In Malaysia’s existing pool of professional graduates exists a large group who’ve completed their degrees in foreign universities. This holds particularly true for the legal field, among others.
While most would be forgiven for assuming that these graduates can immediately move on to practice after completing their LLB- that is not the case. Under Section 3 of the Legal Profession Act 1976, those law graduates will have to either complete the Certificate in Legal Practice, a.k.a the CLP (a Malaysian qualification), or the Bar Professional Training Course a.k.a BPTC (a U.K based Qualification) before kicking off their legal career as a Pupil-in-Chambers.
The choice between the CLP and the BPTC can seem daunting, with law graduates often pondering which path they should take to move forward in their legal career, and how their choice will impact them. Allow us to offer some insight into the options available, and their potential impact on your legal career.
Potential CLP and BPTC candidates are expected to meet certain academic requirements in order to qualify as candidates in the first place.
Students sitting for the CLP examinations are expected to have a minimum of 3 credits at SPM level (including passing your compulsory subjects such as BM and Sejarah), or GCE ‘O’ Level.
Following this, CLP candidates will also need a minimum of 2 principal passes at STPM level, GCE ‘A’ Level, or, more recently, a recognised foundation programme; and finally, to complete your law degree without failing/ retaking any of the 6 core law subjects.
The CLP is entirely exam based, with no assignments or practical sessions. In the one year period of the course, students will need study volumes on Malaysian Law, a whole new ballgame when compared to their degree syllabus.
While you will learn to understand the theory and application of law in your pre-U and degree classes, the CLP syllabus instead focuses on the application of Malaysian, rather than the UK based law.
This culminates in a three-hour long examination covering the 5 subjects of the course- Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Professional Practice, Evidence and the General Paper.
General consensus among the CLP alumnus on the best way to pass is to study hard, practice with past year questions, and hope for a bit of luck!
However, don’t be discouraged by potential difficulties and the time frame- being an advocate and solicitor is all about constant learning and determination.
The BPTC, on the other hand, is a mix of exams and practical assignments. Students will need to complete 8 compulsory modules and 2 elective subjects.
Students will also be given practical lessons in the form of live advocacy training- the better to prepare you for the work in the field. Exams will be both in written and practical form- giving you the chance to prepare for research and referencing, and to actively apply what you have learnt.
You will also need to attend at least 10 Qualifying Sessions at their chosen Inn of Court. These sessions will provide opportunities to develop professionally, and will also spark an opportunity to network among potential co-workers, or fellow members of the field.
Students of the BPTC will be given multiple chances to re-sit any failed papers, whereas students sitting for the CLP are given one opportunity to re-sit a failed subject paper- failing 2 or more subjects would result in needing to retake the entire exam from scratch.(Keep this?)
So, how does choosing between them impact your legal career? Well... it depends.
The practical exposure BPTC students receive often works in their favour as they get to polish their public speaking and advocacy skills. This and the constant interaction with classmates or inn mates, and practising client interactions also helps improve your professional confidence, which can go a long way in impressing legal partners during pupillage interviews.
Something to Consider
Planning ahead is better than panicking later on- start considering your options early on in your degree.
Consider your own preferred method of learning, and consider which learning system suits you better- practical (BPTC) or theory based learning (CLP)?
In doing so, do not forget to factor in other considerations, such as personal skills which need bolstering, e.g. public speaking, networking, memorisation, etc.
It is also wise to consider the financial aspects of the respective courses, given that as a UK-based programme, the BPTC is much more expensive than the CLP.
It may not be an easy choice to make, but take comfort from this- your decision is yours alone. There is no wrong choice- only what you feel works best for you.