Archive for the ‘Malaysian Law News’ Category

The Malaysian Women Legal Counsel Association Members’ First Gathering

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

On 9th April 2017, the Malaysian Women Legal Counsel Association (MWLEC) organised their first members’ gathering in a friendly neighbourhood cafe. The gathering was a perfect opportunity for MWLEC to share the objectives and visions of the association with its members, and also to promote all upcoming activities for the year 2017.

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(Photo with the committee members of MWLEC)

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In 2015, the market was still doing fine, and companies were still hiring although there were concerns of a market slowdown;

In 2016, the market started to experience a slowdown and companies were very cautious about hiring. This led to a freeze in hiring and retrenchment exercises, especially in the oil & gas and financial industries. Furthermore, the property market also shrunk.  This had greatly affected the businesses of many law firms, especially law firms which relied on property and conveyancing works.

This year (2017), the market is still very slow and most of the hiring being done are for replacement purposes and not for purposes of expansion. However, there are certain areas of legal work that are still doing fairly well, e.g. construction disputes, foreign investment, and purchase of land by foreign parties. Divorce cases are increasing every year (always on a rise and seemingly not affected by market conditions).

During this period of economic downturn, big corporations are the ones that are being hit the hardest, and would either freeze hiring or hire mainly for replacement purposes. In contrast, smaller companies, especially those with stronger cash flow, are still boldly expanding in the current market conditions and are willing to hire for expansion as they see opportunities of gaining something of value for a cheaper price during the market slowdown.

Due to the decrease in the value of our Ringgit, some foreign companies have chosen Malaysia as their legal hub to provide support for both regional and global legal work, and these foreign companies are therefore still aggressively hiring. More international companies have set up legal hubs in Malaysia for cost-cutting purposes, hence more hiring is in turn being done, especially within the oil & gas companies.

Law firms are now very cautious in hiring and the outlook does not seem very optimistic, with some large firms notably having reduced the amount of increments and bonuses paid out. Some law firms are even cutting salaries and freezing bonuses, and some have even laid- off their lawyers.

Despite the market slowdown, where potential employers are cautious about the future market outlook, the output of fresh graduates continue to increase due to the establishment of more and more law schools. The Malaysian market is experiencing a situation similar to that which occurred in Singapore two years ago, where fresh law graduates faced challenges in securing pupillage posts and lawyers who have just been called to the Bar faced challenges in securing entry-level legal assistant positions.

However, Eddie is still generally very optimistic about the legal job market, as good legal talents will still be sought after in every kind of market condition. The key is to start equipping yourself to become a talent so that you won’t be affected by the market.

During the sharing session, these were the questions posed to Eddie, together with the answers he provided:

  1. We have heard that Chinese-based corporation are more generous in terms of salary offers, is that true or is it just a rumour?

Eddie:  So far, I do not have any direct involvement in recruiting for any Chinese-based corporation, but I have heard that they are willing to pay high salary and you are expected to work equally hard. This is due to the working culture back in China where they place a strong emphasis on efficiencies and results.

  1. Do retrenchment exercises carried out by financial institutions often involve their legal departments?

Eddie: Banks are still seeking out talents although they do not hire as many new employees as before. As Bank Negara has now imposed more stringent compliance demands upon financial institutions, there are more vacancies for compliance roles now as compared to before.

  1. In terms of industry, which top three industries have a stronger budget when it comes to hiring legal talent?

Eddie: It is very hard to answer that question according to industries as the offer may range widely within the same industry. I would say a candidate whose job scope is to support regional works will usually be able to command a higher salary. Secondly, foreign companies usually pay their employees higher salary as compared to local companies. In terms of law firms, the more reputable firms or boutique law firms would typically offer a higher salary.

  1. Can you share with us what are the three No-Nos during an interview?

Eddie:  Sure. Firstly, never badmouth your employer and the keyword here is “badmouth” as opposed to hiding the real reason for leaving. There is a fine line between badmouthing and stating the facts, especially when the push factor for leaving a particular job is people. No employer would want to hire a candidate with bad attitude or character (badmouthing is a sign of bad character), no matter how smart the candidate may be.

Secondly, when it comes to explaining your reasons for leaving, never say the reason is for MONEY ONLY. Why? If a candidate changes jobs just because of money, I doubt that the person will stay in any position for long, so again no employer would want to invest in candidates who have the short-term mentality. Anyhow, most employers will not be against the idea of you asking for a salary increase when you join them, so why highlight something that is not an issue?

Lastly, never be late, because first impressions really count. It is reasonable for an employer to perceive someone who is late for an interview as not being serious or keen about the particular job. Failure to be on time may also be attributed to poor time management, poor planning skills, and may imply that the candidate is unreliable, disrespectful and untrustworthy. You do not want to create such a negative impression even before being interviewed by the employer. In the event that you are late, always inform the employer in advance, provide an explanation of why you are late, and be apologetic.

 

 

Entry of Foreign Law Firms into Malaysia – the effects on the local job market

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

foreign law firms in Malaysia

An interesting development in the local legal scene is the recent entry of Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) into Malaysia as a qualified foreign law firm (QFLF) approved by the Malaysian Bar Council. With the required approval in place, HSF is expected to open its local office in Kuala Lumpur in May 2017. This would mark HSF’s ninth base in the region after establishing its presence in numerous other Asian cities including Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Jakarta. This third largest practice among international law firms in Asia has previously advised several giant Malaysian companies such as Axiata, Petronas and Sime Darby. HSF has indicated that their Malaysian-based team will be focusing on specific practice areas such as transactions, disputes, and Islamic finance.

Liberalisation of the legal services industry in Malaysia took off in 2014 following significant amendments made to the Legal Profession Act 1976. Foreign firms are now allowed to set up in Malaysia either by obtaining a QFLF licence or by entering into a joint venture with a local outfit. HSF will be the second foreign firm to open office in Malaysia under the newly-introduced QFLF licence regime, after Trowers & Hamlins filled up the first spot in 2015. Despite this being a fairly recent development, we can already see the landscape of the local legal services industry rapidly changing.

