Sunday, 21 October 2012

Malaysian young lawyers not up to par

KUALA LUMPUR: All young Malaysian lawyers do not meet the standard international quality benchmark set by their employers, according to a Bar Council survey.

Bar Council treasurer Steven Thiru said the survey, conducted on 400 law firms, also found that employer satisfaction of new working lawyers was “shockingly low”.

“It found that young lawyers practising for less than seven years do not have basic attributes like English proficiency, communication and critical thinking skills and commitment to the profession, which is vital for the career,” said Thiru at a forum between the Bar Council and the National Young Lawyers Committee (NYLC),

He said the problem was prevalent among both local and foreign university law graduates.

Thiru placed the blame on the failure of several tertiary education institutes, which did not include practical skills with academic learning.

“So, what we get is law firm employers having to retrain young lawyers in basic practical skills that they should have learned in university,” he said.

The findings come in the wake of the NYLC's recommendations to the Bar to increase the wages of young lawyers and provide more flexible working hours.

The young lawyers have been complaining that they are being paid “too little” for the amount of work they do.

The NYLC, citing its own survey, said 28.2% of young lawyers in the Klang Valley wanted to leave the profession in the next five years while another 38.7% were considering leaving.

Outside the Klang Valley, 15.3% said they would leave and another 48.2% were considering.

“Most cite low salaries and no work-life balance as the main reasons for opting out,” said NYLC chairman Richard Wee.

He said most young lawyers were attracted to overseas firms offering better benefits.

He said NYLC had suggested a starting pay of RM3,000 to RM4,000 a month for young lawyers in Klang Valley and RM2,500 for young lawyers elsewhere. The current salary is RM2,000.

He said that of the 14,500 lawyers in the country, 2,070 were considered as young.

Thiru and other senior lawyers however, said young lawyers did not deserve the raise.

Chee Siah Le Kee & Partners' Wong Fook Meng said young lawyers should earn the raise they were demanding for.

“They fail to realise that they should be working to learn and better themselves as lawyers, rather than focus on the cash.

“There are no shortcuts, young lawyers must create value and contribute meaningfully to their firms to justify higher compensation,” said Wong, who is a member of the Bar Council's Constitutional Law Committee and former NYLC deputy chairman.

By NICHOLAS CHENG
The Star/Asia News Network
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