On 6 March 2015, a motion regarding the Bar Council’s proposed Group Practice rules was filed. It is due to be debated at the upcoming Malaysian Bar’s 69th AGM to be held on 14 March 2015.
The profession is being liberalised around the world. Foreign law firms and lawyers have been allowed in to practise. Alternative business structures of accountants, auditors and lawyers are possible in other countries.
However, our regulations on lawyers are antiquated and most, irrelevant in the face of global disruption to the traditional law firm model.
The Group Practice model proposed by the Council offers an important option for small firms which make up about 90% of the profession. These firms should be empowered with maximum flexibility to pool their resources, and develop their capabilities and competitive edge to meet rising costs. Singapore and Hong Kong have successfully implemented the Group Practice model with far fewer restrictions.
Looking forward, the Bar Council should be seen more as an ‘enabler’ rather than only as a ‘prohibitor’. The proposed Group Practice rules must be enacted in the spirit of the former.