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Pupillage in Malaysia

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Your first step into the legal profession

Pupillage, or more commonly known as chambering in Malaysia, is a form of internship where a law graduate, having passed the requisite professional examinations is required to undertake. I shall deal with the procedure in  both West Malaysia and East Malaysia (Sarawak).

In West Malaysia, a law graduate is required to undergo pupillage for a period of not less than nine months, in the chambers (i.e. the firm) of an advocate and solicitor who has been in active practice for not less than seven years immediately preceding the year you intend to do your chambering.

What firm should I apply to?

From my experience, you would need to take the following factors into consideration:

1. The nature of work of the firm

Generally firms in Malaysia are divided into civil practice and criminal practice, although in KL you have large firms which are involved in high profile corporate matters and consist of many departments. Some medium size firms do a variety of work, which is good in terms of exposure because as a chambering student, you want to have an opportunity to try different scopes of work and then finally decide which area of law you would like to practise in.

In civil practice, the two broad areas would include litigation and conveyancing. It would be ideal if you could do your chambering in a firm where you can gain exposure in both areas. The Legal Profession Act 1976 has provisions for limited rights of audience for chambering students (three months from the date of your "short call") and it would be good if you could attend some chamber matters or magistrate open court matters, to get an insight on litigation. In terms of conveyancing, it is also advisable to gain experience in Sale and Purchase Agreements and familiarise yourself with the provisions of the Housing Development Act. (applicable to West Malaysia only).

2.   Support from your pupil master and other colleagues

It is important to establish a good relationship with your pupil master and your colleagues, because this is your first step into the legal profession. You will need all the guidance and assistance from your pupilmaster as well as your colleagues. This is where your interpersonal skills come in play. The transition from a law student to a lawyer comes gradually and there will be a lot of challenges in the process. Therefore you need to be in a firm where you feel comfortable enough to perform. Of course, this is the real world and you can never be satisfied, but a basic requirement would be for you to actually have a civil relationship with your colleagues, if not a supportive one. Whether you are going to be retained at the end of your chambering should not be a consideration at this stage. Bear in mind, you are there to learn, and even being friends with the office boy is important.

A firm and supportive master will not hesitate to correct your mistakes, and will include you in his/her discussions, client permitting. As a chambering student you need to take the initiative and adopt a proactive approach towards your work. Be attentive to your surroundings and alert to changes, especially the law, etc.

3.    Well-stocked library

As a chambering student (and throughout your life as a lawyer) you will be expected to do a large amount of legal research. Therefore a law firm with a well stocked library will make your legal research a lot easier and your research will be more detailed and complete.

4.    Remuneration

I personally think that as a chambering student, your master is doing you a favour by taking you under his wing and giving you guidance and support along the way, and you get paid for learning. Therefore remuneration should not really be an issue. Although I do know that some people would disagree totally with me on this point. I focus on the learning experience of the chambering period rather than the "money making" experience. Of course they shouldn't pay you peanuts and work you like a flattened pancake, but still, think of what you can offer at this stage. Not much in terms of expertise, but you can offer your burning desire to learn and all the energy you've got (to carry voluminous bundles and thick law journals).

What you should aim to learn during your chambering

I shall deal with the areas involved in civil practice only. I haven't done criminal work so far and therefore am not in a position to provide information.

1. Familiarise yourself with the Rules of the High Court and Subordinate Court Rules.

2. If your firm does banking litigation,make sure you familiarise yourself with the provisions of the National Land Code (Charge Actions in particular), Hire Purchase Act, Bankruptcy Act and Companies Act. A lot of reading will be done on your own. This is extremely important particularly if you have completed your professional qualification in a foreign jurisdiction, i.e. England/Australia. Basically the chambering period is a grace period for you to catch up with the local Malaysian laws. Of course, one cannot attempt to learn everything overnight. For some reason, the rules of court seem much easier to comprehend when you actually practise them. And yes, you make mistakes along the way, but take comfort in the fact that you are a chambering student and you can still afford to make mistakes. Just don't make the same mistake twice.

