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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Four-year rule for CLP is absurd, childish and uncalled for



The Legal Profession Qualifying Board released a statement on Dec 21, 2016, that it has amended the rules with regard to the limitation in the number of attempts that a student may sit for the Certificate of Legal Practice (CLP) examination.
It is absurd that the board has decided that students will be limited to a four-year period to complete their CLP.
The sole purpose the CLP was established is so that students who can’t afford to do their Bar in the UK could still become practising lawyers in Malaysia, via the CLP examination. However, the exam has now become a huge burden for students in order to qualify to become a lawyer.
I have been pursuing for a Common Bar Examination for the past 10 years in Parliament, yet the Legal Profession Qualifying Board chose to keep silent about it, and to date has not taken any step to esnure that this happens.
Even in the UK, when a student studies either in Oxford University or a polytechnic, all of them have to go through the same BPTC exam to become a barrister. Yet here, local universities have different exams, semi-government universities have different exams, and then there is the CLP for foreign law graduates. Where is the uniformity in this?
How is the board ensuring that every student, prior to starting his or her pupillage, has the same quality? Isn’t that what the board is supposed to ensure? The quality of the students?
The board should realise that, till to date, none of the chairpersons has qualified via the CLP examination. Making decisions in air-conditioned rooms without knowing the real effect of their decision on students is outright childish.
How many students come from difficult families who have to work part-time and pursue this CLP exam - and suddenly now all their dreams have been dashed, without even a reasonable notice.
The attorney-general (AG), being the chairperson of the board, has to answer on the rationale for this decision.
Is the AG implying that local law graduates who evidently don’t have to repeat their examinations many times as compared to the CLP, who mainly are working people, are on par with or better then CLP graduates?
Is he implying that just students are not qualified just because they repeat a professional paper many times?
The AG should be reminded that many great lawyers have sat for their exams numerous times, notably the late Karpal Singh being one of them. Entry for the non-bumiputera in local universities is limited.
The greater majority of aspiring lawyers don’t get into local universities and this is their only way into the profession. However, now it seems like a roadblock for many of those who don’t get into local universities.
The board has done nothing in the past 30-odd years or so to make the exam more practical, like the UK Bar, and many will agree with me that this exam is nothing more than a memorisation marathon, rather than a practical professional exam.
This also, in no way, means that local graduates are of no quality. The playing ground is tilted highly towards the local graduates, compared to students who sit for the CLP.
I come from a cow-herding family, and subsequently have been a lawyer for more then 33 years and an MP. I understand the plight of many students who don’t come from a fortunate background but yet have aspiring dreams to become a lawyer.
It is shameful that the board has not proven to make any attempt to improve the quality of all law graduates equally, but all it has done is get more and more stringent rules for students sitting for the CLP exam.
I will bring this matter up in Parliament in the next sitting and I hope that, by then, the board will make a rationale decision to improve the quality of all law graduates.

M KULASEGARAN, a practising lawyer, is the MP for Ipoh Barat and DAP national vice-chairperson.- Mkini

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