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Thursday, 2 June 2011

Errant lawyers ticked off


KUALA LUMPUR: Seven lawyers were reprimanded by the Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board in the first five months of this year following six complaints against them for unbefitting conduct, breach of Legal Profession Act Rules and negligence in handling their cases.

Board chairman Tan Sri Khalid Ahmad Sulaiman told The Star that the disciplinary board only reprimanded the lawyers after finding that they had no intention of cheating their clients or misleading the courts.

“We have even reprimanded senior lawyers for overlooking certain things. “Lawyers must be professional and their client’s interest is paramount to them,” he said.

Khalid said one of the reasons lawyers were reprimanded was failing to respond to the Bar Council and their client’s letters.

“They were reprimanded for unbecoming conduct as advocates and solicitors. “Lawyers who do not attend court proceedings will also be reprimanded,” he added.

Khalid said the board had ticked off senior lawyers for leaving their legal advisers or clerks to deal with certain matters.

“I have told them to keep an eye on their legal advisers and clerks. We told them to be careful next time and not let this happen again.”

He said the board warned the lawyers that they would face severe punishment, including suspension.
Khalid hoped the lawyers, mostly first-time offenders, would not repeat their mistakes.

He said those reprimanded were among the more than 500 lawyers who were investigated by the board after complaints were lodged against them between January and May.

The Star had published an exclusive report yesterday stating that the board had received 538 complaints against lawyers, mostly in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru, in the first five months of the year.

Five were barred from practising, 28 including four Datuks were fined between RM1,000 and RM30,000, while investigations into the other cases are ongoing.

The board receives an average of 900 complaints a year, including criminal breach of trust and breach of solicitor’s ethics.

Former Malaysian Bar president Ragunath Kesavan said complaints against lawyers, mostly for dishonesty involving client’s money, had been forwarded to the board.

“Any (wrongful) transaction involving the client’s accounts is a serious offence. We have lodged complaints against lawyers for dishonesty involving amounts ranging between RM20,000 and RM2mil,” he said.

He added that the board had found the lawyers guilty after investigating the complaints.

Ragunath said the Bar had confidence in the disciplinary proceedings by the board as it was independent.
“It is very important to have public confidence in the legal profession.”

He said the Bar forwarded complaints of dishonesty without any hesitation, although only a small percentage of lawyers were involved in such cases.