TSMP Law Corporation

TSMP Law Corporation was featured in this articlein the Singapore Business Times.

I have many fond memories of my short attachment stint there, where I was still in law school, and being exposed to litigation for the first time. Was lucky to drop in just before a trial started, helped to research several points of law, and then had a chance to see senior counsel in action.

But back to the points raised in the article, and to highlight two sections:

One way he believes TSMP can attain this goal is by hiring the best practitioners. ‘We pay the highest starting salary in Singapore now – $5,000,’ he says. ‘Law graduates these days have so many options that we find that this is one of the ways to attract and retain the best.’

I see the starting salary in Singapore is creeping towards the S$5,000 level. Money may not be the most important factor to pick a certain firm, but I am sure it definitely ranks as one of the more important factors.

‘We also reward our lawyers well, promoting the exceptional ones quickly. We made four people junior equity partners recently – and some of them have only five years’ working experience. This helps our people to think like leaders early on, and it helps us in our succession planning – in grooming people to take over.

This may be a sticking point for certain law firms, and may or may not be confined to the larger firms. Should a firm promote an exceptional lawyer quickly, thereby rewarding that lawyer for his performance and also setting an example by which other lawyers can aim for? Or should a firm be rigid in their promotion schedule, where you must attain a minimum number of years before you can be promoted from associate to senior associate level, or from senior associate to junior partner level?

The drawbacks of adopting the former is that it may draw jealousy from the other lawyers, it may breed whispers in the corridor as to why a certain lawyer is allowed to leapfrog ahead while more senior lawyers have not been promoted yet. The drawbacks of the latter is not there is no reward for excelling, where promotion seems almost automatic unless you mess up some where.

I am not advocating that there should be wanton promotion of junior lawyers, that if you can’t make partner in less than 5 years, you were just not a good enough lawyer. There are so many aspects to being succesful in the practice of law, not just in terms of your knowledge of the law, but also the important aspect of how to bring in and maintain your clients. Such skills can only be honed with time. So there is no frantic rush to partnership or promotion, but it will still be encouraging to see the relaxation of rigid promotion policies.

The National Language in the Courts

A very common question asked by friends who aren’t in the legal profession, or friends outside of Malaysia, is whether the Malay language has to be used in court. For the purposes of this blog entry, allow me to side-step the debate surrounding the correct usage of the term Bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Melayu, and just refer to all generically as the Malay language.The short answer to the posed question is that strictly under the law, all proceedings and court papers have to be in the national language i.e. the Malay language.

This is covered specifically under statute as well as the rules governing court procedure. But it was not always the case where it was compulsory to use Malay in the court.

In Malaysia pre-independence, the English language was used in all the courts. Even when the National Language Act was introduced in 1963 making the Malay language the official language of Malaysia, the courts were exempted from making the transition from English to Malay.

However, on 30 March 1990, the National Language (Amendment) Act 1990 came into force which removed the exemption enjoyed by the courts. The new section 8 now reads:

All proceedings (other than the giving of evidence by a witness) in the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court or any Subordinate Court shall be in the national language

Provided that the Court may either of its own motion or on the application of any party to any proceedings and after considering the interests of justice in those proceedings, order that the proceedings (other than the giving of evidence by a witness) shall be partly in the national language and partly in the English language.

Subsequently, the Rules of the High Court 1980 which govern the manner in which court proceedings are carried out was also amended to mandate the use of the national language. However, this restriction only applies to court proceedings within West Malaysia. Sabah and Sarawak still continue to be allowed to use the English language. In fact, the Rules of the High Court 1980 directs that for Sabah and Sarawak, any document to be used in court shall be in the English language and may be accompanied by a translation in the Malay language.

“Order 92 Rule 1 of the Rules of the High Court

(1) Subject to subrule 2, any document required for use in pursuance of these rules shall be in the national language and may be accompanied by a translation thereof in the English language…

(2) For Sabah and Sarawak, any document required for use in pursuance of these rules shall be in the English language and may be accompanied by a translation thereof in the national language …”

If you speak to some senior lawyers who moved out of litigation, the compulsory switch from the English language to the Malay language more or less cemented their decision to leave litigation for good. This also signalled the start of the ‘mandatory’ component of every pupillage, translation!

