By Akil Yunus | The Star
A group of lawyers is on a mission to increase public access to justice — including allowing the average Joe to draw up a will or contract the DIY way.
“The reality is that many Malaysians do not engage the services of lawyers because they are costly. Others are unsure of where and how they can gain access to a good lawyer to meet their needs,” said Jenn Beh of BON, Advocates, the group’s project manager.
Citing a survey on the perception of access to justice, she said that 64% of 300 respondents surveyed admitted to having legal problems, but were put off from approaching lawyers because of the high legal fees.
More than 80% were in agreement that the country’s legal sector needed to be improved, Beh said at a workshop titled “The End of Lawyers, The Future of Law” last week.
These issues served as an impetus for the introduction of the Collective of Applied Law and Legal Realism (CALR), a project which seeks to educate the public on ways they can obtain legal solutions with minimal fuss.
Beh said the public would be able to go online to obtain templates of the necessary documents required for legal matters such as probate or conveyancing.
“DIYLaw (Do-It-Yourself Law) will allow people to draft their own will or draw up a simple tenancy agreement using their own words.
“It will greatly help not just the public but students and even lawyers,” Beh said, adding that the project, which is being pursued with its partners Omesti Group, would kick off online in August.
Lawyer Edmund Bon of BON, Advocates said the concept would be implemented in a way that did not fall foul of the Legal Profession Act 1976.
Section 37 of the Act prohibits unauthorised persons from acting as solicitor or advocate and disallows them from preparing documents related to any legal proceedings.
The DIYLaw model has already enjoyed relative success in several countries, offering consumers a range of legal documents that can be easily obtained online and customised to individual needs.
Rocket Lawyer in the United States and Britain, and Law Canvas in Singapore are successful examples of websites that offer such services to the public for a certain fee.
However, Beh remains cautious as to whether the project can match the success rate of DIYLaw platforms in other countries so soon.
“Not everything can be DIY, plus the level of legal literacy in Malaysia is still relatively low.
“Also note that regulations as to what lawyers can and cannot do differ. While it would make a lot of sense to provide quick links or contacts for users of DIYLaw to speak to a lawyer, this will not be in compliance with the Legal Profession Act,” she told The Star.
The goal of the project is just to provide services that will emphasise user-friendliness and legal education through easy-to-understand infographics and simple templates.
“It helps from a lawyer’s perspective too — there is less need to educate the client, more transparency and less distrust, and easier management of the relationship,” added Beh.
Meanwhile, a search of the Bar Council’s website found that a fee structure for conveyancing was laid down in the Solicitor’s Remuneration Order 2005 for an S&P agreement for a property purchase, including registration of transfer. Costs were set at between 1.0% for the first RM150,000 and 0.4% for the next RM2,500,000.