CLP Exams for 2021 should be conducted safely and soon
It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic had severely impacted several groups from progressing forward in the next stage of their career by hindering national examinations from being held physically, amongst others, are the candidates of the Certificate of Legal Practice (‘CLP’) or the “Peperiksaan Sijil Amalan Guaman (‘PSAG[GSG1] ’)” examinations which consist of 1500 to 2000 candidates each year. The CLP or PSAG examinations are a pre-requisite for candidates to be admitted as an Advocate & Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya and/or Sabah and Sarawak.
As of the 17th of July 2021, the Legal Profession Qualifying Board (‘LPQB’) had merely announced that the CLP or PSAG examinations for batch 2021 are expected to be held between the months of, subject to the approval National Security Council (‘NSC’), February 2022 to April 2022 without any indication of an exact date.
Undoubtedly, it is exceedingly unfair to the CLP or PSAG candidates for batch 2021 (‘Batch 2021’) as they are left in the dark with neither confirmation of the exact date of their CLP or PSAG examinations nor updates on any progress made thereof. We propose the following measures be taken to help find a resolution to this problem: –
- The Legal Profession Qualifying Board (LPQB) should proposed its own Standard Operation Process (SOPs) for organizing the exam and for students to take the exam rather than having to wait for the National Security Council (NSC) to decide the SOPs. As more and more adults in Malaysia are fully vaccinated, physical exams should be able to be conducted subject to strict SOPs. If 400,000 students were allowed to sit for physical SPM exams in February 2021 during MCO 2.0 and when the national vaccination program hasn’t even started yet, it should not be that challenging to arrange for a physical exam for 2000 students or less.
2. The Malaysian Bar Council and private institutions of higher learning should play a more active role in advocating the cause of the CLP students and the CLP program more generally. Although these CLP students are not yet members of the Malaysian bar, a certain portion of them will qualify to be called to the Malaysian bar and will work for legal firms. There is no reason as to why the Bar Council cannot take a more proactive role in advocating for the rights of those who are taking their CLP exams. At the same time, a few institutions of higher learning which offer law degrees and also CLP programs should also advocate for these students who have studied law and want to qualify to be called to the Bar as lawyers. They should also take a more proactive position to advocate for the need for their students to take the CLP as soon as possible in a safe and responsible manner.
3. Finally, all of the stakeholders should come together to discuss the possibility of having hybrid / online exams for the CLP. In 2020, the Rules of Court 2012 had been amended to embrace remote communication technology and this had allowed proceedings in Court to be conducted online [3.]. Similarly, the LPQB ought to make sense of the new normal and welcome the possibility for the CLP or PSAG examinations to be held online with safeguards such as e-Procotoring  being implemented. If there are concerns that the structure of the current examinations relies primarily on rote learning and memorization, which is not suitable for online examinations, then there should be serious consideration on the need to change the structure of the CLP exams.
The relevant stakeholders cannot just sit back and wait for another year to pass. More proactive measures need to be discussed now so that the welfare and careers of the 2021 batch of CLP students are not jeopardized further.