The QFLF regime was introduced primarily to support the Malaysian Government’s International Islamic Finance Centre (“MIFC”) initiative. Therefore, firms who apply for the licence are required to have expertise in the area of international Islamic finance. The other route for foreign firms to establish a presence in Malaysia is through forming an International Partnership with a local entity. Both routes would require application for licences, which will be renewable every 3 years.

In opening up our legal services market, it is evident that efforts have been taken to achieve a balance between reaping the benefits of liberalisation and protecting the growth and competitiveness of Malaysian law firms. To this end, certain ring-fencing measures have been put in place. Although QFLF firms are allowed to operate independently without being associated with any local firms, they need to ensure that at least 30% of their fee earners are Malaysians.

In cases of foreign entry through establishing an International Partnership, the Malaysian joint-venture partner must hold at least 60% of the firm’s equity and voting rights. The percentage of local lawyers working in such a firm must be 60% or more and the name of the partnership must reflect both the joint-venture partners. An example of such an association is the forged alliance between UK law firm DAC Beachcroft and local outfit Gan Partnership in 2016. In terms of practice area, both QFLFs and International Partnerships are not permitted to advise on transactions which involve solely Malaysian law. They are also restricted from practising certain areas of law, including constitutional and administrative law, conveyancing, criminal law and family law.

In the last few years, many local law firms have taken the opportunity to create a stronger regional or global presence by establishing formal links with foreign firms. The oldest exclusive tie-up for a Malaysian firm would be that of Wong & Partners becoming a member firm of Baker & McKenzie International. To cite other examples, Malaysian corporate law firm Foong & Partners joined forces with Singapore’s acclaimed Wong Partnership in 2013, whilst Christopher & Lee Ong forged a strategic alliance with Rajah & Tan in the same year. Fast-growing Rahmat Lim & Partners also chose to go down a similar path by partnering up with Singapore’s Allen & Gledhill. Meanwhile, Abdullah Chan & Co is now able to offer additional reach in Europe after tying up with UK law firm Child & Child and law firm Cotty Vivant Marchisio and Lauzeral headquartered in Paris. Another significant alliance to mention is the exclusive tie-up between Jeff Leong, Poon & Wong with China’s largest law firm, Dacheng Law Alliance which occurred in 2011. Such moves have definitely enhanced these firms’ profiles and credibility at an international level. Yet, it is noted that certain well-established corporate law firms in Malaysia, notably Skrine, Shearn Delamore and Kadir Andri & Partners, have not taken similar steps to formally link up with foreign legal entities.

It is also interesting to observe how the shift towards liberalisation would affect the job market in the Malaysian legal industry. Change is indeed inevitable and we can expect the effects to be seen and felt from many different aspects. Based on the experience of other jurisdictions, would there been an increase in the salary levels for lawyers? In post-liberalised Singapore for instance, foreign firms have been known to pay starting salaries as high as $7,000 to bright young lawyers freshly called to the Bar. With the current highest starting monthly remuneration of RM6,000 offered by Lee-Hishamuddin Alan Gledhill, would we find foreign firms paying even higher than this?

Furthermore, the exposure gained from working on international deals and high-end projects which transcend geographical boundaries would give local talents the opportunity to tap on foreign resources and expertise, paving the way for them to develop their legal skills to a greater level. Clearly, this would make them more marketable and increase their chances of getting jobs in international law firms overseas. Whether this would ultimately result in brain drain in Malaysia remains to be seen and depends on many other factors, including the local economic situation and political climate. It can perhaps be argued that with a higher salary structure in place across the board and the high quality of legal work available locally, the effects of liberalisation on the legal services industry in Malaysia has actually removed at least some of the main incentives for our lawyers to secure employment abroad.

As the saying goes, there are two sides to every coin. With the entry of foreign law firms into the local sphere, would local talents find themselves working in a more competitive and fast-paced environment?

Can we expect the already aggressive talent competition among talented lawyers to further intensify? This may be the case especially for lawyers specialising in specific practice areas such as corporate law, capital markets, projects and banking. Increasingly high expectations will likely translate into longer working hours and the quest to achieve work-life balance may be more challenging than ever.

Nonetheless, it can be argued that the way liberalisation is perceived is a matter of mindset. The stance taken by the industry seems to be that this development should be embraced by our local talents so as to not be left behind both in terms of options and opportunities. So are you ready, young lawyers?

Malaysia SME interview: ‘Eddie’s law of successful legal placements sets benchmark’

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Eddie Law of eLawyereddie law of elawyer 2

We are pleased to share with you the interview of our founder of eLawyer, Eddie Law, by the prominent Malaysia SME newspaper on 2 October 2015. We reproduced the below interview for your reading pleasure.

Eddie Law is a lawyer. He founded and runs eLawyer, a leading internet based recruitment service for the Malaysian legal fraternity. “Friends say that since I was born a Law, it’s in my blood!” he jokes.

Named by Asia Law Portal as one of the top-thirty most important people in legal circles in the Asia-Pacific, Law, 38, specialises in hiring and placing students, legal secretaries, lawyers, legal managers, partners and legal counsel.

“Our recruitment consultants are lawyers by training, and therefore we understand our clients’ expectations,” he explained. His client base comprises sole-proprietor firms, partnerships and large local and foreign law firms.

“Our corporate clients include private companies, public-listed companies, government-linked organizations, investment banks, regulatory bodies and international corporations.”

After initially practising as a lawyer, Law worked for an IT group as legal advisor before venturing out on his own. He stumbled upon the idea of legal recruitment quite by chance.

“I started a law portal, but the recruitment aspect of it worked out best. So I got all the required licences and worked towards making it big.”

Select and manage

Asked what he would consider the single most important ingredient to being a successful entrepreneur, he replied without hesitation, “The ability to select and manage the right people.”

A young man from Setiawan, Perak, he studies in Chinese primary and secondary schools in the town, after which he had a choice of either taking over his father’s small restaurant or going to university.

“I did not relish the thought of being a chef, so I went to university. Despite not being top of the class at school, I surprised myself with a Second Class Upper,” he recalled with a glint of pride. He studied at UK’s Anglia Ruskin University, and is today their official Alumni Ambassador for Malaysia.

After graduation, his self-confidence soared, and he moved on to bigger things.

“I always tell young lawyers that persistency is a key factor, but so are execution and passion. If you are passionate in what you do, you will do it well and persistently. But the foundation of it all is humility. Without humility, you stop learning and growing.”

