Malaysian Bar to persuade universities on common qualification for law grads

Malaysian Bar President George Varughese speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur March 18, 2017. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Malaysian Bar President George Varughese speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur March 18, 2017. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 — The Malaysian Bar today said it will seek to win over universities that disagreed with a proposed common qualification for those seeking to become lawyers in Malaysia.

George Varughese, who became the Malaysian Bar president today, said the professional body previously submitted its proposals for a Common Bar Course for all law graduates.

“These proposals are already there, the Bar has already submitted our proposals, but we will proceed to push forward these proposals and try to convince these public universities to see the benefits of having this Common Bar Course,” he told reporters here.

He said the Malaysian Bar felt the Common Bar Course is necessary to maintain high standards in the legal profession, adding that it still wishes to pursue the proposal that was also backed by the judiciary and the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

“So the process, although the public universities appear at this stage not to be with us in respect on the Common Bar Course, dialogues and discussions are ongoing on this matter,” he said.

When asked why the universities objected, George said he could not speak for them, but suggested that these may feel the Common Bar Course to be unnecessary and believe that their degrees and syllabuses to be sufficient to produce qualified lawyers.

He added that the proposal was not a slight on the quality of courses taught by universities, but to ensure minimum standards for aspiring lawyers.

In the Malaysian Bar’s annual report for the term 2016/2017, it said the Chief Justice and the Attorney-General as the Legal Qualifying Board chairman had jointly chaired a consultation meeting on the proposed Common Bar Course this February 17.

The consultation included public and private universities, private colleges that either offer law degrees or teach law as part of external or internal law degrees, it said.

While noting that the judiciary, Attorney-General’s Chambers all backed the proposal, the report said the universities and colleges were “as a whole” not supportive of the idea.

“Their concerns were vested in self-interest and they were not inclined to consider the Course. It would appear that the Government will have to proceed with the implementation of the Common Bar Course and compel participation, in the interest of improving the manner in which new entrants into the legal profession are trained,” the annual report said.

The Common Bar Course has long been mooted as a uniform entry point for all who seek to be a lawyer, and as a replacement for the Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP) exam that foreign law graduates and graduates of private institutions have to take.

Law graduates of public universities are exempt from taking CLP.

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