Malaysia’s Bar Council has indicated that it is open to dialogue on proposed changes to the country's law governing legal practice amid concerns that they could further restrict the activities of foreign lawyers.

The Law Society of England & Wales said it has met the bar council to discuss reforms to the Legal Profession Act 1976. The Society said it is concerned that the proposed reforms could restrict ‘fly-in, fly-out’ practice by enforcing a 60-day annual cap on individuals. 'Fly in, fly out' allows foreign-registered lawyers to give advice in matters that do not involve local law.

Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said: ’The Law Society is making representation to the Bar Association regarding the proposed restrictions. Fly in fly out by lawyers is an accepted and necessary part in the smooth operation of the international marketplace. In an increasingly globalised world, Malaysian clients with international ambitions expect to have access to specialist lawyers to give advice on the law of multiple jurisdictions, however and wherever it is needed.’

The relevant part of the revised proposals falls under a section covering the offence of practising as a solicitor or advocate without authorisation. According to the draft law this does not apply to foreign lawyers who 'advise or consult with a client on matters pertaining to law not involving any aspect of Malaysian law’, subject to certain conditions. These include a maximum ’accumulated period of stay’ of 60 days in a calendar year. Immigration authorisation for each stay must have first been obtained and the foreign lawyer must work for a firm in an ’international partnership or qualified foreign law firm or Malaysian law firm’.

In an international update published this week, Chancery Lane said Malaysia's Bar Council had indicated it was committed to liberalising their market further and that the council plans to negotiate further with Malaysia's attorney general before the proposed changes are signed into law.

In a statement, the bar council said it would notify members of any developments.