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Only 6 per cent pass latest Bombay solicitors exam

Only 11 out of 186 articled clerks have passed the October solicitors examination set by the Bombay Incorporated Law Society, which is a significantly lower percentage than in previous years.

The exam results were announced this week and only two first time takers passed, while nine other successful candidates passed only after one or more retakes of individual papers this time.

The previous April-May 2009 exams saw a pass rate of 11 per cent, with 14 successful candidates out of 129.

In November 2008 a total of 12 per cent or 19 out of 154 candidates passed the exams.

Bombay Incorporated Law Society secretary and examiner-in charge Dawood Mandviwala said that the exam was intentionally very difficult.

"People place more confidence in solicitors," said Mandviwala and added: "What you can really say is that people who are passing [the exam] have great practical knowledge of the law and can quickly find the right section of legislation when asked by clients."

The exam consists of six papers, each of which is sat by candidates in two-day intervals.

The topics are practice and procedure, corporate law, conveyancing, taxation and accounting, general commercial law, and "general lex", which tests knowledge of miscellaneous other areas of law not covered under the other heads.

The corporate law paper had practical problem and factual questions on such areas as the Companies Act, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

The pass score in the exam is 360 points out of 600.

Sitting the solicitors exam requires taking an articled clerkship of three years under a law firm solicitor who has been qualified for five years.

Each solicitor is allowed to supervise up to three articled clerks.

Articled clerks work at a lower salary than associates at firms and are usually given six months off in the run-up to the exams to prepare, with questions potentially testing the legal knowledge of every statute in existence India.

The Bombay Incorporated Law Society was founded in 1894 as a supervisory body to solicitors or attorneys, who at that point did not enjoy rights of audience in courts, which was the preserve of counsel.

The division was abolished in 1976 and the solicitor qualification became a title that offered no legal benefits over advocates but still offered career opportunities and increased pay.

However, solicitors continued to dominate Mumbai's legal market outside of the courts and at many more traditional Mumbai firms the majority of partners are solicitors.

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