The Long Call – An Article by R. Jayabalan

The following article is contributed by Mr. R. Jayabalan of Messrs R. Jayabalan and published herewith with the author’s permission.


Upon completion of the nine months pupillage period, the pupil files his petition to obtain an order from the High Court admitting him as advocate and solicitor of the High Court of Malaya. This is referred to as ‘the Long Call’.

The petition is filed with supporting affidavits and served on the interested parties such as the Bar Council, State Bar and the Attorney General’s Chambers.

The petition is then fixed for hearing before the High Court Judge in the presence of the interested parties. A solicitor appears on behalf of the petitioner/pupil and moves the petition. He is known as ‘the Mover’. He submits on the merits of the petition, convinces the Court on the suitability of the petitioner and prays for the petition to be allowed.

The interested parties then state whether they have any objections to the petition.

Usually none although there have been occasions when objections were raised, such as when the petitioner had failed to meet the requirements.

The judge then considers the petition, and if satisfied, issues the order admitting the petitioner as advocate and solicitor of the High Court of Malaya. This is the ‘call to the Bar’ order.

Hence, the whole process is a formal court proceeding similar to any other court proceedings. The respect, formality and solemnity accorded to open court proceedings before the High Court equally applies to the Long Call proceedings.

Nothing less.

The Mover.

The Master cannot be the Mover. Why? He is an interested party since the petitioner was his pupil. He is put in ’embarrased’ or a ‘conflict of interest’ position by virtue of his proximity to the petitioner.

This is just like any other situations where solicitors are prohibited from appearing for a party or in matters where they could be put in a conflicted position. Any other solicitor maybe called upon to be the Mover and appear for the petitioner.

Who appoints the Mover?

This is the Master’s responsibility, not that of the pupil. There have been instances where pupils frantically call lawyers in town to be the Mover. I too have received such calls. When queried the pupils say that the Master had asked them to find a Mover. This really shouldn’t be happening.

It is the Master’s responsibility to secure a Mover. A Master who declines to do this, for whatever reasons, should take a hard look at himself.

There are also rumours of lawyers who are regular Movers and charges a fee. They have become the go-to lawyers for pupils desperate for a Mover. This really shouldn’t be so. Moving a call is an honour and a service to the Bar. It is not to be done for a fee.

The Speech.

The Mover’s speech is not a ‘speech’ at all. Far from it. It is in effect a submission on the merits of the petition. The Mover submits on the background of the petitioner, that the petitioner has met the requirements and worthy of being a member of the legal profession.

Sadly however, this submission has now often become a ‘thanksgiving speech’ on behalf of the petitioner to all and sundry. I have seen ‘speeches’ with endless gratitude and thanks galore to family members, friends, teachers, girlfriend/ boyfriend, court staff, office staff, even land office staff, and primary school teachers. However, very little is said about the lessons learnt during the pupillage and the aspiration for the future in the profession, much less an expression of commitment to adhere and uphold the values and ideals of the profession.

Such ‘thanksgiving speeches’ often become a cringe moment in court. And I always wondered why the Mover is allowing this to happen.

Whilst expression of gratitude to immediate family members, the Master and his associates who guided the pupil, the law faculty teachers and maybe even close friends are understandable, any ‘thanksgiving’ beyond that is really questionable and unnecessary. Such extraneous ‘thanksgiving speeches’ takes away the solemnity and significance of the proceedings. They should be reserved to be done elsewhere, but not in Court.

Hence the Master and especially the Mover should scrutinize the ‘speech’ more carefully to ensure it fits the proceedings instead of mouthing the script written by the pupil. After all, on record, it is the Mover’s words.

(On this, dear old Fahri Azzat seems to have the penchant, not to mention tenacity(!), to write very good Mover’s ‘speech’. He is also generous enough to share them on his social media. His speeches serve as a good guide for pupil and Movers. Look up on them!). Moving on.

The Order.

Following the submission by the Mover, the Bar and AGC representatives state their position, and if no objections, the Judge issues the Order, thus admits the pupil to the Bar.

The Robing.

Then comes the highlight for every pupil, more accurately ex-pupil by now. After issuing the order, the Judge, at the behest of the Mover, invites the Master to step forward to ‘robe’ the ex-pupil. The Master steps forward, mostly beaming with pride, and helps his ex-pupil to put on the brand new robe/gown, congratulates him and wishes him well at the Bar.

At that moment, turn around, and very often you will see parents, equally beaming with pride, some moved to tears seeing their prodigy standing there in the well of the court, in full regalia as the latest member of the honourable profession.

The ‘robing’ is to be done by the Master or in his absence, a member of the Bar with at least seven years in practice. The Bar Council ruling is clear on this.

Parents or family members cannot do the robing. There have been instances of the Court inviting the parents or family members to do the ‘robing’. This, whilst certainly done with good intentions, however, is not right. The ruling also makes sense as a new member should be welcomed and received by a member of that profession, not by a non-member.

So Masters must make every effort to attend their pupils call. It is their responsibility to do so. Otherwise, they fail their pupil. It also becomes a source of embarassment for the pupil when his Master is not present at the proceedings.

The Closing.

Then comes the next highlight. The Judge welcomes the new member to his Court and gives his speech. This normally consists of advice on ethics at the Bar, advocacy and the role of lawyers in the society.

In passing, the judge would often obliquely refer to some ‘bad’ examples observed in his court about lawyers and advices how this should have been avoided. Upon that the proceedings are closed. The Long Call is over.

In most courts, this is followed by light refreshments served at the pupil’s expense to those present and the judge is also invited personally by the new member and his ex-master.

Plenty of picture takings and bouquets presentation follows. The Mover is also usually given a token of appreciation by the ex-pupil. There is also the obligatory photo taking by the new member before the court building. You will see many of this pictures in the social media.

The Long Call is indeed a momentous occasion for every lawyer. It is recalled annually, nowadays by lawyers as call­-niversary or Bar-niversary!

The other most important moment is perhaps the reference proceedings held upon our passing, but then we are not there to savour it for obvious reason!

Hence it is important for the pupil and the Bar as a whole to respect and observe the solemnity and significance of Long Call proceedings as a cornerstone of every lawyer’s professional life.

R. JAYABALAN
Advocate & Solicitor
Johor Bahru

(2833)

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