3. For conveyancing, familiarise yourself with the provisions of the Housing Development Act.

4. If part of your job is to update the looseleaf law journals, make use of the opportunity to familiarise yourself with the books in the library, so that you won't be confused when asked to do legal research. Work in a legal firm is very stressful and most of the time, your research has to be completed within hours. A tip is to always ask the person who gave you research for a deadline,so that you can manage your time more efficiently. If you can't seem to find the answer, please let the person know so that he/she can make alternative arrangements. If you are willing to go the extra mile, set aside one day of the week to actually browse through the law reports and check for cases which are relevant to the work of your firm. Sort them by subjects and keep the citation. When you are asked for research in a certain subject, you would at least have a copy of the latest judgment.

5. You should also be familiar with the electronic law journals, such as the MLJ CD and CLJ online. This will speed up your legal research and as a result, you get more work done.

6. Try to attend as much court proceedings with your master or the senior members of the firm as possible. Keep your eyes peeled on the firm's cause list for any trials or disputed matters. This would give you an opportunity to see the "real action" involved in legal practice.

7. Be humble and take things with an open mind. It really helps. It is also highly recommended that you build up your contacts at this stage. Get to know more people in the legal profession and let them know you. Court appearances are a good and convenient way of socialising. Of course there are the Bar Council dinners and talks which, with permission from your master, you can attend. Networks are vital at this day and age. No man is an island, and we need all the help we can get.

8. In KL, chambering students are also given opportunities for dock briefs as part of the compulsory ethics lecture programme. This may be in the form of mitigation, which is again one way to hone your advocacy skills.

9. The compulsory Legal Aid programme for chambering students was introduced in 1997.A chambering student would need to complete 14 days of legal aid service in order to be able to be admitted to the High Court of Malaya to practise. Again, your interpersonal skills comes in play because you will meet people from the less fortunate backgrounds who cannot afford to pay legal fees in order to be represented in court. Be emphatic, but at the same time, do not get carried away with their plight. You must maintain your composure and take down the relevant facts during the interview. Therefore the client would be telling you about other matters which are totally irrelevant to her case but you have to be patient and filter out the information that is relevant. This is where your client conferencing skills will come in.

On a final note
Last but not least, if you have come this far, make sure you pour your heart and soul into the profession. It will be greatly rewarding.

Procedure for Admission to the High Court of Malaya

Step by Step guide to your Petition for Admission to the High Court of Malaya (applicable to chambering students chambering in Johor Bahru)
The Legal Profession Act 1976 is your Bible for the duration of your chambering period and of course, throughout your career as n advocate and solicitor.

1.File your Borang 1 and 2 at the High Court Registry, Kuala Lumpur as soon as you commence your pupillage. The date you file your Borang 1 will be the date that you officially commence pupillage.The duplicate of documents you will need to file together with your Borang 1 is:
a. Your birth certificate
b. Your Identity Card
c. Your law degree
d. If you hold a "Barrister at Law", your certificate of standing,If you hold a CLP qualification, your CLP certificate from the Legal Qualifying Board.( I am not familiar with the documents required for Australian graduates, but will update as soon as I obtain further information)

2. Your Borang 2 is in fact an affidavit. You will have to affirm the affidavit before a Commissioner of Oaths.
3. When you file in your papers, the Senior Assistant Registrar will want to see you personally to certify that the originals of your certificates have been sighted.
4. You will get a petition number, which usually looks like this : 18-(your petition number)-(the year you filed in your petition).
5. Make at least 5 sets of your documents because the court will want to keep a copy, you will need one copy, and you would have to serve one copy on the Bar Council of Malaysia, the State Bar Committee and the Attorney-General's Chambers (in Putrajaya) respectively.It is advisable to make one more extra copy just in case.

(end of Borang 1 and 2)

Borang 3, 4 and 5

1. After you have filed your Borang 1 and 2, the next step is to file your Borang 3,4 and 5. This can be filed in the state you are doing your chambering. It is actually in the form of originating summons supported by affidavit. A date will be allocated to hear your case, where the judge will grant you an order to have limited rights of audience in the magistrates' courts, sessions courts chamber matters and high court chamber matters within 3 months from the date you obtain the order. This is known as your "short call". Please refer to the Legal Profession Act for details.

