IN our country, being a lawyer is governed by the Legal Profession Act 1976 in Peninsular Malaysia, the Advocates Ordinance of Sabah Cap 2 in Sabah, and the Advocates Ordinance of Sarawak Cap 110 in Sarawak.
In Peninsular Malaysia, such a person would be referred as advocate and solicitor and in Sabah and Sarawak as advocate.
How much money do you need to become a lawyer? A reader, having done a foundation course in a local institution, was told that he needed to do the third year in Britain. Not only that, he would not be eligible to enrol for the Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP) but would also have to do the Bar Examinations there.
This means another two years abroad and RM250,000 at least, with possibly more to be paid what with the higher pound sterling or lower ringgit. In the meantime, RM70,000 or more will have to be paid for the foundation course for the two years study which is done locally. Thus the reader faces a situation where he either finds the money or gives up the idea of becoming a lawyer.
At a time of the year, when Form 5 students are heading for the end-of-year examinations and will need to make career choices.
It would be useful for such people and the parents to understand the scenario so that they can avoid the plight of the reader.
One does not need RM300,000 or more to embark upon or complete their law studies and to become a lawyer. What should you do?
After having passed the Form 5 examination with the appropriate grades, ensure that any pre-university course enrolled for is widely recognised. This is because foundation courses, with rare exceptions, restrict the choice of a university where the degree course can be pursued.
To start with, enrol for Form 6 in the national school system to obtain your STPM. You can stay at home and need only a very modest sum to pay certain fees or contributions which would, in most cases, amount to a few hundred ringgit. It may delay moving to university level a little, but what is the hurry when you consider the money that you can save.
This is because the A Level course and foundation programme may set you back RM15,000 or so. Many students are also inclined to bypass Form 6 because other friends are doing so.
However, losing a few months or a year is no big deal. If you have done Form 6, your pre-university studies would almost be for a song and with wider acceptance.
Next, you can choose to do a recognised law degree from a foreign university which will cost you in the region of RM45,000 to RM70,000. All this, which is being done locally would also save on living costs. This is especially when one lives in or near a large town.
With such a degree in hand, preceded either by a Form 6 Qualification or A Levels, the person would be entitled to enrol for and work towards obtaining the CLP conducted by the Legal Profession Qualification Board where fees and related expenses to complete the entire process would come to between RM4,000 and RM5,000.
What I have described is the route through obtaining a qualification from British universities or Australian and New Zealand universities, whether all the studies are done locally or part of the studies are done locally and part are done in a foreign country.
However, there is another route that one could take, by enrolling for the course which is made available by the University of Malaya Faculty of Law through the external degree programme of Bachelor of Jurisprudence.
This course can be done over a minimum period of three years, but must be completed within seven years. Just like the degree conferred by a foreign university where all the studies are being done locally or partly locally or partly aboard, it confers a qualification which enables the student to register for and pursue the CLP until successful completion and become a lawyer.
This is not in any way to deprecate those who have chosen to spend time overseas.
Some people say that this makes a better person and, some say, even a better lawyer. However, this is all a matter of perception and the character of the person involved.
When all the student’s studies are done locally there is also the added advantage of minimal or lower living costs for the duration of the studies.
Of course if one is supported by a full-fledged scholarship or parents or benefactors with deep pockets, money is of little or no importance. But not everyone will find himself in such a situation in our country.
If the cost is indeed RM300,000 or RM400,000, those who want to become lawyers may just give up the idea. That would be a pity.
Thus what has been set out above is to show the path to becoming a lawyer for those who may not have big money. They need not give up on doing law.
For those with less money, the ambition could still be achieved with a combination of family savings, available loan facilities and also a little help from friends and relatives. Bhag Singah The STAR Columnist 24 September 2015