Law Society focused on reforms to cut costs, time-wasting litigation

The Law Society refers to the article (Rejecting 'fixed legal fee' proposal troubling; Jan 14).

On the earlier scale fees proposal, the Law Society shared feedback with the Ministry of Law that the proposal was neither in the interest of the public nor the profession.

For instance, the scale fees model, if it did happen, would entail a client paying his or her lawyer the full amount of scale fees even if the litigation dispute settles early.

We share the writer's view that justice is not served if legal costs escalate disproportionately against quantum.

However, there are existing safeguards to address concerns about excessive legal fees.

These include:

- mechanisms to resolve legal cost disputes and

- ethical duties posited on lawyers (including against overcharging).

On the former, apart from the Law Society's mediation avenues, the client has recourse to taxation by the court (see the Law Society's website for details).

The Law Society will further enhance public education on costs, as announced during my Opening of Legal Year Speech.

Regarding the ethical duties, lawyers have a fundamental obligation under our professional conduct rules to charge fairly for work done.

The outliers who violate them have been, and will be, disciplined. That said, clients have a responsibility to satisfy themselves that they understand legal fee arrangements before agreeing to them.

Examples exist of clients who dishonour the contractual bargain agreed upfront with their lawyers.

The Law Society is on the same page as the Ministry of Law on heralded civil justice reforms that are cost-efficient and eliminate unnecessary procedural steps and time-wasting litigation.

Access to justice remains a core mission of the Law Society. Legal aid schemes rolled out under our Law Society pro bono services help the needy.

Such schemes complement state-funded civil legal aid provided by the Legal Aid Bureau.

Additionally, a significant proportion of our lawyers have a time-honoured tradition of providing pro bono legal assistance for the truly needy.

The Law Society will continue to calibrate considered and appropriate low bono schemes in the interests of the public, while being sensitised to our members' needs.

Gregory Vijayendran

President

The Law Society of Singapore