The legal profession has long been defined as a professional profession. Perhaps when you are asked about your occupation, and you answer “lawyer”, the other party will cast envious eyes on you. But only we ourselves know that the lawyer industry is “good to hear, not good to be”, because everything you do and what you say must be done cautiously.
Many people have a misunderstanding about the legal profession, that is, “you can ask a lawyer for any legal question.” They don’t know that lawyers also have many professions and skills. It is impossible for a lawyer to be expert in every aspect of legal knowledge. But what is certain is that every lawyer is trained as a “machine” that quickly flips through documents at a glance only. Perhaps it can be said that our profession also includes how to quickly digest heavy documents and how to find answers.
Lawyers can also be said as heavy / bulky profession. Whenever we answer a client’s inquiry, we must make sure that the answer given is based and legally authoritative. Otherwise, if the client suffers losses due to our wrong answer, the client can file a lawsuit against a lawyer.
A practicing lawyer must be a member of the Malaysian Bar and must comply with the provisions of the Legal Profession Act 1976. In short, the professional definition and standards of lawyers are written in the act. The Bar Council is the regulator of the Malaysian legal profession, responsible for maintaining the professionalism and dignity of the legal profession. Therefore, a practicing lawyer cannot go its own way. When you practise as a legal practitioner, you must ensure that you follow and uphold your profession as a lawyer.
Generally speaking, a lawyer has to go through a nine-month pupillage before becoming a practicing lawyer. The Legal Profession Act grants some exemptions and shorter internship periods for certain groups, such as those who have served in the judicial field for more than seven years. The pupillage must “apprentice” and study in the master’s law firm for nine months. The biggest difference between pupillage and practicing lawyer is that when a pupillage commits professional negligence, he does not have to bear legal liability, because the pupillage actually is under tutelage of the Master, and acting on behalf of Master. So, the master must bear the mistakes made by the pupillage, because the master is obligated to teach and supervise the pupillage. Sadly, nowadays, many experienced practicing lawyers accepting pupillage do not really want to teach pupillage; instead, they only want to hire pupillage who has legal knowledge at lower salaries.
Many people may have watched too many Hong Kong dramas and have a wrong concept and they think that Malaysia has the so-called “barrister” just like Hong Kong. In Malaysia, lawyers are called Advocate & Solicitor. Unlike Hong Kong or the United Kingdom, when a person starts to practice, he can handle litigation and documentation matters at the same time. Of course, because the legal profession is too complex, usually a lawyer will focus on and specialise in a specific field.
Advocates are usually divided into civil litigation lawyers and criminal litigation lawyers. The cases handled by civil litigation lawyers may include contracts law, torts, family law, company law, land dispute, defamation and so on. Criminal litigation lawyers defend accused being charged by the public prosecutor. It must be noted that the Deputy Public Prosecutor is not a lawyer, but is a government official. Therefore, Deputy Public Prosecutor cannot represent accused to defend, unless the Deputy Public Prosecutor resigns and applies to the Bar Association to become a practicing lawyer. Many people think that litigation lawyers are expert in civil and criminal matters, but the answer is no. Only a few litigation lawyers can be expert in civil and criminal cases, because the legal procedures for civil and criminal cases are quite different; and the clients they have to face are also completely different.
On the other hand, solicitors mainly deal with matters including drafting of contracts, helping clients in transferring land and giving clients professional advises. What we called as conveyancing lawyer is included in it.
In Malaysia, there are many procedures that must be paid attention to and followed in order to transfer the ownership of a property. In addition, there are many parties involved in the procedures of, including buyers, sellers, developers, banks, Land Office, Inland Revenue Departments, etc. Therefore, in the Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA), lawyers play a big role to ensure that this process can be completed smoothly. Many clients think that buying, selling and transferring land is a very simple and standard process, so lawyers are often asked to give discounts on the legal fees. They don’t know that when a lawyer gives a client a high price reduction, this indirectly also means that he must do more cases to get the original profit. This leads to his work quality to be depreciated. I suppose if there are any mistakes by them, the clients will lose more than they gain.
In addition, there are also Corporate Lawyer who are expert in company operations and company-related laws, specializing in providing corporate clients on how to establish a company, directors and shareholder rights, initial public offerings (IPO), drafting and reviewing business-related contracts, such as company mergers and acquisitions. Generally, only medium or large law firms have Corporate Lawyers, because clients are usually from large companies.
“In fact, the author believe that the origin and significance of the legal industry is to help clients solve problems, or to leverage clients’ problems in exchange for monetary rewards.”
The author is also very honoured to be a practicing lawyer. The author hopes that through simple law articles, more people can understand the legal knowledge of Malaysia; and for the author, this is also one of the ways to contribute to the society.
BY WINSON TAN
Note: This article is for reference only and does not constitute legal advice. Therefore, if readers have any legal questions or needs, they should seek professional legal advice. If the reader suffers any loss by relying on this article, the author will not be held responsible.