COVID, MCO, and the Malaysian legal industry — Part 2: Work culture, mental health, jobs, and the future

This market report is brought to you by The Malaysian Lawyer, co-founded by Lee Shih and Marcus van Geyzel.

This is Part 2 of our special market report on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the various MCOs on the Malaysian legal industry. Before reading on, you should read Part 1, where we addressed the financial issues (paycuts, volume of legal work, and revenues), remote working, and technology.

In this second part, we report on the impact of the pandemic on office/work culture, how law firms addressed employee mental health issues, and examine how the industry could have done better in dealing with the various challenges, and what the future holds. Again, these findings are not our own conclusions, but are a collection of the views of several lawyers who very kindly took the time to share their experiences with us. Some have asked to remain anonymous.

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COVID, MCO, and the Malaysian legal industry — Part 1: Money (paycuts, revenue), remote working, and technology

This market report is brought to you by The Malaysian Lawyer, co-founded by Lee Shih and Marcus van Geyzel.

If asked to think back to March 2020, when Malaysia first went into “lockdown” or a “Movement Control Order” (MCO), Malaysians may feel like the period of time that has passed has been the equivalent of several lifetimes. Or that it now seems to have gone quickly, and certainly doesn’t seem like it was 18 months ago. Or perhaps that it simultaneously feels like both a very long time and a very short time ago, in that time-bending perspective-warping haze that the pandemic seems to have permanently brought into our lives.

For the Malaysian legal industry, much has happened. If we cast our minds back to those early-MCO days, there was a scramble for lawyers to figure out how to operate outside of the office, without access to printed documents and files.

To be honest, some lawyers still haven’t quite figured it out, but there has been much progress overall. Compelled by the judiciary, lawyers shuffled out of the Stone Age and into conducting video trials online. The National and State Bars successfully convened their AGMs online (after a huge COVID scare from the in-person KL Bar AGM). Law firms rolled out pay-cuts, and freezed hiring, increments, and bonuses. As work dried up in some areas, many lawyers pivoted into new practice areas. Call ceremonies also moved online. Aspiring lawyers had to deal with huge delays to CLP exams and results.

There were lots of new law blogs launched (21 are still active), and law students, lawyers and firms were noticeably more active on LinkedIn (when TML wrote about Malaysian law firms on LinkedIn in 2019, we could only find 8 active accounts; when researching our latest law firm LinkedIn list, we found almost 80!) and Clubhouse (the biggest Malaysian legal Clubhouse club Malaysian legal community has 3,600+ members).

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Recent Cases in Fraud Litigation: Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore

I will be one of the speakers for the webinar on Recent Cases in Civil Fraud Litigation: Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore on Thursday 10 June 2021.

It is the first jointly organised webinar by the Bar Council Malaysia and the Law Society of Singapore. This is a free webinar but only open to members of the Malaysian Bar and to the members of the Law Society of Singapore.

The brochure is here and with registration for Malaysian Bar members here. Continue reading

Top 5 Articles on The Malaysian Lawyer in 2020

We end the year by looking back at the most-read articles on The Malaysian Lawyer in the year 2020. Thank you to the readers for all the support and for dropping by this site of ours.

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Featured below are our five most-read articles in 2020. Perhaps consistent with the challenging times of 2020, four out of the five articles deal with some form of closing down or retrenchment   Continue reading

Law Firms in Malaysia Face Tight Cashflow and May Downsize

Law firms in Malaysia are facing challenging times. Based on the recently released Bar Council survey results on 5 June 2020 (report available from the Malaysian Bar website to members only), almost half of the law firms replied that they would be downsizing, closing their law practice or ceasing practice. Close to 60% of the law firms responded that they were not intending to hire due to financial issues from the movement control / COVID-19.

I highlight the key points from the Bar Council survey from the perspective of hiring trends moving ahead.
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Proposed Requirements for Fly-In-Fly-Out Foreign Lawyers in Malaysia

In January 2019, the Bar Council of Malaysia submitted to the Attorney General the proposed reforms to the Legal Profession Act (LPA). One area that will be amended will be the provisions involving foreign lawyers and foreign law firms entering Malaysia to advise clients. I have written about Malaysia’s liberalisation of legal services previously.

The UK Law Gazette highlighted some concerns of further restrictions on foreign lawyers being able to enter Malaysia to advise on non-Malaysian law aspects. I clarify this area of proposed reform under Malaysian law. Continue reading