His firm currently offers job adverts, resume searches and placement services. Its job advertisement service displays job vacancies online, attracting 500,000 hits every month. Email job updates are received by 7500 registered jobseekers, while its Facebook job updates are viewed by thousands of lawyers and law students.

Another service, a resume search programme, is an active recruitment process through which employers can browse and search for candidates instead of waiting for them to apply. Search results can be filtered by criteria such as years of working experience, specialisation, position level and language proficiency.

He also runs a placement service which sources and screens suitable candidates for employers. Clients only pay upon successful placement.

“We provide free replacement of candidates if the candidate is found unsuitable for the employer’s needs,” he adds.

According to the Asia Law Portal (March 2015), Law is one of only three Malaysians who made the list of top 30 influencers within the Asia-Pacific legal industry.

Blog to follow

His eLawyer Law Blog Forum was also listed as one of the ’12 blogs in Asia to follow in 2015′, by John Grimley, the editor and publisher of Asia Law Portal.

Law said that among some of the manpower issues affecting the professions in Malaysia today are the the shortage of specialist lawyers, the challenge of managing Gen & staff, and the lack of coaching, mentoring and training for young lawyers.

At present, 95% or more of Malaysian law firms cater to the retail market, and less than 5% focus on the corporate market, which involves providing legal services to large corporations and high-net-worth individuals.

“Today, there are more than 6000 law firms in Malaysia, but less than 50 do work for the big corporations. This is because corporations go for big law firms, where they fell they can tap expertise, specialization, and experience. Thus, must corporate work is monopolised by a few large law firms an mid-sized boutique law firms.”

High demand

He noted that there is a high demand for specialists rather than general practitioners, especially in niche areas such as intellectual property, maritime law, and construction arbitration.

Another issue is the challenge of managing Gen-Y staff.

“These are mostly people below 30. They tend to emphasize fulfilment and satisfaction over money, and seek work-life balance, flexibility and autonomy at work.”

“Others seek instant gratification; they need bonuses more often than once a year. They are not willing to wait ten years for a partnership; they will jump ship if there is more money somewhere else.”

How does one attract and retain Gen-Y talent? What would help, says Law, is a lot of coaching and mentoring.

“Unlike the older generation who were left to their own devices, many of the young people I meet say they left their jobs because they did not have enough guidance.”

“Most law firms don’t realise the need for coaching, mentoring and engagement for young lawyers, and often don’t have the time or skills to do this. They are so involved in daily operations, productivity and output, billings and targets, that they often overlook human resource development. ”

“I met many young lawyers who leave because they do not know where they are going in their career.”

“When there is internal training, its mostly for technical skills. There is hardly any training budget, and if there is, the budge allocations are usually for partners. This is one reason why some young lawyers leave law firms and go on to become in-house corporate lawyers. They feel they have more opportunities to grow in larger commercial enterprises.”

He says that as young lawyers progress in their careers, many are expected to become leaders and people managers.

“Legal firms expect you to perform this role but they don’t imbibe you with people management and leadership skills.”

Law suggests that law firms should set aside budgets for training young lawyers in such skills.

“This problem is not confined to legal firms. It applies to SMEs in general, but in the Malaysian case, it is exacerbated by weaknesses in the education system.”

Changes & Challenges: The Corporate Perspective

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

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We are proud to be the media partner of this legal event which are co-organized by the Malaysian Current Law Journal and Bar Council Malaysia.

 

Change, it is said, is the wind in the legal profession and indeed the corporate life. With that, we invite you and members of your organization to register for the 2nd biennial Malaysian Legal and Corporate Conference (MLCC) titled ‘Changes & Challenges: The Corporate Perspective’.

 

The conference brings together members of the legal fraternity and corporate sector under one forum, leveraging on a theme that balances the legal and the corporate needs, to discuss pertinent issues of the day. Please view the conference details at  www.mlcc.com.my

 

4 reasons why You and Your Organization will find MLCC Beneficial:

  • The Conference will deliberate on the most awaited legislation - the New Companies Bill. This bill, as you are aware is likely to be gazetted soon, and the conference constitutes an opportunity to understand your role as operators, minders and policy makers of your company under the new legal framework.Two dignitaries, YA Tan Sri Abdull Hamid Embong, Federal Court Judge and Yg Bhg Tan Sri Rafidah, Former Federal Minister and Chairperson of Air Asia X will grace the occasion and speak on the topics of “Understanding Appellate Advocacy” and “Branding Corporate Malaysia Internationally” respectively.

    The Conference also features International Guest Speakers who will speak on “Emerging Markets: Conversation with ASEAN Insiders” – opportunities in China and the ASEAN region.

  •  This Conference is HRDF CLAIMABLE under the Normal SBL Scheme.
  •  SPECIAL RATES
    >> 1 delegate RM 1,400
    >> 3 delegates – get 1 FOC – RM 4,800 i.e. RM 1,200 per delegate
  •  Conference package includes a FREE BOOK worth up to RM290

 

Next step:

To register, or speak to our team on how the conference will benefit your organization, you can choose the following options:

  1. Fill in the attached registration form and email to priority@cljlaw.com
  2. Call the MLCC committee at +603-4270 5400

 

Who should attend:

  1. Corporate Counsel, Company Secretaries and Legal Practitioners

The conference covers a wide range of topics from the New Companies Bill, Insolvency, trial advocacy, and Non-Litigation alternatives to disputes

  1. Executives, Directors, business owners, Business consultants, business development professionals

Updates to the Companies Bill, off shore Planning, Investing in China, a talk on Branding Malaysia by Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, Forum by ZICOlaw on taking local business regionally, and a special forum on the corporate and legal outlook in the region in the next 5 years

  1. Academics

Keep up to date with the recent development and cross boundary studies and comparison

 

We look forward to your participation in the conference to take full advantage of the line-up of amazing speakers sharing their wealth of experience

The Current State of the Malaysian Legal Market: A Q&A with Eddie Law, Founder of eLawyer.com.my

Saturday, July 25th, 2015

(This article was published in Asia Law Portal )

In the beginning of May, eLawyer founder, Mr. Eddie Law was interviewed by John Grimpley from Asia Law Portal in regards to the Current State of the Malaysian Legal Market.

