February 12, 2009

Ethics for lawyers

There is this test nowadays for pupils in chamber or lawyers in training to be taken by them within the 9 months in which they basically become intern to senior lawyers who have more than 7 years of experience. These test was not made compulsory during my times 10 years ago when it was my turn to do the internship. 2 years after that I started to hear horror stories from my juniors of the high passing mark that is required to pass the exam. They will have to also suffer through various courses call ethic courses and then sit for the exams with questions like, if a client who is a well known criminal ask you to hold some money for you, should you do it or should you report him under the newly enacted Anti-Money Laundering Act?

Why did the Bar Council of Malaysia require this ethic course to be the yardstick for a chambering students to pass their internship and make the grades as lawyers? Isn't there a module in the law schools of the universities which hand out scrolls to law graduates which teaches them ethics that lawyers should live by. Apparently there are so many laws for undergraduates to learn when they were in their alma maters that they were not thought on how to deal with their clients. Even the best law school in Malaysia only teaches the technical side of meeting a client, asking them questions and interviewing them regarding their case. As the employer to a few of these chambering students, I also lamented the fact that I lose their services a few days within the 9 months they are attach to my office but I think it will benefit them in the long run.

Basically, what usually happens when a law graduate comes out of the univesity, the moral compass that he or she use to conduct the business of lawyering, especially those who manage to open up a legal firm on their own, is their own (however skewed towards immorality that may be) or some of their immediate peers and family.

That is why, there are so many cases of lawyers being found guilty of criminal breach of trust and some got suspended or lose totally their license to practice. These was not a good image that the Bar Council of Malaysia wants the public to think of lawyers. Be that it may, lawyer jokes are a dime a dozen in media and around the world that lawyers do not anchor their morality to anything, even. It is something commendable for them to fight a losing battle as everyone who can think will answer the question that I ask earlier, even if they are not a lawyer, by saying "I'll hold the money for you, as long as I get a percentage out of it?"

Whither ethics?

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