Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain
SEA results have been released!
Thousands of our countries young minds remain to be shaped and moulded into whatever they aspire to be as adults.
When I was that age, I (eventually) figured out I wanted to be a lawyer. So for those who might be thinking along the same line, in this week’s article, I’m going to share how you become an attorney at law.
I would say there are there roughly three different routes you can take.
One route is to write your CAPE or GCE A levels at secondary school, then apply for entry into the University of the West Indies (UWI) to do your undergraduate bachelor of laws degree or LLB. It’s a three-year programme. After graduating, you automatically get entry into the Hugh Wooding Law School in St Augustine (HWLS).
At HWLS, you train to become a practicing attorney at law. It’s an intensive two-year programme and after the first year, you are required to do ten weeks of in-service training with a practising lawyer having no less than ten years of experience. When you do graduate, you attain your Legal Education Certificate or LEC. After that, you can apply to be licenced and practice as an Attorney at Law, or be “called to the bar”. No, I’m not talking heading to a pub for drink, though lawyers do have a reputation for doing that (lol).
It’s difficult sometimes to attend UWI full time to get your LLB. There could be several reasons for this, including a lack of funds, which is nothing to be ashamed of.
There is another route available to obtaining your LLB degree, which is to get one externally from certain recognised Universities, such as the University of London. The universities send you materials, course outlines, booklists and so on. But you are on your own when it comes to studying externally, in the sense that you set your own pace and time for study. This comes in really handy when you need to work to pay for your LLB.
Many schools in Trinidad have gotten accreditation to assist you with the external law programmes. You usually pay them per term or per year, if you think you need the extra assistance. When it’s time to write the exams (before Covid-19), you would normally attend a designated place to do that, and your exam results would be sent to you after being marked at the university.
There’s a downside to obtaining your LLB via an external law program. Because UWI’s law student are automatically enrolled at the HWLS, and the HWLS also takes some students from other Caribbean countries such as Guyana and Barbados, there are a limited amount of space for external students. Competition for these limited spaces can be fierce. To qualify for those remaining spaces, you must write an entrance exam. Depending on how many spaces are available, only a certain number of students will succeed. But there’s no limit on how many times you can write the entrance exam, so you can always keep trying.
There is third possible route, though this issue is currently before the Courts as it is being subjected to legal challenge. It’s a way to bypass ever having to study and train at the HWLS. If you obtain a Legal Practice Course (LPC), or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) from Commonwealth jurisdictions such as England, then undergo six months of in-service training with an attorney at law with at least ten years’ experience, you can be called to the bar. As an alternative to doing the in-service training for six months, the common law professionally trained person can do a six-month transitional course at the HWLS, then be called to the bar.
That’s it in a nutshell! For the soon to be legal professionals, I trust I’ll see you soon. Until then, be safe Trinidad and Tobago!
Copyright © 2020 Neela Ramsundar, LLB (HONS), LEC is a civil litigation attorney at law & certified mediator.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general informative purposes only. It does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. For legal advice on your specific situation, please contact an Attorney-at-Law of your choosing directly. Liability for any loss or damage of any kind whatsoever allegedly incurred a consequence of using content in this article is thus hereby excluded to the fullest extent permitted by law.