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By JYOTI PRATIBHA
The local market is now open for foreign legal firms to operate in Fiji.
This was one of the amendments approved by Cabinet last week.
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum while announcing the amendment on Friday said having foreign law firms operating in Fiji would open the market for competition, provide wide range of legal services, much needed mentoring and opportunities for younger local lawyers.
“What we have seen in services provided by the law firms, in particular for commercial and corporate work, there are only one or two law firms which do a lot of what is seen as complex work.
“Their rates at times are far more then hiring a lawyer from Australia and New Zealand at times,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said there was a tendency amongst local lawyers to charge on the percentage of the transaction as opposed to the work that they have to do.
“We have seen, for example, that Australian or New Zealand firms who are hired charge by the hour irrespective of whether it is a $100 million transaction or a $1m transaction.
“In Fiji, there is a tendency for lawyers to vary their rates according to the amount of money involved in the transaction,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
By allowing a foreign law firms to come and operate in Fiji, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said what Government intends to do is to provide the business community a wider range of lawyers to choose from.
“What you would also see is that law firms that come in will hire local people, local lawyers, train them and bring best international practices.
“At the moment there is not much mentoring and training for junior lawyers.
By removing the restrictions on foreign law firms Government is providing a much wider range of choices for clients in Fiji and it also ties up well with Government’s agenda to create Fiji as hub for commercial and financial activity.
Also, law firms in the country can now advertise their services.
“Up till now, law firms could not advertise but now they can even sponsor events. This is placing the legal fraternity into a modern platform.”
The amendment is expected to come into effect soon.