Low Passing Rate for the Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP) Exam
Article written by K. Parkaran -July 19, 2022 7:00 AM from Free Malaysia Today website
The 2021 Certificate in Legal Practice examination results was released and less than 20% (or 219) of the estimated 1,400 law graduates who sat for the exam obtained full passes. A total of 227 managed a conditional pass. This means they failed only one of the five subjects which they are allowed to re-sit three times.
If students fail the fourth time, they will not have the opportunity to become lawyers as the Legal Profession Qualifying Board (LPQB) allows them to sit for the examination a maximum of four times in five years.
According to an article in Free Malaysia Today it is reported that only about 20% of the candidates seem to pass every year. The sad part is hundreds of budding lawyers have been finding themselves in this conundrum every year since the 1980s when the CLP was first introduced. There could be tens of thousands who have not been able to practise law because of this requirement.
Their years of hard work and the huge amounts of money spent on the law courses and examinations have gone to waste. They have to be content with looking for other jobs or remain as paralegal staff.
Law graduates from public universities and one government-linked institution are exempted from the CLP exam as the subject is said to be incorporated into the syllabus. All other graduates, whether from local or foreign private universities, must pass the CLP before they are allowed into chambers to begin legal practice.
However, surprisingly there is one exception. Those with the English Bar Practice Course (BPC) certificates obtained in the United Kingdom are allowed to go into chambers as pupils.
This despite the fact that there is zero content about the Malaysian legal system, practice and procedures in the English Bar courses.
Why then are graduates of foreign universities and private law courses required to take the CLP because their courses lack a Malaysian element, while those with the BPC are allowed to do their internship in Malaysia.
This, I believe, is a valid question.
Ask any lawyer and they will tell you the CLP is a much dreaded exam because of the intensive study involved and the tough examination, not to mention the high failure rate.
Many are calling for the mode of the CLP exam to be reviewed and the maximum four times to be removed.
Archaic syllabus and high failure rate
Lawyers say that the high failure rate is linked to the archaic syllabus and highly academic-oriented examination, with no practical training element at all. And of course they suspect there is a quota.
“It’s queer that despite passing a rigorous examination at overseas universities, many fail at CLP when compared to the near 100% passes at similar legal practice subjects in the syllabus at local public universities,” says senior lawyer SN Nair.
“Does this mean that the legal practice subjects in the local public universities, which are part of the four-year course similar in content with CLP, are easier papers to pass or if the examiners are more lenient?”
Or is it that the CLP is of a much higher standard resulting in the consistent low percentage of passes? This anomaly has given rise to much unwarranted speculation.
One certainly hopes that this is not the case but can you blame people for coming to this conclusion? Certainly not, if you look at how some good candidates keep failing the exam.
Common Bar professional examination
For this and many other reasons, many lawyers feel that the government should seriously consider having a common Bar professional examination to replace the CLP for all law graduates whether from abroad or local public and private universities.
Nair said this will provide for a level playing field and will remove all speculation.
“The public universities should also cut their degree programmes to a three-year LLB course. Then students should sit for, just like the overseas degree holders, the standard CLP papers set by the LPQB,” he says.
CLP needs a rigorous revamp
Under the circumstances which seems to be frustrating many budding lawyers, there is a serious need to revamp the CLP syllabus and content, similar to the Singapore or English models which are diverse, dynamic and involve many practical elements.
It should include compulsory internship for two months in a law firm in tandem with locally recognised institutions, based on a syllabus drawn up by the LPQB.
“This should culminate in the requirement for a common written exam with equal weightage given to all components and not like the current five papers in the CLP which is moribund and clearly outdated,” says Nair.
In short, the CLP appears to be an exam aimed at failing the students, and thus keeping the number of lawyers in the country in check, not one that facilitates and helps those with law degrees practise the profession.