All court documents now need to be translated into the Malay language, and I am sure every single pupil would have done their significant share of helping lawyers to translate affidavits or other cause papers into Malay. Some of the larger law firms can afford to employ dedicated translators to help with some of the translation. But ultimately, there is still no escaping from doing your own translation work. Having worked hours and hours crafting an affidavit, you then spend as many hours leafing through English-to-Malay dictionaries to translate your work. I always find it ironical that the English portions are marked ‘Terjemahan’ (‘translation’ in Malay) when in actual fact, the English portions are drafted first and then translated into Malay.

This compulsory use of the Malay language is relaxed somewhat at the High Court when lawyers are making submissions. Generally, the Registrars and the Judges allow you to file in your skeletal written submissions in English, as well as to orally submit in English. At the subordinate courts, the use of Malay is still more or less compulsory. This means written and oral submissions all have to be in Malay. With my atrocious command of Malay, no surprise then that I do not look forward to my matters at the subordinate courts.

At the appellate courts, being the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court, English is almost exclusively used. I know of certain appellate judges who will tick off Counsel for failing to file in the English translation of the court papers at the High Court level, when these documents are referred to at the appellate stage.

English is also widely-used in the written judgments of the Courts. I would estimate at least 90% of the reported judgments are in the English language.

It is a pity that the court system had to adopt the usage of the Malay language, and could not enjoy the previous exemption. From a commercial point of view, nearly all contracts are drafted in English and it would make sense for litigation arising from these contracts to continue in English. The language used in international commerce is largely English, so again, if parties negotiate for Malaysian courts to adjudicate on a dispute, it would be a plus for the Court language to be in English.

But the use of the Malay language in the Court is necessary as this is a common language understood by all Malaysians. In a criminal court for instance, if charges are being read out to an accused who is unrepresented, the Malay language would largely be understood by all.

Injunction against Moody’s

Interesting bit of news I came across on Allco Commercial Real Estate Investment Trust’s failed attempt to obtain an injunction against Moody’s Investors Service.Moody’s is a credit rating agency that assigns credit ratings and ranks the credit-worthiness of borrowers using a standardised ratings scale. More on the history of Moody’s is set out in the Washington Post.

Allco Commercial REIT is listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange, with assets in Singapore and Australia.

On 12 March 2008, Allco managed to obtain an injunction to restrain Moody’s from issuing a downgrade on the trust. The injunction also prevented Moody’s from holding any meeting or discussion to review Allco’s credit rating.

Presumably this injunction was applied and granted ex parte, which resulted in Moody’s applying to set aside the injunction.

Quoting from the Straits Times today:

Allco Commercial Real Estate Investment Trust (Reit) felt a $620 million bank refinancing deal could be jeopardised by a downgrade, according to court documents obtained by The Straits Times.

In an affidavit, Allco Singapore chief executive Nicholas McGrath said he was shocked to hear of the planned downgrade as he had been assured by Moody’s that its panel would not decide on Allco’s rating until today.

‘I also informed Moody’s that it was crucial that there was no revision of Allco Reit’s rating before the requisite credit approvals from its bankers were obtained for the refinancing of its debts worth $620 million.’

But Mr Peter Choy, a vice-president and senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service, said in an affidavit that the agency had made no such assurances.

He said: ‘If there was ever any suggestion that Moody’s customers could control or influence its ratings, the market would no longer trust the ratings that it gives.’

It will be interesting reading the legal arguments both for and against such an injunction, and the written grounds of judgment are not out yet. From a cursory examination, it seems difficult for Allco to establish any right for such an injunction, in that there is no serious issue to be tried. But the injunction did get past the ex parte stage, and Allco’s Counsel must have convinced the Judge that there were some merits.

This hasn’t been the first time that such an injunction has been sought against a credit rating agency. In 2003, Tranz Rail Holdings Ltd had tried to obtain an injunction from the High Court of New Zealand against Standard & Poor to restrain it from issuing a press release confirming a downgrade in rating. This application was subsequently withdrawn.

