Opening up of legal sector could make Malaysia a hub for legal services, says outgoing British envoy

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 06 Jun 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: Charles Hay (pic), the outgoing British High Commissioner to Malaysia, has expressed his desire to see Malaysia's legal sector open up to foreign legal firms and lawyers.

He said currently foreign lawyers face restrictions under Malaysia's Legal Profession Act 1976, which require them to partner with local firms to practise domestic law.

"Malaysian legal sector remains relatively closed and the opportunities for foreign participation in the Malaysian sector remain limited.

"I like to see Malaysian legal sector opening up not only for British lawyers, but for other countries like New Zealand, Australia and the United States to come and operate as well,” he told Bernama during a farewell luncheon hosted in honour of him by the Chairman of The Royal Commonwealth Society of Malaysia, Kesavan Muniandy here, recently.

Hay, who will be returning back to London in July after serving more than four years in Malaysia, believes that Malaysia has the potential to become a regional hub for legal services due to its excellent lawyers, high English proficiency, and the common law system inherited from English courts.

Highlighting the interests of British lawyers in practising commercial law and engaging in commercial deals in Malaysia, Hay stressed that opening up the legal sector market could bring enormous benefits to the country.

He pointed out that London currently hosts approximately 200 foreign legal practices, including some from Malaysia, and expressed hope that the Malaysian government would reciprocate by allowing foreign firms and lawyers to operate in the country.

Hay, however, admitted that he hasn’t succeeded in persuading relevant parties regarding the opening of Malaysia’s legal market, hoping his successor will address this matter seriously, emphasising the potential benefits not only for foreign lawyers but also for Malaysian legal professionals.

When asked about the most significant event he had seen during his tenure, Hay cited the United Kingdom's accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) as pivotal for bilateral relations between Malaysia and the UK.

"This development opens the door for a trade deal between the two countries for the first time, following two years of negotiations,” said Hay.

The diplomat said he has also been working on the issues of climate change and environment, stressing that the UK will continue to support Malaysia on its climate transition journey and the development of a long-term climate action strategy.

This, he said, includes Malaysia’s commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by as early as 2050.

Hay also said he had the privilege of serving under the current Yang-di Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and had the honour accompanying His Majesty on several visits to the UK.

"I have seen first-hand the strength of the relationship between Malaysian and British Royal families during my tenure here,” said Hay who learnt Malay during his early days of posting in Malaysia at a homestay in Johor Baru.

The diplomat is also impressed with the uptake of the Chevening scholarship in Malaysia where some 40 scholars from Malaysia benefit from the UK government’s global scholarship programme every year. - Bernama

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