The legal system

Malaysia is a complex, dynamic country with a Westminster-style bicameral parliamentary democracy and the world’s only rotating constitutional monarchy.  It is a federation comprising 13 states and three federal territories.  The supreme law of the land is a written Federal Constitution.

Broadly speaking it is part of the common law tradition although sharia courts have mandatory jurisdiction over issues of personal law for the country’s Muslim population.

The legal profession

Lawyers in Malaysia practise in a fused profession as advocates and solicitors. Malaysia has 2 jurisdictions. In West (Peninsular) Malaysia, the profession of advocates and solicitors is governed by the Legal Profession Act, 1976 and the rules promulgated thereunder. All advocates and solicitors must apply (jointly) for an annual certificate issued by the High Court of Malaya and an annual practising certificate issued by the Bar Council Malaysia. Membership of the Bar Council Malaysia is compulsory for all practising advocates and solicitors, and is regulated by the Bar Council of Malaysia.

The other jurisdiction is the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak. Lawyers in Sabah are governed by the Advocate Ordinance Sabah 1953 while those in Sarawak are governed by the Advocate Ordinance Sarawak 1953. Entry is regulated by the Attorney-General of the respective state, who issues annual licences. Membership of the Sabah Law Association and the Advocates Association of Sarawak is not mandatory.


At the present time foreign lawyers are not permitted to practice in Malaysia. However, the government has announced its intention to offer a limited number of licences for foreign firms in the area of Islamic finance.

For further information contact

Gerwin De Boer, International Policy Advisor

Sonam Khan, International Policy Assistant