KUALA LUMPUR: Potential clients should always discuss the question of fees with lawyers before appointing them, said newly-elected Bar Council chairman Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari.
Under the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rules 1978, he said lawyers were entitled to exercise their discretion on how much to charge in litigious or contentious matters and if a potential client felt that the fees were too high, they should go to another lawyer.
If the issue of fees is not discussed at the start and the client ends up being dissatisfied with the amount charged at the conclusion of the case, his only recourse will be to ask the court to tax the amount in order to reduce it.
This he must do within six months from the delivery of the bill, said Kuthubul, who added that the question of exorbitant fees did not arise in non-contentious matters such as conveyancing as a scale of fees applied there.
He said this when speaking on Legal Profession Practice and Etiquette at a lunch talk organised by the Business Ethics Institute of Malaysia for its members on Thursday.
Kuthubul said it was unprofessional and improper to accept less that the scale fees laid down by law but added there could be an exception where a lawyer offered his services for free for special reasons.
Touching on advertisements by developers for the launch of a housing project, he said the offer of a subsidy of legal fees or free legal fees may be misleading.
He said there was no question of the developer giving a buyer a subsidy or free legal fees because the developer was bound to pay his own solicitors fees.
Sometimes, the developer may tell the purchaser no need to get your own lawyer if you sign up because we offer free legal fees and the developers lawyers may not point out the fact that they are really acting for the developers and obliged to protect the developers interest.''
He added that although the council did not have exclusive jurisdiction over the conduct of lawyers, the Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board was an independent body where the public could seek redress against lawyers who flout the rules.
To a question from the floor, Kuthubul said that although the Legal Profession Act did not specifically state that a lawyer for a private vendor could not act for the buyer as well, it would be a conflict of interest to give advice to both.
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