JOHOR BARU: Lawyers from small firms such as sole proprietorship and small partnerships can now band together and operate under one roof as part of reforms by the Bar Council to help lawyers increase competitiveness and reduce operating costs.
Lawyers taking part in the Group Law Practice (GLP) are also allowed to come up with their own generic names instead of using their own names for branding purposes.
Bar Council Small Firms Practice Committee chairman R. Jayabalan (pic) said the new initiative began in July after the Attorney General consented to the new GLP rules.
He said that currently there were at least 18,000 lawyers nationwide with at least 65% of them from small firms and sole proprietors.
“The small firms have been complaining about rising operating costs for a long time and the Bar Council decided to study the matter four years ago,” Jayabalan said in an interview here.
Small firms are defined as firms with not more than five lawyers and without a branch.
He added that under the new initiative, up to five firms could join and become GLPs using one premises.
“This means they can share the costs for rent, staff salaries, paying for subscription of law journals, maintaining a library and others.
“These were all previously borne individually and this is one of the burdens for small firms,” he said, adding that GLP was already in practice in Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.
Jayabalan, who is also Johor Bar Committee chairman, added that under the GLP, the firms would also be allowed to have a generic name besides the use of personal name for the individual firm.
“For example if Firm A and Firm B form a GLP, they can now have a new generic name such as Matrix GLP for branding purposes,” he said, adding that the generic names were subject to approval from the Bar Council.
Jayabalan stressed that the GLP was not a partnership or a legal entity, which could sue or be sued.
“This means that whatever fees collected by the firms is theirs.
“They need not share profits,” he said.
The Bar Council has so far received four applications and approved two – one each in Johor Baru and Kuala Lumpur.
Jayabalan said GLP would be beneficial for firms in outskirt areas where one firm does litigation while another does conveyancing.
“Previously they would have to turn away clients if they do not specialise in that field. Now they can pass them off to their fellow firm in the same building,” he said, adding that the minimum number to form a GLP was two firms while the maximum was five.
Asked about benefits for consumers, Jayabalan added that with costs going down under GLP arrangements, lawyers should be able to charge competitively.
He urged those who wanted to apply for GLP to download the forms online via the Bar Council website or contact the Bar Council membership department at 03-2050 2191.