Discuss legal fees first, clients told
The Star 29/3/2003
KUALA LUMPUR: Potential clients should
always discuss the question of fees with lawyers before appointing them, said
newly-elected Bar Council chairman Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari.
Under the Legal Profession (Practice and
Etiquette) Rules 1978, he said lawyers were entitled to exercise their discretion
on how much to charge in litigious or contentious matters and if a potential
client felt that the fees were too high, they should go to another lawyer.
“If the issue of fees is not discussed
at the start and the client ends up being dissatisfied with the amount charged
at the conclusion of the case, his only recourse will be to ask the court to
tax the amount in order to reduce it.
“This he must do within six months from
the delivery of the bill,” said Kuthubul, who added that the question of exorbitant
fees did not arise in non-contentious matters such as conveyancing as a scale
of fees applied there.
He said this when speaking on “Legal Profession
– Practice and Etiquette” at a lunch talk organised by the Business Ethics Institute
of Malaysia for its members on Thursday.
Kuthubul said it was unprofessional and
improper to accept less that the scale fees laid down by law but added there
could be an exception where a lawyer offered his services for free for special
Touching on advertisements by developers
for the launch of a housing project, he said the offer of a “subsidy of legal
fees or free legal fees may be misleading”.
He said there was no question of the developer
giving a buyer a subsidy or free legal fees because the developer was bound
to pay his own solicitor’s fees.
“Sometimes, the developer may tell the
purchaser ‘no need to get your own lawyer if you sign up because we offer free
legal fees’ and the developer’s lawyers may not point out the fact that they
are really acting for the developers and obliged to protect the developer’s
He added that although the council did
not have exclusive jurisdiction over the conduct of lawyers, the Advocates and
Solicitors’ Disciplinary Board was an independent body where the public could
seek redress against lawyers who flout the rules.
To a question from the floor, Kuthubul
said that although the Legal Profession Act did not specifically state that
a lawyer for a private vendor could not act for the buyer as well, it would
be a conflict of interest to give advice to both.