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Malawi faces shortage of commercial lawyers

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Malawi Law Society (MLS) has admitted that the country has few lawyers who are conversant with knowledge in commercial transactions and has since warned that if not checked, it may lead to costly commercial litigation.

The MLS President, John Suzi-Banda said the private sector, which is the engine of the economy, cannot develop without a responsive and knowledgeable legal profession.

Suzi-Banda made the remarks on Friday at Hotel Victoria where about 50 lawyers attended a one-day training on drafting of commercial agreements.

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“The legal profession needs to have requisite depth and breadth of knowledge in commercial transactions. But Malawi has a serious gap because drafting of commercial agreements is highly specialised skills. Perhaps many of us [lawyers] have first degree only and most of these skills are not taught at that level.

“The impact of this gap is that people might find a lawyer attempting to draft a document which they may not be fully conversant with and may lead to costly commercial litigation,” he said adding that commercial litigation would usually slow down commerce.

He also said World Bank criteria of doing business is based on how effectively commercial legal disputes are sorted which means fewer legal disputes are better for the country.

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The MLS president also said that a well drafted commercial agreement goes a long way to ensuring that there are less commercial disputes.

Suzi-Banda said despite his organisation facing limited resources, they will continue to offer training programmes to lawyers to ensure that they are up-to-date with the current global trends in commercial transactions.

According to him, most lawyers cannot afford international training programmes that are offered in world financial centres and at regional financial capitals like Johannesburg and Nairobi.

“The good thing is that the few senior lawyers who are well conversant with drafting of commercial agreements are willing to make time to train young members of the bar in terms of how they can draft certain agreements,” he disclosed.

One of the lawyers Laika Nakanga of GK Associates said the training will help her in day to day drafting of commercial agreements.

“This is an opportunity for me to learn drafting [of commercial agreements] from people who are considered to be experts in the field. This information is extremely invaluable to me as it will help me in my day to day drafting of commercial agreements,” said Nakanga.

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