Better Drafting

Times Online continues with its well-written series on How to Become a Better Lawyer with a new installment on how to improve your written draftingin the context of litigation.

Highlighting just two sections from the article:

A large part of the war occurs in the correspondence. I give the same level of consideration to drafting letters to the other side as I do to writing formal opinions. “Dear Judge” letters, I call them, because even if they’re written before litigation has commenced, they should always be drafted with the eyes of the judge in mind. They’re your opportunity to show not only that your client has behaved reasonably and sensibly from the beginning, but — and this is crucial for getting your costs if you win — that you’ve grasped the essential legal issues early on and have stuck to them.

These are otherwise known as the “self-serving” letters. Especially useful prior to the commencement of litigation, and even prior to lawyers officially coming on record and issuing letters. Lawyers can assist their client in drafting letters on client letterheads to further strengthen the client’s position in view of imminent litigation. A common example which crops up is that parties tend to not put their complaints down in writing. Or too much negotiation and communication take place verbally and over the phone. A “Dear Judge” letter can help flesh out the breaches of a contract or complaints. It can help solidify the exact terms of the contract, some of which may not be in writing, some may be implied, some may have been negotiated verbally.

Some people love to seem so clever. When I was younger I used to think that I was too stupid to understand those documents where you have to read a paragraph several times in order to understand it. But gradually I realised that the problem was that some people simply have a drafting style that is far too complex. Look at the speeches of the great House of Lords judges of our day: beautifully written but in plain, clear English.

This is the common complaint of ‘legalese’. How many times have we seen the use of double negatives cropping up in a sentence we draft?

It cannot be said that the Defendant is not in breach of his obligations….”

One my pet peeves is seeing the overuse of words such as “herewith” or “therein“. There are too many cover letters which use the phrase “We enclose herewith a copy of the affidavit.” It can simply be abbreviated to “We enclose a copy of the affidavit.”

I would highly recommend that all lawyers pick up these books from Bryan A. Garner, The Winning Brief and Legal Writing in Plain English. The author provides very detailed technical tips in improving the way you draft letters and draft written submissions. It is not merely a case of cutting out the legalese, but the books help you to present your arguments across more effectively, how to make use of headers, effective use of punctuation and how to format your points. You then realise that it takes a lot of effort to write better, and you realise the number of bad habits you have picked up.

Just to highlight some examples from the books:

(i) Use the active voice rather than the passive

A simple way to remember this is that being active, you are doing something. The passive indicates something being done to you. An easy test in spotting the passive voice: if you see a be-verb (eg. is, are, was) followed by a past participle (usually a verb ending in –ed), then you have a passive voice construction. So here is an example on how you convert the passive voice into the active one:

passive: This is the legal question which has to be determined by the court.

active: The court will have to determine this legal question.

The advantages of the active voice is that it usually requires fewer words, and it better reflects a chronologically ordered sequence, active: actor -> action -> recipient of action, rather than passive: recipient of action -> action -> actor.

(ii) Turn -ion words into verbs when you can

This is something which I think a lot of us do without thinking. For instance, instead of “someone was in violation of the law”, we can state that “someone has violated the law.”

The advantages of editing -ion words are that you will avoid inert be-verbs by replacing them with action verbs , and you’ll humanise the text by saying who does what.

Let’s apply both examples to the following sentence (which is the way I may have drafted ordinarily):

“A revocation application will normally receive no consideration by the board unless there have been no sales for two consecutive years.”

Switch it around to:

“The board will normally not consider a revocation application unless there have been no sales for two consecutive years.”

The Queen’s Counsel

Queen’s Counsel are barristers, and more recently advocate-solicitors, appointed by patent to be one of Her Majesty’s counsel learned in the law. It has become a mark of recognition of a leading counsel.

