Bar: You can’t hire a foreign lawyer unless…

Bar Council president George Varughese says the applicant must be a qualified lawyer as defined by the Legal Profession Act. (Bernama pic)

GEORGE TOWN: Anyone wishing to hire a foreign lawyer for a local case must show that the lawyer’s expertise is not available in Malaysia, according to the Bar Council.

“The lawyer must show that he or she has special qualifications or experience of a nature not available among lawyers in Malaysia, and is acting upon instruction by an advocate and solicitor in Malaysia,” said Bar Council president George Varughese in a comment on news reports that former prime minister Najib Razak intends to hire US lawyers if he faces criminal charges.

The Legal Profession Act (LPA) requires a foreign lawyer intending to appear as counsel in a local hearing to make an application with the court where the case is to be heard.

The lawyer would have to submit an originating motion, which must also be served to the attorney-general, the secretary of the Malaysian Bar and the Bar committee of the state in which the case would be heard, Varughese told FMT.

He said the applicant must be a qualified lawyer as defined by the LPA.

Yesterday, Jelutong MP RSN Rayer raised concerns over Najib’s move to hire top lawyers from the US.

Rayer, who is a lawyer, urged the Bar to be scrupulous in vetting Najib’s application, alleging that it might be a tactic to delay a possible trial.

He noted that the LPA requires foreign lawyers to get a licence from the Malaysian Bar if they intend to appear in local courts.

The application for the licence must be made by a local firm, Rayer added, but Varughese said such a requirement was applicable only to law firms intending to hire a foreign lawyer.

According to Varughese, a foreign lawyer’s application to practice would be decided by a special Bar committee as stipulated in the act.

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