Standing for the Bar Council Elections 2022/23

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Standing for the Bar Council Elections 2022/23

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Thank you for electing me as Bar Councillor for the term 2022/2023.

It has been a privilege and a genuine pleasure to serve as a Bar Councillor for the term of 2021/22. It has been an eye-opening, mind-widening and maturing experience. Most importantly, it has made me acutely aware of the amount of time, effort, experience and energy we have to put in as Bar Councillors if we take our duties and responsibilities seriously, which, by my count, the majority do.

The volume of information we have to critically consider is voluminous and arrives on short notice. We get the document bundles in the week leading up to the meeting. Occasionally, additional ones are emailed over on the day of the meeting itself. I could ignore it and not bother but I consider that a dereliction of my duty as a Bar Councillor.

For my first Bar Council (BC) meeting, I remember feeling thoroughly overwhelmed and annoyed by the documents bundles that arrived the way I described. I imagined I would leisurely contemplate the document bundles over the weekend before the meeting to ensure I was thoroughly briefed and could participate in all the issues up for discussion.

Of course, life is never as I imagine it to be (and raises the disturbing question of why I constantly imagine things that do not exist).

For that first BC meeting, I received one document bundle more than a week before the meeting. The rest of the document bundles flooded in later that week to my chagrin. As if that were not bad enough, there was a BC buka puasa the night before my first BC meeting. I was reluctant to attend because I was busy that week and did not have time to look through the document bundles.

I pride myself on turning up for hearings or meetings briefed and did not want the indignity of attending my first BC meeting ignorant. I intended to spend the evening getting through as many document bundles as I could but there was also the BC buka puasa, which felt significant from a social standpoint. It was the first time I would get to know the other Bar Councillors and the BC staff. There was also the added bonus of having the opportunity to ask the other Bar Councillors how they managed and navigated all those document bundles that came in on short notice. I did not enjoy the buka puasa because I was anxious about the idea of not being sufficiently prepared for the BC meeting.

It was fortunate I turned up for the event. Aside from acquainting myself with my colleagues and BC staff, I received valuable advice from a variety of the Bar Councillors there about how to deal with the torrent of information for each meeting. I am grateful to them for it. The most important advice was: With our limited time and resources, we cannot cover every issue. Focus on only a few issues but know them deeply. Focus on your areas of interest and then branch out from there. Do not take on too many things.

Of course, listening to advice is one thing, but taking it another. Although I heard them I still tried to do the impossible by reading everything the night before. I left the buka puasa, about just after nine and went straight to the bundles. I failed, of course. I gave up past midnight. By then, I had worked out how to go about navigating the document bundles that each Bar Councillor gets and where to apply my efforts productively.

Each Bar Councillor gets 4 types of Bundles for each meeting. Each bundle contains between 100 – 300 pages. And I am not talking about 100 – 300 pages of pictures.

Bundle A contains matters up for discussion at the BC meeting. Bundle B contains the minutes of the previous BC meetings for consideration, amendment (if any) and approval. Bundle C contains the minutes of all the sub-committee meetings for our consideration and approval. Bundle D contains miscellaneous information or matters that require approval and discussion.

Even when we focus on certain discussions, there is much effort, time and expertise spent because of the consideration each issue has to be given. I also think even if we are not interested in other issues, we should still show more than a passing interest in them. As Bar councillors, we should know as much as we can.

BC meetings are held on Saturdays, once a month. They usually start at 10 am and can easily go past 6 pm when the discussions are intense (and they tend to be). Once a month doesn’t sound like much, but it comes around quicker than you think.

And those are just the monthly BC meetings. There are also other types of BC meetings that we are invited to attend: the Special Meeting (for special issues), Emergency Meetings (for urgent issues), Briefings (for significant issues) and Tripartite Meetings (with the Sabah Law Association and Advocates Association of Sarawak). All these meetings are fixed on other days and times with their own respective document bundles to get through.

If we have been selected to sit on a Bar Council Sub-Committee (BCSC), there are those BCSC meetings to prepare, attend and move as well. The meetings for these are more or less frequent depending on the BCSC’s work. Some BCSCs are heavier than others. I was tasked with co-chairing the Constitutional Law Committee and co-deputy chairing the Syariah Law Committee. Having done so, I think two are too many to do well.

If I have an opportunity again, I will choose to do just one thing for the BC term I am elected for. It is better to do one thing well than many things poorly or incompletely.

I would like the opportunity to continue serving on the Bar Council for the term of 2022/23.

Despite my initial apprehension at hearing the rumours about the politics, the factionalism, the horse-trading and the aggressive, partisan debates at BC, in my first term, I have found none of that. The quality of discussions has been robust, respectful and non-partisan. Many are committed to maintaining and supporting a better Bar and wanting the best for our legal colleagues. I have not noticed any obvious factions and thankfully, do not have to participate in any kind of politicking or bargaining.

Of course, it is not perfect and there are that can be improved but on the whole, my first year has been a pleasurable and ennobling experience serving as a Bar Councillor. I enjoy it and think that I can continue to contribute positively as a Bar Councillor. I am happy to remain so for the foreseeable future.

I have no near or present ambition to be a BC office bearer – Treasurer, Secretary, Vice-President or President, in the near future. If my role as Bar Councillor already sounds like quite a bit, the BC office bearer’s workload is three times more than that, at least. I don’t know precisely but I do know they do more work than a Bar Councillor because they have far more responsibility than we do.

They have more meetings to attend, more people to meet and many functions to attend. A Bar Councillor’s work is part-time, but I cannot see how you can perform an office bearer’s role well without doing it full-time. It is not just a question of ambition but also one of financial and office support. So, I take my hats off to the office bearers for my term – agree or disagree with them – you cannot deny their commitment and dedication to their roles. I also want to commend my fellow Bar Councillors for their efforts and commitment. We cannot please everybody and anyway, everyone is becoming harder to please.

I have a much clearer idea about what I want to devote myself to in my next term of office (or the next few years): The BC mobile phone app. I think it is rudimentary at its present iteration and has immense potential. I have picked up many ideas since I worked on and discontinued my legal application Locum Legalis, which I look forward to applying to the BC app. I think it has great potential to be a handy tool to improve the working lives of lawyers, communications between lawyers and opportunities for lawyers and be the starting point for the technologization of the Bar for its member’s benefit.

I hope you will consider electing me to the Bar Council for the term of 2022/23. Thank you.

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