I was re-elected as Chairman of the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee at the 20th Annual General Meeting on 23 February 2012. I am very grateful for the opportunity and privilege of leading the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee for another term. 7 other members of the Committee sought re-election and were duly re-elected, together with 3 new faces.
The term 2011/2012 was a challenging one for us and for all members of the Kuala Lumpur Bar. Legal practice has changed and continues to change at a rapid and unrelenting pace. The many changes introduced and implemented by the Courts and the ever increasing expectations of clients for delivery of competent and timely legal advice and legal service in all areas of practice has transformed the manner in which we all practice law. I expect that this will continue to be the trend for 2012.
Even in these very challenging times, I am most gratified to find that many members of the Kuala Lumpur Bar still found the time and energy to contribute to the projects and initiatives of the various sub-committees of the Kuala Lumpur Bar. I hope that this will not only continue for the term 2012/2013 but will inspire others to also get involved and contribute towards a stronger and better Bar.
As has often been pointed out by people vastly more experienced than me, the Bar is only as strong and as vibrant as its members want it to be and make it to be. The success of our projects and initiatives depend largely on the dedication and commitment of many members of the Kuala Lumpur Bar, who contribute their time and energy to improve the quality of the legal profession and the administration of justice.
Our focus for the term 2012/2013
Accepting and embracing change will be at the forefront of our projects and initiatives this term. We must have a vibrant and dynamic legal profession that is able to meet the challenges of new developments and able to respond to change swiftly and efficiently. We must be able to not only cope in this new and challenging times but we must find ways to thrive and prosper in it.
Traditionally, law firms and lawyers have been slow to embrace new technology. This has largely been due to the fact that adopting new technology required a comprehensive understanding of new systems and a whole new “language”. But in the last few years, new technology has been packaged in user friendly language and easy to use functions (principally to enhance marketability of products and devices). And most are designed with the sole objective of enhancing efficiency and productivity of its users.
Accordingly, one of the main areas we will focus on this term will be information technology and how this can be harnessed to improve and enhance the practice of law and the management of law firms amongst members of the Kuala Lumpur Bar.
We will also be focusing our efforts and attention this term on further enhancing and improving our Professional Development programmes and events. It is our duty to ensure that we offer and make available to members of the Kuala Lumpur Bar seminars and courses of high quality that would directly be of benefit and enhance their legal knowledge and expertise. In this regard, we would be very grateful to hear from you as to what courses or seminars you would like to see the Professional Development Committee organise for the coming term. We would also be grateful if any member who has the expertise or specialisation in any particular area of law would come forward and share their knowledge with other members by speaking at our courses or seminars.
Combining our focus on new technology with professional development, we will also be looking into providing web-based seminars or courses (webinars) to members of the Kuala Lumpur Bar. We hope this is an initiative that will be supported by members as it means that you will not have to leave the comfort of your office or your home to attend our talks or seminars. And you need not arrange your schedule to fit in attending the course or seminar at the Kuala Lumpur Bar auditorium. The first webinar should be released in May or June 2012.
The Challenges Ahead
(i) The Rules of Court 2012
The Rules of Court 2012 is the product of almost 3 years by a group of lawyers led by Tan Sri Cecil Abraham. Together with the Judiciary and the Attorney General’s Chambers, the Task Force has produced a set of rules that aims to streamline and combine both the Rules of the High Court, 1980 and the Subordinate Courts Rules, 1980. Some provisions are left untouched whilst some have undergone comprehensive changes.
In agreement with the Chief Justice, the final product will be made available to all stakeholders for views and comments for 1 month. This should be placed on the Malaysian Bar website very shortly. A summary of the major changes will be prepared and circulated to members at the same time.
(ii) Subordinate Courts (Amendment) Act 2010
The Subordinate Courts (Amendment) Act 2010 was passed by Parliament and received Royal Assent on 8 September 2010. The main amendments are to increase the monetary jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court to RM100,000-00 and the Sessions Court to RM1,000,000-00 and to confer upon the Sessions Court the power to grant injunctive and declaratory relief.
When the Bill was tabled in Parliament and subsequently in discussions with the Judiciary, the Bar Council has opposed these new provisions and the implementation of this Act. However, we have been informed by the Chief Justice that the Judiciary nonetheless intends to move forward with the implementation of this Act.
The Bar Council has, in this regard, sought and received assurances from the Chief Justice that adequate training will be given to Sessions Court Judges before the implementation of these new powers and that only senior Sessions Court Judges will be designated to hear applications for injunctive relief.
Other safeguards and measures have been proposed by the Bar Council and have been set out in a Memorandum to the Chief Justice. Click here to peruse the Memorandum.
(iii) Electronic Filing
The E-filing system was first introduced in Kuala Lumpur Courts on 1 March 2011. Over the last 12 months, members of the Kuala Lumpur Bar have had to grapple and become accustomed to this new system.
During the course of the last 12 months, the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee has taken many steps and measures to assist members in this transition. We have managed to address and resolve many problems and issues. But there still remain issues and problems that have yet to be resolved. The Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee is committed to continuing our efforts to seek a resolution to all the outstanding issues.
In this regard, the Bar Council has prepared a Memorandum to the Chief Justice. Click here to peruse the Memorandum.
This Memorandum was discussed at a specifically convened meeting with the Chief Justice to discuss e-filing issues on 29 February 2012. Possible solutions and measures are being looked into to address these issues and to improve and enhance the system.
(iv) Mandatory Continuing Professional Development
A motion is being proposed by the Bar Council for the introduction of Mandatory Continuing Professional Development at the upcoming Annual General Meeting of the Malaysian Bar on 10 March 2012.
The rationale for this and the specific mechanics of the CPD scheme are set out in
1) The Motion regarding Mandatory CPD Scheme proposed by Dipendra Harshad Rai (Chairperson, Bar Council Professional Standards & Development Committee) on behalf of the Bar Council. Click here to peruse the Motion.
2) An Interview with Raphael Tay on the CPD Scheme. Click here to peruse the Interview.
The Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee unanimously supports the Motion. Continuing Professional Development has been at the forefront of the activities of the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee for the last decade. Acknowledging and accepting the notion that each and every lawyer must continue to undertake a process of learning and development throughout his or her career is beyond debate. As a self-regulating profession, we must take steps to ensure the quality of the legal profession and the acceptance by all our members of the above notion. The mechanics of the scheme and how to obtain CPD points are dynamic and flexible and will recognise all legitimate forms of learning or development.
There is a period of 2 years to ease members into the CPD scheme. During this period, all the concerns and issues about the implementation of the scheme can be raised and looked into.
I urge all members of the Kuala Lumpur Bar to take some time to read and understand the CPD scheme. It is for the benefit of the legal profession as a whole. And, in the long run, it will serve to maintain a strong and learned body of lawyers.
In closing, I again express my gratitude to all members of the Kuala Lumpur Bar for the faith and confidence shown in re-electing myself and all the previous Committee members who stood for re-election for 2012/2013. We hope to continue to serve you as best as we can.
Brendan Navin Siva
Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee 2012/13