The chances of you getting into a situation where you may have to sue someone can be quite low, but it’s not entirely impossible. Touch wood but, it’s possible you can get into a minor accident, get cheated in a contract, or have an annoying neighbour who won’t stop playing the drums at midnight. If you’re faced with such a situation, you’re probably gonna need a lawyer to advise you on your rights and worse comes to worst – help you navigate the intricacies of litigation (basically to sue them lah).
If really die-die you can’t solve your problem and you must sue, the first thing you have to do is contact your lawyer or find one to take your case. You may think that any lawyer would be happy to jump on the case because, money. But what if you end up in a lawyer’s office, you pour your heart out about the legal troubles you’re in, and then he says…...“I’m sorry man, I can’t take your case” ?
A Malaysian lawyer must accept every case, kinda
Before we get into what our Malaysian lawyers are supposed to do, it’s probably best to analyse how the British lawyers handles cases that come to them – because most of our legal practices come from there anyways.
So in the United Kingdom there’s this thing called the “cab rank rule”. It’s aptly named after those taxi lines you may have experienced in taxi stands. You know, where you must hire the first taxi in line and that taxi driver must take you too? Similarly in UK, a lawyer must take the first case that comes to him and he can’t say NO.
Now taking things back home, Malaysia has a similar rule which has a slight variation. The law says that a Malaysian lawyer must take every case too but….he kinda can say no if he has a proper excuse. Unfortunately, we don’t know what would amount to a proper excuse and who decides what’s a proper excuse – because the law is worded quite vaguely. And if you don’t believe us, you can check out Rule 2 of the Legal Practice and Etiquette Rules (LPPER) 1978:
“An advocate and solicitor shall give advice on or accept any brief in the Courts in which he professes to practise at the proper professional fee dependent on the length and difficulty of the case, but special circumstances may justify his refusal, at his discretion, to accept a particular brief.”
Thus, while lawyers sorta kinda can refuse a case if he has a good excuse, there are actually situations where he MUST REFUSE your case. This would be scenarios where…
He can’t do his job professionally
Despite the jokes which depict lawyers as greedy for money and evil, lawyers are actually encouraged to behave with integrity and impartiality. This is because in addition to being your lawyer, they’re also an officer of the court – which means when they handle your case, they must do so carefully to ensure a fair administration of justice. They basically, can’t simply do anything to win.
So to ensure that lawyers behave, they aren’t allowed to take cases where…
This is not a situation where your lawyer happens to feel shy with you. It’s an actual term used in Rule 3 of the LPPER, which says that a lawyer would be embarrassed if:
- he has a personal relationship with his potential client or
- he has a personal relationship with the defendant
- he has a personal relationship with a potential witness in the case
While you’d think having a family member as your lawyer would be really awesome (maybe even cheap), that’s not always case. If you really think about it, you wouldn’t want your father in-law as your lawyer to help out with your divorce proceedings right?
On the flip side, if let’s say your wife is a lawyer and you wanna sue your neighbour for playing the drums at midnight, she can’t take your case. While she may go all out to win the case, it may not gel well with her responsibility to be impartial – because she may no longer act professionally when the matter could be quite personal.
The reasons behind it is quite technical but to give you an idea, it’s like how a teacher shouldn’t mark her own daughter’s exam paper.
Using the same drummer-neighbour example, let’s say you hire a lawyer who’s unrelated to you (ie no personal relationship). During the trial, you get mind blown because his skills could put Harvey Specter to shame. Unfortunately, the drummer also notices this and offers to pay your lawyer more money to switch sides.
Luckily, this won’t happen because of Rule of 5 LPPER :
This rule basically says that a lawyer can’t represent a party if he has already advised the opposite party. Using our example, the drummer would have a lawyer who knows your side of the case too well, and this gives him an unfair advantage.
Errr, this one is pretty self-explanatory.
If the lawyer you wanna hire is gonna be a witness in your case, he can’t accept your case. And if he doesn’t have time to appear for your court dates, he shouldn’t accept your case too.
If you feel like your lawyer wrongly rejected your case, you can complain
We may have angled our points in the context of suing someone (civil suits), but getting denied by a lawyer can happen in criminal matters too. But in such cases, you’ll always have the option of going for legal aid.
[READ MORE: How to legal Aid]
As you can see from the rules we laid down for you, it’s a little vague. Sometimes if a lawyer rejects a case, it may be uncertain if he was actually following the rules. But if you’re ever in such a situation, don’t worry because you can make a complaint to the Bar Council Disciplinary Board.
Whenever a lawyer breaks a rule in the LPPER he may come under the jurisdiction of the Disciplinary board, so if he rejects the case wrongly the Board can actually take action. So if that’s what you think you should do, you can actually follow the steps for it here.