Law teachers raise concerns over ‘half-baked’ lawyers
Law teachers have called on appropriate authorities to reform the legal education system in Nigeria.
Speaking in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Wednesday, the teachers said the reform was necessary in order to preserve the sanctity of the legal profession.
A Professor of Law at the Redeemers University and former Deputy Director of Academics, Nigerian Law School, Kano campus, Prof. Omoniyi Akinola, said there were many challenges confronting the legal education system.
These problems, he said, needed the urgent attention of all stakeholders.
Akinola said, “Funding is one of the problems of legal education in Nigeria. Funding is grossly inadequate considering the number of people that want to study law now.
“Facilities across our universities are grossly inadequate for the training of 21st century lawyers. How many of our moot courts are properly funded? How many of our libraries are properly funded with e-materials?
“You put a thousand students in the Law School and teach all of them at a stretch. The teacher-student ratio is also a problem, which boils down to funding. What’s the teacher-student ratio in the Nigerian Law School? Ten lecturers to 1,000 students, so that is a ratio of 1:100. Can it be effective? No!”
The law teacher also recounted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the legal education system, particularly in the Nigerian Law School programme.
“This COVID-19 year, those who are going to be called to the bar, they did not go on any court attachment. They did not go on court and chamber attachment in the Law School; they just wrote exams and they will be called to bar. So, which type of skill did they acquire?
“We can say the pandemic is also a challenge and these online facilities, to what extent are we using them? Are we already teaching them about virtual learning, virtual mooting, virtual court practice? We are not! Even when we say we are doing it, are they effective? No! They are not effective,” he said.
He also stated that the quality of law teachers, especially those teaching in areas that they had not gained capacity, was becoming a problem to the quality of legal education.
Akinola said teachers were not the only ones to be blamed as students also had their share of the blame.
“Student attitude is a problem. What is the percentage of students who are really ready to study Law? Some of them their parents forced them to study Law and they took up the slots of those who were really willing to study Law.
“When they finish their programme, they go back to their parents and say ‘Daddy, this is your certificate,’ and go back to marketing, cybersecurity, online businesses, etc. So, there is an attitudinal problem,” he added.
However, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Public Law, Rivers State University, Aduche Wokocha, said although there had been worries about the number of law students trained each year in the universities and law school, that should be the least of our worries.
He said, “People have the right to choose an area in which they want to pursue a career. Our responsibility should be ensuring that they arrive in the profession ready and properly prepared to discharge the duties of members of the profession. I am sure that in time as they come in, people will decide whether they want to continue with the career or pursue new careers, notwithstanding their degrees.”
Wokocha stressed the need to maintain the integrity of the legal profession as it was becoming an issue of concern.
“There is also the issue of integrity in the profession. I think we have a responsibility at the university level, where they (students) are prepared, to deal with that before they get to the law school level.
“The issue of malpractice has eventually crept into the Law School. It was rare, but we’ve had times where there were talks in the media about Law School examination and malpractice.
“We must do something about getting back the right degree of discipline in the profession and it should begin with the training and preparation of the students,” he stated.