Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Birth and Death of Lawyers - a Lament

Imagine a world where births and deaths are occurrences that happen without the normal pomp and circumstance. Imagine that it is merely marked with the filing of official papers.  

Sad isn't it, to have a birth that is noted only on the birth certificate; or a funeral where the body goes into the ground (or the crematorium) with only the death certificate to stand as witness.

That's what is happening to the legal profession in Malaysia. The births of new lawyers are no longer celebrated by the profession. It is a cattle call. An assembly line. To be endured, to be taken advantage of by getting free food.  

And no longer is the death of a lawyer remembered with the reverence of a proper reference, no matter how insignificant his or her contribution was to the profession. References are seemingly a waste of time, to be "kept-in-view," while the business of law happens.

That is sad.  

Yes, the profession is now experiencing a huge number of births every day. Some worry there is already a glut of new lawyers.

So what? Isn't a new birth cause for joy? The baby may be ugly, not so bright, handicapped even - but it still has potential. Yes, it may take up space in the house, eat your food, cry and complain - but that baby is still family.  And as you grow old, that baby grows up to take your place. That is the circle of life. That is inevitable.  

Logically it makes no sense for lawyers already in practice to celebrate the birth of new lawyers - they will eventually "steal" your business. But then, the practice of law is not really a business, is it? It is often touted, and it bears repeating, "A lawyer is a professional," and that means acting against your own interest when it is the right thing to do.

The businessman-lawyer would be absolutely silly to welcome a new entrant into the profession. But surely, somewhere deep down, beneath all that suspicion, paranoia and one-upmanship lies the spirit of the professional who rejoices that another possible great lawyer is born, ready to pick up the mantel when the old passes away.


References are times to pause and take stock of our lives. In the hurly-burly of practice, lawyers tend to forget that we are human, susceptible to every human condition that befall all mortals. We get sick, we get into accidents, we wear our pants one leg at a time ... and we die. Is it too much to ask to remember our fallen brothers and sisters once a year during a reference? To bring our lives to a pause to remember theirs? To comfort their family (and remind ourselves) with the words, "He was my brother, she was my sister. We believed in the law. He fell first. We remember his journey. He was of the brotherhood, a comrade - a member of the Bar."

Or is that game of golf too enticing for this?  

The death of tradition is not marked by thunder and lightning. It slowly slips and fades away into the night as we slowly, but surely, think our lives, those little pockets in the infinity of time we call OUR lives, as more important than the cause we undertook when we said to our younger more na├»ve selves, "I want to be a lawyer!"

We all believed in the cause once, surely. You would not be reading this far, dear brother, dear sister, if you do not believe in the law and the fraternity that is the Bar.  

Come, come witness the future birth of new lawyers.  
Come, pause at the passing of our own, once a year.  

The world either hates us or fears us ... and almost always wants us to give it more discounts. That is the world. That is the way of the world.

Amongst ourselves, let us treat each other with respect, for we are family.  Let not our traditions go into that abyss. Add on to them. Modify them, if you like. But celebrate the births, and mourn the deaths. And then go back to your chambers, to the daily grind of practicing the law. For that is who we are - members of a noble fraternity.  

Let us therefore live as such.

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