For the last few years, I have been thinking that the Bar Council (BC) needs a long-term plan that articulates the spirit of its statutory duties as encapsulated in the Legal Profession Act 1976 (LPA76). My sense of it is that BC as an institution is more often than not reactive than deliberate in its approach. A reactive approach leaves little space to carve out its roles and responsibilities and plan for more ambitious goals over the long term.
I believe one of the significant reasons for the reactive approach is structural. One of the things I realized soon after joining BC this term was how disruptive yearly elections are from an operational, institutional knowledge and discussion standpoint. It is difficult to execute policy with a different composition of BC members every year. Because of that, there is no clear policy direction regarding where BC is headed over the long term, where its north star lay and what goals it wanted to achieve.
A long-term BC plan would better help distinguish between what is urgent and important from the rest i.e., what is urgent but unimportant, important but not urgent and not important nor urgent.
That is necessary because it is difficult to draw that distinction when a lot of pressure is brought to bear to react to some incident or announcement and the BC’s resources are limited. It cannot do everything at once.
A long-term BC plan would provide a goal and a road map so that the BC is not distracted by ‘urgent’ matters and can justify not addressing them. In doing so, it provides clarity in terms of direction over the short, medium and long term as well as the progressive stages it needs to reach. BC can better plan the use of its resources over the long term. There are clear deadlines and milestones.
I would like to think that a long-term BC plan would also better manage the expectations of the Malaysian Bar members as well as the general public. Instead of leaving it to others to define the BC and the Malaysian Bar, BC should do so itself. In doing so, the BC can take the opportunity to educate others about its role and responsibilities.
This is not some original or novel thing I came up with. The Australian Bar Association has a Strategic Plan from 2020 – 2025. The English General Council of the Bar has a Strategic Plan from 2019 – 2024. We can use theirs as a model about how to think about our own Strategic Plan, not as a template.
The strategic plan will be used to prioritise resources and effort and to inform the decision making of the ABA Council and Executive over the next five years. We will use the strategy to shape the work of the ABA to deliver on our purpose: to promote the administration of justice, the rule of law and the excellence of the Bar.Australian Bar Association Strategic Plan (2020 – 2025)
In the context of the political, economic, social, technological, cultural and legal challenges and opportunities which the UK and its legal services face, the Bar Council seeks to achieve strategic objectives set out in this five-year Strategic Plan. In doing so, we will work closely with the profession, Government and our many stakeholders.Bar Council Strategic Plan 2019 – 2024
For those reasons, over these last few years, I have been making notes about what roles the BC plays from those duties they are entrusted with and how they could be expressed in terms of policy and initiatives. Below is a compilation of those notes as they have come to me in drips and drabs over the years and have given some structure.
I emphasize notes because there are no explanations. The one-line summaries should prove a sufficient springboard to imagine where I am pointing to. I set them out here for the purpose of fostering discussion about such a plan and what it could be about and other ideas mine may engender. Not to dictate.
None of the suggestions here is set in stone or definite. Far from it. They are merely placeholders about what that could be. I have no expectation for any to be taken up; that is for the Malaysian Bar to decide. So I have not thought about the who, how or when, just the what. The policies and initiatives are suggested based on the Malaysian Bar’s purposes as set out in section 42(1) LPA76.
If you were observant enough, you would have realized I have said nothing about why it should be a 5-year plan and not a 3-year plan or a 6 1/2-year plan. I have no justification for it other than 5 years seems like a fair enough opportunity to get something significant or important done over a long-term period.