19 August 2007

The best place to train in all areas of law


KUALA LUMPUR: The best medical training is said to be had in government hospitals, owing to the sheer volume of patients and variety of illnesses.
The same could be said for legal training.

The best basic training ground for lawyers must be at the biggest "law firm" in the country, the public prosecutor’s office at the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

With a total of 220 prosecutors, the A-G’s Chambers outstrips the largest private law firm in the country, which has about 130 lawyers.

With seven divisions (prosecution, civil, drafting, law revision and reform, advisory, international affairs and management) at the headquarters and legal adviserships at the state- level and ministries, a lawyer would be spoilt for choice of what to work on in an entire career.

Indeed, the best lawyers could be the ones who have served time in all areas and have gone on to specialise in some of them .
In addition to hands-on training, the A-G’s Chambers spends millions on training staff.

French and English language tutors are brought in every week to teach basic and legal communication in these languages.

The A-G’s Chambers also enhances its prosecutors’ knowledge by sending them for further studies.

In co-operation with the University of Wollongong, the chambers runs a Graduate Certificate in Prosecutions courses or LLM (prosecutions).

Deputy public prosecutors (DPPs) gain their degrees by doing intensive programmes locally. These are conducted by local lecturers and those from the University of Wollongong.

"We have 49 officers doing the course now, with another 30 expected to take it up next year," said Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail.

The chambers is also sending four officers to Nottingham Law School for a one-year advocacy course next year.

Even without doing these extended courses, a DPP’s learning schedule can be full and fulfilling, just by attending the various short training courses provided by the chambers and the Legal and Judicial Training Institute.

Training is also provided by various ministries and departments on topics as diverse as advocacy skills, DNA profiling, expert witness, impeachment proceedings, hostile witness, and conviction of sexual offences without corroborative evidence.

In addition, in 2005, there were 92 short seminars, conferences, talks, workshops, and courses held for officers on varied topics.

These included combating human trafficking in Asia, arms smuggling, intellectual property law, international arbitration, world ethics and integrity, bio-weapons, advocacy in criminal trials, sustainable utilisation of biodiversity and related issues on biosafety in an Islamic perspective, multilateral diplomacy and the role of forensic science in civil and criminal cases.

However, not everyone can join the A-G’s Chambers. The chambers won’t consider applicants with less than a Second Class Upper Honours degree.

To further improve the quality of prosecutors, the chambers is trying to recruit more experienced lawyers.

"I have reserved quite a number of L44 and L48 posts to get private practitioners to join us," said Gani. "So far, we have more than 200 applications."

L44 is a posting for lawyers with a minimum of five years’ experience and L48 is for lawyers with a minimum of seven years’ experience.

An L44 officer gets between RM3,019 and RM5,496 a month while the L48 post is worth between RM4,391 and RM6,374.

Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan says the A-G’s Chambers provides the best learning environment. "But if salary is the issue, then the civil service cannot compete."

A fresh law graduate earns about RM2,000 as a private practitioner, with annual increments of RM300-RM500, or more.

After 10 years, a good lawyer will be made a partner, and earn a minimum of RM10,000 a month, excluding profits.

A salaried partner gets between RM8,000 and RM15,000. In big firms, a lawyer who performs could get seven months’ bonus. After 20 years, a good lawyer would be earning between RM700,000 and RM1.5 million a year.

In the A-G’s Chambers, a person in the top post earns a fraction of that

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