Bid to reform legal education in M'sia

Shaila Koshy in Kuala Lumpur/The Star
Asia News Network

Kuala Lumpur (The Star/ANN) - The Attorney-General and Bar Council of Malaysia have agreed to set up a high-level task force to reform legal education because of their grave concern over the quality of law graduates.

"Both Attorney-General (Abdul) Gani (Patail) and I are extremely concerned about the quality of law graduates," said council chairman Lim Chee Wee.

"The council has come to this view because of the employability survey of new graduates and feedback from the Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP) examiners and evaluators of three local universities.

"The attorney-general's view is also based on the examiners' and evaluators' feedback, and because the attorney-general's chambers is the largest employer of local graduates," he said in an interview.

During his speech at the Opening of the Legal Year on Saturday, he disclosed that they had agreed to the setting up of a high-level task force to "review the state of legal education in Malaysia, and to recommend how to raise standards to a level of excellence".

"Whilst the top local lawyers are as good as, if not better than, those elsewhere in the region, the Bar is concerned with the standard of the average lawyer, which is largely dependent on the capability of the graduates from local and foreign institutions."

Gani is chairman of the Legal Profession Qualifying Board which administers the CLP and Lim is a member by virtue of his position as council chairman.

Asked whether the council had expressed its concerns to the public and private universities offering local and foreign law programmes before this, he replied: "We have done so privately, not officially."

Lim said most of the earlier meetings were about other concerns and the need to have a Common Bar Course (CBC).

"We will meet them specifically on this now."

As to whether the CLP would be abolished and the CBC introduced as the sole line of entry to the legal profession, he said: "The task force will work on a recognising institution for admission to the Bar."

"The CBC is part of the solution but it needs to be examined further."

On January 13, Sunday Star reported the overall pass rate for the CLP had plunged from 94.79 per cent at its inception in 1984 to 40.81 per cent last year, and that the survey showed a gap between what law firms wanted and the new lawyers they were getting and the wide disparity in the quality of the new entrants themselves.