KUALA LUMPUR: A young lawyers’ group has told the Malaysian Bar that any proposal for minimum pay for pupils in chambers must be binding on all law firms — and not serve as mere guidelines.
A motion seeking to compel legal firms to pay pupils (or lawyers in training) a minimum allowance of RM1,200 was defeated at the Bar’s annual general meeting in March.
However, Bar Council president Karen Cheah recently said the Bar was “quite amenable to setting some kind of guidelines” to ensure pupils are given reasonable pay.
“We demand that the Bar state whether the minimum remuneration will be implemented in the form of a guideline or a ruling,” said Goh Cia Yee, a member of the Young Lawyers Movement (YLM) at a press conference.
He said a guideline, as opposed to a ruling, would be insufficient and even redundant as it would not have any binding effect on legal firms.
Cheah had said in a media interview that the Bar must “take a step back and be circumspect” in dealing with the issue of a minimum wage as it might be counterproductive in terms of its impact on smaller firms.
Vince Tan, another member of the YLM, said that the financial abilities of smaller firms should not be an excuse to not pay pupils a fair minimum wage.
“The Bar needs to stop listening to some council of elders or cartel monopolising the legal profession,” he said as young lawyers make up a majority of the Bar.
He said smaller firms should not take in any pupils if the firms could not afford to pay them a minimum wage.
Cheah had previously said that Bar Council members had voted against the minimum wage motion as it might contravene the Legal Profession Act. She said the Bar had submitted proposed amendments to the Attorney-General’s Chambers and was awaiting a response.
Young lawyers have called for pupils to be paid in accordance with the current minimum wage of RM1,500 under the Employment Act.
Law graduates who wish to be admitted to the Bar must undergo nine months’ of mandatory training in chambers. Pupils are not classified as employees under the Act.