Although I had the opportunity to enter university after studying with the help of the free education system in Sri Lanka, I decided to study Law and entered the Law College at the age of 25 after doing various unsuccessful business ventures. But I enjoyed life there with young and old fellow students without barriers.
At the time of my arrival in the United Kingdom, I was 31. I sat the Solicitors examination, passed and took oaths as a lawyer in England when I was 35. Age was not a barrier for me to become a Solicitor in England and to start up our own legal practice. I am grateful to England for not having an age barrier when it comes to studies. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to qualify as a lawyer there.
Things are now changing. It is news that the admission to Sri Lanka Law College is to be capped at the age of 30. I have never heard such a restriction imposed on education in any other country. There may be but I am not aware of any.
This is a matter for real concern. At present, students who pass the admission test as well as law graduates from the Open University and the University of London are eligible to follow the course leading to the professional qualification of an Attorney-at-Law with no age restrictions. But if the proposed rule of age limit comes in to effect, there will be thousands who will lose the opportunity to do law in Sri Lanka. I think it restricts their right to education and violates a fundamental human right.
If there will be an age restriction to read law at the Law College, one day it can be extended to the study areas of medicine, architecture, engineering and even to enter Parliament.
Therefore, persons over 30 who are willing to do studies as mature students in those areas must also fight against this unreasonable proposal. Otherwise when their day comes, there will be no lawyers who will understand their problem.
Most of the time the over 30 applicants are retired teachers, police officers and people who missed higher education due to various reasons including economic issues.
Some leave higher education as soon as they pass A-Ls and work to support their families with the intention of completing it at a later stage. They have more discipline and experience than the young students. There were a few elderly students with me in the same batch at Law College. Their association was useful in many ways to fellow students at the time.
I totally agree that the Council of Legal Education has the responsibility of maintaining the quality of legal education and the legal profession in the country. But imposing an age barrier will not support it in any way. We should recognise the difference between the Law College and the profession.
What the authorities should do is to impose an effective guidance of ethics and rules for practicing lawyers.
An annual practicing certificate and compulsory continuing education programs for lawyers will effectively enhance the quality of the profession definitely than imposing an age barrier to study law.
Lawyers of England and Wales are governed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority with very strict rules and a code of ethics.
Every lawyer has to renew his or her practicing certificate annually. All clients' money should be banked and an annual client's account report is compulsory which should be certified by a Chartered Accountant.
The authorities do whatever they need to safe guard the client from unruly solicitors. A strict professional body can maintain the quality of the profession to the maximum.
In the UK, the students over 21 are given university places with minimum qualification. They encourage adults to study and the Birkbeck College of the University of London specially caters to mature students. Recently, a 90-year-old grandmother graduated in one of them. It is not fair to impose rules on a person when to study and when to stop.
World renowned Sri Lankan Geoffrey Bawa became an architect at the age of 38. Previously he was practicing as a barrister. School dropout and London bus driver Maria Smith became a Barrister when she was 38.
It is said that ex-Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon was a clerk before he entered Law College. Who needs more evidence to shun this proposed unfair rule of the age barrier to enter Sri Lanka Law College?
Courtesy of DailyNews