Borang 6, 7 and 8
These forms should be filed towards the end of your chambering period. You will have to make another trip to Kuala Lumpur to file your papers.
Documents that need to be filed in are:
1.A certificate of diligence from your master;

2.Two recent certificates of good character;
3.Certificate from the Legal Qualifying Board certifying that you have been exempted/have passed from the Bahasa Malaysia Qualifying Examination,
4.Certificate of successful completion of the Ethics Lecture (awarded by the Bar Council)

5. A certificate of posting proving that your petition has been posted on all Courts in Semenanjung Malaysia for at least three months. You can call up the court staff in KL to check whether this has been done.

6. You should call up the Bar Council at Kuala Lumpur and speak to the admissions department to check whether a confidential report from your university, the Bar Council of England, the CLP Board, whichever applicable to you, has been submitted to the Bar Council of Malaysia for their further action. In actual fact, the Bar Council is responsible for writing to your respective university/law society which you were admitted etc., to obtain this report. It is technically not your duty. However, as some of us have experienced, the report either does not arrive or gets lost in the mail. This is where you need to be proactive and ask the Bar Council of Malaysia for the contact person in charge of issuing confidential reports. Take the initiative to contact the person(s) and follow-up with the Bar Council on the status. This must be done before you proceed to file your papers in the Registry, because the confidential report must be in the Court file beforehand. It pays to be vigilant and there is nothing more vexing than your call date being deferred as a result of non-compliance of these procedures.

7. There will be another confidential report which will be issued by the relevant Bar Committee of the State you are chambering in. If you are chambering in Johor Bahru, the confidential report will be issued by the Johor Bar Committee. Again, do call up the Bar Council in KL to confirm whether they have received the confidential report from the relevant Bar Committee.

8. Before you proceed to file in your papers, you must pay your Bar Council Displinary Fund (to be paid to the Bar Council Displinary Board, who will issue you with a receipt) as well as a fee for your Instrument of Admission. Your Instrument of Admission will be issued by the Bar Council. With your receipt for the displinary fund as well as the instrument of admission, you can proceed to the counter of the High Court Registry to file your papers.

9. After you have filed in your papers at the High Court Registry, your papers will be sealed and signed by the Deputy Registrar and returned to you. Ensure you have sufficient copies. You would need one copy for the Court, one copy for the Bar Committee in KL(or whichever state in Semenanjung Malaysia you are practising in), one copy for the Attorney-General's chambers in Putrajaya, one copy for the Bar Council in KL and finally, one copy for yourself.

10. Note to chambering students outside KL: You have the option of getting called in KL rather than the original state which you are chambering in. Due to the high number of chambering students in KL, call dates are pretty frequent. A chambering student can expect to get a call date two weeks from the date his papers are filed. In other states, for sake of administrative efficiency, a quorum may need to be achieved before a call date is given. It very much depends on how quickly you want to get called to the Bar. The choice is ultimately yours.

However, if you decide to get called in the state that you are chambering, please inform the court staff that you intend to get called to the Bar in a particular state so that your court file can be sent to the particular court. The case will be allocated to a court in that particular state and you would need to see the court Interpreter for your call date.

Call Procedure in Johor Bahru:

It is customary to organise a party for the Judges, court staff and members of your firm on your call day, after the court procedure. You would need to contact the person in charge of the "Kelab Sukan" in  the court. Food will be catered by them and all you have to do is to pay them a deposit and pay the remaining charges after the party. The advantage of having a few chambering students getting called together is that you can split the costs between you. Some firms offer to chip in the costs. This is one of the reasons why some chambering students chose to get called to the Bar in KL instead, since there is no such requirement of organising a party post Call in KL.

Mover of your call

You would need to look for a mover-a practising lawyer who moves your call on your call day. You would need to prepare a speech for him, detailing your education background, your involvement in co-curricular activities, your work experience etc. It is a proud moment for you and presumably your parents will be present at your call. By reading out this introductory message, your mover is in actual fact, introducing you to the Judge who will approve your call and admit you to practise as an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya.