The Malaysian legal market is currently undergoing structural reform while competition is increasing.  Here’s an update on the market in the second quarter of 2015 from Eddie Law, Founder of  eLawyer.com.my:

Mr. Eddie Law

Mr. Eddie Law

How would you describe the overall current state of the Malaysian legal market?

In general, I would categorise the Malaysian legal market into retail and corporate markets from the perspective of law firms businesses. I would say approximately 95% or more of Malaysian law firms are focusing on the retail market where they mainly focus on providing legal services to individual clients or SMEs (as opposed to big corporations) and less than 5% of law firms are focusing on corporate market where they provide legal services to large corporations and high-net-worth individual. I guess this is similar to the demarcation of our market overall. Most of the corporate work is monopolised by the few large law firms and mid-sized boutique law firms. I also see Malaysian legal market as getting more vibrant with the recent amendment to the Legal Profession Act and the passing of the Legal Profession (Licensing Of International Partnerships And Qualified Foreign Law Firms And Registration Of Foreign Lawyers) Rules 2014, in which foreign law firms and foreign lawyers are now be permitted to practise in Peninsular Malaysia.

Have there been any notable foreign law firm expansions into Malaysia recently?

Trowers & Hamlins, an international law firm originating from the UK, has recently become the first foreign law firm to be granted a Qualified Foreign Law Firm (QFLF) licence in Malaysia. It is interesting to note that they have operated as a non-trading representative regional office in Kuala Lumpur since 2012. I also realise that Allen & Overy has been working closely with their Malaysian clients via their Singapore office. It is interesting to note that they are also one of the winners in the recent ALB Malaysia Law Awards. On another note, there are a few notable Singaporean law firms aggressively tying up with Malaysian law firms, which includes but not limited to, Wong Partnership, Rajah & Tann and Allen & Gledhill.

Which practice areas appear to be most in demand at the moment?

Corporate practice is still most in demand by the market. Secondly, law firms or lawyers who are specialising in certain niche areas of practice are also increasingly in demand, as the consumers (or in-house lawyers) are more legally savvy now-a-day where they tend to go for specialist instead of general practitioner to provide solutions to their legal issues.

 How do you see hiring trends currently?

Due to the recent slow-down in the property sector, conveyancing practices have been affected accordingly. Therefore, the demand for conveyancing lawyers has slowed down. However, the hiring for experienced corporate lawyers are always highly in demand. Many experienced corporate lawyers have either opted to work abroad or go “in-house”.  Coupled with the increasing demand of corporate work — this has caused a shortage of corporate legal talent available for law firms.  Apart from providing recruitment services to law firms, I also help corporations to recruit in-house lawyers.  And the demand of in-house lawyers has recently increased too.

 What’s the current status of legal market liberalization?

The parliament recently passed the relevant amendments to the Legal Profession Act which allows foreign law firms or lawyers to practise in Malaysia in 3 ways:  1. As a Qualified Foreign Law Firm, 2. In International Partnership and 3. By allowing Malaysian law firms to hire foreign lawyers. There are 5 licenses of Qualified Foreign Law Firms status which may be granted to those who are able to demonstrate that their expertise and experience is in international Islamic finance practice as benefiting to Malaysia. As mentioned, Trowers & Hamlins is the first one who has obtained such license. I would see official announcements being made for the other 4 licence holders soon. I have yet to heard of any foreign law firms seeking to embark upon setting up an International Partnership nor are any Malaysian law firms thinking of hiring foreign lawyers thus far. On the another hand, due to the aggressive development of the ASEAN economy, more and more law firms are seeking to position themselves as leading law firms or one-stop-legal providers in the ASEAN market.  This has seen foreign law firms, especially Singaporean law firms — seeking to actively partner with Malaysian law firms.

What advice would you give law students about how to prepare for entry into the legal market upon graduation?

I’ve been invited to law schools and the KL Bar to speak to the law graduates and young lawyers about the legal career landscape and also the expectations of the legal market. In short, there are 4 main pieces of advice that I always give them in most of my speeches: 1. Master the command of English (poor English will hinder career options and advancement of a lawyer) , 2. Passion in legal practice and seeing purpose in the job are crucial factors to keeping a lawyer in a legal career for the long term, 3. Having the right attitude will make a lawyer shine (actually in any kind of job), 4. Keep an open mind on career options other than private practice.  There are many other jobs that a lawyer could opt for.

Tell me about your work with eLawyer Malaysia and how you help both law firms and lawyers in the Malaysian market?

I am the founder of www.eLawyer.com.my and am the recruitment director with eLawyer Recruitment. I see myself playing 2 roles: First, I act as legal recruiter to employers (mostly law firms and corporations) where I help employers source legal talent that match the requirements of the employers. Employers may also advertise job openings on our website. Secondly, I also act as a legal career adviser to lawyers, where I help them to discover their strengths, advise them on career options and areas of practice that are more suitable to their personality and profile. I also work closely with lawyers to help strategise career paths to match their career goals. Recently, due to the talent competition in Malaysian market, I also advise law firms on employer branding exercises. I understand that many laypeople are not familiar with law firm areas of practice and lawyer specialisms.  Therefore, through our website, we also connect potential clients with suitable law firms (this is done on pro bono basis).

@JohnGrimley is Editor & Publisher of Asia Law Portal

 

30 people to watch in the business of law in Asia in 2015

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

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(picture source: Asia Law Portal )

To mark the beginning of the year 2015, Asia Law Portal published a list of 30 important people to look out for – for comments and developments in the law business arena in the Asia-Pacific legal market regions.

 

Founded by Asia Law Portal Editor and Publisher John Grimley, this portal serves the two predominant purposes of creating an atmosphere for everyone in the legal field and others to come across updates and information on all the economic opportunities available in the Asia-Pacific region, and for lawyers both inside and outside said region to contribute opportunities within their respective markets that they might know of and to proceed to raise them on this portal, in the capacity as contributors to Asia Law Portal.

