THE STAR DAILY 13 JULY 2015
PETALING JAYA: Two former Bar Council presidents have called for a more cautious approach to an idea to liberalise the legal practice and make some legal practices – such as property purchases or the preparation of wills – simple enough for non-legally trained individuals to do by providing templates of legal documents.
In a text message to The Star, Bar Council immediate past president Christopher Leong said that while anyone with an education could draft their own simple wills, tenancy agreements or conveyancing documents – if they wished after obtaining templates from the internet and if basic legal advice was provided to them – they should ask themselves if they understood and knew the legal consequences of their actions.
“Filling in such template or standard forms could be done on your own without engaging a lawyer if you wish, but they should ask themselves whether they know and understand the legal consequences of what they are filling in and whether the document reflects their intention and objectives,” he said.
Leong said, in the case of conveyancing, knowledge of the various steps and processes involved such as loan documentation, redemption, stamp duty and transfer of title is necessary, adding that the idea of standard templates for legal documents was not a new one as templates for certain types of conveyancing were attached to the Housing Developers Act.
He also said that while the idea of do-it-yourself conveyancing gives some people the option to try and undertake such legal matters on their own, he thought most people would require legal advice and guidance.
“Some may see the ‘DIY’ as limited but at the same time it may serve as a marketing or publicity tool for a law firm. I for one, even as a lawyer but not practising conveyancing, would not risk undertaking conveyancing of my own property on my own,” said Leong.
Similar views were shared by Leong’s immediate predecessor, former Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee.
Lim sent an email to The Star calling for both lawyers and the public to exercise caution should such “boilerplate” legal documents become openly available.
“To the lawyer, the sample must not be from another lawyer who claims copyright, and to the public the law is not simple and similarly agreements are not mere words but documents setting out rights and obligations which may require regulatory approval or be consistent with regulatory framework,” said Lim.
He advised the public to always seek qualified legal advice should their dealings involve an aspect of the law.
“There are many types of mistakes, such as not conducting searches and releasing money when precedent conditions are not fulfilled. Conveyancing transactions form the majority of negligence claims and disciplinary issues,” said Lim.
But, Malaysian Bar vice-president George Varughese said he was confident that such initiatives can complement the traditional legal practice if the necessary safeguards are in place.
“If there is a proper workable structure, then I personally don’t see why simple issues cannot be resolved with this new model,” he said.