Foreign law firms can operate in M'sia

Datuk Liew Vui Keong (insert) says foreign lawyers will not be allowed to argue cases that involve national interests.

MALAYSIA - The Legal Profession Act (amendment) 2012 Bill, which will allow foreign legal firms to set up offices here was yesterday passed after three days of debate.

The amendments, among others, required the senior partner of a firm to remain in Malaysia for at least 182 days in a year to ensure the exchange of expertise between foreign and local lawyers.

The bill was to propel Malaysia as an Islamic financial hub.

However, foreign lawyers will not have a free hand in dealing with cases here.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong said foreign lawyers would not be allowed to be counsels in cases involving national interest and the sovereignty of the nation.

"But we are not blocking them totally. If they feel they have the required expertise for such a case, they can apply to the High Court on an ad-hoc basis. The importance is to find the truth."

Under the bill, the Bar Council is empowered to grant licences to foreign firms that want to set up their offices here. Before granting licences to foreign firms, he said the council must get the approval of the Attorney-General's Chambers.

The provision earned the ire of several members of parliament, including Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau), Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (BN-Pasir Salak) and Datuk Shamsul Anuar Nasarah (BN-Lenggong) who questioned the credibility of the council, saying it was only interested in politics and had neglected the interest of its members.

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