I went to an interesting forum on Thursday, 14.5.09. It was conducted by Professional Services Development Corporation of Malaysia. A new corporate entity under the Malaysian government auspice to promote professionals in Malaysia and encourage them to go outside the country to market their services. They are mostly engineers, quantity surveyors, engineers, accountant, doctors and lawyers. The best part of it is with regard to the two last profession which one of them is what I am. In one of the question and answer session, a lawyer, who may have some experience in trying to market himself outside Malaysia, asked why does Bar Council, our legal association, did not participate in the forum as a presenter? The answer by PSDC : Bar Council was invited but said they were doing fine without any help, hence the absence. Ditto the doctors.
I actually smiled to myself, knowing the notoriety of my professional body of doing just that. I also knew a few of the PSDC guys personally and did chat briefly with them. They did point out, of all the professionals, lawyers have submitted long ago their liberalisation road map and I, myself, know of this as I am one of the lawyer sitting in one sub-comittee which deals with such liberalisation albeit on just one side of the law. I also know that we have had discussions with government divisions on allowing foreign lawyers to come into Malaysia which we have set to happen around 2012.
Alas, we were hijacked by the government of the day when what we discussed was not given due consideration as they announced a liberalisation gameplan which they concocted themselves. We were warned at the last meeting that if we did not agree to their proposal, they will do it for us. As they are the lawmaker and we were bound by the act which govern our profession extensively, they might get their way. Again, I bet, if the other lawyers know about these discussions, which was to be secretive and under non-disclosure policy, I bet some will be crying for blood, as lawyers, in Malaysia, are akin to do (or is it globally)
Just a thought. The liberalisation is not really for all type of legal business. It is on just one type of legal business and it will only be for non-Ringgit Malaysia (our currency) transaction. And in our last discussion, most of the lawyers who do offer these type of services did not felt threaten at all. They felt it is about time this liberalisation happens. These so called corporate lawyers have been offering their services to the world for more than 5 years already and they themselves have established client base in countries which the lawyers in Malaysia never heard of. Heck, I know one who had offered to build a new monetary system for a country. Imagine that.
So, PSDC is right. Although some professionals do need some handholding, lawyers seem to have a mind of their own and may already done it. One other thing, PSDC did points out that they can only help association but will be too tedious for them to help each and every firm. If any does approach them, they will try to help but will also limit themselves to what they have been assigned to do. As for now, maybe going outside the country will require us to do it on our own.
p/s - Oh, a bit later in the afternoon, a Bar Council guy did come in to enquire about a few matters for clarification whom I know is very hands-on on the liberalisation issue. It seems that our association does care about us after all...