The legal profession is filled with various types of practitioners, from paralegals to lawyers to judges. If you’re looking for a full-fledged career as a lawyer you should definitely consider and understand what a lawyer in Malaysia does.
The profession in Malaysia is known as a ‘fused profession : To understand what this means, you should know what exactly has been fused together to create the Malaysian lawyer. Like much of the law, the term ‘advocate and solicitor’ is inherited from the British legal system which itself is hundreds of years old. This separation of skill sets is characterised as being a ‘split profession: To understand the process, we must begin with the solicitor’s role. Solicitors are qualified lawyers who deal with the public in offering all aspects of legal advice and representation of their cases. Good solicitors undertake the job, consult with their client, do the research, gather the documentation and provide other services. In the case of a dispute between two parties, their work may result in a case being amicably solved by settlement or by arbitration from a third party. However, the big question is what if a case ends up going to court? Thus, an advocate - as the name suggests - is someone who takes on the courtroom aspects of legal work on behalf of the solicitor. Often they are appointed by the solicitor and will get briefed on the necessary aspects of a case. Because of this, advocates rarely work with members of the public and may only meet and consult with the individual they are representing just once or twice before the court case. Instead, they will get all the information they need from the solicitor that has passed the case on to them. Advocates are perhaps famous for being the ones who wear robes. In the UK and Ireland, advocates are known as barristers.
In some countries, notably the US, Canada, New Zealand, most Australian states, Singapore and Malaysia, the roles of advocates/barristers and solicitors are combined, i.e. it is a ‘fused profession.’ Lawyers in this case may call themselves ‘barristers and solicitors’, or in the case of the US, call themselves ‘attorneys: They simply cover the entire scope of work in representing their clients. If you enjoy all forms of legal research, case reading, case analysis, working with people and also enjoy problem-solving then you will be able to do the part of the job that a solicitor would do. It provides for a wide scope of working conditions and exposure to clients of all kinds. If you would like to work in the court system and be a part of the judicial process, being an advocate/barrister will be something you would enjoy. Advocates should ideally have excellent presentation skills and be skilled in the art of persuasion, and these skills can be learnt throughout law school.
As the job is fused in Malaysia, you would do the legwork in the office as well as attend court. So if this is what you want to do, you must be all-rounded, you should have the ability to do research, as well as have oratory skills in the courtroom. There is of course the option of becoming a corporate or conveyancing lawyer (one that deals with company law and land matters). These lawyers are not required to attend court, so you can consider this option if you think arguing a case in court is not for you.
The fused nature of the profession may make the job more demanding but it is also perhaps twice as satisfying. Lawyers generally put in many hours at work in their career. As experience builds up, the lawyer gains a more senior position in the firm. As a senior member, you can expect to be made partner of the firm, where bonuses and remuneration can be expected. In Malaysia, it is easy to climb up the ladder if you are good at what you do. A lawyer who can represent clients successfully in court quickly becomes prolific and will be sought out. With private practice as another option, the career path of a lawyer is as exciting as it is rewarding.
Did You Know?
In the UK, all barristers are members of an Inn, and all lawyers, even in Malaysia, are called to the Bar. But just what do these terms mean? The Inns of Court (Lincoln’s Inn, Gray’s Inn, Middle Temple and Inner Temple) are professional associations that were established hundreds of years ago as places where lawyers lodged, trained and practiced their profession. The Bar refers to the division of a courtroom between the area where the judge and lawyers sit and where the public sit, and the actual dividing railing. It also refers to the legal profession itself.