The Bar Council, through its National Young Lawyers and Pupils Committee (“NYLPC”), applauds the call to study and consider implementing a minimum remuneration for pupils in chambers (“pupils”). The simple fact that pupils are also doing work for the pupil-master while undergoing training, should be the starting point.
In September 2019, the Bar Council conducted a survey among Members of the Malaysian Bar, to collect data on the remuneration of pupils. Between January and February 2020, NYLPC conducted a separate online national survey, which returned this result: 95.35% of the 2,600 respondents agreed that the Bar Council should implement a minimum remuneration for pupils, and 61% agreed that the rate should vary according to the state in which they practise.
Having acknowledged the data collected, the Bar Council had directed NYLPC to conduct another survey at the states level, to determine the reasonable minimum remunerations for pupils. The state-level-survey is currently still ongoing, and NYLPC is expected to be able to produce a final report this year.
While the Bar Council is seriously considering the proposal, as a regulatory body, we must be responsible to factor in certain issues, such as the following:
(1) Section 12(3) of the Legal Profession Act 1976 (“LPA”) stipulates that the remuneration to pupils is only optional, and a structured training programme must be devised by the pupil-master once he/she decided to take a pupil under his/her tutelage;
(2) Other legal impediments, such as the sanctity of contract between the pupil and the pupil-master based on consensus ad idem;
(3) Whether the fixing of a minimum remuneration to pupils would affect the ability of pupil-masters to take pupils, as the option would be open for firm-owners to instead take paralegals or legal associates with better experience;
(4) The movement and concentration of pupils from one place to another that provides better remuneration; and
(5) The current economic situation that affects legal firms in terms of financial capability and employability.
With sufficient data and study on the above matter, NYLPC believes that the Bar Council will be able to enact the necessary measures to address the issue of pupils’ remuneration.
NYLPC also realises that fixing a minimum remuneration is not the only method to address the problem, and at the same, has studied the viability of a complete revamp of the pupillage system through vocational training. The Bar Council has proposed amendments to the LPA to pave the way for the possible implementation of a Common Bar Course for single-entry point to the legal profession.
On a separate note, it has come to our attention that a group of young lawyers who call themselves the Young Lawyers Movement (“YLM”), has been issuing statements and conducting roadshows in certain states in relation to the idea of imposing a minimum remuneration for young lawyers, and voicing concerns about other issues as regards young lawyers. While we acknowledge their good intentions, we believe that such effort would be more meaningful if it is done in a proper and non-controversial manner.
For the avoidance of all doubts, YLM is neither associated nor connected with NYLPC. Thus, statements made by YLM do not represent the official stand of NYLPC.
Yusfarizal bin Yussoff
Bar Council National Young Lawyers and Pupils Committee
14 January 2021