Legal practitioners (i.e. lawyers) have to possess certain qualifications before they can be registered and allowed to practise in Zimbabwe. The qualifications for registration are set by a body called the Council for Legal Education which is established in terms of the Legal Practitioners Act. Generally persons are qualified to be registered if:
- They have a degree, diploma or certificate which the Council has declared to be a “designated legal qualification” and
- They have passed one or more professional examinations set by the Council.
There are two ways in which the Council can declare qualifications to be designated legal qualifications:
- It can publish a general designation notice in the Gazette. Holders of qualifications designated in this way are automatically exempted from writing the Council’s professional examinations before they are registered as legal practitioners.
- If a person who holds a particular qualification – usually a foreign one – applies to the Council, the Council can designate the qualification in relation to that particular holder, provided the holder passes all or most of the professional examinations The Council decides on an individual basis which examinations the person should write.
Until now the only qualifications that enjoyed general designation were the LL.B. (Hons) and BL degrees of the University of Zimbabwe and the BL (Hons) of Midlands State University. Holders of other Zimbabwean law degrees – for example the degree from Great Zimbabwe University – had to apply individually to the Council for designation of their degree before applying to the High Court for registration.
New Designation of Qualifications
Last Friday, in SI 240 of 2021, the Council extended the general designation to cover all the following degrees:
- University of Zimbabwe; the full-time LL.B (Honours) and BL degrees, and the part-time LL.B (Honours) degree that began in 2016
- Midlands State University: the BL (Honours) degree
- Great Zimbabwe University: the BL (Honours) degree
- Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University: the BL Honours degree.
The effect of the notice is that holders of these designated degrees will be able to be registered as legal practitioners without having had to pass the Council’s professional examinations.