Zaid Ibrahim’s suit against former law firm goes to trial

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The Kuala Lumpur High Court today dismissed legal firm Zaid Ibrahim and Co’s application to strike out a suit by former minister in the prime minister’s department Mohd Zaid Ibrahim to stop the firm from using his name in legal practice and to demand the return of the firm’s name.

NST

Judge Ahmad Bache ruled it was not fit and proper to dispose of the case based on the pleadings and affidavit evidence alone.

In the ruling made available to the media, Justice Ahmad said the court had perused all the affidavits and was satisfied that both parties were at variance on many issues, as there are many conflicting facts between them.

“Hence, a trial should be conducted whereby witnesses will be called to give voice evidence. They can be examined, cross-examined and re-examined. The striking out application by the defendant is hereby dismissed with no order as to costs,” he said in his decision made through an email, today.

The judge also rejected Zaid’s request for an interim injunction to bar the law firm from using his name for the practice, pending disposal of his suit.

Ahmad said the plaintiff can still set up his own firm under a different style and name as he “wanted back his name” although without the “and Co”, for example, “Zaid Ibrahim and Associates” or “The Chambers of Zaid Ibrahim”.

“The plaintiff never provided evidence he will be facing difficulty in obtaining work if he is unable to use the name of Zaid Ibrahim and Co. In fact, there is no evidence adduced by the plaintiff taking any steps to start a law firm.

“The plaintiff also did not display any urgency in restraining the firm from using his name, as he only filed this action recently, after sitting on it for a long period,” he said.

The judge said the court had earlier held that after Zaid sold his remaining shares in the firm in 2008, not only did he cease to be a partner, but he had no more interest in the defendant.

Therefore, he said that as not being a partner to the firm, the plaintiff had no rights to its assets, including goodwill.

Ahmad further said if the injunction was granted, it would affect the livelihood of many individuals working with the firm, namely 250 personnel, including partners, lawyers and staff, and this would also have an adverse impact on the anchor firm Zico Law, an Asean network of law firms.

The judge said as the largest law firm in Malaysia, the defendant also at any given time held large sums of money as stakeholders, which included the sale of the infamous Equanimity yacht.

“Such is the level of confidence in the firm that if the injunction is granted, there will be huge potential loses to the firm monetarily, and to its goodwill and reputation, which the plaintiff would not be able to compensate,” he said before setting August 17 for case management.

Zaid was represented by Malik Imtiaz Sarwar while Tommy Thomas appeared for the firm.

On November 24 last year, Zaid filed the writ of summons and statement of claim against the firm to stop it from using his name in legal practice and to demand the return of the firm’s name, besides seeking an injunction to restrain the defendant from using his name in any form or style as the name of the firm.

Meanwhile, the firm, in a statement, said they welcomed the decision and would continue its business as usual.

The statement added that the firm never disputed the plaintiff’s right to set up his own law firm with his own name under a different style.