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MALAYSIAN law students have called on the Bar Council of England and Wales to rethink its plans to defer call to the Bar until after the completion of an initial six-month pupillage.
The move, part of the planned overhaul of Bar training, will end the current situation which allows students to be called after passing their examinations.
At present pupillage can only be undertaken in Malaysia if a person who studied in England and Wales is called here and the new regime will force Malaysian students intending to practise at home to spend additional time in the UK.
Ganendran Sarvananthan, chair of the Kesatuan Penuntut Undang-Undang Malaysia di United Kingdom Dan Eire (KPUM), the Malaysian Students Law Society in UK and Eire, said the current changes were being viewed with "utmost concern".
He said although the KPUM welcomed the Bar's plan to abolish the Bar Examination Course and to open the Bar Vocational Course to alternative providers, "our concern is over the proposal to defer call".
"This poses problems as it would require an amendment to the current Legal Professions Act of Malaysia which the Qualifying Board has resolved not to do," said Sarvananthan.
He said: "Immigration regulations with respect to work permits could prevent about 600 overseas students from obtaining pupillage places in the UK.
"We are concerned that as the target date of 1997 draws nearer, the position for our members currently in the first and second years of their degree remains unclear."
Veena Kanda Rovati, Bar Examination Course supervisor at Holborn College, said although Malaysian students stood a good chance of securing pupillage places, the plans to defer call would discourage people from studying in the UK. "If the Malaysian government doesn't change its legislation, those students will obviously not benefit at all unless the Bar Council is going to merit them with some title at least, if not a call to the Bar."
A spokesman for the Bar Council said chair Peter Goldsmith QC had met with representatives of the Malaysian legal profession in an attempt to resolve the matter.
He said Goldsmith had initially suggested the Legal Professions Act was altered to allow students to begin pupillage in their home country on completion of the BVC. However, the proposal was rejected and discussions are continuing.
"We're faced with a situation where we have to consider ways of possibly providing a special regime until a suitable arrangement can be made," said the spokesman.
"One possibility might be allowing Malaysian barristers to be called to the Bar if they've got an undertaking to do their pupillage and a place is available in Malaysia."