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Rationale for the Bar exams

The Legal Profession Act 2004 requires that the Bar Council ensure that only persons competent and fit to practise as barristers should be able to do so. The Act allows the Bar Council to impose conditions on barristers' practising certificates, thereby indicating that admission as a lawyer should not, without more, qualify a person to commence to practise as a barrister immediately and free from conditions and limitations. Although a person who wishes to practise as a barrister will have satisfied both the academic and the practical training requirements precedent to admission by the court as a lawyer, this does not signify that the person is immediately ready to practise as a barrister.

The distinctive feature of practice at the Bar is advocacy before the courts and other tribunals. Accordingly, the Bar Council sets examinations of a practical orientation in subjects related specifically to advocacy.

There is good justification for requiring that persons aspiring to practise at the Bar as a specialist in advocacy satisfy the Bar Council that they are knowledgeable to a high degree in all three areas signified by the examination titles: 'Legal ethics for barristers'; 'Aspects of evidence'; and 'Practice and procedure for barristers'. The focus of all three examinations is on practice.

The New South Wales Bar exams do not purport to test a wide-ranging knowledge of theory. Their emphasis is different from that of university examinations in similar subject areas. The titles of the examinations are intended to reflect the focus on practical knowledge that all members of the Bar should have.