MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bar sees red over ‘dubious’ Star report

The Malaysian Bar accuses the daily of misquoting the speakers at a forum, and painting young lawyers in a poor light.
PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar has voiced its protest against an article in The Star, which the council claims portrayed young lawyers in a poor light.
The Star article on Oct 21 reported that “all young Malaysian lawyers do not meet the standard international quality benchmark set by their employers, according to a Bar Council survey.”
However, Malaysian Bar vice-president Christopher Leong accused The Star of misquoting, claiming that the report did not accurately represent what the speakers had said at the forum.
“The New Young Lawyers Constitution forum was a useful platform for a discourse on the requisite training of young lawyers, and their work conditions.
“So we are disappointed that The Star dubiously placed on record our unequivocal position that the employability survey covered new entrants to the Bar (and not all young lawyers), and that it is not our stand that all our young lawyers are below bar,” he said in a statement.
The Star, he added, should know that the survey reflected the views and experiences of the employer-law firms in seeking to employ new law graduates and was not a survey to determine the quality of such law graduates per se.
Two surveys conducted
Leong said that the Bar Council conducted two major surveys recently.
The first survey was aimed at obtaining the feedback of employer-law firms as to the attributes, skills and abilities that they deem important, and look for, when seeking to employ new law graduates, and to what extent such requirements or expectations have been met.
The second survey was conducted by the Bar Council National Young Lawyers Committee to gather data on the working conditions of the younger members of the Bar, particularly those within the first three years of employment.
On Oct 20, the NYLC held a public forum to discuss the results of the two surveys. Based on the results of the second survey, the NYLC made the following recommendations:
(a) Young lawyers ought to continue and strive to improve themselves, particularly by attending the Bar Council’s Continuing Professional Development seminars and courses;
(b) As a guide for employers, the proposed allowance for pupils in chambers should be a minimum of RM2,000 and RM1,000 per month, within, and outside, the Klang Valley, respectively;
(c) As a guide for employers, the proposed remuneration for first-year lawyers should be a minimum of RM4,000 and RM2,500 per month, within, and outside, the Klang Valley, respectively; and
(d) Employers should consider including both cash and in-kind benefits in a young lawyer’s remuneration package. For example, if a firm is unable to offer the recommended monthly amount of RM4,000 to a first-year lawyer in Kuala Lumpur, that firm could consider offering medical and dental benefits, or a telecommunication allowance, so that the value of the remuneration package would approximate the proposed figure. This proposal represents a short-term measure in the hope that employers will eventually offer the recommended minimum salary amount in cash.
Concern over multiple routes
On the other hand, the Bar Council’s employability survey revealed that there is divergence between the expectations and requirements of employers, and the attributes and skill sets of some of the new entrants to the Bar.
Law firms that responded identified these four skill sets and attributes as priorities: proficiency in spoken and written English; communication skills; knowledge of the law; and commitment to the firm.
“The survey responses indicated that lawyers with foreign law degrees generally fare better in these areas than those with local qualifications, except where ‘commitment to firm’ is concerned. Within the former category of graduates, those who need not undertake the Certificate of Legal Practice (CLP) generally fare better than those with the CLP qualification.
“The expectations and requirements of the legal profession are dictated by the market, and the demands placed upon lawyers by the public, who are the consumers of legal services,” said Leong.
He said the survey also found that employer-law firms were also concerned over the disparate and multiple routes of entry into the legal profession, which led to differing standards of learning and training amongst the new entrants.
He added that this appeared to be a cause for the disparity in the skill sets and attributes detected by the survey.
“An overwhelming majority of employer-law firms felt that a single entry system into the legal profession, as is the case in other jurisdictions, is desirable and viable.
“To this end, they agreed that a Malaysian Common Bar Course, with a vocational training component, is needed to enhance the employability of new entrants to the Bar,” he said.

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