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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Common Bar Examination - a unified system for all



We are writing this in furtherance to the letter published on The Star Online yesterday and some news in Mandarin pertaining to this matter for ourselves and on behalf of our peers pertaining to the recent amendments to Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP) Examination Rulings which set the time limit and attempts for CLP Examination.
The recent amendments to the Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP) Examination Rulings which take effect immediately and retrospectively have affected many of the foreign law graduates.
Legal system/Judiciary is a foundation and cornerstone to a country whereas legal personnel are the pioneers of the society. The quality of the judges and lawyers in a country is of utmost importance as they certainly have the ability to make a country great.
This is nonetheless in line with the purpose and intent of the Malaysian Bar in which the Malaysian Bar is to uphold the cause of justice without regard to its own interests or that of its members, uninfluenced by fear or favour, to maintain and improve the standards of conduct and learning of the legal profession in Malaysia, etc.
In Malaysia, in order to be called to the Malaysian Bar as an Advocate & Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya:
  • For those local law graduates such as the law graduates from public local universities, eg Universiti Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and also private local universities, eg Multimedia University, they have to first complete the course Bachelor of Laws thereafter complete nine months chambering period. They do not have to undergo the Professional Examination in Malaysia namely CLP Examination; and
     
  • For those foreign law graduates such as the law graduates from well-established universities from United Kingdom and Australia including but not limited to University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University of London, etc, they have to first complete the course Bachelor of Laws thereafter the Professional Examination in Malaysia namely CLP Examination and then have to complete nine months chambering period.
For those foreign law graduates who can afford it, they could bypass and take the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in the United Kingdom without undergoing the Professional Examination in Malaysia namely CLP Examination; for many foreign law graduates (mostly pursuing external programme) who cannot afford it, they have no choice but to sit for the CLP Examination.
Of course, there are reasons why the foreign law graduates pursued their Bachelor of Laws with the universities from United Kingdom at the initial stage as the common law system which is currently adopted in Malaysia originated from the United Kingdom.
It is important to always go back to the origin to understand better about the common law system, the historical developments, etc and now, the foreign law graduates are here in this motherland and wish to practice as a lawyer in Malaysia. With the study of English Laws and Malaysian Laws, it will constitute a combination which enables them to bring some improvements to the beloved country.
Puzzled by the following
One may say, “If you wish to play the game, you shall follow the rule” but for those foreign law graduates like us, a lot of time we are puzzled by and weary of the following:
1. We understand that the CLP Examination is complete waste of time (please note the letter published on Malaysiakini website some 10 years ago by one Fahri Azzat as it is pure memorisation without having taught us the advocacy skills, the manner of addressing the court etc, notwithstanding the aforementioned, CLP Examination is the only key for us to open the door, to fulfil our dream to become a lawyer, even though it is tough (one has to repeat all five papers if he or she failed two papers and above), with ‘less’ transparency, with low passing rate (an average passing rate of approximately 30 percent or lower per annum), like making us hit the water, no grumble from us and what we could do is to keep trying and trying until we pass the CLP Examination. We learn not to give up and we have to kneel to fulfil our dream from CLP Examination.
2. With due respect to the qualifications and quality of the local law graduates, sometimes we would feel it is imbalanced for us, the foreign law graduates who have to undergo the Professional Examination namely the CLP Examination before we could be called to the Malaysian Bar and practice in Malaysia, while the local law graduates are exempted from taking the said Professional Examination.
It is crucial to draw a comparison to the other jurisdictions such as in United Kingdom, the law graduates from University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, etc have to undergo BPTC if they wish to practice as a Barrister and the Legal Practicing Certificate (LPC) if they intend to practice as a Solicitor; whereas in Hong Kong SAR, the law graduates from United Kingdom Universities, Hong Kong Universities, etc have to undergo the Postgraduate Certificate in Laws (PCLL) before they could either practice as a Barrister or a Solicitor.
Prior to the recent amendments to the CLP Examination Rulings, one can have unlimited sitting for CLP Examination and they have to pay RM4,000.00 to re-register themselves after they have exhausted all four attempts throughout the years.
With the recent amendments to the CLP Examination Rulings, the foreign law graduates could only sit for four attempts during four consecutive years and if at all they have exhausted all four attempts or upon the expiry of four years from the date of registration, whichever comes first, that’s it for them and they will be barred from sitting for CLP Examination forever.
Ending their dream
This undoubtedly ends their dream to become a lawyer in Malaysia until and unless they have the monies to further take the BPTC which costs about RM150,000.00.
The recent amendments which have retrospective effect would certainly make the life of foreign law graduates more and more difficult. It will definitely affect those group who have just exhausted all four attempts and wish to re-register themselves for Main CLP Examination 2017. It will also give more stress to third timers who are going to sit for Main CLP Examination 2017 as it is the last chance for them to earn the key - the key to open the door to become a lawyer.
It has also affected those innocent group who registered themselves with LPQB some years ago, they stopped a while from continuing to take CLP Examination perhaps to further the course Master of Laws, Master in Business Administration, to gain working experience and/or to seek temporary peace of mind after they have exhausted few attempts as the said Examination is stressful as elaborated above and frankly, four attempts are not much.
One could only understand us if and only if they step into our shoes.
At this moment, we are helpless and weak. What we could do is to appeal against the recent amendments to CLP Examination Rulings seeking reinstatement of the former CLP Examination Rulings prior to the recent amendments.
At the same time moving forward, it would be grateful if the government of Malaysia could relook into the implementation of Common Bar Examination which was proposed during Zaid Ibrahim’s time as law minister - a fairer unified professional examination system that applies across to all local and foreign laws graduates.
The aim behind this is to raise the standard and quality of legal system / judiciary in Malaysia whereby every law graduate is subject to the same professional examination regardless where he or she is graduated from. There is a maxim that “Not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done”.-Mkini

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