History of the Queen’s Counsel

In the late 16th century, a body of counsel were appointed to give assistance and advice to the Solicitor-General and Attorney-General. They were often consulted in capital cases and in cases of state. Queen’s Counsel were at that time expected to become advocates on behalf of the Sovereign. During the reign of a king they were called King’s Counsel.From the beginning, they were not allowed to appear against the Crown without a special licence, but this was generally given as a formality. This was particularly important in criminal cases, which are mostly brought in the name of the Crown, with the result that, until 1920 in England and Wales, King’s and Queen’s Counsel had to have a licence to appear in criminal cases for the defence.

Such limitations have since been removed over the centuries, and the office has now become purely honorary and is a recognition of achievement in the legal profession. While it used to be purely confined to barristers, advocate-solicitors have now also been appointed as QCs.

Lawyers who have been appointed as a QC are entitled to wear silk gowns, rather than the ordinary cotton or “stuff” gowns when they appear in court, hence becoming a QC is termed “taking silk” for this reason.

Other jurisdictions

Some Commonwealth countries had also adopted the QC nomenclature, for instance Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. The title of Queen’s Counsel has largely been replaced with the title of Senior Counsel instead.

Singapore initiated its own Senior Counsel Scheme in 1997 to recognise outstanding advocates. You can read this interesting interview with the Senior Counsel Selection Committee, an extract as follows:

What circumstances led to the implementation of the SC Scheme in Singapore in 1997? Was it a matter of natural progression, having cut formal legal ties with England in the early 1990s? Or was the Scheme started to provide a career path for practitioners? Would not competence, reputation and previous experience provide adequate distinction? How important was it, at that time, to put in place a scheme that would allow the Singapore legal community to develop its own pantheon of respected advocates?

It was extremely important for Singapore to put in place a formal scheme whereby our best advocates would be accorded due recognition by the Judiciary for their legal expertise and advocacy skills. In the absence of a such a scheme and the easy availability of Queen’s Counsel (“QC”) to plead in our courts, it was inevitable that however good or skilful our advocates might be, they would be looked upon by litigants and the public as second-class litigators and inferior to any QC, whatever his seniority might be. This did not reflect the reality in many cases, although in general it had to be conceded that the best QC was a notch above our best advocate.

In other words, without a formal SC Scheme, we could end up short-changing our own lawyers. The situation was, unfortunately, exacerbated by the perception that QC would get a better hearing from the Judiciary than local advocates, with the result that if one party appointed a QC to represent him, his opponent felt that his case would not be given the same consideration if he did not appoint another QC to represent him. In order to build up our own corps of advocates that could be immediately recognisable by prospective litigants and also by other advocates and solicitors, the SC Scheme was introduced. Such a public recognition would also serve as an incentive for advocates to improve and enhance their legal expertise and advocacy skills in order to attain that status.
Also read this interview with 3 SCs. Highly recommended reading.

A Malaysian Senior Counsel Scheme?

Malaysia does not have any such QC or SC scheme in place. While it is legitimate to stress the importance of giving recognition to outstanding advocates, I would be very fearful of any such system being implemented. The risk of abuse is too great. I can see the grave danger of it being converted into a form of political patronage (if the government has any say in the appointment of SCs).

Lawyers here in Malaysia already point to the lack of transparency and the evident abuse in the judicial appointments system (this is with reference to the recent facts being unearthed before the Royal Commission enquiring into the Lingam tape). I am sad to say that just like for most things in Malaysia, any Malaysian Senior Counsel appointments would possibly be influenced through political connections or even racial quotas, rather than true meritocracy.

YL Convention: Reflections

I thought the YL Convention was overall a good one. I definitely had a good time, although I did have to leave early and rush back on Saturday night.

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I thought the stand-out session was the one in relation to “IT: How Does It Make Us Mighty?” It demonstrated that when you have a good panel of speakers, giving different perspectives, as well as a good moderator to control the flow of speakers as well as the audience participation, you can get a very interesting session. Issues such as whether BlackBerry is a tool of empowerment or enslavement was touched on, as well as the impact of technology on the speed and pace of practice. Instantaneous responses are now expected, the lines are blurred between office and out-of-office hours. We are a service industry, and we are there to service the needs of clients, so we will have to increasingly cope with almost round-the-clock queries especially with clients from different time zones. If you aren’t going to step up to face such demands, there will be another lawyer to the left and to the right of you who will.

