ABOUT MALAWI COUNCIL FOR LEGAL EDUCATION
a. Establishment and membership of the Council
The mandate of the Council for Legal Education is derived from Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act, Chapter 3:04 of the Laws of Malawi. In particular, Section 3 of the said Act establishes the Malawi Council of Legal education, and is in the following terms: “There is hereby established a Council of Legal Education which shall be a body corporate to be styled ‘the Malawi Council of Legal Education’, with perpetual succession and a common seal, with power to hold land and to sue and to be sued in its corporate name”.
The Council is chaired by the Chief Justice. The members are the Attorney General, a Judge of the High Court, a Magistrate, two persons in the legal service of the Malawi Government, the chairman of the Malawi Law Society, a legal practitioner nominated by the Malawi Law Society, and two lecturers.
b. Functions of the Council
The Council’s functions are provided for under section 4 of the Act which provides as follows:
(a) to make regulations or the syllabus and curriculum of the legal education in, and for attendance at, a Law School or Schools in Malawi;
(b) to establish, conduct, regulate, manage, control and supervise courses of legal education in Malawi;
(c) to conduct, regulate, manage, control and supervise the holding of examinations in law in Malawi, and, in particular, to set the examination papers for and make arrangements for invigilation at such examinations, and to provide for the marking of the examination papers;
(d) to advise and make recommendations to the Minister generally on matters relating to legal education and requisite qualifications for the admission and enrolment of legal practitioners.
So basically the Council’s core function is to regulate and oversee all matters relating to legal education and practice in the country. So far the Council has been involved in the function of administering the law exam to applicants who have attained a foreign law degree for the purpose of practising in the country. To this extent the council has from time to time been administering such exams.
The Council has also been monitoring the law school at Chancellor College but has not been involved in the setting of the examinations as, primarily; the school examines academic performance of its students which is a domain of the University of Malawi. The Council is mainly interested in the procedural and practical aspects of the legal education.
The Council has also been involved in considering applications by tertiary institutions to offer law courses.
The Council’s meetings have been on ad hoc basis depending on the present needs. All along the Council has been operating without a secretariat to manage its activities. The Office of the Registrar of the High Court has been acting as the secretariat. This used to be convenient as the council had less business to conduct and used to meet sparingly.
Due to the increase of the business conducted by the Council in the past decade need arose for the Council to have its own Secretariat. This was necessitated by the fact that the Council used to drain resources from the Judiciary’s Budget yet it never appeared in the Judiciary’s sub-programs or activities.
The secretariat, it was reasoned, would therefore help coordinate the activities of the Council on a fulltime basis and would be able to prepare its own budget and present either as a sub program or cost centre within the Judiciary.
Currently the Malawi Council of Legal Education is in the process of operationalising the Malawi Institute of Legal Education which is itself a creature of the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act. Since it is still in its early stages this will require regular meetings of the Council and its sub-committees. There will also be need for consultative meetings with other stake holders and, at times, study tours to other countries where there are similar institutions.
c. What has been done so far
A sub-committee went on a study tour of Tanzania which was funded by the Judiciary. It came up with recommendations which have been adopted by the Council.
A Principal Legal Officer has been appointed on a full time basis to man the Malawi Council for Legal Education. The syllabus has been developed and staff recruitment is at an advanced level.
A budget to operationalise the institute has been prepared and presented to the Treasury and it is expected that the Institute will roll out in the next financial year, if all goes according to plan precisely in August, 2017.