The Council of Legal Education (CLE) was established in 1873 and the Sri Lanka Law College was established under the CLE in 1874 in order to impart a formal legal education to those who wished to be lawyers.
Section 16 of the Courts Ordinance, 1889 empowered the Supreme Court, subject to the rules in the Schedule thereto, to “admit and enrol as advocates or proctors in the said court persons of good repute and of competent knowledge and ability.” The rules in the Schedule provided for the establishment of the CLE, and its powers which were said to be “ to supervise and control the legal education of students desiring to qualify themselves as Advocates or Proctors.” The CLE was also vested with the power of appointing a Principal of the Law College and other staff for the College
The Council of Legal Education Ordinance which was enacted in 1900 provided for the Incorporation of the Council which, in terms of section 2 thereof consisted of the Chief Justice, the Puisne Justices of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the Solicitor General and the five Advocates, two Proctors of the Supreme Court and one Proctor of the District Court of Colombo and named therein.
The Council was empowered to make rules, inter-alia, to prescribe the course of studies and examinations to be observed by law students and the payments therefor.  
In 1974, the Ordinance was amended by Act No. 6 of 1974 to change the composition of the Council. The amendment provided for the Council to consist of the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, the Secretary to the Ministry of Justice and four nominees of the Minister of Justice. The amendment also provided for Rules of the Council to be made with the concurrence of the Minister in charge of the subject of Justice. Thus, state involvement in the Institution was introduced for the first time.
By the Council of Legal Education (Amendment) Act, No. 33 OF 1993 , the composition of the Council was once again changed. The constitution of the Council now consists of the Chief Justice as its Chairman ; the Attorney General, the Secretary to the Minister in charge of the subject of Justice and the Solicitor General (as ex-officio members) ; two Judges of the Supreme Court nominated by the Chief Justice ; two members nominated by the Bar Association ; six other members appointed by the Minister of Justice from among persons of standing in the legal profession or persons who hold or have held judicial office or who are or have been engaged in the teaching of law or legal research or who have secured academic distinction in law or made contributions to legal knowledge.
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