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What are the requirements to become a Lawyer in Jamaica?

What are the requirements to become a lawyer in Jamaica? - Answered by Trevon Fletcher, Contributed

In Jamaica, lawyers are governed by the Legal Profession Act that stipulates that an attorney-at-law is anyone whose name is on the Roll, an alphabetically-ordered list with all individuals who have the valid qualification and satisfied the conditions stated in the Act.

From the TV series, Law and Order to How to Get Away with Murder, many individuals are inspired by the characters to pursue the broad discipline of law.

Regardless of the specific area of law such as criminal, family among others, it is still a requisite that you go through the correct pathway to ensure that you are called to the Bar. Not a bartender’s stand, but the Jamaica Bar Association (JAMBAR) where you can be licensed to practice law.

So whatever your inspiration, here is the pathway to getting your name on the Roll.

Stage 1: Getting your LLB degree

The Legum Baccalaureu, in English known as Bachelor of Law, is a degree programme offered by universities locally and internationally.

This program will cover courses you can choose from. This includes criminal law, constitutional law, public law, among others.

If you are doing this degree in Jamaica, the University of the West Indies and the University of Technology both provides the LLB programme.

To matriculate, you are only required to have the basic requirements for admission into any program, that is, 5 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination passes, ranging from grades I-III since 1998 in any subject, but must include Mathematics and English A.

If you are applying to the UWI, you must also have 2 double units of Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) passes ranging from grades I-V and ensure that you have taken Communication Studies with a Grade I or II to be exempted from an English-based foundation course.

If you do not have CSEC nor CAPE passes, you may able to apply with General Certificate of Education (GCE) equivalent in both O-Level and A-Level with the same passes on their scales. However, the local universities require no specific background in humanities-based subjects such as Caribbean History or Sociology, but they are looking for the highest and best -quality grades to prove one’s scholastic aptitude against the others.

So, you would have no reason to panic if you were a science major and wanted to switch career choices.

It should be noted that the application period for universities open in early November and end in late January, so you can get the relevant documentation such as identification (National ID, birth certificate, etc.) and proof of qualifications.

If you should decide to study aboard, there is no problem as long as the LLB program is rightfully accredited by the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ).

However, you will have to look the respective universities’ matriculation requirements to see if you must sit their local examinations and see if it can be done through the Overseas Examination Council in Jamaica.

Once you have completed the degree, you will be on your way to the Bar!

Stage 2: Getting Into Law School

After completing your LLB degree, you must apply for a Caribbean Council of Legal Education Law School.

There are only three schools, namely: Norman Manley Law School of Jamaica, Hugh Wooding Law School of Trinidad, and Eugene Dupuch Law School of Barbados.

Once you attended the UWI or University of Guyana and graduated with an LLB, you have an automatic placement into one of the three law schools.

Yet, you will have to sit an entrance examination if you are:

  • A non-national graduate or not in the list of 25 graduates submitted to the Council of Legal education of University of Guyana or had the degree before 1998

  • A holder of Common Professional Examination Certificate from the UK with vocational training

  • A graduate with a law degree in a common law jurisdiction.

The examination will be in essay format. This paper will be of three hours duration and is usually done in the first week of July.

There will be one paper comprising the following courses that your LLB should have covered, namely: contract, tort, property, equity, and criminal law.

Two questions will be set in each subject area and you will be required to answer five questions, one question from each of the subject areas.

A pass is 40% in each of the five courses but your grades must be competitively high because you will be against at least 100 individuals for limited spaces. The successful applicants will be announced on August 31.

If you are accepted, you will have to do a 2-year programme at the law school that you are zoned to. This will require for you to submit to the school the following documentation:

  1. Original transcript addressed to the Registrar of the Law School

  2. Certified copy of passport, birth certificate (additional documentation if there are any name changes) and three passport pictures within the past 6 months

  3. Application fee of $15USD in a bank draft to the Law School

  4. If you have done the LLB outside of the Commonwealth Caribbean approved by the Council and have done a common law degree or have been allowed to practice law outside, you will have to do a 6-month conversion programme. This will require for you to submit to the school the following documentation:

  5. Original transcript and/or certification to practice to law and the original certificate of good standing addressed to the Registrar of the Law School

  6. Certified copy of passport, birth certificate (additional documentation if there are any name changes) and three passport pictures within the past 6 months

  7. Application fee of $50USD in a bank draft to the Law School

The conversion programme will involve the person participating in a court attendance program and gain practical experience in a legal aid clinic or law firm and undergoing courses in different areas such as constitutional law, criminal procedure and practice among others. It should be noted that you do not need to sit the entrance examination.

Stage 3: Getting To the Bar

Once you have passed the examinations from the Council of Legal Education of the Commonwealth Caribbean and graduated from the respective law school, you will be given your legal education certificate and your next step is to make it the Bar!

To be called to the Jamaica Bar Association (JAMBAR), you must be at least 21 years of age and a Commonwealth citizen. You must prove to the Council of Legal Education that they are of sound character and have a bachelor of law degree from an approved tertiary institution and a legal education certificate from the Council.

You can complete the application form from the JAMBAR website. You will need an attorney who has at least 5 years of experience to submit a court application on your behalf and vouch for your character.

After applying to the Bar, once you are successful, you will be allowed to practice law in Jamaica.

So there you go, you will now be a part of the Roll and be able to be a lawyer and specialize.

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