Like in previous editions, we refer to the number of lawyers based on the Malaysian Bar legal directory website as at the time of writing. We total up the number of lawyers for the law firm, including its branch offices.
The Year 2021 in Review
We start with a brief recap of the year 2021.
The 3 Largest Malaysia Law Firms
Zaid Ibrahim & Co maintains its top ranking with the largest number of lawyers: 155 lawyers in total for the year 2021. The firm has maintained its top rank ever since The Malaysian Lawyer kept track of the largest law firms in Malaysia.
Second in the rankings, Skrine continues to be the largest Kuala Lumpur firm with 115 lawyers. Shearn Delamore & Co continues this year in third position with 104 lawyers.
In general, the number of lawyers for each law firm remained relatively stable. There has been no big shift in numbers upwards or downwards. We have expanded the ranking list slightly by having all law firms with more than 50 lawyers – bringing us to the 14 largest law firms this year.
Growing Number of Lawyers at the Malaysian Bar
The numbers below relate to the practicing lawyers in West Malaysia under the Malaysian Bar. Figures are from the Malaysian Bar website.
First, for 2021 (as of 28 February 2021), we see a total of 6,460 law firms (whether as sole proprietors or as partnerships). This is up from last year’s 6,244 law firms and up from 2019’s 6,060 law firms.
Second, this is in line with the steady growth of the number of practicing lawyers at the Malaysian Bar. For the first time, there are more than 20,000 lawyers.
COVID and the State of the Malaysia Legal Market
COVID and movement control restrictions continued to impact the legal market and the work conditions. The Malaysian Lawyer issued its Market Report in September 2021 to capture some of the views and thoughts of lawyers (see Part 1 and Part 2 of the Market Report).
We covered topics on working from home, the use of technology, work culture, mental health and the legal industry as a whole.
As commented by one of the lawyers: “My hope is for the traditional and conservative ways of the legal practice in Malaysia to continue to be more open to adapting and changing with the times. The multiple lockdowns have demonstrated at the very least that it is not necessary to physically appear in Court and wait for hours, only to attend a five-minute case management. The past year has been a positive catalyst in forcing the practice to finally embrace technology for efficiency.”
Growth in Group Law Practices
We continue to observe a growth in the number of group law practices (GLP). From last year’s 22 GLPs, we now see 27 GLPs this year.
In its current form, a GLP allows up to five small law firms to operate together under the GLP banner. In turn, each member law firm can only have a maximum of 5 lawyers per law firm.
Hopefully, we will see further reforms to the GLP and with the removal of some of the restrictions. There was an update on 26 November 2021 from the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee that a Final Report dated 25 February 2021 with recommendations for reform has been submitted to the Bar Council.
Malaysia’s Largest Law Firms
We count down the list of the top 14 largest law firms in Malaysia. All images are from the firms’ website.
#14: Tan Norizan & Associates – 54 lawyers
Tan Norizan & Associates makes its debut on the largest law firm rankings with 54 lawyers.
#13: Shook Lin & Bok – 65 lawyers
Shook Lin & Bok Malaysia maintains its #13 position with 65 lawyers.
#12: Azmi & Associates – 76 lawyers
Azmi & Associates moves from last year’s 10th position back to 12th position this year.
Joint #10: Chooi & Co + Cheang & Ariff – 78 lawyers
Chooi & Co + Cheang & Ariff (CCA Law) moves from last year’s 9th position to joint 10th position this year.
Joint #10: Wong & Partners – 78 lawyers
Wong & Partners, member firm of Baker McKenzie International, move up from 12th position to this year’s joint 10th position.
#9: Raja, Darryl & Loh – 81 lawyers
Raja, Darryl & Loh has moved up from last year’s 11th position to 9th position.
#8: Adnan, Sundra & Low – 85 lawyers
Adnan, Sundra & Low is in 8th position. Down from last year’s 5th position.
#7: Christopher & Lee Ong – 86 lawyers
#6: Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill – 87 lawyers
Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill (LHAG) moves from 6th position to this year’s 5th position.
#5: Zul Rafique & Partners – 90 lawyers
Zul Rafique & Partners is at 5th position this year, and where it was at 4th position last year.
#4: Rahmat Lim & Partners – 92 lawyers
#3: Shearn Delamore & Co – 104 lawyers
#2: Skrine – 115 lawyers
Skrine maintains its 2nd position on the list. It is also the largest Kuala Lumpur law firm.
#1: Zaid Ibrahim & Co – 155 lawyers
Zaid Ibrahim & Co maintains its streak as Malaysia’s largest law firm. The firm has branches in Kuala Lumpur (104 lawyers), Penang (32 lawyers), Johor Bahru (13 lawyers) and Kota Bahru (6 lawyers).
Foreign Law Firms in Malaysia
The two foreign law firms continue to be well established in Malaysia.
Herbert Smith Freehills – 18 lawyers
Herbert Smith Freehills continues to grow its steady headcount in its Kuala Lumpur office.
From last year’s team of 15 lawyers, 2021 sees the team grow to 18 lawyers.
Trowers & Hamlins – 15 lawyers