “sombre ties”.
Lord Bobo does feel sorry for litigation lawyers who are forced to dress like waiters or waitresses every day, condemned to a monochrome existence.
Lawyers, like everyone else, should be allowed to wear whatever they want to wear really. It should be left to the individual to decide what is appropriate, and at the end of the day his or her choices will affect how their clients or others view them. Why should young lawyers have to conform to the views of old fuddy duddies who insist that skirts must be below the knee?
It has of course been said before by some ignorant folk that lawyers cannot wear overly attractive attire in court (such as short skirts) because it would distract the judges, who would not be able to concentrate. Lord Bobo’s view is that those judges should be sent to therapy so that they learn to control their urges, rather than requiring everyone else to dress down for them.
It is time for a revolution. Lawyers should move with the times. Free your minds. You lawyers should wear whatever you want. Rock that three-piece suit if you want. Slap on those old-school suspenders. Go with a miniskirt or brightly-coloured top if you so wish. Perhaps if lawyers were allowed to wear short skirts, short pants, and slippers to work they would identify more with the majority working class.
Being forced to conform to a boring dress code suppresses people. It stifles minds. It imprisons souls. Hence Lord Bobo has commissioned LoyarBarang.com to bring vibrancy and liberty to the world. You poor lawyers in your black-and-white prisons should look out for our new t-shirts, coming soon!
Although Lord Bobo already knows your question before you even knew you had a question, as a practical display of your true desire to have your query answered, His Supreme Eminenceness has graciously allowed you to communicate your questions by either emailing [email protected] or tweeting your question, mentioning @LoyarBurok and using the hashtag #AskLordBobo. Now, what the hell are you waiting for? Hear This and Tremblingly Obey (although trembling is optional if you are somewhere very warm)!