Template and automated legal documents are increasing in popularity.
For years there have been many websites offering standard contracts for download. Most of these have a US/European law focus, but the past couple of years have seen some similar services launched in Asia.
Some of these websites offer a very comprehensive collection of legal documents which address the needs of startups and small businesses in particular — everything from NDAs to equity investment agreements are available for download, usually with a fee.
My cover slide for this part of the workshop reads: “Be very very very very careful when using standard contracts” — I’m not sure whether I should have added a few more ‘very’s to statement.
Business owners should be extremely cautious when using these legal documents.
My overall conclusion is that obviously conveyancing lawyers aren’t going to be redundant anytime soon, but I’m hopeful for changes which will make the conveyancing process less of a maze. Certainty and clarity will be good for everyone (including lawyers).
From what we’ve discussed so far, it’s obvious that currently the ideal is very far from reality.
The conveyancing ecosystem in Malaysia means that a non-lawyer intending to complete a sale and purchase agreement without a lawyer will end up entering a maze. It’s dangerous, it’s complicated, and it’s impossible.
I’m sure that the organisers know this — that “DIY conveyancing” isn’t possible now. But the purpose of the project is to ideate solutions for the future.
What needs to change for DIY conveyancing to be possible? Hopefully CALR and others can come up with some solutions. Here are my quick thoughts before everyone gets to ideating.
As with any business venture, startups need to get good professional advice from experts. Typically these advisors will cover legal, financial, and tax advice.
Lawyers have a bad reputation
Most people would prefer if they could avoid dealing with lawyers. When there’s a negotiation or discussion and people say get the lawyers involved, suddenly everyone gets a bit more serious and defensive.
Through two Press Statements (see here and here), Bank Negara had firstly, concluded that 1MDB had essentially acted in breach of some of the relevant exchange control laws. Bank Negara issued a direction to 1MDB to repatriate the USD 1.83 billion to Malaysia and to submit a plan to Bank Negara for this purpose. The Attorney General had declined to initiate criminal prosecution based on Bank Negara’s investigations.
Secondly, but without expressly mentioning 1MDB, Bank Negara emphasised its powers to take administrative actions against parties who acted in breach of the laws. These administrative actions are separate and distinct from any criminal proceedings.
Let us delve deeper into the types of actions that Bank Negara may take under the Financial Services Act 2013 (FSA) against a company such as 1MDB.
To give bite to Bank Negara’s administrative actions, the law allows Bank Negara to file a civil action to ensure compliance of the steps ordered in such administrative actions. In this civil action, the court can make a wide range of orders, for instance for recovery of monies, and to compel compliance with orders made by Bank Negara. The failure to comply with the court order can then result in contempt of court proceedings.
It is also important to emphasise that such court orders need not solely be against a company. The court order can be made against a person who is the director, controller, officer or partner (or who was purporting to act in any such capacity) or anyone who is concerned in the management of the affairs of that company. That widens the net of possible defendants to any such court action.