“Lawyers should at all times maintain the honor and dignity of their profession as an officium nobile (honourable profession)”
Whenever I attend Special Education for Advocates (PKPA) ccourses, that phrase always echoes in my mind. Those fine words were stated by my class-tutor who is not just senior lawyer but also a renowned.
Ever since I was in Junior High School, my dream was to become a lawyer. In order to pursue this dream, as a first step, I attended Law School at the University of Indonesia after graduating from High School. The next step to become a lawyer in Indonesia is to attend PKPA courses in order to grasp a firm knowledge of Indonesian law followed by taking a test held by the Indonesian Bar Association (PERADI). After passing the test, all prospective lawyers are required to compose six case study reports, which consist of three reports regarding to criminal cases, and six reports regarding to civil cases, all of which must be cases that the lawyer has handled by him or herself. To fulfill these requirements, after graduating with a Bachelor of Laws Degree, I signed up for PKPA courses. I am now in the steps of preparing for the test conducted by PERADI and just a few steps away from becoming a lawyer. Based on my experience so far, I would like to point out a few issues in our lawyers recruitment system.
What is interesting to highlight is the very unclear recruitment system of advocates in Indonesia. This problem contributes to disputes between bar associations in Indonesia, namely PERADI and Indonesian Congress of Advocates Association (KAI). These disputes show that advocates are yet able to live up to the phrase officium nobile. But, I am not going to take a side.
First, there are no clear rules regarding to the PKPA courses. There are no rules and regulations concerning the tutors for the courses and no clear guidelines regarding to the curriculum and timetable of the courses. In most institutions that hold such PKPA courses, the participants are required to pay a large sum of fees ranging from around IDR 4 Million to 5 Million. Even with fees that high, there is no guarantee that the participants will be taught by appropriate tutors, such as senior lawyers or renowned law academicians. The Bar Association Regulation No 03/2006 (Peraturan PERADI no 03/2006) does not provide requirements for tutors in the preparation courses. Article 7 of the regulation only stipulates common provisions regarding to the tutors. Furthermore, there is no required timetable for the courses. Some institutions offer courses that only last for a period of one month. How much can a person actually learn in a month? Is this timetable adequate? These issues could most likely impact the honor and dignity of the lawyer profession itself. Furthermore, without clear rules, institutions are turning PKPA courses into a business, therefore not maintaining the quality of the courses.
PKPA stands for Special Education for Advocates. From the word education itself, we can see that the means of this class in not only to teach prospective lawyers academic knowledge (which was already taught in law school) but also moral and integrity as lawyers. I would like to say, PKPA courses, which plays a large role in giving birth to advocates, could by no means be simple. Furthermore, Article 5 of the Indonesia Advocate code also requires that tutors for PKPA courses satisfy the phrase officium nobile. This means that the tutors must be advocates, law practitioners or academicians who hold high the law profession.
Furthermore, I have to say the knowledge I obtained in the PKPA courses were very different from what was expected. Frankly, I was quite disappointed. One of the reasons why the advocate profession is viewed as an officium nobile is because all lawyers have a duty to conduct free legal service for the less fortunate or more popularly known as pro bono work. This is stipulated in the Advocate Law of Indonesia. However, I found that this subject was seldom mentioned in the PKPA courses.
I view that it is very important that the Bar Association of Indonesia encourage the prospective lawyers to fulfill their professional obligation to serve the less fortunate. It is very important to send out the message that building integrity as a lawyer is as important as or perhaps more important than making money. All prospective lawyers should understand that pro bono work is a professional responsibility, not an act of charity. In the other words, such pro bono work may help build the moral integrity needed by legal enforcers to support their legal knowledge. This is important because lawyers provide legal service (both free and paid) directly to people who need help. Therefore, it is crucial that all lawyers build their moral integrity through pro bono work. What is astonishing and saddening is that in fact, the number of lawyers that actually conduct pro bono work is very limited.
In my opinion, this negligence is one of the impacts of the chaotic advocate requirement system. If you google the words “being fooled by lawyer” (ditipu pengacara – in Indonesian words) you will get a wide rage of results. This fact must be viewed by the Bar Association as warning signs to reform the recruitment system. While I served at the legal aid of UI, I observed that the main reason that people seek legal aid is apart from having limited funds, they no longer have faith in commercial lawyers. By creating strict regulations, prospective advocates shall be subject to more stringent requirement. Consequently, the honor and dignity of lawyers will automatically be established.
If you compare our current recruiting system to those of the United States (US), the US requires a 4-year college degree, 3 years of law school, and passing a written bar examination in order to become a lawyer. In my opinion, this is far more complicated. However, with strict rules and guidelines the US is able to produce lawyers which reflect the phrase officium nobile and holds the presidential post. I believe we can do that also. As I mentioned before, the appropriate strict rules and regulations are essential in order to maintain the quality of lawyers in Indonesia. We might not be able to be the same as the US is now. But it is a start. This is where the Bar Association comes in.
The law society of Indonesia put its faith in the bar association to produce high quality advocates through PKPA courses. This can be seen by the large amount of profit that these PKPA courses have gained. This gives an even larger burden to the bar association in order to satisfy the public. Being trusted to groom and give birth to Indonesia’s advocates of tomorrow, it is the bar association’s main duty to improve the quality of PKPA by setting up the correct rules and guidelines.