PETALING JAYA: Putting a cap on the number of tries for a Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP) is a way to maintain the high standards expected of the legal profession.

Legal experts see it as a way to separate the good lawyers from the bad ones.

The Legal Profession Qualifying Board (LPQB) announced recently that a candidate is allowed only four attempts at getting a CLP to qualify as a legal practitioner.

Michelle Ling Shyan Mih of Gerakan Guaman Rakyat (a movement of lawyers, legal executives and legal activists who provide pro bono legal services to vulnerable communities) does not think there is a lot of difference even if the four-attempt cap is implemented.

“In any case, only 20% to 30% of CLP candidates get through the examination each year,” she told theSun. This year, 25% passed the examination.

Ling said the low passing rate reflected the high standard needed to make the cut. “This may be a way to limit the number of new lawyers going into private practice each year,” she said.

Ling said those who have exhausted all four attempts would have to abandon any hope of becoming a lawyer or go back to school to pursue a new degree.

“They can choose to do a Bar Professional Training Course in the United Kingdom or enrol in a public university that does not require students to sit for the CLP,” she said.

Instead of sitting for the CLP, law graduates from public universities undergo nine months of chambering at a law firm before they are called to the Bar.

A list of local universities where students are exempted from sitting for the CLP examination can be found on the LPQB website.

Enlight Malaysia legal director Yong Ke-Qin believes the limits are to filter out those who do not have the potential to continue in a career in legal practice. “This will ensure future legal practitioners meet the same high standards as current ones,” he told theSun.

Enlight Malaysia is an NGO that operates as a think tank and provides holistic training modules in the fields of law, engineering sciences, and economics.

Yong also raised what he described as a “loophole” in the rule that the LPQB should look into.

According to the rule, a candidate who is unable to make it for all papers must promptly notify the director of LPQB in writing, with sufficient justification.

“However, it is silent on a situation where the candidate is not available for only one paper. This lack of clarity is detrimental to candidates,” he added.

Some law students have described it as an “unwise move” while others say it would be unfair to those who have to miss just one paper due to unforeseen circumstances.

As an example, CLP candidate who gave her name as Sidhu cited the case of a student who was not allowed to take leave to attend to a family crisis. “If the student had missed the paper anyway, he would have had to re-sit all five papers at his next try,” Sidhu told theSun.

Another CLP candidate, M. Jay Raj, pointed out that in a CLP examination, a student’s knowledge of the law is tested, but not his capabilities as a future advocate.

He said instead of limiting the number of attempts, it would be more sensible to have the candidates tested on a combination of their theoretical knowledge and their capabilities in practical situations.

“That would be a better way to screen out incompetent lawyers.”