By Cynthia Ng | Astro Awani

The pro bono project initiated by Bon’s firm is firstly aimed at educating Malaysians to empower them in carrying out simple litigation and contractual agreements.

A mobile application that provides the “know-how” to prepare standard legal documents will help increase the public’s access to law.

Lawyer Edmund Bon said the pro bono project by his firm is mainly aimed at educating Malaysians, to empower them in carrying out “simple” litigation and contractual agreements.

“If you look at jurisdictions around the world, these legal frameworks are already out there. The ideas I’m talking about here are not new.

“However, in Malaysia, we don’t have a solid platform to move these ideas yet,” said Bon, when met at the International Malaysia Law Conference in Kuala Lumpur Thursday.

The application to be developed by Omesti Group include templates of legal documents widely used such as sales and purchase (S&P) agreements, wills, divorce petitions, probates as well as bail applications and mitigation in criminal cases, which will also be made available on the web when it is launched next year.

The initiative, while good-intentioned, received less favourable response from some lawyers, he admitted.

“From the feedback I’ve received, lawyers are concerned because some of these transactions may not be so straightforward. Those are valid concerns and we will deal with it.

“There will of course be resistance. This initiative is pushing the boundaries,” he said, adding that the project has however received numerous public support.

Meanwhile, lawyer Azhar Azizan Harun or known as Art Harun, though welcomed Bon’s idea said the initiative will be effective with the agreement from stakeholders.

“It’s a good suggestion but that entails liberalisation. We have to look at the system first whether or not it will accept documents which are not prepared by lawyers.”

“Let’s take S&P as example. Will the stakeholders – which are the banks and land offices –accept documentations not certified by lawyers? If they are willing, then we can go about doing it.”

“We may pass a law for loans below one million ringgit that can just use these S&P templates without lawyers’ certification,” Harun suggested “It all depends on the stakeholders.”

Both Bon and Harun were panelists at the three-day conference themed “Reshaping the Legal Profession, Reforming the Law”.

Touching on the theme, Bon, who is well known as a human rights lawyer and activist called for a change in “firm culture”.

He feels that at present, there is a lack of initiative from lawyers to undertake pro bono work.

“The argument (from firms) has always been that they have no time to do pro bono, or they lose money by doing it.”

“It is not true at all. They will still be able to survive,” said the 40-year-old who has been a law practitioner since 1998.

“I suggest law firms demand their lawyers to do five pro bono cases per year. Now, they are done based on voluntary basis.”

Meanwhile, another panelist High Court judge Justice Lee Swee Seng said legal counsel should be made accessible to the public.

“I think we should make law more affordable to the people. It will be a sad day if a person who has legal grievances (can’t access to counsel) because of the cost factor.”

“There’s always a place for lawyers to do pro bono work to uphold justice without fear or favour,” he said.