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Law society irked by unlicensed lawyers

8th December, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: Unlicensed lawyers are practicing in the city, the Sabah Law Society (SLS) said.

In a statement yesterday, its president Brendon Keith Soh said SLS has noted that a number of individuals have been flouting the law relating to the legal profession in Sabah. Only lawyers who were admitted as an advocate of the High Court of Sabah can practice in the state.

The SLS has received reports of unqualified persons attempting to represent their clients in Court and has noted an increase in the drafting of documents such as sale and purchase agreements.

It stated that any persons not admitted as advocates providing or purporting to provide any legal services within Sabah are committing an offence under the Advocates Ordinance, in particular sections 8 and 16.

The punishment for such offences has been enhanced by the recent amendments to the Ordinance. Infractions of this provision now carry, upon conviction, the punishment of a fine not exceeding RM20,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both.

Persons from outside Sabah providing or purporting to provide such services may also be breaching immigration laws, and risk committing a ‘double offence’, the SLS statement added.

“For the avoidance of doubt, in the absence of ad-hoc admission, persons admitted as advocates or advocates and solicitors in Sarawak or West Malaysia but not in Sabah are, regardless of their standing in their respective jurisdictions, just as unqualified as any other unqualified individual.”

The legal services in question include advising, negotiating and acting for clients in legal matters, or appearing for or representing such clients before any Court, tribunal, arbitrator or adjudicator. It also includes preparation of letters of demand, drawing up papers applying for grants of probate or letters of administration, or any conveyancing documentation such as loan documentation, sale and purchase agreements and tenancy agreements.

These principles are well established, and have repeatedly been upheld by the Courts. There are many laws applicable only to Sabah, and persons without an active practice in the state are unlikely to be possessed of the requisite knowledge or learning to adequately advise or represent persons requiring the same. As a result, the quality of drafting of agreements brought to the attention of the SLS that have been prepared by non-qualified persons has quite often been found to be inadequate.

The SLS cautioned all members of the public and corporations, including financial institutions and developers, that all litigation and conveyancing matters in Sabah can only be carried out or conducted by persons admitted as an Advocate of the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak in Sabah.

“The SLS will henceforth report all discovered infractions to the relevant authorities; this includes the making of necessary police reports and reporting the same to the immigration authorities and their respective disciplinary boards. Any of its members or members of the public are welcome to contact the SLS secretariat if there are any queries or reports of individuals breaching sections 8 or 16 of the Advocates Ordinance.”

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