Earlier this month, the Bar Council of India came out with the new Certificate of Practice and Renewal Rules, 2014 which mandate that an advocate must complete at least two years of practice before the trial courts or three years before a high court in India if they are to be eligible to practice at the Supreme Court. These new requirements of course, are in addition to the requirement of having an LL.B degree and then passing the All India Bar Examination (AIBE). India is not alone in requiring graduates to fulfill some more conditions before they are allowed to become full-fledged lawyers. Let us look at a few other jurisdictions.
United States of America
In the United States of America, each state has its own rules governing the admission of advocates to the Bar. Generally, one must obtain a bachelor’s degree known as a Juris Doctor from a law school approved by that state or complete an approved law clerk programme, also known as “reading the law”. Thereafter, except in some states, candidates must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), which covers the professional responsibility rules governing lawyers. Connecticut and New Jersey waive the MPRE for students who receive a grade of C or higher in their law school professional ethics class.
After this, they must give the state bar examination, which differs from state to state. As of this year, fourteen states have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), which in turn consists of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), a standardised test consisting of 200 multiple-choice questions covering six key areas of law, the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), a uniform test that examines a candidate’s ability to analyse legal issues and communicate them effectively in writing, and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), a “closed-universe test” in which each candidate is required to perform a standard lawyer’s task, such as draft a memo or brief.
After clearing the requisite bar exams, the candidate must be certified by the state bar association as having “good moral character” and “fitness” to practice law, after which they can apply to the state authority for a license and a certificate of admission.
The American legal system does not require its candidates to undergo a formal apprenticeship or training after they obtain a degree or take the bar exam. The two exceptions are Delaware and Vermont, where prospective advocates must serve a clerkship under a lawyer admitted in that state for at least five months (in Delaware) and three months (in Vermont).
In Canada, one must complete an undergraduate degree in any discipline and then a graduate law degree (LL.B., which lasts three years or B.C.L., which lasts four years) or Juris Doctor (three years). The applicant must then successfully complete the bar exam for that jurisdiction and complete the Professional Legal Training Course.
Thereafter, the applicant must complete an apprenticeship referred to as “articling” under a lawyer for anywhere between nine to fifteen months, depending on the province or jurisdiction within Canada.
England and Wales
In England and Wales, unlike India, the professions of solicitor and barrister are different. One must obtain an undergraduate law degree (which lasts three years), or complete the Common Professional Examination or a Graduate Diploma in Law (which lasts one year after completing an undergraduate degree) to be either a barrister or solicitor.
Those who want to be solicitors are then required to complete the Legal Practice Course which lasts one year and then a two-year apprenticeship under a training contract, during which the trainee solicitor has to complete a Professional Skills Course.
Those wishing to practice as barristers must usually complete the one year Bar Professional Training Course, followed by a year of vocational training known as ‘pupillage’.
In Pakistan, one must obtain a graduate degree, followed by an LL.B degree (lasting three years) from a recognised university in Pakistan or any other common law jurisdiction in the world.
Thereafter, they must undertake apprenticeship or training under a senior lawyer for one year after which they must take the Bar Exam and give an interview with a committee of lawyers. After that the respective Provincial Bar Council may grant him or her rights of audience in the lower courts.
The advocate will earn rights of audience in the high courts of Pakistan only after two years of practice in the lower courts, at the end of which the advocate must sit for another professional exam and give an interview with a judge of a high court.
After ten years practice in the high courts, the candidate must sit for another professional exam and give an interview with a judge of the Supreme Court to be given the rights of audience in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
In Australia, students must first obtain an undergraduate LLB degree or a graduate JD from any recognised university. After that, they have to complete an approved practical legal training under a senior lawyer. This is usually called “articles of clerkship”.
After the clerkship is complete, the candidate is granted admission to the state bar and a person holding such admission certificate from any Australian jurisdiction is entitled to practise in other jurisdictions without gaining admission in that state bar.
Persons seeking admission to the Singapore Bar must obtain a law degree of at least three academic years from an approved university, which is either an LL.B. or LL.B. (Honours), depending on the university, or a J.D. (from any of the four approved U.S. universities or Singapore Management University). Candidates must then sit for the Singapore Bar Examination, which consists of a written examination and a five-month practical course. They must then complete a six-month Practice Training Contract before they can be called to the Bar as advocates and solicitors of the Supreme Court of Singapore.
(Prapti Patel is a student of the Indian Law Society’s Law College in Pune.)