The news  “a bar set too high to cross, bar examination is too strict and should be designed considering the requirement of the market” is factually wrong, misleading and lacks understanding of the purpose of the bar exam itself. His Majesty said, “Democracy can only flourish if all Bhutanese uphold and strengthen the Rule of Law and through the Rule of Law, consolidate institutions of check and balance.” Only highly competent lawyers can assist the public in fulfilling such wise wisdom.

Lawyers are considered the officers of the court and play a pivotal role in the decision-making process of the courts because the courts make decisions based on facts submitted, arguments made, and evidence produced by the lawyers.  Lawyers are custodians and protectors of the right to life, liberty, freedoms, client’s properties, sovereignty and ensuring honesty, harmony and peace and order in society. Any errors made by lawyers due to their incompetency can cause injustice for generations. It is often said that if a doctor makes a mistake, life may be lost but if a lawyer makes a mistake, generations will suffer.

Further, lawyers are called social engineers of and speak with authority in any institution or society. They hold managerial positions in institutions—major decisions are taken based on legal advice. Lawyers must be good problem solvers. It has helped the world to produce some of the greatest problem solvers even when their countries were in turmoil like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Lee Kuan Yew, and many world leaders.  Thus, the bar exam is not just to “assess their legal knowledge but also their higher values and problem-solving skills.”

In the United States, one must have a bachelor’s degree, sit Law Admissions Test to pursue a law degree and sit the state or multistate bar exams.  In Germany, one must take two bar exams with the additional requirement of a two-year mandatory apprenticeship and can appear only two times to get admitted to the bar. Similarly, in France, one must have a master’s degree in law and pass two bar exams and complete an 18-month mandatory internship in a law firm to practice law. In Japan, known for the toughest bar exams, passing rate of low as 1 percent, also requires a graduate (law degree not necessary) and complete an apprenticeship at the Legal Training and Research Institute before the bar exam. Canada has a similar system to the United States but additionally requires a certificate of qualification from the National Committee on Accreditation. In Australia, Victoria requires that the candidate must score 75 percent in the Bar exam to practice law.

In Bhutan, there is only one bar exam (only 50 percent to get certified) with no additional requirements like other legal systems.  Employers must recognise that tough bar exams are necessary for those “who wish to enter practice are prepared for the challenges and opportunities” particularly in a competitive global community. There are already issues of incompetency of Bhutanese lawyers and lowering the existing standard will further lower their competency.  Contrarily, looking at the current bar exam standard, there is a need to further set the bar much higher if we need highly competent lawyers. Lawyering is more than mere employment.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.