By Dato’ Mah Weng Kwai
© LAWASIA (used with permission) **
The Malaysian Bar is 64 years old this year and has a membership of well over 13,000 practising lawyers.
The Malaysian Bar is a giant itself in upholding the rule of law and justice, without fear or favour, human rights and professional standards and ethics.
While there is strength in numbers, importantly, it is the empowerment of young lawyers who give the Bar its strength. As leaders are groomed and not born, young lawyers will have to be groomed to be giants themselves and be future leaders of the Bar. Each and every young lawyer in the hall can inspire the person next to him or her to achieve greater heights of success and excellence in practice at the Bar.
Giants of the Bar
Giants of the Malaysian Bar are people who have worked extremely hard and tirelessly for the Bar, dedicated their efforts and time and who have stood their ground firmly in the face of adversity.
To succeed at the Bar young lawyers must have a love for the law and the legal profession and be committed to uphold the principles of natural justice, human rights and fair play. Legal practice as a career is a vocation. It is wholly inadequate for anyone to be arm chair proponents of the rule of law and natural justice without taking part and giving support to the Malaysian Bar on matters which require a stand to be taken. A good example of this was when the Malaysian Bar organized the “Walk for Justice” on 26/9/07 in its campaign to eradicate corruption in the country. Hundreds of lawyers participated in the march to demonstrate their support for the Bar in the fight against corruption. With commitment, young lawyers should be proactively involved in the activities of the Malaysian Bar and not leave it to someone else to speak up in his or her place.
For self improvement in the knowledge of the law and related fields, young lawyers should take advantage of the various courses, talks and seminars organized by the Malaysian Bar throughout the year. These range from the Ethics Course for pupils to talks and lectures by eminent visiting speakers and Advocacy Training Courses jointly organized by the Judiciary and the Bar Council. Continuing legal education should be welcomed and be viewed positively rather than as something being thrust down the throats of practitioners.
It always pays for lawyers to be courteous to Court staff, fellow members of the Bar and to the Bench when appearing in Court. When presenting a case in Court, the lawyer should first and foremost be well prepared. He should be convinced of his own brief and be able to state his case positively yet maintaining flexibility in his views and approach. Utmost integrity must be maintained at all times lest the lawyer loose the trust of his peers and the Court. A simple illustration of this can be seen when Bundles of Authorities are prepared for the Court. It is unacceptable for a lawyer to paginate and highlight the cases for the Court but not for his opponent. The worse cut of course is where the lawyer deliberately highlights the wrong portions for his opponent! This no doubt will amount to conduct unbecoming of a lawyer.
It is always delightful to hear the submissions of a lawyer who presents it with some wit and humour. It is refreshing and draws the attention of the Court to what may otherwise be a boring subject.
A lawyer’s interest in the law should not be dulled by everyday mundane work. He should be well read in other subjects besides the law. Reading novels, magazines and even comics will help sharpen a lawyers wit and edge.
Young lawyers should endeavour to promote friendship, fellowship and unity at the Bar. After all, practice at the Bar is a long journey where lawyers should fight as adversaries in Court but eat and drink as friends once out of Court.
Upholding the principles enunciated in Section 42 of the Legal Profession Act is paramount. All lawyers should strive to maintain the image of the Bar not just in the eyes of their clients and the Courts but importantly in the eyes of the public. It is incumbent on all lawyers, not just young lawyers, to make the Malaysian Bar worthy of the respect of the public. The Malaysian Bar must be seen to be credible and to lead public opinion on matters pertaining to the law. Only then can a lawyer endear himself not just to his colleagues and the Courts but to the common man in the street.
Besides having a healthy mind, a lawyer should also have a healthy body. Regular exercise and participation in the Bench and Bar games will help keep lawyers in good physical shape while interacting with his peers.
At all costs the Malaysian Bar must remain apolitical although some views, expressed by the Malaysian Bar and its members may at times necessarily be political in nature. The Malaysian Bar must be recognized for what it is – a statutory body entrusted with obligations and powers and not as a society or a non governmental organization or a political party.
To conclude, I wish to highlight the importance of the Malaysian Bar going international. It must keep up its good rapport with international law associations to promote healthy exchange of views especially in the practice of the law. Young lawyers too should as soon as practicable spread his/her wings by joining these international bodies such as LAWASIA, International Bar Association and the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and be giants not only in the Malaysian Bar but in the international arena.
With recognition of one’s prowess in the law, human rights and rule of law young lawyers will be able to command respect, not demand it. And perhaps one day lawyers will be able to declare publicly “Trust me, I am a lawyer”! But whoever fits into the shoes of a giant at the Bar, he/she must always remember to be dwarfed by humility.
* Excerpts of the speech delivered to young lawyers and pupils at the Malaysian Bar young Lawyers Convention held in Malacca on 2.7.2011.
** Published in the LAWASIA March 2012 Update.