Sunday, 7 November 2010

Updated version : Candidate Watch 2010

Dear readers (particularly members of the Bar)

Below is an updated version of the Candidate Watch questions posed to Bar Council election candidates. The updated version took into account some constructive and concerned comments from fellow members of the Bar.

However, the original version uploaded a few days ago, remains on this Blog and can be seen below.

Hopefully this updated version would clarify some issues raised by members.

My thanks to members who shown concerns and desire for a better Bar, and posing some challenging and difficult questions to me.

Richard Wee

(As at 7/11/2010)

Kuala Lumpur Young Lawyers Committee
Candidate Watch Campaign

List of questions

1. In not more than 80 words, please provide a brief introduction about yourself and how you perceive yourself as a legal practitioner.

Currently, I'm a partner at Richard Wee & Yip, and our practice leans towards litigation services. Our fellow peers would best judge of the kind of practitioner I am. Nevertheless, the principle of a fair and honest practice guides me

2. Which committee would you seek to chair and what are your aspirations and intentions for the said committee during your tenure? If you do not intend to chair a committee, please state your reasons for the same and tell us what do you intend to achieve during your tenure as a Council Member?

Honestly, any Committee will do, though currently, I am inclined to chair the National Young Lawyers Committee (NYLC).

Regardless of my preferences, any committee tasked to me would be reviewed and eventually changes will be made and projects with long term gains will be implemented.

Whenever I am involved in committees at the Bar, i would ensure such long term gains will continue to flourish even when a new Chair takes over.

Should I chair NYLC, it would be imperative to reform NYLC into a policy making Committee, acting as a “Representative Committee”, to represent and ventilate the views of the younger members at Council. For example, the current Court system has adversely imposed itself on the lives of lawyers. I feel that perhaps the NYLC should communicate with the Judiciary t resolve issues affecting our young lawyers, who are spending far too much time waiting at Court and not enough time providing quality legal services.

3. The issue of setting a term limit for members serving the Bar Council has attracted many supporters as well as detractors. Do you think that there should be a term limit for members to be in the Bar Council? Please provide reasons for your answer.

Definitely a term ought to be fixed. Issues such as how long a term, or how long must a Council member be on ‘sabbatical’ before returning to Bar Council, needs further deliberation. However, I am inclined to support any motion to limit the term of a Council member to no more than 4 terms and perhaps a year off, before allowing that member to return.

While I support this principle, allow me to state that I have been fortunate to work with some Council members who have been at Council for a few years already, and they are hardworking and genuinely wants to improve the Bar. Nonetheless, without casting any aspersions on these senior Council members, my personal view is that (generally speaking) a fixed term policy would be more positive to ensure fresh and alternative lawyers are able to serve on the Council.

4. Based on feedback received, many Young Lawyers are leaving the profession because of perceived deteriorating working conditions at the Bar. What are your views about the working conditions that Young Lawyers are being subjected to and how would you seek to improve these conditions?

Back in 2005, the YLC then made a survey and found that a significant number of young lawyers left the Bar by their 3rd year in practise. The usual lament received by the YLC at that time was the long working hours and imbalanced lifestyle.

The Bar (perhaps through NYLC) should revisit the matter of working conditions. Back in 2007/08 a Survey was done by NYLC on this issue and that survey can be revisited and reviewed.

If the younger members feel practise is overwhelming, the Bar may consider taking steps to equalise that. Perhaps dialogues with employers may be a solution to explore.

However, in fairness, I also wish to put forward the view that fresh lawyers, must also learn to adapt to the system they are in. Working life is tough, and that's a given. We have to continually examine our lifestyle and be honest with ourselves and understand the nature of our work. Whether we are efficient or are able to improve, these are questions which we have to constantly thrust on ourselves.

We cannot simply point towards tough working conditions and hope for the Council to be our saviour. Although the Council should look out for its lawyers’ wellbeing, a line has to be drawn between equalising a situation and babysitting a lawyer.

5. The Johor Bar and the Penang Bar have recently held EGMs, inter alia, to obtain feedback in relation to the Fast Track System implemented by the judiciary which places emphasis on a Key Performance Index (“KPI”). Has the quality of justice dispensed by the Courts suffered as a result of the KPI that has been put into place? What would you do to improve the situation?

Litigation used to be slow. It took years to finish one case, in the former system.

But now, cases are moving so fast, sometimes, I feel like the Road Runner when I am Court. Running here and there, just to attend to matters at Court.

Nevertheless, the Judiciary’s newly acquired desire to move things fast, should be retained. However, the new system must be in aid of justice, not mere expediency at the expense of fairness.

We should be debating on new principles of law in Court, and not whether an adjournment can be granted (especially when another Court wants to hear a case on the same day.)

What would I do? Well, it’s too late to revert to the old system, so we must just tweak the current format to work. Solutions can range from dialogues with Judiciary and (if need be) a mass protest at Court (though I hope we can avoid the latter and only do that as a final resort)

6. Do you think the Solicitor’s Remuneration Order (SRO) has achieved the objectives it was put in place for? Do you think more should be done by the Bar Council to ensure adherence to the SRO or alternatively, should the SRO be done away with all together?

For the record, I am in support of the SRO and would support any proposal to fully enforce the SRO.

In principle, the SRO was always meant to help the people, so that when they engage the services of a lawyer to purchase property, they would know how much to pay. The SRO is to ensure that lawyers compete on quality & and not price. If all our fees are the same, then we should be competing on who is better at delivering their services, instead on who is giving a better discount. I would have thought that, that would be the ideal way to practise.

But in reality discount-giving transactions are rampant, and for that reason many firms who do not give discounts, do not offer conveyancing services as their primary service.

Can an enforcement rule be imposed? I would say, it is not logical to spend so much time and effort just to ensure members don’t give discount. The Bar has tried hard in recent years to ensure SRO will be complied but the effort seems in vain (particularly taking into account the recent High Court decision declaring the SRO Enforcement rules to be void).

Perhaps the Bar would have to leave it to members to sort it out and eventually do away with the SRO.

My personal message to lawyers who provide huge discounts to bring in the ‘bulk work’ is this - when a lawyer compromises on price too much, eventually quality will be compromised too. And the only one who suffers, is the client. If you (for example) wish other professionals, like Doctors, to treat us well when we are ill, then please think of the same when you do the Conveyancing matter. You too are a professional, and you should ensure all the papers are in order to protect the interest of that client. But I suppose if some lawyers can still do that AND give discounts, then we should just leave it at that.

7. What are your views on the failure of the Attorney-General to bring charges against the individuals named by the Royal Commission of Inquiry in their findings on the leaked video-clips vis a vis judicial appointments? What action do you propose the Bar Council take?

Its extremely disappointing that in the face of an obvious indiscretion (and what more confirmed by the Royal Commission themselves) the AG decided not to charge those individuals.

The Bar Council already ‘walked’ at Putrajaya when the video first appeared. Perhaps the Bar can raise this issue internationally to create awareness of this scandal. And at home here, the Bar would have to look at other avenues to raise our concerns. Perhaps, the next place we should walk to, is Parliament.

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