Thursday, March 19, 2009

Upholding the cause of justice

The Star
Putik Lada, by Janet Chai Pei Ying

Young guns: (From left) Richard Wee, Roger Tan, HR Dipendra, Seira Sacha Abu Bakar, Lee Shih, Janet Chai, Kenny Lai, Fam Yu Min and Lai Chee Hoe posing after the Malaysian Bar’s annual meeting last Saturday.

First formed to look into abolishing the ‘seven-year’ rule, the National Young Lawyers Committee of the Bar Council has since gone on to become the voice of the public.

A DOG ran into a butcher’s shop and grabbed a roast off the counter. Fortunately, the butcher recogni-sed the dog as belonging to his neighbour, who happened to be a lawyer.

Incensed at the theft, the butcher called up his neighbour and said: “Hey, if your dog stole a roast from my shop, would you be liable for the cost of the meat?”

The lawyer replied: “Of course, how much was the roast?”

“US$7.98 (RM29.35).”

A few days later the butcher received a cheque in the mail for US$7.98 (RM29.35). Attached to it was an invoice that read: Legal Consultation Service: US$150 (RM551.50).

The above is one of the many jokes (this one is considered as mild) on the Internet about lawyers.

Lawyers are often portrayed as greedy people who are only out to enrich themselves from the miseries of others. This is really sad because the role of lawyers has often been misunderstood.

For us lawyers in peninsular Malaysia, the main object of the Malaysian Bar, as stated in section 42 of the Legal Profession Act, is to uphold the cause of justice without regard to its own interests or that of its members, uninfluenced by fear or favour.

This is one aspect of the legal profession which law students and young lawyers are constantly reminded of.

Today, of the 12,900 lawyers in Peninsular Malaysia, close to 40% or 5,500 are lawyers who have been in practice for not more than seven years.

Young lawyers should know that lawyering is not just about making money. It is also about undertaking the sacred duty of upholding justice without fear and favour.

This explains the importance of the role of the National Young Lawyers Committee of the Bar Council (NYLC), which plays a pivotal role not only in the affairs of the Bar, but also in our nation.

The NYLC was set up by the Malaysian Bar in the 1990s following a resolution at one of its annual general meetings.

At its inception, the primary focus was to abolish the “seven-year rule” in that lawyers who have less than seven years of practice at the Bar are prohibited from holding any position at the Bar Council and at their respective state bar committees.

The NYLC’s struggle saw success in 2006 when the Legal Profession Act was amended by abolishing this restriction, which then saw young lawyers of less than seven years of practice offering to serve the Malaysian Bar.

To date, the NYLC is pleased to announce that almost every State Bar Committee has at least one young lawyer representation.

This not only denotes that the young are interested and concerned, but their election also shows that their competence is recognised by the members of the Bar.

Over the years following its formation, the NYLC continued to look into issues surrounding the practice of the young lawyers at the Bar, one of which was the working conditions.

A nationwide survey was conducted which looked into the reasons for young lawyers leaving practice and, for some of them, the jurisdiction.

Forums were conducted at law conferences to look into the working conditions of young lawyers in other jurisdictions.

All these were done as it was recognised that this generation would be the future leaders of the Bar and society and it was therefore pertinent that the best were retained.

Over and above the interests of its young members, the NYLC has, on its own and, in joint efforts with other non-governmental organisations, provided a platform where views of the public on national issues were aired in its civil society initiative.

As part of its continuing civil society initiatives, this column, Putik Lada, was launched as an avenue to voice out the aspirations and views of the young. Putik Lada, since its inception, has discussed issues concerning the profession to issues surrounding the public.

None of the above could have been done without the efforts of the young lawyers who have served tirelessly on the NYLC, armed with much energy, and oratory and organising skills. Each member of the NYLC also possesses a unique and distinct character.

After the Malaysian Bar’s annual meeting last Saturday, a group of new NYLC members have taken over.

As a special tribute to the outgoing Chair of NYLC, Roger Tan, who has also retired from the Bar Council after four years of tireless service to the Bar, the NYLC members have this to say:

“Roger Tan is best known to the Malaysian Bar as the Webmaster, who single handedly set up the Malaysian Bar website (, which is now not only internationally known but which has also become a part of our lives today.

“There is so much to write about Roger that it is an almost impossible task, in view of the constraint of words, and considering his many achievements and contributions to the Malaysian Bar.

“In short, Roger is an inspiration and a role model to us young lawyers to be the best that we can be.”

> The writer is a member of the Bar Council’s National Young Lawyers Committee (NYLC). Putik Lada, or pepper buds in Malay, captures the spirit and intention of this column: a platform for young lawyers to articulate their views and aspirations about the law, justice and a civil society. For more information about the young lawyers, please visit

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