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I have to admit that I had given little thought before this on how different legal practice could be outside of KL. But it was good on the part of the moderator to emphasise that the IT needs of a small law firm in one of the smaller states would be vastly different from the IT necessities expounded by some of the members of the panel. A lawyer from Ipoh spoke of how her law firm did not have a computer at all, but that did not get in the way of the firm’s practice. The firm’s clients could be illiterate but a very successful businessmen, so the concept of emails or even letters would be something very foreign. Another lawyer from Kelantan explained how different practice was like in that state. There were no such long working hours, and the concept of a client contacting you past 5.30pm was virtually unheard of.

It was good for that session to highlight the dichotomy between practice in a large law firm in KL, and perhaps the smaller firms outside of KL. Inevitably though, as clients’ needs evolve, even in the smaller towns, law firms will be forced to embrace more and more of IT. The illiterate quarry owner will soon hand over the quarry to his IT-savvy children, and then the law firm or lawyers will also be forced to change the way they practice.

In contrast to that IT session, which remained focused on the topic at hand, some of the other sessions were a little bit less successful. For instance, in the first session, “The New Lawyers: Gen Y” started off well I thought, with the various speakers, me included, giving different viewpoints on this new concept of Generation Y. A mere marketing term or something that really exists? The moderator had an idea on which points he wanted to develop, but the danger of these interactive talk-show style sessions is that it may slowly move off-point or become a complaining session. While it is good to use personal experiences or anecdotes to highlight certain points, I certainly didn’t want to see the session slowly end up focusing only on the bad experiences some of the lawyers had during their pupillage.

I think the scope of the topics for the YL Convention was wide and it should have been very interesting. While some of the sessions were a big success, some were quite a let-down. It actually boils down quite a lot to the strength of your speakers. Maybe future organisors should use less on the “talk-show” format which was widely used at this Convention. While it provides for a very interesting discussion, there is the danger of the session going off-point without a strong moderator. There should be a balance of the talk-show format as well as the conventional presentation of papers, but maybe then with more time allocated to Q&A and interaction. It allows participants to have physical papers to take away and read, and it also forces the speakers to be focused in their delivery and to come prepared. I am still a fan of the talk-show format though, and that format depends a lot on the moderator setting out clear guidelines on the different aspect each speaker should touch on.

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Young Lawyers Convention

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The National Young Lawyers Committee is staging its 3rd Young Lawyers Conventionthis weekend, Friday – Sunday. It will be held at the City Bayview Hotel in Penang.I have been invited to be a speaker at the first session “The New Lawyers: Gen Y”, and I think it will be an interesting interactive session to kick off the convention.

The convention is so multi-faceted and it covers a wide range of topics which I think is highly relevant to all young practitioners everywhere. The panelists and speakers will be young lawyers, senior practitioners, law academics, all giving different view points.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Video Tape: Day 2 Afternoon

The proceedings of the second day of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Video Tape resumed at 2.30 this afternoon. I covered the afternoon proceedings for the Bar website, and you can hop over to the Bar website to read Day 1 morning, Day 1 afternoon and Day 2 morning.While the afternoon’s events were mainly focused on the video and audio analysis of the video clips, an interesting exchange was between one of the Commissioners, Datuk Mahadev Shankar, and Thayalan, Counsel for VK Lingam. Read below to find out more.A voice sample of Dato’ VK Lingam had been obtained for a voice comparison with the video clip.

Wan Zulkifli bin Wan Jusoh, the head of the forensic technology division of the ACA, took the stand. The witness testified that he had downloaded a 14-minute long video clip which involved a lawyer on 18 December 2007. On 26 December 2007, under the instructions of Madam Chua Lay Choo, he handed a copy of the video clip on a CD over to Mohamed Zabri Adil bin Talib, an analyst from Cyber Security Malaysia.

The witness also stated that on 11 October 2007, he had also handed over a 8-minute long copy of a video clip over to Mohamed Zabri. This 8-minute video clip had been passed to the ACA by lawyer Sivarasa Rasiah. Having viewed both the 14-minute and the 8-minute video clips, the witness then answered that the 8-minute clip was contained in the 14-minute one.

