From: Bar Council <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 10 March 2010 18:30
Subject: [Malaysian Bar:2669] Letter to Editor: Malaysian Bar's response to letters by K.T. (Mentakab) and Bulbir Singh (Seremban) (New Straits Times, 10 March 2010)
No. 13, 15 & 17, Leboh Pasar Besar, 50050 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: 03-2031 3003 (Hunting Line) Fax: 03-2034 2825, 2026 1313, 2072 5818
Letter to Editor
Malaysian Bar's response to letters by K.T. (Mentakab) and Bulbir Singh (Seremban) (New Straits Times, 10 March 2010)
We refer to the letters to the editor written by K.T. from Mentakab and Bulbir Singh from Seremban, both published on page 18 of the New Straits Times on 10 March 2010. We appreciate constructive comments from the public, and thank K.T. and Bulbir Singh for their views.
The Malaysian Bar takes matters relating to discipline of the legal profession seriously. There are strict laws governing the issuance of Practising Certificates to lawyers, requiring, among others, an accountant's certificate of clearance.
In 2009, only 23 lawyers out of a total of almost 13,000 practitioners, representing a mere 0.18% of the profession, were struck off the Roll of advocates and solicitors for misconduct. Although this figure is very small and there will invariably be some "black sheep" amongst us, we are nonetheless concerned about the standards of the legal profession.
We wish to clarify that the Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board ("DB") and the Bar Council ("BC") are two separate legal entities, both established under the Legal Profession Act 1976 ("LPA").
DB is the body entrusted with the responsibility of dealing with, and investigating, complaints against lawyers relating to any professional misconduct in respect of the stringent rules and regulations that legal practitioners must adhere to.
DB and BC function wholly independently of each other, and BC does not exercise any oversight or control over DB. DB's independence ensures transparency and accountability, and that there is no perceived bias in its conduct and decisions. The composition of the Disciplinary Committees that hear the complaints includes both lawyers and non-lawyers.
In 2009, the BC received a total of 672 complaints (from both members of the Bar and the public), the majority of which related to breaches of stakeholder duties. At least half of these complaints were subsequently referred to the DB for its consideration. The DB itself received a total of 790 complaints in the period from October 2008 to October 2009 in respect of various breaches committed by lawyers in the course of their professional duties.
It is pertinent for the public to be aware that the DB's powers are circumscribed by the LPA, and pertain only to misconduct by a lawyer in a professional capacity. As such, it cannot be a "one-stop centre" to resolve all grievances. When engaging the services of a lawyer, members of the public are urged to ensure that the agreement as to the scope of the work to be undertaken, and the amounts of the legal fees and disbursements, is specified clearly at the outset of the retainer.
We also urge members of the public to ascertain the practice status of the lawyers concerned, if there is any doubt, by obtaining verification from the BC secretariat by telephone at 03-2031 3003 or from the BC's official website (http://www.malaysianbar.org.my/), before entrusting their legal affairs to the practitioners concerned, especially if substantial sums of money are involved. We note that the issuance of receipts for payments made in respect of legal fees is a must.
As the regulatory body for the legal profession, the BC will not compromise on the standards expected of the profession, and will do its utmost to ensure that the interests of the public and the members of the Bar are protected at all times.
10 March 2010