Wednesday January 16, 2013
The certificate isn’t the only thing
The Star Says
FOR law graduates without the necessary qualifications to be called to the Malaysian Bar direct, the Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP) examination remains a formidable final hurdle that has to be cleared.
Judging by the latest revelation about the plunging passing rate, the outlook looks rather grim for those who have to sit for the exam the first time, and also for those who have to resit certain papers repeatedly to make the grade.
But the bigger issue is not about the low passing grade. The CLP, after all, is just one of the entry points towards full admission to the Bar.
While it has served its purpose to ensure that graduates from non-qualified institutions are armed with sufficient legal knowledge from a procedural and practical aspect, it does not necessarily equip them with the rudimentary legal skills.
With more than 1,000 law graduates entering the legal profession every year, there is, as rightfully pointed out by a senior lawyer, “no common evaluation system to ascertain and ensure their levels of competence”.
Which is why a recent employability survey conducted by the Bar Council has thrown up areas of concern with regard to the quality of our lawyers, including even those who are not required to sit for the CLP.
One of the survey findings, for example, stated that law firms would rather employ those with a foreign law degree than a local one, including even those without a CLP.
This is mainly because these graduates rank high in terms of their written and oral language skills and proficiency in English.
This is a familiar story and extends to other disciplines as well. It is clear that what many universities are churning out are graduates who will have difficulty finding work because they lack the right kind of skills that the market requires.
And in certain disciplines, like law and medicine, for example, we cannot ignore the warning signs about declining standards and quality because the lives of people are in their hands.
Being qualified on paper is just one aspect of the big picture, especially for professions where many of the skills are honed in real-life situations, provided the basic skills are already there.
And the legal fraternity is in agreement that the problems include “lack of proficiency in English, poor communications skills and poor legal knowledge”.
These are vital skills in an increasingly global environment where our lawyers will eventually have to compete with their counterparts in and out of the country.
The disturbing trend in the CLP passing rate should give all stakeholders the impetus to explore the state of legal education in Malaysia.