Contributed by Liew Kok Heng, Writer/Editor, Bar Council Secretariat; and photo by Jul Indra Tofan b Jahrul, Administrative Assistant, Bar Council Secretariat
On 3 Nov 2020, the British High Commissioner to Malaysia, HE Charles Hay MVO, accompanied by Deborah Clarke, Director of Trade & Investment for Malaysia of the British High Commission, paid a courtesy call on the Officer Bearers of the Malaysian Bar at Wisma Badan Peguam Malaysia.
Salim Bashir, President of the Malaysian Bar, welcomed the British High Commission delegates. It was the delegates’ first visit to the Wisma Badan Peguam Malaysia building.
Also in attendance for the meeting were Surindar Singh, Vice-President of the Malaysian Bar; A G Kalidas, Secretary of the Malaysian Bar; Lukman Sheriff b Alias, Co-Chairperson of the Bar Council International Professional Services Committee; David Dev Peter, former Co-Chairperson of the Bar Council Trade in Legal Services Committee; and officers of the Bar Council Secretariat.
Among the matters discussed during the meeting were the liberalisation of the legal industry and the call for the abolishment of the death penalty in Malaysia.
On the liberalisation of the legal industry in Malaysia, HE Charles Hay MVO stated that the legal industry in the United Kingdom (“UK”) shared the same concerns with Malaysia’s legal industry when the liberalisation process was underway in the UK. However, such a process here would benefit Malaysian law firms and the local industry as a whole with more employment opportunities and lucrative work, as experienced by the legal industry in the UK. He was also of the opinion that the limited areas of practice for foreign firms in Malaysia’s legal industry impeded further participation by British firms.
The President of the Malaysian Bar stated that foreign firms are always welcome to establish international partnerships with local firms in Malaysia. He added that local lawyers have the capabilities to provide for the local market, hence the limitations placed on foreign lawyers. However, to make international partnerships more attractive to foreign firms, current policies and requirements could be revisited and improved, such as in relation to equity requirements and areas of practice.
A balance between protecting the interests of local firms and opening the industry to diverse opportunities from abroad must be struck, the President said.
On the issue of calling for the abolishment of the death penalty in Malaysia, the President of the Malaysian Bar affirmed the Malaysian Bar’s consistent and united stand on such a move, as well as the abolishment of other draconian laws that are still in place in Malaysia. To that, HE Charles Hay MVO extended his support to the Malaysian Bar to help further this cause.
To expand on this productive meeting, a virtual meeting with the Law Society of England and Wales was proposed by the British High Commission delegates, in which representatives from the Law Society of England and Wales could share their experiences regarding the liberalisation process in the UK.