Law students from the Blantyre International University (BIU) in conjunction with their colleagues from other private owned colleges on Tuesday presented a petition to State President Dr Joyce Banda through the Lilongwe District Commissioner’s office asking Government to consider reviewing the Legal Act to enable them practice as lawyers upon graduation.
The group, comprising of 25 students, travelled from Blantyre to Lilongwe to present the petition.
The Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act enacted on 12th April, 1965 recognises Chancellor College as the only institution allowed to train lawyers in the country.
The students say this legal provision has resulted into acute shortage of lawyers in the country hence the need to recognise other institutions which offers law qualifications in order to address this situation.
BIU Students Union President, Hope Munyenyembe, said the situation has lead to acute shortage of lawyers in the country as the number of lawyers does not tally with the country’s population.
“The net result has been acute shortage of lawyers in Malawi as the current statistics show that we have 283 fully admitted lawyers as at 1st February, 2013 to 31st January 2014. This excludes a few ex-officio legal practitioners who are in the public service.
“This means that since we claim to have a population of 15 million people, the ratio of lawyer to each individual is 1 lawyer to 53,000 people which is as shocking compared to other African countries like Kenya which had 7,500 lawyers by 2011,” said Munyenyembe.
He, then, asked government to open up The Institute of Legal Education which is already in its plans to accommodate all the law graduates regardless of where they studied to undergo it.
“We therefore beg that the Law School should open its doors so that it must accommodate all law students without discrimination which the current law imposes on private universities which your able government accredited,” he said.
He expressed worry as to what government will do to accommodate those already graduated but are just left idle despite the shortage of lawyers.
Lilongwe District Council Director of Administration, Peter Dokali who received the petition on behalf of the District Commissioner assured the students that his office will deliver the petition to the Office of President and Cabinet as soon as possible.
The petition was signed by law students from BIU, ShareWorld Open University, Lilongwe University College of Law, Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (PASI), and was addressed to State President Dr Joyce Banda, Minister of Justice, Fahad Assan, Chief Justice, Anastazia Msosa, Law Society president, Mandala Mambulasa among others.