Becoming a lawyer is no easy task. In Jamaica, an individual must graduate from law school and become a member of the Jamaican Bar Association in order to become a lawyer. The choice of law school is a difficult decision that will impact whether an individual can practice as a lawyer soon after law school or six months after graduation.
Locate the law school of choice. Decide whether to attend school in Jamaica or outside the Caribbean. The Norman Manley Law School is the only law school on the island. Sibling schools are located in the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago. There are only three law schools in the Caribbean. If you attend school outside the Caribbean, certain requirements must be satisfied if you eventually choose to practice in Jamaica.
Apply to the law school of choice. If attending one of the three Caribbean law schools, contact the Council of Legal Examination (CLE) which administers the regional entrance exams. The application fee for the Norman Manley Law School is $150 Jamaican (US $1.75) as of June 2010, and must be paid in one of two ways only: via manager’s check or bank draft. The application must be received by January 31st.
Attend the law school and successfully complete the program in two years. First year classes include advocacy and criminal practice and procedure amongst other courses. During the second year, coursework includes conveyancing and registration of title, law office management, accounting and technology and law of succession amongst others. Upon graduation, you will receive a legal education certificate from the CLE.
Apply to become a member of the Jamaican Bar Association (JBA). To do this, you must meet the following requirements: be at least 21 years old, be a citizen of the British Commonwealth, have no criminal record, be of good character, have completed law school and received a legal education certificate. Additionally, a practicing lawyer with at least five years of experience and membership in the JBA must submit a court application and attest to your sound character on your behalf. Once accepted, you will become a member of the JBA and can formally practice as a lawyer on the island.
Complete a six-month conversion course if you graduated from a law school outside of the Caribbean. Simply apply to the Norman Manley Law School. Once accepted, you will take the following courses: constitutional law, law and legal Systems, criminal practice and procedure and law office management, accounting and technology. In addition, students taking the six-month course must participate in a court attendance program and gain practical experience in a legal aid clinic or law firm. Upon completion, you will receive a legal education certificate and must become a member of the JBA to practice in Jamaica.
Sydelle John is a lawyer who started writing professionally in 2007. She has written for the Guardian's Comment is Free and Pambazuka News, which focuses on pan-African issues. John has a Juris Doctor from the George Washington University Law School and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Vassar College.