Jun 15, 2017

New format for CLP exam puts law grads in a spot


EXCLUSIVE: PETALING JAYA: Lecturers and students are up in arms over a last-minute format change to the crucial Certificate of Legal Practice (CLP) examination, which will determine the future of more than 1,000 aspiring lawyers.

With less than two months before the examination in August, notice of the change in format for the Criminal Procedure paper was posted on the Legal Profession Qualifying Board’s portal only on May 25, although the board decided on it almost six months earlier, on Dec 7 last year.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali said he was disappointed with the last-minute notice and would take action.

Datuk Baljit Singh Sidhu, an adjunct professor with a private college in Kuala Lumpur, said students were puzzled by the board’s delay in announcing the change.

“The CLP examination is one of the toughest examinations a law graduate will ever face, yet they only got to know of the change two months before the examination,” he told The Star.

Previously, candidates could answer their choice of four out of seven questions in the Criminal Procedure paper. This year, they must answer one compulsory question and three others of their choosing.

Baljit, who has written several books on criminal procedure, said students were also not informed of the nature of the compulsory question or how much weight it would carry in the final tally.

“We have sought clarification from the board, but to no avail,” he said.

Brickfields Asia College managing director and senior lecturer Raja Singham said it was unfair to students.

He said the board should at least provide a sample of the new format or an indication of which area the question would come from.

“I have received numerous calls and messages from worried students,” he added.

Most students interviewed in the Klang Valley, George Town and Ipoh are not happy about the short notice as it has affected their preparations.

Some of them also feel that guidelines on the new format would help them be mentally prepared.

A 26-year-old CLP candidate, who wished to be known only as Christine, said she was taken aback by the change.

“The board does not notify us and it is left to us to keep track of announcements on its portal.

“Fortunately, a college mate spotted the notice last week and alerted me,” she said, adding that news of the change spread quickly.

Christine, who is making her second attempt at the CLP examination, said students had no idea how to approach the paper, as the Criminal Procedures part of their studies is 30 chapters long.

Candice, another candidate, said she was very nervous because this would be her third try.

“The last-minute change means more pressure, especially on those like me who are resitting,” said Candice, 25.

She added that many of her college-mates just did not know what to expect now.

Sit Jie Hao, 29, said he and his friends were unhappy at first but at this point, they realised there was nothing much they could do except to enhance their knowledge by reading up on court news.

Lim Wei Xeng, 24, said: “I do not think any CLP student with a sound mind would be happy. While the format change may be a good thing, I am not happy with the short notice and lack of information.”

Denise Anastasia, 24, said she and her friends were in a panic as they were unsure what the compulsory question was going to be like, and the last-minute format change was “very stressful”.

Ritchie, 25, said reading law was already demanding enough, and with some students having to work part-time, being told of changes at the last minute only gave them more stress.

Overseas law graduates who hold recognised law degrees or LLBs are required to take the CLP examination which comprises Civil Procedure, General Paper, Criminal Procedure, Professional Practice and Evidence.

Candidates must pass all five papers in one sitting but are given up to four attempts to obtain their CLP, depending on how they perform.

The overall pass rate for the CLP examination has plunged from 94.79% at its inception in 1984 to over just 40% in recent years.

In March, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said told Parliament that the Government did not set any quota on the number of CLPs to be issued annually.

She also told lawmakers that there were proposals to introduce a common Bar examination for all law graduates. The Malaysian Bar currently has 17,000 members.

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