The Legal 500

Malaysia

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Editorial

Overview

The Malaysian government took steps to liberalise its legal market to allow foreign firms to open offices and form joint ventures with local firms. These measures, which came into effect in June 2014, signal a definitive step towards developing a more competitive market; as certain restrictions remain in place, it remains unclear what the likely impact will be.

Local firms continue to enter into foreign alliances with other players in the region, particularly in Singapore, while mid-sized firms are exploring the merger route. No clear leader has broken out among the biggest firms, although those with close ties to the government tend to act on the most sizeable deals. Notable lateral moves include disputes lawyer Nahendran Navaratnam leaving Kadir Andri & Partners to set up Navaratnam Chambers in September 2013. Tay & Partners lost a team of IP lawyers, including Linda Wang, to Zaid Ibrahim & Co in April 2014.

Thirty Nine Essex Street is set to open an office at the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration (KLRCA) in October 2014, making it the first UK chambers to have a presence in the jurisdiction. This is partly a response to the recent boom in arbitration cases in Malaysia, which has been driven by steady economic growth, increased court efficiency and a government keen to promote the KLRCA as a regional hub and as a cost-effective alternative to Singapore.

Firms are gearing up for the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2015, while the Personal Data Protection Act, which came into force in 2013, is keeping lawyers busy on compliance matters. The Construction Industry Payment and Adjudication Act 2012 (CIPA) came into operation in April 2014, introducing a new method of resolving construction disputes.

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