limited liability tout firms
Chairman Mao introduced barefoot doctors to China. Millions
perished from wrong diagnosis. Felix Dias tested the fidelities of
the legal profession. His candidate lost the Bar elections. An angry
Felix tried to introduce barefoot lawyers.
As the first
step towards achieving this, he chaired a meeting of Lawyers' Clerks
in his capacity as the Minister of Justice.
of lawyers' clerks stated their virtues and said the legal profession
would be less efficient, in fact, incompetent, if they were barred
from entering Court.
that they be permitted to appear in court as barefoot lawyers which
would render the legal services less burdensome to the public at
large. The Minister of Justice would be hailed as the greatest champion
of the litigants. They said, and Felix agreed.
As a temporary
reprieve the clerks were issued identity cards permitting them to
enter a courthouse without being hauled before the Magistrate and
charged under the Intermeddlers Ordinance for touting.
an Executive Committee of the members. Its president had an office
a few junior lawyers. His institution was well known.
the availability of cheap legal and notarial services, and free
advice on all maintenance matters. At that time The Legal Aid Commission
did not have sufficient funds to pay even the salaries of its own
But this gentleman
as a matter of principle did not charge fees from the applicants.
Later it was said that his alliance with his women clients were
was brought to the notice of the Bar Council. Only then did the
legal profession realise that there were no rules governing professional
the Secretary of the Bar Association in 1983 was one of those who
realized the grave dangers the profession would face if there were
no rules framed to discipline the members of the profession.
a committee known as a Professional Affairs Committee with J. W
Subasinghe PC as its chairman. J.K. Liyanasuriya, Jed Gunaratne,
D.P. Mendis and Hemantha Warnakulasuriya (Convener) were its other
Committee was responsible for drafting the Rules of Conduct and
Etiquette for Attorneys-at-Law which were finally gazetted in 1989.
By this time,
the gentlemen clerk was a formidable force at Hulftsdorp. A number
of lawyers benefited from this glorified touting service.
In 1989, this
person disappeared never to return to his office. Some say he disappeared
for his alleged involvement with the opposition at that time.
that one of the husbands of his maintenance clients who was an Army
Officer used the prevalent situation to get rid of him. The lawyers
found that they could not practice their profession without their
'boss'. They left Colombo and went back to their villages.
Today a similar
situation has arisen. Instead of petty touts trying to form consultancy
services and give them free legal advice initially and then squeeze
the client for a fat fee by going to Court, various firms are trying
to establish legal consultancy services to provide legal advice
to corporate clients.
organizations will provide the services of accountancy and auditing
together with legal advice on any problem including the drawing
up of a Memorandum and Articles of Association, to set up a BOI
company, and obtain the approval of the BOI and get all the duty
concessions. The entrepreneur is instructed to shop at one place.
It is a new
concept. A concept of a limited liability company.
liability company is not bound by any rules of any Court. They are
a law unto themselves. They are only bound by the Memorandum and
Articles of Association and only answerable to the shareholders
of the company.
As they are
not bound by the Rules of the Supreme Court they will be in a position
to advertise, sell and market their legal services to the world.
Whereas other law firms will be bound by the Rules of the Supreme
Even in developed
countries the principle is that an attorney should not employ non-lawyers
in the practice of the law.
We are informed
that in spite of the Rules of the Supreme Court which prohibits
lawyers from providing legal services to any kind of person other
than his employer and prohibits a lawyer from entering in to a partnership
with a non-lawyer to provide legal services, some organizations
have done so by employing young attorneys to provide consultancy
services to outsiders for a fee. This is totally illegal.
could be reported by any person for having violated the rules of
the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court issues a Rule against such
an attorney a limited liability company will not be able to defend
the poor attorney who has got into serious difficulty by violating
the Rules for Conduct and Etiquette for Lawyers.
happen to the directors of the limited liability company who employ
the attorneys and provide legal services to outsiders. There is
still in the Statute Book the Intermeddlers Ordinance which is also
known among the clerks as the Anti-Tout Law.
If a gentleman
after having obtained the services from a limited liability company
files a private plaint in the Magistrate Court under the Intermeddlers
Ordinance and charges the directors of these organization as intermeddlers
or known in common parlance as touts they will have to personally
get into the dock and answer the charges.
It will be
a hilarious and comical scene where directors of a large commercial
firm get into the dock in a Magistrate Court for touting.
and Chanaka De Silva realized the dangers these limited liability
companies would pose on unsuspecting clients.
the company without any pain of punishment would breach the confidentiality
and would not be disciplined by the Supreme Court.
met at the chambers of a senior counsel to decide whether to fight
this menace alone or do the same with the Bar Association. Senior
counsel said that he along with the other silent majority would
try to obtain the approval of the council.
cautioned the Bar of the dangers the profession was facing when
persons trained in other disciplines were trying to take the legal
profession into their fold and snuff them out of existence. The
Bar unanimously decided to take action forthwith.
that H.L. de Silva P.C., the virtual leader of the Bar had agreed
to appear for the Bar Association if he was provided with all the
material and he was satisfied that sufficient grounds existed to
petition the Supreme Court.
Miller observed in Regina Vs. Woods that when a man says in effect,
"I am not a lawyer but I do the work of a lawyer for you, he
is offering his services as a lawyer.
his services as a lawyer he is holding himself out as a lawyer even
though he makes it clear he is not a properly qualified lawyer".
was thrown out of the police station by the OIC when he appeared
for his clients. The OIC pointed a revolver and threatened to shoot
him. He complained to the police headquarters and all the other
agencies and to the BASL.
exposed the predicament the legal profession has fallen into. Soon
afterwards he was transferred out. We received this letter from
you for the exposure you made in your columns.
I went from
pillar to post even writing to the Bar Association without avail.
But after your article, the Police officer concerned was transferred."