In the article containing the list of the 30 people to look out for in the legal field in Asia-Pacific, penned down by John, we are proud to announce that three of them are Malaysians. They are Chew Seng Kok, Gaythri Raman, and Eddie Law. Chew Seng Kok is the Managing Director of Zico Holdings, Inc., Zicolaw being the biggest law firm in Malaysia. Gaythri Raman, Head of the Asia-Pacific Rule of Law & Emerging Markets initiative at LexisNexis, led the LexisNexis efforts to form the Myanmar civil law structures following market liberalisation. She is an author at the powerful Malaysian legal blog LoyarBurok as well. Also on the list was our very own Eddie Law, who is the founder of eLawyer.com.my and Publisher of eLawyer Law Blog Forum, this very blog you are reading from right now, that covers the law business in Malaysia.

Eddie started his career as private practitioner and thereafter he joined an IT company as legal counsel before founded elawyer.com.my. Currently, Eddie is the Managing Director of eLawyer Recruitment, a legal recruitment company which specialises in providing legal recruitment solutions to law firms and large corporations. Drawing from his experience as a private practitioner and later as an in-house lawyer, Eddie has successfully placed lawyers with various firms and corporations (both local and international).

Being nominated as one of the unique 30 individuals, Eddie said, “This is the best new year gift that I have received, at the beginning of 2015 itself. I feel pleasantly surprised and am humbled by being mentioned in the list of the ‘30 People to Watch in the Business of Law in Asia in 2015’. Such a recognition inspires and encourages me to do better in the coming years. I also want to dedicate the glories to God and share such honour with those who helped me along my eLawyer journey.”

 

Not only that, eLawyer Law Blog Forum was also listed as one of the ’12 Blogs in Asia to Follow in 2015’, per John Grimley of Asia Law Portal. This law blog forum “is one of the largest online legal community in Malaysia with more than 7,500 registered members and… [it]… attracts more than 500,000 hits on a monthly basis.” Visited by people in the legal field of all levels and ages, this forum provides important information about the legal world in Malaysia. The aim of the eLawyer Legal Blog is to create an online forum or platform to update and discuss about the news and trends in the Malaysian legal community. It also intends to create legal awareness amongst the public.

 

 

Legal Career Forum 2014

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

THIS FORUM IS OPEN TO LAWYERS FROM ANY STATE AND PUPILS. LAW STUDENTS ARE WELCOME TO JOIN!

KL BAR

The KL Bar Pupils Committee and Young Lawyers Committee in collaboration with well-known legal recruitment and consultancy firm, eLawyerRecruitment are organising a Legal Career Forum.

This Forum is intended to benefit members of the Bar, pupils, students and law firms by sharing views of legal practitioners from different practice areas and seniority on the current demands of legal practice with focus on employers’ perspective on career opportunities and advancement.

The Forum is expected to address the relationship between employers and Generation Y employees and seeks to bridge the gap between them. Many talented practitioners are leaving their current employment to seek better opportunities, often outside legal practice. The Forum is intended to shed some light on the many reasons behind the loss of talent in the profession.

Lawyers in employment will benefit as the Forum will also cover the current requirements and credentials that employers look for in fresh practitioners and pupils. What does it taketo secure employment as a lawyer?; What is needed to succeed further?; What are the challenges that one might face in legal practice? These are some of the questions that will be answered at the Forum.The speakers will also share about the insight of respective area of practice and the prospect of such area of practice.

As for law firms, managing partners and HR executives are encouraged to attend to find out more about the demands of Generation Y practitioners and to increase the retention rate of lawyers at their respective firms.

This Forum will bring about a better understanding between employers and employees in legal practice. It is hoped that this will in turn create a better working relationship and result in an improvement in retaining talent in the legal profession.

This is also a great opportunity to meet prospective employers and employees and build network at the same time.

Details of the event are as follows:-

Date : 6 December 2014 (Saturday)

Venue : Raja Aziz Addruse Auditorium

Straits Trading Building

Unit 2-02A, 2nd Floor

Leboh Pasar Besar

50050 Kuala Lumpur

The agenda for the Forum is as follows:-

8:30 am – Registration

9:00 am to 9:10 am – Briefing by emcee

9:10 am to 9:20 am – Welcome speech by the Chairman of the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee

9:20 am to 10:00 am – Forum commences with talk by Legal Career Consultant, Eddie Law.

10:00 am to 12:45 pm – Forum discussion and Q & A

12:45 pm to 1:30 pm – Refreshment

The speakersfor the Forum are as follows:-

Dispute Resolution:

1. Lau Kee Sern, Partner in Shook Lin & Bok (called in 2000). His main area of practice is Banking & Finance and Corporate Litigation. He is a member of the Insolvency Practitioners Association of Malaysia.

2. IP & Competition Law:

Cindy Goh, Partner (Intellectual Property) in Cheang & Ariff (called in 2001). Her practice area includes Intellectual Property and Competition Law.

3. Conveyancing:

Chris Tan Chur Pim, Managing Partner of Chur Associates (called in 2000). His area of practice mainly focuses on real estate law. He is National Committee Member, FIABCI Malaysia.

4. Criminal Law Practice

Amer Hamzah, Partner in Nizam, Amer & Sharizad (called in 1999). His area of practice focuses on Criminal Law Practice, Civil Litigation and Public Interest Litigation.

5. Corporate Practice

Marcus Van Geyzel, Partner in Peter Ling & Van Geyzel (called in 2003). His area of practice includes corporate & commercial, and capital market practices.

6. Legal Career Consultant

Eddie Law, Founder and Managing Director of eLawyer.com.my (called in 2003). He has both private practice and in-house experience before he ventured into legal recruitment 6 years ago. His clients include law firms (local & international) and corporations. Eddie is passionate and generous about sharing his thoughts and experience on legal career related issues with young and potential lawyers, giving insight views of the career path of a lawyer, inspiring lawyers to excel in their profession, harness their leadership skill and personal growth.

Moderator : Peter-Douglas Ling, Partner, Peter Ling & Co.

The registration fee for this Forum is RM10.00 per participant.

Light lunch refreshments will be served.

Registration will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Please make payment by 26 November 2014 (Wednesday). Click here for the registration form. http://www.klbar.org.my/newsletter/file/06122014form.pdf

 

METHOD OF PAYMENT:

Payment is to be made at any Maybank via bank transfer, cash or cheque

Name of Account: Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee

Account No: 564315003715

Fax the bank in slip to 603-20321090 together with the Registration Form.

