Sunday, February 20, 2011

Legal Fees Increase - What Is The Fuss All About

The Malaysian Bar recently proposed a 300-400% increase in legal fees because courts now require cases to be disposed within three months of filing.

Normally, I would be the first to voice outrage. But in this case, I reserve my judgement.

A Star columnist in yesterday's newspaper argued that since cases are now expeditiously disposed, lawyers have more time to accept more briefs and should reduce their professional charges instead.

It doesn't work like this.

Nobody knows how long a case will take to be disposed. Cases can take a fews days, a few weeks, a few months or even a few years to be disposed.

Is a lawyer expected to go with one case only that might take days, weeks or even months to be disposed? since he obviously can't take on another case simultaneously as the courts won't grant adjournment nowadays.

How is he going to survive? I am no lover of lawyers, but you can't expect a lawyer to have one brief only until it is disposed.

Tell that to a doctor, that he can't take on another patient until his current patient's case is disposed, whatever that means, or tell that to a patient that the doctor can't treat him until the prior patient's case is disposed!

What we should do is to do away with the nonsense that a case should be disposed within a short time-frame and the strict instruction as to the granting of adjourement.

Cases get postponed for a variety of reasons. Witnesses, counsel, parties and judges too, may fall sick or be unavaible because they have other pressing matters to attend to such as their family member(s) falling sick whom they have to attend to because nobody else is available.

There may be any other variety of reasons.

The recent case of senior lawyer Jagjit Singh collapsing in court is a case in point. The court refused an adjourement even though he had allegedly tendered sick cetificates to support his application for the case to be adjourned.

The courts are carrying out the instruction against the granting of adjournment to a ludicrous level.  Read my previous post Justice Is Not A Production Line

Court statistics allegedly show that cases are now expeditiously disposed.

But what is meant by disposal of a case?

To me, a case is genuinely disposed if it is litigated to a conclusion, settled between the parties or parties withdraw their claim without liberty to refile.

In any other case, for example, the court striking out a case for whatever reason, a party can always refile, and invariably does, if the claim is not time-barred and in such a case it cannot be said that the case is disposed.

It will only lead to a future backlog.

If an honest audit is carried out, I am quite certain that  a large percentage of cases allegedly disposed by the courts have not been genuinely disposed.

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