When queried regarding whether he had received any voice samples on 8 January 2008, the witness answered yes and that he had received voice samples from Moses a/l Lawrence, an ACA officer. The witness continued that he had received one DVD containing 22 voice samples from Malaysian residents, and 1 CD containing Dato’ Lingam’s voice sample. Dato’ Lingam’s voice sample had been obtained by Moses.

When the witness received the DVD, it was marked as “voice samples”, and had both the date 8 January 2008 and Moses’ signature. The witness confirmed the DVD in court and was marked as evidence. The CD was marked as “voice sample 2”, again with the date 8 January 2008 and with Moses’ signature. The CD was marked as evidence.

When the witness was asked about the purpose of these voice samples, he answered that these voice samples were to be handed over to Cyber Security Malaysia in order for them to do a comparison with the voice from the 14-minute video clip.

On 8 January 2008, he had handed over the DVD and the CD to Mohamed Zabri. On the same day, the two of them, along with an ACA officer and two officers from Cyber Security Malaysia, had flown to Agnitio S.L., a biometric laboratory in Madrid, Spain. The purpose of the visit was to conduct a voice comparison in that laboratory. The witness testified that Mohamed Zabri conducted the voice comparison and that the results of the voice comparison were positive.

R. Thayalan then posed a few questions to the witness. The witness stated that he had downloaded the 14-minute video clip from http://www.anwaribrahimblog.com and confirmed that the 14-minute video clip put in evidence was not the original video clip, and was from the internet. He further clarified that nothing had been done to the 14-minute clip to make the image clearer or to improve the audio quality. When queried regarding whether any other tests had been conducted in the Spain laboratory, the witness confirmed that only a voice comparison test had been carried out.

The video clips were authentic

The witness was then released and the fifth witness, Zabri Adil bin Talib, was called. He was a digital forensic analyst from Cyber Security Malaysia. After providing some brief history on his academic and professional qualifications, along with the scope of his work, Zabri confirmed that on 11 October 2007, he received a CD from Wan Zulkifli which was marked as “the CJ Tape”. The CD contained a video clip of length 8 minutes and 20 seconds. On 26 December 2007, he received a CD from Wan Zulkifli which contained a video clip of length 14 minutes and 15 seconds.

On 8 January 2008, he confirmed that he had received a DVD, containing voice samples, and a C, which contained one voice sample. Having examined the DVD and the CD in evidence, the witness confirmed that these were the items he had received, and he confirmed the markings on the DVD and the CD.

The witness then stated that he had done an analysis on all these items, the 3 CDs and the 1 DVD, and had written a report of his findings. The witness then explained that a video analysis had been carried out on both the 8-minute and 14-minute video clips and he had found that these video clips were authentic and had not been tampered with. Further, an audio analysis had been carried out on these video clips and again he found that the audio had not been tampered with. The conclusion, as stated in his report, was that these video clips were authentic.

The witness then gave evidence regarding his trip to the Spain laboratory. He had brought along 2 CDs, a CD – marked as “voice sample 2”, and a DVD – marked as “voice samples.” On 9 January 2008, the voice analysis was carried out at the laboratory. The witness explained briefly on the scientific procedure behind the voice comparison carried out.

The automatic speaker recognition system would compare the ‘unknown voice sample’, being the voice sample taken from the 14-minute video clip, with the ‘known voice sample’, being the voice sample taken from the CD marked as “voice sample 2”. His report stated that the likelihood ratio generated from this comparison was 185 – which fell into the strong support category. The witness explained that such a category indicated that the voice sample was concrete enough to be accepted by a Court. The likelihood-ratio of 185 indicated that the ‘unknown voice sample’ originated from the same source as the ‘known voice sample’.

R Thayalan, Dato’ Lingam’s Counsel: “It looks like him and it sounds like him.”

As R. Thayalan stood up to ask the witness some questions, Datuk Mahadev Shankar then posed the question to Thayalan whether it was his client’s position that he was not the person in the video clip. “Is it him or not him?”