 

NOTE:

 

  • Registration is strictly on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

  • Confirmation is upon receipt of payment.

 

  • The Organisers reserve the right to postpone or cancel the Event, should circumstances arise that make such action necessary.

 

  • Fee paid is non-refundable unless the Event is cancelled by the Organisers. If a participant is unable to attend, a replacement participant is allowed

 

Should you have any queries, please e-mail Rajan (rajan@klbar.org.my) at the KL Bar Secretariat or call 03-20321440.

 

Thank you.

 

Best Regards,

 

Shashi Devan

Chairperson

KL Bar Pupils Committee

 

Choo Dee Wei

Chairperson

KL Bar Young Lawyers Committee

“Getting Ready for Your Career” at Taylor’s University

Friday, March 21st, 2014

On 18th of November 2013, Eddie Law, the founder of eLawyer was invited to have a talk on “Getting Ready for Your Career” at the law faculty of Taylor’s University. Eddie was sharing with them about the career options for a law graduates and also the effective cover-letter and CV writing skills.

From the response of the students, many presumed that the only career option for a law graduate is to be a practising lawyer. Hence, the talk was to unveil the misconception and to give law students an overview of the legal career market in Malaysia.

Having a well written cover letter and CV are the essential tools for a jobseeker to secure an interview. As the resume and cover letter speaks for the jobseeker himself, every minor detail could actually create different impression. Eddie, from him real life experience shared the useful tips to write a good resume and cover letter, not only the format but the content from the view as an employer. Eddie gave step by step guidance to the participants to guide them in cover letter and CV writing skill. Besides that, he had also pointed out the common mistakes that most jobseekers made in their resume.

 


Enter the Foreign Law Firms

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

This article is reproduced with the permission of Lee Shih .

I reproduce below my article published on LoyarBurok which is an updated version of my article originally published in the July-September 2013 issue of Malaysian Bar’s Praxis. I set out the new legal framework which will allow foreign lawyers and foreign law firms to practise foreign law in West Malaysia.

Part A. Introduction

The liberalisation of the legal market in West Malaysia to allow for the entry of foreign lawyers has been the subject of discussion stretching as far back as 1999.

The momentum for such liberalisation had picked up pace over recent years as Bank Negara was keen to allow for foreign lawyers and their foreign expertise to enter Malaysia to develop Malaysia into an international Islamic financial hub.

The Legal Profession (Amendment) Act 2012 (“Amendment Act”), which amends the existingLegal Profession Act 1976 (“LPA”), was passed on 13 June 2012. Although it has been gazetted, it has not come into force yet. Once brought into operation, the Amendment Act will insert a new Part IVA into the LPA to allow for foreign law firms and foreign lawyers to practice foreign law in West Malaysia. For ease of reference, the relevant provisions of the LPA I will be referring to will be the sections as amended by the Amendment Act.

This article will briefly analyse the legal framework for the impending liberalisation of the legal market although it will necessarily be confined only to West Malaysia in which the LPA applies.

It would however be useful to first briefly set out a snapshot of the present Malaysian legal market in terms of how foreign law firms already have some form of presence here.

Part B. The Present Legal Market

Baker & Mckenzie has had its member law firm in Malaysia for years now while Trowers & Hamlins opened a non-trading representative office in Kuala Lumpur in July 2012. It was the first foreign firm to obtain such an approval from the Malaysia Investment Development Authority to do so.

Two of Singapore’s largest law firms have also made its Malaysian presence felt relatively recently whereby Rajah & Tann and Allen & Gledhill have links with their associate law firms in Malaysia.

Foreign law firms also regularly advise on Malaysian corporate transactions, where these firms are based offshore in Singapore or in other countries.

The liberalisation as set out in the Amendment Act will provide for more options for foreign law firms and foreign lawyers to practice and advise on foreign law within Malaysia.

Part C. The Three Entry Routes into Malaysia

There will be three entry routes into Malaysia for foreign law firms and foreign lawyers. While the amendments to the LPA sets out the general framework, the specific details on the conditions and criteria for entry will be set out in the rules to be approved by the Bar Council and the Attorney General.

I am made to understand that these rules have been finalised by the Bar Council and they are presently to be approved by the Attorney General. Therefore, the details I highlight in this article are subject to the final approved version of the rules.

C.1 Permitted Practice Areas

Before fleshing out the three entry routes, I will highlight that the common element for all three is that each of these routes will allow a foreign law firm or foreign lawyer to only practise in permitted practice areas (see section 40F(8)(a) of the LPA for International Partnerships, section 40G(7) of the LPA for Qualified Foreign Law Firms and section 40J(2) of the LPA for foreign lawyers).

While the permitted practice areas are not defined in the Amendment Act, the rules to be passed under the LPA will likely define the permitted practice areas as a transaction regulated by Malaysian law and at least one other national law, or a transaction regulated solely by any law other than Malaysian law. In the case of a Qualified Foreign Law Firm, such aspect of work regulated by Malaysian law shall be undertaken in conjunction with a Malaysian lawyer holding a practising certificate.

The permitted practice areas will also specifically exclude areas of work such as:

  1. Constitutional and administrative law;
  2. Conveyancing;
  3. Criminal law;
  4. Family law;
  5. Succession law (including wills, intestacy, probate and administration);
  6. Trust law (where the settlor is an individual);
  7. Retail banking (including corporate or commercial loans to small and medium enterprises);
  8. Registration of patents and trademarks;
  9. Appearing or pleading in any court of justice in Malaysia;
  10. Representing a client in any proceedings instituted in such a court or giving advice (whether or not the main purpose of which is to advise the client on the conduct of such proceedings); and
  11. Appearing in any hearing before a quasi-judicial or regulatory body, authority or tribunal in Malaysia.

From a reading of the definition and the exclusions, the permitted practice areas are defined broadly to allow for foreign law expertise to be brought in to advise on foreign law or elements of foreign law.

There seems to be a specific exclusion on work that deals solely with Malaysian law which would then still be areas within the exclusive domain of Malaysian lawyers. Further, there are ring-fenced areas of work, such as conveyancing and litigation, which are again areas only Malaysian lawyers can practise in.

In allowing for foreign firms and lawyers to practise in the permitted practice areas, there are then three licenses which can be applied for which are set out below.