Prior to Call Day

1) Make sure your catering arrangements have been properly made.

2) Make sure your invitation cards have been sent out. A quick way of distributing invitation cards is to deposit them in the respective legal firm's court boxes. In case you haven't seen one, these court boxes are located in the court so that court staff can distribute sealed documents to the respective firms more effectively.

3) Make sure you have your gown and bib (bands if you're a guy) and get a decent haircut. Try to look as neat as possible.

4) Invitation cards to judges and deputy registrars must be sent in person. This shows that you are serious about your call and it gives you an opportunity to interact with the judges in person. Make sure you make an appointment with the Judge's private secretary beforehand.

5) Call the State Bar Committee, the Attorney-General's chambers and check whether they have any objections to your call. This is very very important. You want your call day to proceed smoothly without any hiccups. If any amendments need to be done, do it. File in a supplementary affidavit to correct the mistakes etc.

6) Finally, find out who is going to appear for and on behalf of the State Bar Committee, the Attorney-General of Malaysia (usually the State Legal Adviser) and draw up your draft order so that it can be approved on the day you are called. This would save you a lot of time.

Call Day

On your Call Day, try to remain calm and be respectful as your mover is reading your introduction. If there aren't a lot of people getting called with you, you are lucky in the sense that the judge would be paying attention to what your mover is saying, so if you have a very impressive portfolio, the judge would have a good impression of you. Very important if you decide to practise as a litigation lawyer.

After hearing your introduction and prayer for you to be called to the Bar, and hearing the non-objections from the representatives of the State Bar Committee and the Attorney-General's Chambers respectively, the judge will make a short speech welcoming you to the profession and grant you order in terms.

As soon as court is adjourned, you should run to the reps of the State Bar Committee and the AG-chambers immediately, get their signatures on your draft order and file fair copies in court. DO make extra copies because again, you would need to serve copies of your fair order on the AG-chambers, the Bar Council, State Bar Committee, and keep some for yourself.

Thereafter, you can proceed to the dining hall in the court where you and your family have the privilege to dine with your master, the High Court Judges, Deputy Registrars etc. Its a very good opportunity to mix around and get to interact with the judiciary on an informal basis.

Welcome to the profession!

Due to lack of resources for call procedures for chambering students in Sabah and Sarawak, I have decided to update a section on the call requirements for purposes of admission to the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak. If there are any errors on this page, I would be grateful if you can email me at

 updated: 7th June 2005

Pupillage and Call Procedures in Sarawak


Due to historical reasons, there are three separate legal jurisdictions in Malaysia, i.e. the High Court of Malaya (comprising of the 11 states in Peninsula Malaysia), High Court of Sabah and Sarawak (formerly known as High Court of Borneo) in Sarawak, and High Court of Sabah and Sarawak in Sabah. The relevant legislation for admission to High Court of Malaya is, as I have mentioned above, the Legal Profession Act 1976. In Sarawak the relevant legislation is the Advocates Ordinance (Sarawak Cap. 110)

One might ask why does the State of Sarawak has different laws from Semenanjung Malaysia? The answer lies in the Malaysia Agreement and the Federal Consitution. Article 95B of the Federal Constitution provides that the State of Sabah or Sarawak may also make laws for imposing sales taxes. The Nith Schedule (Legislative Lists) provide the authoritative jurisdiction of legislative bodies, be it the State or the Federal Government.

Article 161B of the Federal Constitution provides for the restriction on extension to non-residents of right to practise before courts in State of Sabah and Sarawak.

With the above preliminaries in perspective, I shall now proceed to deal with pupillage and call procedures in Sarawak.

