Malaysia has liberalised its legal services market to allow foreign firms to open offices within its jurisdiction and form joint ventures with Malaysian firms.

The measures were introduced under the Legal Profession (Amendment) Act 2012 and came into effect on 3 June, the Malaysian attorney general, Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail announced. 

Liberalisation discussions have been underway since 2002. Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said the Society has worked closely with the Malaysian Bar Council and other legal bodies on the liberalisation process. 

‘Many fields of law in Malaysia are compatible with the strengths of our members, so this is an exciting time for both UK and Malaysian lawyers,’ he said.

The Law Society has published a guide to help Malaysian lawyers do business with members in England and Wales. ‘Opening up a jurisdiction to foreign law firms and foreign lawyers can seem like a leap into the unknown,’ said Hudson. 

The Society has previously organised a joint forum on liberalisation with the Malaysian Bar Council.

The three licences available under the liberalised regime are:

  • Qualified foreign law firm
  • International partnership
  • Malaysian law firm to employ foreign lawyer

Until now foreign lawyers have been entering Malaysia using their national passports and providing legal services on a ‘fly-in/fly-out’ basis.

Under the revised plans foreign lawyers are permitted to continue providing services in this manner, but they must not exceed the maximum stay of 60 days per lawyer per year.

The World Bank’s Doing Business 2014 report ranked Malaysia among the top 10 economies with the most business-friendly regulation.