© New Straits Times (Used by permission)
by June Ramli
KUALA LUMPUR: The standard of lawyers, most of whom graduated from local universities, range from the good to the grotesque, says a senior judge.
"Many of them are bad because of the low-quality training they received at local institutions of higher learning," Court of Appeal judge Datuk Gopal Sri Ram told the New Straits Times after the launch of a book, Malaysian Employment Laws, by M.N. D'Cruz here on Thursday.
Sri Ram, who has been in the legal profession for 40 years, said some lawyers did not have a clue how to introduce their opponents or to cite cases in court.
There was also a large number who did not know how to prepare written briefs, he added.
"The Bar Council should address this problem instead of being distracted by other matters."
He said the professional standard of lawyers, estimated at 13,000, had declined in the last 10 years.
"At Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, for example, I was told that they do not offer company law, which is a core subject if one wants to practise law."
He said many lawyers were also financially strapped because of the high cost of maintaining their practice.
As a result, many could not afford to even buy law journals, which cost between several hundreds and thousands of ringgit per volume.
"Law books to a lawyer are what the scalpel is to a surgeon and making them expensive does not help the profession," he said.
"Many are broke because private practice takes a lot of money; they have to pay their staff and their provident fund and taxes, and when all that is done, nothing much is left."
He said the journal for contract law, for instance, cost RM2,000 and this was because it was printed and published in England.
"Many law journals come from Australia and India while Malaysia produces very few law books.
"This is another reason why it makes it expensive for lawyers.
"That is why the photocopy machines in their offices are kept busy at all times," he added.
He commended the government's decision to replace the Certificate in Legal Practice examination with the Common Bar Examination.
Sri Ram added: "This is a good idea and we should give it our support."