Friday, February 18, 2011

The New Economic Theory

*I like Mars... :) *
The Sun’s headlines yesterday (17th February 2011) caught my attention: Legal Fees To Soar.
This was the Bar Council’s President, Mr. Ragunath Kesavan’s response to the Chief Justice’s statement a couple of days ago. If I had not known the both of them to be on a very professional friendship, I’d thought it was written as a threat to the Judiciary’s efficiency.
 A funny response it is.
When I was at INCEIF doing my CIFP, I found that in most books, lectures or articles that is about efficiency, the end result is to reduce costs and not to increase it.
I’ll give a simple example about the Judiciary. This I have seen with my own eyes. Previously, because there were about 13 staffs handling the Court of Appeal files, there were 13 different ways of maintaining the files. The files are kept here there and everywhere in the file room and only known to the individual who was in charge of the file. Files don’t usually get missing but if one of the 13 staffs was on leave or on medical leave, the others do not know where to find and how to do his responsibilities. The development of the case was at times slowed down tremendously because of one staff.
Then there were some development at the Court of Appeal registry. From 13 staffs, the Chief Justice reduced it to 3-4 staffs. Gone were the 13 different ways of handling the files when a single uniformed and efficient new system was introduced. All the 3-4 staffs knew the work of each other.
The workload at the Court of Appeal registry remains the same when there were 13 staffs and with the new system of 3-4 staffs. This meant that the competency of 3-4 staffs were equivalent to the previous 13 staffs earlier on.
With the new efficient system, the number of staff (and most importantly, the costs of hiring and maintaining the staffs) can be reduced. The remaining staffs can then be utilized at other places.
All right, all right, spit it out. I know you are saying that the example I gave above is not similar to the work of a lawyer.
And some of you defensive and kolot people would also say, “Dia ni apa tau? Dia bukan pernah jadi lawyer pun. Duduk kat sana tau nak manage case saja. Bengong punya orang! Sebab tu dah tak kerja kat POJ and kena hantar balik ke KL. Dia tu yang tak efficient.” And many other personal things. This has happened before. Childish.
Suka hatila nak kata apa.
But please, hear me out.
I think that the concept of raising legal fees should not be because we now have an efficient Judiciary. To claim that the legal fees should be higher because of an efficient Judiciary is akin to saying that its inefficiency will result in the low cost of legal fees. I feel that saying this is an insult to the members of the Bar. Are you saying that lawyers are able to charge low fees because the court is inefficient and matters take years and years to settle and that legal fees should be 300-400% higher because cases can settle faster?
If this is so, then why is it that most mitigation (in a criminal case) in requesting for a lower punishment when the accused pleaded guilty is because such guilty plea has saved the Court and Counsel’s time?
This is because in time, there is value for money. The longer time spent, the higher cost it should be borne. Not otherwise. If there is no time value for money, there would be no inflation. But that’s a slightly different story probably for some other time.
Common sense dictates that when a case is settled early because of an efficient Judiciary system, you consume less time and energy. Of course you may feel lethargic and tired because the amount of time and energy used is condensed, concise and that you are constrained in a short duration of time as compared to breaking it apart into many different segments with a long gap in between. However, the total hours spent for a case with an efficient Judiciary system is, and I am certainly sure of this, much less than with an inefficient Judiciary system. Doing away with all the unnecessary postponements is a time saver.
I challenge you to prove me wrong on this point and if proven, I will write a specific post to indicate that my common sense is not common to your senses. So who’s senses are common to the society then?
I fail to see how the introduction of CRT is translated into higher costs for lawyers as they have to do the transcription on their own. As far as I am concerned, the Judiciary is ready to accept the recording of the proceedings as the notes of proceedings. This means that the Judiciary acknowledges the ardent task of watching the video of the trial in preparing our decisions and grounds of judgment. Some lawyers prefer to transcribe it for their own convenience. It is very unfair to blame the Judiciary when it is you who are responsible in wanting the luxury of reading the hardcopy of notes of proceedings.
Be that as it may, there are a few transcribing companies mushrooming from this niche market and one of it is Scribe Enterprise jointly handled by two of my former classmates in AIKOL. Engage them so that you don’t have to do it yourself. You can charge your client for your preference and convenience. Don’t go telling your clients that the court needs it. Then again, even the transcribing fees would not be 300-400% of increase in legal fees.
In fact, I’ll give you their numbers here. Call Mr. Kabir at 016 6332155 or Mr. Azmi 012-6193621 or email them at Haha. I have their contacts as they gave me their brochure. Currently, I am helping them to advertise it at KL Courts. They have already received the nod of approval from the Chief Justice and the Chief Judge of Malaya.
Most of my friends in the private sectors are salaried lawyers. With the increase of legal fees and in an efficient system, the firms would be enjoying the perks and squeezing their salaried lawyers as they continue to take more cases. You have to fill up the void as you have managed to settle so many already right? Would you also ask the firms to revise the salaries of these salaried lawyers?
Actually, it is really none of my business if you want to raise your legal fees. You are the one doing the work and you know how much to charge. If you feel that you are undercharging, by all means, charge as you desire.
But don’t blame the efficiency of the Judiciary for it.
That is just soooo…
Ugh… can’t find the right words for it for now…
Blog adjourned.

0 obiter dictum: