OPINION

Law College fees

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I joined the Sri Lanka Law College in 1968 and was admitted as a Proctor SC in February 1972. It was a four-year course of studies with three exams. I believe that at that time all students paid approximately about Rs 500 a year. Although it appears to be a small sum today, at the time it was a considerable amount. The two branches, Proctors and Advocates were amalgamated in 1974, all designated as attorneys-at-Law. It is said that the Law College fees are high.

I practised as an attorney-at-law in Sri Lanka for 25 years. Having achieved many milestones, I migrated to Australia and have practised as a Solicitor in the State of New South Wales (NSW), Australia for further 25 years altogether completing 50 years of active practice.

In NSW, one must obtain a Practising Certificate from the Law Society of NSW at present paying $490 and renew it every year. This fee gets increased every year. The Membership costs a further $400 and Membership is optional. Members receive discounts on various programmes and receive legal literature/publications by email. Solicitors must also obtain Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII). It is a prerequisite that each year a Solicitor must complete a minimum of 10 hours of participation in Continuing Legal Education Programmes (CLEs) before applying for a Practising Certificate.

In Sri Lanka once admitted that is for life and to my knowledge even the BASL Membership is optional. Those who practice as Notaries must provide a Bond and obtain what is called Notarial License every year.

In my mind all attorneys-at-law must be required to obtain a Practicing Certificate from the Supreme Court or the BASL every year on payment of a fee. Certain prescribed number of hours of legal education on the changes to the legal system, etc must be made a prerequisite to apply for a practicing certificate. The personal indemnity Insurance must also be made compulsory.

I believe in Sri Lanka there could be 20,000 or more lawyers. If all of them are required to obtain their Practising Certificates on payment of a fee, a part of the money collected can be given to Law College to subsidise the student fees and a further part can be used to run CLE programmes to help the lawyers.

I practised mainly in Panadura courts. I felt I owed something to the Members of the Panadura Bar, where I made my mark. Since I believed in the CLE programme to be a useful exercise, I initiated a Trust making a substantial contribution. The intention of the Trust is to use the interest income to run a CLE programme for Panadura lawyers every year.

Hemal Perera 

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