|Bar warns lawyers against touting
The Star 01/09/2001
PETALING JAYA: Bar Council president Mah Weng Kwai has threatened lawyers with disciplinary action if they are caught sourcing for business at housing project launches.
“The Legal Profession Act gives the Bar Council the authority to do that. Lawyers should not hang around during a housing launch to give advice as this is tantamount to touting and advertising.
“What happened in the past was that the developer’s lawyers would set up a desk next to the launch counter for the convenience of house buyers when they signed up to buy property.
“This is undue advantage … buyers are free to choose their own lawyers,’’ he said.
Mah added that such restrictions were in accordance with the Conveyancing Practice Ruling published by the Bar Council in 1997.
“Lawyers can be reprimanded, fined or suspended, depending on the gravity of the offence,” he said.
House Buyers Association (HBA) secretary-general Chang Kim Loong said it was a breach of professional ethics and a conflict of interest for both the purchaser and developer for lawyers to be present at housing project launches.
“Solicitors present at sales launches are usually part of the developer’s panel of lawyers. House buyers should consult an independent solicitor when dealing with the Sales and Purchase Agreement as they are not obliged to use the developer’s lawyers.
“Purchasers should be aware that there could be some biasness when problems arise because these lawyers are also acting for the developers,’’ he said.
Real Estate and Housing Developers Association president Datuk Eddy Chen, however, was of the opinion that lawyers could be of assistance to house buyers at the sales office.
“It’s for the convenience of the purchaser, whose first contact with a lawyer is probably when they buy a house. They would not know where to start if they were to go around looking for lawyers,’’ he said.
On the issue of discounts in legal fees, Eddy said, it was common business practice for many professions to offer a discount for bulk work.
“All of us do that. If we build a bungalow, the cost will be higher than building 100 bungalows. I believe that this is the best way because if you do something repetitive there would be an economy of scale,’’ he said.