1) Pupillage in Sarawak

A. Academic Qualifications

Under Section 4 of the Advocates Ordinance, a person who has Sarawak connections may apply to the Chief Judge to be admitted as an advocate of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak in Sarawak if he/she holds one of the following qualifications:

a) a member of the Bar of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland;

b) a solicitor of the Supreme Court in England, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland

c) holder of Bachelor of Laws from University of Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Advanced Diploma in Law from Institut Teknologi Mara, Bachelor of Laws (Hons) from Institut Teknologi Mara, Malaysia, Bachelor of Laws from the International Islamic University and Bachelor of Laws from the National University of Singapore;

d) holder of the Certificate of Legal Practice awarded by the Qualifying Board established under the Legal Profession Act 1976; or

e) has been admitted to practise as a legal practitioner (by whatever name called) by a Supreme Court or High Court exercising jurisdiction in any place within any territory within the Commonwealth.

B. Duration of pupillage

a) Section 4(1A) of the Advocates Ordinance provides that a pupil shall read in the chambers of either the State Attorney-General, be a Magistrate of the First Class in the State of Sarawak for a period of not less than twelve months or has been the pupil of an advocate who has been lawfully practising in some part of Malaysia for a period of not less than five years immediately prior to the person becoming his pupil, or commencing to read in his chambers, for a period of not less than twelve months.

b) Exemptions from the full period of pupillage may be granted at the sole discretion of the Chief Judge. You would have to prove that there are special circumstances justifying the exemption, such as you have been a pupil for a period of not less than six months  reading in the chambers of a legal practitioner in active private practice for not less than 5 years in any territory within the Commonwealth; or you have satisfactorily completed a post-graduate course of instruction in law organized by any institution that would render him eligible to be admitted to practise as a legal practitioner (by whatever name called) in any territory within the Commonwealth.

Example 1: You have completed your pupillage in West Malaysia and subsequently, called and admitted as an Advocate or Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya.

Example 2: You completed a Post-Graduate course in Australia/New Zealand and was called and admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria, for example.

An application should be made by way of Originating Motion supported by an affidavit exhibiting the supporting documents. I will attempt to upload a sample.

C. Call procedure

You will need to do the following in order to be called to the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak:

1) Upon completion of your pupillage, file in your petition for admission, supported by the following documents:

a) A copy of your birth certificate

b) Your IC

c) Your degree certificate

d) Your CLP/BVC/PGDL (NZ/AUS) -note: You will need to affirm a statutory declaration if your name appears in a different order from that of your IC. This is very common in English and Australian, even New Zealand Universities where your surname is put last.

e) If you have obtained exemption, annex your order for exemption

f) If you have been called to the Bar of another jurisdiction/High Court of Malaya, please annex your Order for Admission.

g) If you have practised as a lawyer, please annex your practising certificate;

h) A certificate of Diligence from your master

i) Two recent certificates of Good Character

j) And finally, your resume.

The order for your petition should be like this:

1) Your petition

2) Affidavit

3) Exhibits

Please bear in mind that you will be asked by the Court registrar to submit in your resume. In order to save time, you may wish to annex your resume to your petition.

Call Date

Whereas High Court Judges can hear petitions for admission to the Bar in West Malaysia, in Sarawak only the Chief Judge has the power to grant you an order for admission. Therefore, a quorum has to be achieved before a call date can be fixed. It is not certain when these dates will be fixed, but depending on the number of pupils waiting to be called, a call date will usually be fixed in March, July and/or December. This is not to be taken as conclusive because each year, the number of chambering students vary.

After your papers have been filed, serve a copy on the Advocates Association (you can do this at the Bar room in High Court Kuching.) and the State Attorney-General's Chambers, Sarawak (16th Floor, opposite the Kuching court complex) Make sure you receive your letter of non-objection from the State Attorney-General's Chambers prior to your call date.

You will receive a letter from the Registrar of the High Court informing you of the Call Date. A lawyer will need to appear on your behalf to make your application to the Chief Judge.

Call Day

Make sure you have your full regalia with you. The procedures are pretty straighfoward. When your name and petition number is called, your lawyer will read the contents of your petition to the Chief Judge and pray for order in terms. After the Chief Judge grants you an order for admission, (together with other pupils) the Chief Judge will give a speech. The procedure is deem completed when the court adjourns.

Note: Please remember to pay your fees for enrolment as an advocate or else your name will not be registered on the Roll of Advocates~!

updated: 6.3.2006