Another Step Into Asia for CommBar

Article by Dr Josh Wilson SC and William Lye

In our capacity as heads of the Asia Practice Section of CommBar, it gives us great pleasure to report that our endeavours to crack the Asian market on behalf CommBar have again bore fruit. This time we have successfully opened the door for CommBar’s entry into Malaysia.

It has been quite a process but the end result is hugely beneficial for us all. This Malaysian success follows on from the links we have fostered with Singapore when Justice Steven Chong visited in 2011 and gave the keynote address at the CommBar event and with China after the Beijing Law Society visited recently. The Asia Practice Section of CommBar is regularly involved in activities more akin to diplomatic work extending invitations to visiting Asian law societies.

Let us share with you how the Malaysian connection began.

In December 2012, we received an unannounced deputation from Vivekananda Periasamy, chairman of the Perak Bar. Perak is one of the northern states of Malaysia, slightly smaller than Kuala Lumpur, rich with natural resources. Perak also has a thriving legal profession. Viv told us that the Perak Bar was keen to connect with an Australian Bar so as to interact on matters of mutual benefit. He said that in terms of commercial activity, Perak was not burdened by the same bureaucratic red tape as was KL and that he was keen for Perak to open its doors to Australian barristers, initially for advisory work and, in relevant instances, for ad hoc admission. Over the ensuing 12 months we were in regular contact with Viv negotiating the terms of a memorandum of cooperation that was ultimately signed in the capital of Perak, Ipoh, in November 2013.

The terms of the MOC are, like all MOCs, non-binding and are more aspirational than they are contractual. That said, by its terms the MOC is aimed at fostering strong ties between members of CommBar and of the Perak Bar by sharing knowledge, education and training.

Self-evidently, the MOC cannot guarantee successful practices for CommBar members wishing to practice as counsel in Malaysia. But it will enable CommBar members to make contact with the legal profession of Perak and to showcase our many and varied skills. After that, it is up to the individual CommBar members to forge links with legal people in Ipoh.

Perak’s laws are very strongly grounded in the British common law so most of the legal concepts that we know and love have a place in the laws of Perak. This is of particular significance with advisory work and any appearances in international commercial arbitration work.

Like a goodly portion of Asian legal regimes, Perak has traditionally looked to the Bars of England and Wales for assistance with complex advice and, on occasions, lead roles in complex court appearances. With this MOC, we are hopeful of steering the Perak legal community to retaining Victorian barristers for the provision of advice and even appearances when opportunity presents itself.

The chairman of the Perak Bar has personally written to the chairman of our Bar thanking him for the formation of these links and for the forging of this relationship.

Having opened this door for CommBar, persons looking to develop opportunities in Perak should make contact with the Perak Bar. The sharing of information is traditionally a proven starting point with any international legal links. If members are interested in exploring opportunities in Perak we suggest they contact the Perak Bar, do some speaking engagements, write learned articles and actually travel there. A little further south of Perak is KL, now a hub for international arbitration since the establishment of the KLRCA. CommBar members may wish to align themselves with that institution.

To state the obvious, opportunities galore present themselves in Asia for those willing to get over there and explore. We are delighted to have built this bridge for CommBar.

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