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Liberalisation of Legal Services


Part VII of the Advocates Ordinance deals with the liberalisation of practise for foreign law firms or foreign lawyers to practise in Sabah.

However, section 23 of the Advocates Ordinance (Sabah) (Amendment) Act 2017 (which introduces Part VII of the Advocates Ordinance)  shall only come into force on a date to be appointed after the same has been adopted in the State of Sabah by an enactment of the State Legislature.

The following is a brief summary of the relevant provisions in Part VII.


“Foreign Law”: Law of any state or territory other than Malaysia

“Foreign Law Firm”: a foreign law firm that provides legal services in any foreign law and includes a corporation established to practise law by the appropriate licensing authority of a state other than Malaysia

“Foreign Lawyer”

  • person duly authorised / registered to practise law in a state / territory other than Malaysia; and
  •  a person who is a partner, director of a corporation established to practise law, or employee of a foreign law firm or a Sabah law firm

Licenses for Foreign Law Firm

Foreign law firm must be licensed

Foreign law firm practising without license liable to a fine not exceeding RM 100,000

Selection Committee

Selection Committee comprises of the following person:

  1. State Attorney-General
  2. Appointed person by State Attorney-General from Public Sector
  3. President of Sabah Law Society
  4. 2 Appointed members from Sabah Law Society

Meetings co-chaired by State AG and President of SLS

Quorum of Selection Committee Meeting is 3

All decisions to be made by affirmative vote of majority of members of Selection Committee present and voting

Selection Committee to inform SLS of it’s recommendation as to the granting of license under s. 14F, 14G, 14H or registration of foreign lawyer under s. 14J

Entry Point for Foreign Law Firms / Advocates

Type DescriptionSection
International Partnership Partnership between a Sabah and Foreign Law Firm14F
Qualified Foreign Law FirmApplication by Foreign Law Firm to practise in Sabah14G
Foreign LawyerEmployment of Foreign Lawyer by Sabah or Foreign Law Firm14H, 14J

Discipline Provisions on Foreign Law Firms / Foreign Advocates

  • s. 14I – Suspension or revocation of license
  • s. 14K – Suspension or revocation of registration
  • s. 14M – Compliance to all rules and rulings of SLS and subject to the disciplinary actions of Disciplinary Board
  • s. 14N – Power of SLS to require production of documents
  • s. 14O – Power to make Rules relating to foreign law firms / lawyers
  • Permitted Practice Areas
  • Conditions for giving license
  • Conditions on qualifying legal skills, experience and expertise required
  • Forms, proceedings, fees, information and documents to be furnished
  • Submission of information and particulars relating foreign law firms, lawyers, any other persons practising in foreign law firms
  • Maintenance of a Register
  • Manner and means to conduct business or publicise
  • Exemption of any person or class of persons