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‘Unqualified’ lawyers practising in Sabah, claims law society

 | December 8, 2017

Sabah Law Society says lawyers from Sarawak and West Malaysia have been flouting the Advocates Ordinance by practising in Sabah.

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KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Law Society (SLS) has reminded the public and corporations to only engage persons who have been admitted as an advocate to the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak in Sabah.

Its president, Brenndon Keith Soh, told FMT the society was obliged to issue the reminder following reports of lawyers from Sarawak and Malaya doing business in the state without fulfilling the criteria that would allow them to do so.

“It has been going on for a while but sometimes goes undetected.

“There were instances where some of these lawyers were identified and we were able to advise them that they are not permitted to practise in Sabah.

“We have even heard of instances where they turned up in court, attempting to represent a client until either the court or opposing counsel objected to their presence.”

Soh said such errors might have been caused by ignorance of the law or the offenders may be hoping no one would raise an objection.

The SLS, he said, had received reports of unqualified persons attempting to represent their clients in court and has noted an increase in the drafting of sale and purchase agreements relating to Sabah properties by unqualified persons.

He stressed that any person not admitted as advocates providing any legal services within Sabah would be committing an offence under the Advocates Ordinance, in particular sections 8 and 16.

Those found guilty under the ordinance can be fined up to RM20,000 or face a jail sentence not exceeding two years, or both.

Furthermore, he said persons from outside Sabah providing such services may also be breaching immigration laws and risk committing a “double offence”.

“For the avoidance of doubt, in the absence of ad-hoc admission, persons admitted as advocates and solicitors in Sarawak or West Malaysia, but not in Sabah, are regardless of their standing in their respective jurisdictions, just as unqualified as any other unqualified individual,” he said.

The legal services include advising, negotiating and acting for clients in legal matters, or appearing for or representing such clients before any court, tribunal, arbitrator or adjudicator.

It also includes preparation of letters of demand, drawing up papers to apply for grants of probate or letters of administration, or any conveyancing documentation such as loan documentation, sale and purchase agreements, and tenancy agreements.

Soh stressed that these principles are well established and have repeatedly been upheld by the courts.

“There are many laws applicable only to Sabah, and persons without an active practice in the state are unlikely to possess the requisite knowledge or learning to adequately advise or represent persons requiring the same.

“As a result, the quality of drafting of agreements brought to the attention of the SLS, that have been prepared by non-qualified persons, has quite often been found to be inadequate.”

In its attempt to curb this rising problem, Soh said from now on, SLS will report all discovered infractions to the relevant authorities, including lodging police reports and reporting them to the immigration authorities and their respective disciplinary boards.

He also encouraged SLS members as well as the public to contact the society secretariat if there are any queries or reports of individuals suspected of committing the offence.


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