By Anis Ibrahim | New Straits Times

‘They still need representation’

All the 34 candidates for the 2007–2008 Bar Council elections have practised for more than seven years. And almost all have put in more than 10 years.

That they are all senior lawyers would have been the norm in previous years.

But the rule has changed.

While lawyers with less than seven years’ experience were previously not allowed to run for Bar Council elections, this is not the case now.

So, their absence among the nominees is surprising considering how hard they have worked to change the law.

Last July, the Legal Profession Act was amended to repeal section 46A, which prohibited lawyers with less than seven years’ standing from running for elections.

Ever since the provision was introduced in 1978, the Bar has been clamouring for its repeal on the grounds that it was unconstitutional and did not give “young lawyers” – the term normally used for those with less than seven years under their belt – the opportunity to be heard.

When Section 46A was repealed, it was heralded as a major victory for the Bar. After all, after 28 years, young lawyers finally had an opportunity to play an active role in the Bar Council.

So where are they?

National Young Lawyers Committee chairman Edmund Bon did not think that young lawyers would be filling up the Bar Council so soon.

“The elections may have opened up, but it will take time for young lawyers to get in,” he said.

Bon, who recently completed his eighth year, said lawyers of less than seven years’ standing made up 44 per cent of the 12,287 lawyers in the Malaysian Bar.

“Many young lawyers were disenfranchised by section 46A so even after its abolition you won’t see them immediately sit in the council.

“Winning a seat can be difficult. It is much easier for a senior practitioner to get elected, especially those who have written books, spoken at forums, or been involved in important cases,” he added.

James Khong, a young lawyer in his fourth year, said voting was based on popularity.

He said someone with limited years of practice might not be known to voters although many young lawyers had been working tirelessly for the Bar.

“The removal of section 46A is a mere foretaste of things to come. Give it some time and you will see young lawyers in the state bar committees and the Bar Council.”

Young lawyers can, however, draw comfort from some seniors who say they are ready for change.

Jagjit Singh, who has been practising for 38 years, said he had no problems being represented by junior lawyers.

“It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, what matters is the dedication, the service that you put in and that you are not self– serving or have a personal agenda,” he said.

Lawyer M. Manoharan, who has been practising for 14 years, also said age was immaterial. He said the question was whether or not they could deliver.

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