C.2 Stand-alone model: Qualified Foreign Law Firm

A foreign firm may be licensed to operate in Malaysia as a Qualified Foreign Law Firm (“QFLF”) and under this licence, the QFLF can operate on a stand-alone basis.

It is expected that up to five QFLF licences will be granted and where this policy was emphasised during the debate on the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill 2012 where it was stated that: “Sehubungan dengan itu, profesion undang-undang di Malaysia akan diliberalisasikan bagi membolehkan lima firma guaman antarabangsa terulung yang mempunyai kepakaran dalam bidang kewangan Islam antarabangsa menjalankan amalan mereka di Malaysia.

Based on the Bar Council’s recommendations, the foreign lawyers in the QFLF will have to be resident in Malaysia for 182 days, and not less than 30% of the lawyers in the QFLF would have to be Malaysian lawyers.

It is important to note however that Malaysian lawyers who work in the QFLF would have to give up their practising certificate (see section 40G(8) of the LPA which states that a “Malaysian lawyer employed in a qualified foreign law firm shall be disqualified from obtaining a practicing certificate under Part III”).

So the QFLF, even when advising on a transaction involving elements of both foreign law and Malaysian law, would not be able to practice Malaysian law and would have to instruct external practising Malaysian lawyers.

C.3 Joint Venture Model: International Partnership

The International Partnership (“IP”) is a joint venture between the foreign law firm and the Malaysian law firm.

The permissible equity ownership and voting rights of the foreign law firm in the IP shall be determined by the Selection Committee [see section 40F(9) of the LPA] and the recommendations made by the Bar Council are that the Malaysian law firm should not have less than 60% and the foreign law firm no more than 40% of the equity and voting rights and of the total number of lawyers in the IP.

Both the foreign firm and the Malaysian firm in a proposed IP would have to demonstrate that they have the relevant legal expertise and experience in the permitted practice areas. It seems that the IP will not require specific expertise in international Islamic finance unlike in the case of a QFLF.

The IP will be entitled to bill its clients as a single law firm [see section 40F(8)(b) of the LPA] as well as recover costs and retain payments in respect of practicing in the permitted practice areas [see section 40F(8)(c) of the LPA].

Under this route, it appears that there will be a separate entity in the form of an IP, and with a Malaysian lawyer being both part of its Malaysian law firm as well as part of the IP entity.

C.4 Foreign Lawyers

Individual foreign lawyers will also be allowed to be employed by a Malaysian law firm to practise in the permitted practice areas. It has been recommended by the Bar Council that the number of foreign lawyers employed by a Malaysian law firm shall not be more than 30% of the total number of lawyers in that firm.

All individual foreign lawyers working in a QFLF, IP or Malaysian law firm will have to register as a foreign lawyer under the LPA.  The registration of a foreign lawyer shall be in respect of a calendar year and may be renewed annually.

Part D. Application for Licenses and Regulation

An application for a license for the QFLF, IP or foreign lawyer will have to be made to the Bar Council. The new legislation provides for the establishment of a Selection Committee to make recommendations to the Bar Council for the granting of such licenses.

The Selection Committee will be co-chaired by the Attorney General and the President of the Malaysian Bar, and the other members would be a person to be appointed by the Attorney General from the public sector and two members of the Malaysian Bar practising in the permitted practice areas relevant to the applications.

It is expected that there will be annual reporting and accounting requirements in respect of QFLFs and IPs, and annual performance reporting in respect of foreign lawyers employed by Malaysian law firms.

All QFLFs, IPs and foreign lawyers shall comply with the same rules and regulations applicable to Malaysian lawyers relating to professional conduct and ethics and therefore also subject to, for the purposes of disciplinary actions, the control of the Disciplinary Board.

Part E. Prohibition against “fly-in fly-out”?

The Amendment Act inserted a new section 37(2A) into the LPA which makes it an offence for any unauthorised person to do or solicit the right to do any act which is customarily within the function of an advocate and solicitor, including the provision of legal advice (whether Malaysian or otherwise). This provision would appear to prevent foreign lawyers (who are not licensed under the LPA) from flying in and out of the Malaysia to provide advice and to carry out any work relating to Malaysian law or even foreign law.

This may be too wide a prohibition and this provision had attracted some criticism, especially with regard to restricting foreign lawyers from advising or acting in international arbitrations in Malaysia. Under the present law, there is no restriction against foreign lawyers acting in arbitrations in Malaysia (see the High Court case of Zublin Muhibbah Joint Venture v Government of Malaysia [1990] 3 MLJ 125 which was upheld by the Supreme Court).

Two Bills were passed by the Dewan Rakyat on 24 September 2013 to relax this restriction imposed under section 37(2A) of the LPA.  The new subsections 37(2A) and (2B) to be inserted into the LPA would have two main effects. Firstly, a foreign lawyer will be able to enter Malaysia to advise or consult with a client on any matter pertaining to foreign law provided that the accumulated period of stay will not exceed 60 days in a calendar year and that immigration authorisation has been obtained.

Secondly, foreign lawyers advising or rendering any other assistance in arbitrations, or who appear as counsel or arbitrators in arbitrations in Malaysia, will be permitted to enter the country at any time and with no limit on the duration of their stay.

Part F. What Does the Future Hold?

It will be difficult to predict what the future holds in terms of the entry of foreign firms and whatever challenges the legal market will face. I list out some observations as I try to hazard a guess as to what may be expected and some of the challenges that may come along.

F.1 Competition for High-End Corporate Work

As seen from the Amendment Act, the liberalisation of the Malaysian legal market is gradual and with the primary areas of practice for the QFLPs and IPs being that of foreign law albeit within the physical territory of Malaysia.

While the QFLPs must demonstrate an expertise in international Islamic finance work, it is unlikely that the licensed foreign firms will wish to practice exclusively in the Islamic finance practice area. It is unlikely to be commercially attractive to do so and this has been highlighted years ago. So the licensed foreign firms, whether in the form of a QFLP or IP, will likely want to compete for work in the higher-end corporate practice areas. This may then impact the larger local firms as well as the boutique firms which are already competing in these areas. A higher level of competition will be to the benefit of the clients giving them more choice while also ensuring that the Malaysian firms raise their game to compete.

