Professionalism in this jet age has become one of the key features of the sustainability campaign. With all vigor and practice, training institutions – like the Law school – around the world have moved to ensure that a system is built to instill the right ethics in trainees through a thorough validation process.
The Nigerian Law School was not left out of this campaign seeing the strong impact it has had in the building of the Country’s judiciary to what it currently is since 1963. Set after set, there have been peculiarities with a seeming nice pattern of predictability.
This is therefore a story about survival and knowledge.
With the mandate of preparing aspirants to the Nigerian Bar with the requisite knowledge and skills useful for the practice of the law within the Nigerian legal sphere, the Nigerian Law School has over the years churned out graduates in several divisions of grades. In fact it has become a culture that the undergraduate LLB becomes as worthless as the BL certificate (which is what you get from at being called to the Nigerian Bar).
Getting into the law school, every student is welcomed into the post graduate environment with this ambiance of grace to beat the odds and be the best. This ambiance is however doused with funny health facilities, a wonderful feeding system, great accommodation arrangement and of course a beautifully packed curriculum. In the end, it’s a struggle of survival than it is a test of knowledge passing the bar.
I recently went through this system and came out victorious amidst the myths and mysteries and hope to share some of my thoughts on studying and passing for the bar. The first mystery you get in law school especially as a goal-inspired and high flying student from the university is that “university high flyers don’t really fly high in the law school”.
I call it a mystery because there is no scientific explanation to it. How a first class graduate from top universities around the world come into the system and are flawed to pass degrees. Some of them prove themselves and make a first class again and can be numbered: Exceptional is their case. This is a mind limiting factor and so the first resolve is to fight the mind to victory making sure you have a personal mantra and drive towards your particular goal. For me, I wanted a first class. But it doesn’t stop at wanting something. You must do what it takes to make a first class.
Now the first thing I discovered was that: whilst at the university, a first class is determined by the depth of your understanding of concepts, ability to take different perspectives in answering questions and of course your mastery of the master of the course and his M.O (Modus operandi), in the law school it was altogether different. Forget all your theories, argumentative styles and mastery of the master because there really isn’t even a master. Develop the depth of knowledge, understand ALL the concepts to their very roots and take the questions head on, only argue where necessary because sometimes it is necessary.
Another thing you must note is that the law school is a vocational training school; your mastery of practice tricks matters a lot. The curriculum includes a full period of court and chamber attachments that allows the student to watch, and observe classroom teachings in practice. While people would notice things and get angry, your ability to develop an understanding of the reasons for the outright difference between practice and classroom is paramount.
Clarifying any of the differences noticed with lecturers is the way to get to know the whys. As much as possible become a walking book of forms and precedents. They are the simplest things to know if you put your mind to it. The drafts are simpler than the principles but of course, it starts from the mind. My seat mates knew that after preparing for the class, it was a sin to come to class looking for forms books when there was a class task. In fact after a while you would notice how easily the clauses of the drafts would flow from your head. Practice makes perfection.
You can never take out the place of setting goals and proper time management with dogged consistency from your journey towards passing the bar finals. Take it as everyday is bar finals. The system is such that with every topic there are practice questions for students. Attempt and answer each of those questions when reading. The good part of this is that it always leaves you with questions. Whether you are in any of the groups in your campus you must develop proper time management that involves in depth study of materials you can gather. Ask the questions: what, why, when and how? This would help you understand the differences between the procedures.
The interesting thing about the bar finals is that the grading system is unique. You graduate with your least score. There is therefore no need entering the civil litigation exam hall not as ready as you are for criminal litigation because the latter is your favorite course. Consistency with your ‘A’s in just five courses births a first class. Work and study prepared each day till it is time for the exams. Never aim for just a pass, aim high just in case you miss the moon, the stars will never pass you by.
Now, the above would lead you on the shallow valley that leads to the doormat of the exams. You see the exams must be knitted with the arteries of your heart from as early as the fourth week of your forty weeks at the law school.
The Bar Final Exam of the Nigerian Law School is the simplest of exams that could be written by any Nigerian student and yes I can say that with all authority.
What happens is that sometimes we are over prepared, or careless that we miss out some tiny details and just miss one or two or three marks here and there and ultimately fail.
Another major part of the exam is the FEAR of not passing. In fact if you can overcome the fear, you must pass; your knowledge then helps you fly the remaining. My advice is to attempt as many questions as you can as you prepare.
Take each question like its class participation and answer carefully. In the end, the strength of the exams is in its timing. Ensure that you have mastered the art of time management and developed a tough skin to stress. In the entire 120 hours of the exam week, you might probably not sleep for more than 10 hours of them like some of us. But we didn’t fall sick, because we had trained to stay strong and tough in tough times.
Borrowing the words of Stephen Covey, excellence is indeed a habit. It is all about creating twice the excellence you want to see. Aim high, draft your final result and create step by step acts and attitudes that would lead you to the point where you can smile as a winner. This year, I had the opportunity of dreaming for the first class with about four of the first class persons from the eight of them. And I can say that the common factor is a cheerful, hopeful, calm and excellent spirit that lies in all of them.
The myths of not being social, not having friends etc I wouldn’t totally agree to. There is no format for excellence. It is all about making bespoke sacrifices. Association was another powerful tool for me. I made friends with some of the brightest minds I discovered. Shout out to the mid-west coast at Abuja Campus and my roommates in Lagos campus. We dreamt together, challenged each other, respected our views, learnt from each other and were happy to call each other in celebration of beautiful results.
It is not intended that this article be mistaken for 101 ways to pass bar finals, just develop your own survival cum success story and share when you can. This is mine and I am grateful to providence I am making it to the bar!!!
Uwede-Meshack Okezi is a First Class graduate of Babcock University.
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