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Survivor: CLP Edition

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

The annual passing rate for the examination is between 10% and 20%.” reports Free Malaysia. A nine-month course rigorous in its examination, ensuring only the most competent, versatile, qualified Law graduate goes forth to represent our nation as a lawyer, defending in the name of Justice and Integrity.

Certificate of Legal Practice, this is the examination all Law understudies deliberates upon. Better known as the unnerving (CLP), it is a postgraduate course compulsory for students intending to gain admission into the Malaysian Bar as a qualified advocate and solicitor. This examination is conducted by the Legal Profession Qualifying Board and regulated by the Legal Profession Act 1976 (Act 166).

Throughout the years since its establishment, it has remained with the same average passing rates. As the examination calls for a multitude of skills equipped, this is an examination not to be underestimated.

Running in line with CLP is the BPC exam, the Bar Practice Course is the UK based required vocational element to be undertaken for law graduates to be named and practise as barristers in England and Wales. As Malaysia was once a British colony, much of our Law follows the English as scripted in Civil Law Act 1956 Part II of Section 3. Hence there has always been a dilemma, a carousel of disarray between the two alternatives on our platter, as to its distinction, the structure and its offer.

From a small Chinese vernacular primary school (SJK(C) Puay Chai 2) and a public secondary school (SMK Bandar Sri Damansara 1), Kong Zhi Shong set forth to undertake the daunting CLP in 2019 at Brickfields Asia College. Currently a pupil in chambers at Shearn Delamore & Co, he described that,

‘all the “horror stories” about the CLP: the heavy syllabus load, the low passing rates, the arbitrariness of exam question trends and examiner expectations - like almost all rumours, there is a considerable amount of truth behind it.'

The structure for BPC includes a further accentuation through practical work, with numerous activities based on briefs similar to those that barristers receive in the early stages of their career. Its examination further varies between advocacy and conference skills tested through practical exercises involving actors and both seen and concealed components. A new implementation additionally permits understudies to consider four courses to qualification rather than one.

Whereas CLP, a 100% exam-based structure with 9 subject areas spanning across 5 exam papers still remain as a choice for Zhi Shong, as he further states:

"In such a case that your anxiety with the CLP is whether, contrasted with the BPC, it can set you up for your future calling by conferring in you fundamental aptitudes and information, the appropriate response is that it is a mixed bag. From one viewpoint, studying purely for exams is a poor way to develop actual legal skills, but the fact that your syllabus is the law that you will frequently encounter in legal practice is extremely helpful. It’s what you do with what you’re given that matters in the end; you can still develop your legal skills under the CLP if you see your syllabus as not only cases and facts to be memorised and regurgitated for exams, but information to be converted into useful practice.”

Moreover, the money spent for BPC can be a hefty sum, CLP will command a lower burden as the fees for BPC can tally up to 90,000 ringgit just for course materials, exam fees and learning resources. It will definitely cost you a further 25,000 ringgit for matters such of accommodation, transportation, and food. Considering that your examination is conducted 10,576km away from Malaysia in the United Kingdom. The fees for BPC are in GBP as well, which fluctuates depending on our currency exchange rates and its cost likewise increases every year. Meanwhile, enrollment in a local college that offers CLP classes costs only 15,000 ringgit, which is less than a quarter of the amount payable to the BPC examination and the registration fees paid to the LPQB amount to a mere 4,000 ringgit only.

Zhi Shong further comes in terms with the difficulty of CLP by sharing his experience with not passing the CLP in the first attempt.

“Out of the 5 exam papers, I passed 4 and failed 1, which is a “Conditional Pass”. This indicates, I alongside 300 other CLP candidates had to take a referral assessment around 3 weeks after the release of results. Once that phase was completed, I officially and entirely graduated from CLP.”

Henceforth to state,

CLP exam is hard, and a very good case can be made that it is an unfair challenge, but it isn’t insurmountable.”

Be that as it may, this does not infer a simpler go with BPC as the standard benchmark is raised on a consecutive year. BPC alongside the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) that must be passed prior was increased by 10% in 2017 with BCAT from 37 to 45 as of 2017 and BPTC was further raised from 50% to 60%.

Thus many has pursued CLP with the mentality that at the very least,

‘Failing CLP exam would cost me a lesser sum in terms of money invested.’

All things considered, Zhi Shong, one who has been in our shoes and walked the phase of life, like every passerby, has a tale of his own to share. Zhi Shong speaks of his experience symbolic; like a plunge into the waterfall. In this manner, he further shared his best tips in hopes for candidates, wherever, may be more prepared for the upcoming challenge,

1. Attend as many lectures and tutorial sessions as you can. Lecturers are an invaluable resource because they have absorbed the trial and error of the past generations and dispense upon you to minimise your mistakes.

2. Obviously, take notes during class to make sure that you capture the exact point / principle that the lecturer is attempting to convey, instead of half-remembering a garbled version of it. If your note-taking abilities are not up to par with the pace of a lecture, bring a recording device.

3. Take your notes and condense them further into bite-sized pieces. This can be flash cards, case lists, topic summaries, etc; the point is the process of making these further notes is training you to be more familiar with the content and structure of your syllabus. Plus, you’ll get handy notes you can easily refer to during the tense and desperate days leading up to the actual exam dates.

4. Practice past year questions. Get an idea of the speed and time-management you have to master in order to effectively demonstrate your legal knowledge during the 3 hours of the exam.

Since beginning his chambering experience, Zhi Shong is currently in the midst of transitioning to become a Master (a qualified lawyer). With an expansive extent of experience, he advises law understudies to truly consider their reasons for opting for this course. Because at the very end of the day - this is a choice for a lifetime.

Six figures or more, the financial promise of legal practice is never worth the emotional torture you’ll be putting yourself through for the rest of your life. Particularly if it was never the course you decided upon.

Subsequent stages were fairly hard on Zhi Shong considering he had never settled on this course,

‘Textual analysis of English Literature is the path that called upon me. Don't take the CLP (or the Bar exams for that matter) if your heart is not set into legal practice as a career. Fraid not of your peers or elders’ conventional pressure into “taking the practical choice instead of your idealistic option”. I would recommend that you figure it out for yourself quickly. Perhaps pursue a personal hobby / interest of yours outside law, or have an honest conversation about it with people you trust.’

Because there would not be a question of the ‘next step’ once you have found the passion you completely desire for. As every step is just another satisfactory fulfillment to the final dream destination of yours.

Time spent chasing money is wasted and never prompts happiness. Time spent reaching each component of achievement towards your desired profession always leads to a progressively joyful, fulfilled life.

Because as Joseph Campbell once said,

“The person who takes a job that is to say, for the money - only turns himself into a slave.”

Lexicon congratulates Zhi Shong on his remarkable passes in CLP and wishes only the best for his future endeavours. Thank you sincerely for the time taken to provide the insightful interview.

To end, this quote will best sum his morales:

Chase your passions and money will be sure to come. Chase money and you may never find your passions.

- Colin Wright

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