F.2 Ring-fenced areas: Protection for Local Law Firms

It was common throughout the debates leading to the Amendment Act and of the two recent Bills on 24 September 2013 to hear certain quarters advising caution in that liberalisation must not lead to local law firms being cast aside.

I believe that with the present restrictions built into the permitted practice areas, a majority of law firms and lawyers will not find that their work is being taken away by foreign law firms. So for instance, litigation, whether it is civil or criminal work, conveyancing and banking will still be in the exclusive domain of local lawyers.

The local law firms which already regularly work with foreign lawyers to advise or to act in matters involving elements of Malaysian and foreign law may however feel the impact. Our foreign counterparts who used to be our instructing solicitors or who were working in the same cross-border team of lawyers as us, may now have a Malaysian presence and would be competing directly with us for such work.

F.3 Knowledge Sharing

In terms of knowledge transfer, whereby the experience and expertise of the foreign firms entering Malaysia will be shared with the Malaysian firms, it can be seen how the Amendment Act and the eventual rules are intended to promote such a transfer.

QFLFs can primarily only advise on matters on foreign law but will have to employ at least 30% of Malaysian lawyers. QFLFs would still have to engage external practising Malaysian lawyers to advise on any matters concerning Malaysian law.

The joint venture model of the IP would also allow the Malaysian law firm partner to benefit from knowledge transfer.

F.4 Is this Attractive Enough?

There may be questions as to whether this proposed framework will be sufficient to attract foreign firms to enter Malaysia. It does appear to have generated some interest in the UK already.

The foreign firms would not be able to draw on their non-practising Malaysian lawyers (in a QFLP) or their Malaysian partners (in a IP) to advise on a matter dealing solely with Malaysian law, even if it were to arise in a specific permitted area such as a merger or an acquisition. Hence, the foreign firm would not be able to market themselves as a seamless provider of legal services for cross-border financial work.

The foreign law firms may then have to decide between the present existing system of maintaining associate or members firms in Malaysia and being able to advise on Malaysian law (and thus market themselves as being able to provide such seamless cross-border service) or the new system of limiting themselves into QFLPs or IPs.

On the joint venture IP model, the similar joint law venture scheme in Singapore was of limited success and with substantial revamps that have been carried out over the years. It remains to be seen whether Malaysia’s IP scheme will enjoy better success.

I am also not sure how comfortably the foreign lawyers and foreign law firms will fit into the present disciplinary regulations which were drafted to specifically govern the conduct of advocates and solicitors of the High Court of Malaya and had not taken into account foreign lawyers. How will our rules and restrictions, for instance on publicity or on websites, impact on foreign law firms if they practise in Malaysia?

Part G. Conclusion

The balancing act to be struck is that of liberalising the Malaysian legal market to allow for the entry of foreign firms while also managing the liberalisation plan to give Malaysian firms time to mature and develop with the market. While on the one hand liberalisation can promote healthy competition and bring in legal expertise, the impending liberalisation will be gradual and can be tailored to fit the situation as the market evolves.

It will be interesting to see the changes and the developments that occur once this framework is brought into operation.

David Gurupatham & Koay (DGK) Christmas Party

Monday, January 27th, 2014

eLawyer is honoured to be invited to the Christmas party organised by David Gurupatham & Koay (“DGK”) on Monday, 23 December 2013 at The Roof @ First Avenue, Bandar Utama, Petaling Jaya. DGK is a well-established law firm focusing on both litigation and conveyancing & banking practices.

Graced by approximately 60 invited guests, the event was a huge success as it was meant to celebrate the close ties and amiable co-operation that was forged between the guests (being the ever supportive business partners of the firm) and the DGK family since the firm was founded. The invited guests come from a diverse background wherein most of them represented financial institutions such as CIMB Bank, RHB Bank and UOB Bank, and developers like See Hoy Chan, Nadayu, Country Garden, RK Group and Twin Pavilion.

Equally strong presence was felt from the DGK family led by the partners, Dato’ David Gurupatham, Mr Koay Eng Hooi and Mr Chan Tuek Seng, 15 lawyers and 50 supporting staffs. Together they form one sturdy yet fun-loving team. This is evident from the night itself when the planning and execution of the event went on so smoothly and how the DGK family carried themselves throughout the night.

The event started at approximately 8:15 pm when the emcees for the night, Joshua Chin (a Legal Assistant with the Dispute Resolution group) and Stephanie (a Chambering Pupil) went up on stage to greet and welcome the people present. They subsequently invited Dato’ David Gurupatham to present his opening speech wherein he spoke about the firm, the achievements that the firm has documented to-date and recorded his gratitude and thanks to the invited guests for their support and the DGK family for contributing immensely to the firm’s success. Subsequently Mr Koay shared about the vision of the firm which is to deliver legal services of high quality to their clients and to have regional presence over the next 2 to 3 years’ time, followed by a short appreciation speech by Mr Chan. The event was then officiated by the three partners. Thereafter on the agenda was dinner. Guests were treated to a scrumptious buffet selection.

Among the highlights of the event was that the people were entertained to a few song selections by Chelsia Ng, a Malaysian actress well known for her roles in Kopitiam, Homecoming, Papadom, etc. Speaking of entertainment, invited guests and the DGK family were also greeted by Dato’ David Gurupatham himself who dedicated a few songs to everyone present. The atmosphere was nothing other than light and jovial as some people were seen to be immersed with the entertainment while the rest was busy catching up with each other.

Everyone was asked to bring along a gift for the night. It was put to good use during the ice-breaking session when people have to exchange it with one another continuously until the music stopped. As people exchanged the gifts, they briefly introduced one another and exchanged pleasant words too. That definitely helped to break the ice and got people moving around instead of just being seat warmers.

There were of course a few rounds of lucky draw that people looked forward to. Prizes such as electrical and electronic items, traveling gear, hampers, etc. were up for grab. The lucky draw prizes were generously contributed by some of the guests present being the business partners of DGK.

The event ended rather early at approximately 11:00 pm in view of the fact that the following day was still a working day. As guests made their way out, each of them had the opportunity to pose for the camera with a striking red backdrop carrying the DGK logo and the season’s greeting.

Reported by Donovan Lee