Thayalan then answered that he had been instructed that the person in the video looks like his client and sounds like his client, and that was all.

He would have to take further instructions. Datuk Shankar then posed a second question, that by having read the transcript of the conversation in the video clip, was Dato’ Lingam saying that he did not say what was said in the conversation? The first question was in relation to the image while the second was in relation to the content of the conversation.

Thayalan again had to answer that he had no instructions on this, and he had no answer at the moment.

Tan Sri Steve Shim then interjected and asked Thayalan how could he not have instructions at this stage. Tan Sri Steve Shim pointed out that Thayalan had earlier suggested that the tape was doctored and Tan Sri then queried him whether those were questions were put on instructions. Thayalan answered that his instructions were that part of the tape may have been edited. Datuk Shankar then went on to ask that if Dato’ Lingam has not given instructions, on what basis could Thayalan then proceed to question the witnesses. He answered that he was only questioning on the authenticity of the tape.

Ranjit Singh, Counsel for the Bar Council, then asked the witness a question as to whether the witness was aware that the ‘known voice sample’ was that of Dato’ Lingam. The witness then answered that he was not aware.

Tan Sri Steve Shim referred the witness to the summary of his report, which made reference to facial recognition technology. The witness clarified that while America had facial recognition technology, Cyber Security Malaysia has yet to purchase such technology. In answer to whether it was possible to send the video clip over to America, the witness answered that it was not as simple as that, as they would have to establish contacts like they did for the Spain laboratory.

The proceedings continue tomorrow morning with further questioning of the witness.

Singapore Law Watch

Do check out Singapore Law Watch, a recently launched legal news syndication site. It is great in that it consolidates all the daily legal news headlines, as well as providing links to the latest cases and more interestingly, the legal commentaries.I had already been regularly downloading Singapore law firms’ e-newsletters to read about the latest case law developments.

Bonuses for Singapore lawyers hit 9 months

The Straits Times reported today of the large bonuses being paid out to the top performing lawyers, it being a reflection of the booming business the law firms are experiencing.

BIG law firms, buoyed by the business boom, are handing out bigger year-end bonuses this year, with the best payouts breaching the nine-month mark.

The Straits Times understands that top performing lawyers in top-league firms like Drew & Napier and Rajah & Tann are getting high payouts across the board as rewards to recognise good work when the going is good.

Other firms like Harry Elias Partnership (HEP) and KhattarWong also awarded fatter bonuses of between 5-1/2 and eight months to its lawyers.

HEP’s managing partner Latiff Ibrahim said its top performers are in the ‘booming corporate, construction and litigation practices’.

KhattarWong’s Subhas Anandan said the bigger bonuses also spilled to the non-legal support staff, with the best receiving up to 5-1/2 months.

Lawyers generally attributed the fat bonus cheques to the strong economy, increased revenues and the need to pay high performers for ‘all the hard work and all the nights they have put in’.

WongPartnership, one of the biggest firms here, has had an ‘extremely good year’ in terms of the transactions and briefs received, said Mr Chou Sean You, a partner in the firm.

‘We expect to remunerate our lawyers well for all the hard work they have put in throughout the year,’ he said, adding that his firm traditionally declared its bonuses in January.

The upturn has benefited small and medium-size firms as well, especially in conveyancing work, said senior lawyer N. Sreenivasan.

‘Whether the property boom continues into the new year remains to be seen,’ he added.

He said that ‘with expected rental and salary increases next year, law firms will have to be more efficient, to reduce the impact of these increased overheads on the cost of legal services’.

Small firms which may not be able to match the fat bonuses of their bigger counterparts are unfazed, with some noting the hidden toll in work-life balance for those working in the top league.

Said Mr R. Kalamohan, who has run his own firm for more than 18 years: ‘I don’t know how many ‘handicaps’ I have compared to big firms, but when you look at the work-life balance, it is a different issue.

‘I am not constrained to burn the midnight oil every day unless there are exigencies. I do not think income is the main criterion for a good life.’

I think the Malaysian law firms generally had a good 2007 as well, with law firms paying out good bonuses. Not quite in the same bracket as 8-9 months of course.