There is no doubt that qualifying as a Guernsey Advocate is a huge achievement. But what are the benefits in qualifying locally, what are the risks in not qualifying and what does qualification actually involve? These are just three of the topics set to be covered during a talk on 25 March 2020 by Law Guernsey (the organisation responsible for administering the Guernsey Bar exams) in association with the Guernsey International Legal Association (GILA).
The talk will also cover recent reforms to the format and delivery of the Guernsey Bar course, including the introduction of standardised course materials for the Guernsey Bar exams and a truncated period of study in Normandy (recently reduced from three months to just one), and will look at what further developments might be expected in the future.
It is taking place at Christies Brasserie on 25 March 2020 from 6pm followed by GILA quarterly drinks and canapés (free for GILA members). For further information and to book your ticket please follow this link:
Subject to availability non-GILA members are welcome to attend the talk for free.
For anyone not familiar with the route to qualification in Guernsey, the remainder of this article briefly sets out the steps involved.
STEP 1: Qualify as a Solicitor or Barrister of England and Wales
Prospective Advocates are required to qualify or be qualified as either a Solicitor or a Barrister in England and Wales. Traditionally this involves completing a recognised period of academic study and vocational training which varies depending on whether the aspirant wishes to qualify as either a Solicitor or Barrister but in either case generally takes between five and seven years.
Alternative routes to qualification as a Solicitor are offered by the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), involving a combination of CILEx qualifications and “on the job” learning.
Lawyers from other jurisdictions other than England and Wales may be able to convert their legal qualifications and qualify as Solicitors in England and Wales by taking the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS).
STEP 2: Complete a Pupillage with a firm of Guernsey Advocates
Before being permitted to sit the Guernsey Bar exams, aspirants are required to complete a period of at least six months’ pupillage with a firm of Guernsey Advocates under the supervision of a Pupil Master, who must be a Guernsey Advocate of at least five years’ standing.
The aspirant’s Pupil Master will then need to report in writing to the Bailiff that s/he has discharged him/herself with due diligence during the pre-examination period and achieved a standard which will enable the aspirant to sit the Guernsey Bar exams with a reasonable expectation of passing.
STEP 3: Pass the Guernsey Bar Exams
The Guernsey Bar exams currently comprise four papers, two of which are compulsory: the Bailiff’s paper (Constitutional Law) and Ethics. Aspirants may then choose two further papers from the following options:
- Civil Practice and Procedure;
- Corporate and Financial Services Law;
- Criminal Practice and Procedure;
- Family Law; and
- Property Law.
Up to 12 study weekends take place between October and April and a period of additional study leave is usually allowed. Exams are held annually during the first two weeks of May.
STEP 4: Complete the Academic Qualification in French and Norman Law
In order to become a Guernsey Advocate it is also necessary to hold an academic qualification in French and Norman law. This requirement is usually met by studying for the Certificat d’Etudes Juridiques Françaises et Normandes from Caen University in Normandy.
The course currently provides students with a historical background on the laws and institutions of Normandy from which Guernsey’s laws and institutions have evolved. Study is broken down into three areas: Obligations (contract law); Coutume (Norman Customary Law); and Institutions (the historical legal institutions of Normandy).
The course is taught in English and French and runs for a month in September each year with a 30-minute oral exam in English in each subject at the end of the course.
STEP 5: Apply and be called to the Bar
Once all of the above stages are complete (and subject to applicable residency requirements) aspirants are eligible to apply to the Royal Court to join the Guernsey Bar. If approved the applicant will be called to the Royal Court to swear an oath before the Court that s/he will uphold the responsibilities, loyalties and obligations of the Guernsey Bar. After this swearing in ceremony the aspirant may hold him/herself out as a Guernsey Advocate.
Prior to being called to the Guernsey Bar aspirants must have been ordinarily resident in the Bailiwick of Guernsey for at least two years after the age of 16.