By Sylvester C. Udemezue
I read on the Legal Practice Discourse (LPD) on July 07, 2021, a commentary attributed to a supposed ex student of the Nigerian Law School and perhaps made in reaction to the just released results of the (March) 2021 Bar Final Exams. Hear the writer: “Everything we wrote for bar finals were self taught.
The drafts, the sections, the cases. All self taught! Classes held for 2 hours a day to cover 20 weeks work.
No externship. Nothing. Mock trials was a joke. But we did it! 2019/2020/2021 pandemic bar set are very smart!” (See https://twitter.com/kingesss_/status/1412565891867414529?s=19). I didn’t bother to click on the Twitter link in order to read the full statement because I recall that the ban on Twitter was still in place; I wouldn’t want to be arrested or “intercepted”, arraigned in court, prosecuted and convicted for the newest offence in town: Twitter Access Taboo (TAT).
IMAGINE COUNT ONE drafted thus:
“That you, udems, at or about 6.15pm on or about July 07, 2021, inside your phone (Infinix mini) made in China, purchased at Saka Tinubu, Lagos, but being used at the material time in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Hon Court, did unlawfully access your Twitter Account for purposes of reading in full what an ex student of the NLS had written/published, and thereby committed an offence to wit – Twitter-Access Taboo (TAT), contrary to and punishable under, the Twitter-Ban Act 2021, made in a public statement by Nigerian Minister of Information”. Anyway, this, is by the way! 😂 Thank God, I resisted the temptation to log in. Now, I come in peace 😂, and humbly crave your indulgence to proceed in peace ☮️.
Back to business, with the greatest respect to whoever authored the said published Twitter statement (which has since gone viral on LinkedIn, Facebook and WhatsApp), I personally think the statement is (on the part of the writer) a public advertisement of ingratitude, non-recognition, non-appreciation and irreciprocity. More importantly, and because I was privy to all activities in the school during the just concluded 2019/2020 session, I can confirm that the said Twitter statement is untrue and grossly misrepresentative of what transpired at the Nigerian Law School during the said academic session.
Note, for the avoidance of all doubts, I do not speak for the Law School as I am not its spokesperson. But I am personally aware of the following facts about the 2019/2020 session (whose results were released on 06/07/2021):
1️⃣. Generally, teaching in the Nigerian Law School (under the New Curriculum) is practice-based, aimed at producing lawyers who would be in a position to measure up to contemporary benchmarks and international best practices in the legal profession. Formal classroom coaching lasts twenty (20) weeks. A total of five subjects are taught, namely:(1) Professional Ethics & Skills (formerly known as Law in Practice); (2) Civil Litigation, (3) Criminal Litigation; (4) Corporate Law Practice, and (5) Property Law Practice. Normal classroom interaction takes the form of one course per day for each of the five working days in a week in the order according to which the modules are arranged as shown above. As already pointed out, lectures usually take a 20-week duration to conclude, after registration and orientation/induction.
2️⃣. For the current session, the 2019/2020 session, I know as a fact that as of 24 March 2020 when the Law School got suddenly shut down following Federal Government directives towards curbing spread of the then said-to-be-ravaging pandemic, COVID-19, the students had had lectures for about 4 weeks.
2️⃣. Then from April 2020, and in order to not keep the students idle, the School introduced the virtual teaching method that saw Lecturers deploying the Google Classroom and Google Meet to deliver to students the best quality, the most organized and the most indepth lectures the school had given in recent years.
3️⃣. The Online lectures lasted about 14 weeks, ending in early July 2020. During the period, prerecorded video lectures (I will send one example here), PowerPoint Presentations, tasks and solutions to the tasks, were uploaded on the Google Classroom for students to view/watch free of charge, on all the topics and in all the five modules. All the topics, including those already taken before lockdown/shutdown, were taken, discussed up to the last topic. Thereafter, sufficient materials were sent out to the students for their stay-at-home revision, since extended lockdown restrictions as a result of covid-19 wouldn’t allow ON-CAMPUS school activities to resume. Note: the NLS is not used to preparing and sending to students, answers to the weekly tasks (the lecturers preferred to discuss these tasks with students during interactive sessions in classrooms ). But during this last session, prepared answers were sent to students.
4️⃣. On-Campus academic activities resumed on February 01, 2021 and for the next six weeks, there was an intensive in-class physical revision lecture-session that saw the Lecturers going through all over again (by way of teaching and interactive sessions) all the subjects and topics earlier taken in the entire 20 weeks, in all modules.
5️⃣. There were then observed and conducted, the traditional mock court-trial sessions. The mock trial sessions were organised for the students, and undertaken by the students themselves, under lecturers` supervision and held simultaneously in all the six Campuses. During the mock sessions, students were made to play a part in simulated court trial proceedings, designed to inculcate in the students basic advocacy skills and courtroom decorum.
6️⃣. There was the Snap Test or Pre Bar (Mock) Bar Final Exams administered to students across the six campuses of the Law School. These happened about a fortnight before the final exams. Please note that in the Nigerian Law School, snap tests and Prebar exams are merely formative not summative.
7️⃣The traditional one-week lecture-free revision period was thereafter observed after which bar part 2 exams took the stage from about March 17, 2021.
▪️. For any one of the Students who went through these processes and activities to now come out to announce, nay, misrepresent, to the wide world that “everything we wrote for the  bar finals were (sic) self taught” is discouraging, disheartening, disappointing, and unfortunate, especially when one recalls the heavy sacrifice NLS teachers put in, as explained above, to effectively impart knowledge on this set of students.
▪️Yes, there was no formal externship, although efforts to key into classroom discussions, basic law practice principles and procedures (in advocacy and solicitorship). But how could anyone be talking about formal externship during that trying period in the world’s history, when all courts, law firms and the entire world, were shut down in obedience to covid-19 lockdown restrictions, especially those designed to ensure social distancing? Would the students do their externship in the air? Isn’t the decision to shelve formal externship most reasonable and justifiable in the circumstances?
▪️Anyway, let one say what one may, one thing I know is that the best efforts were made by the NLS academic faculty under the prevailing circumstances, to give the best to this set. Interestingly, NO question was set or administered during or for purposes of the March 2021 Bar Final Exams, other than from within outcomes, contents and items in the curriculum/syllabus and from what the students were taught during the period afore-explained.
▪️One would therefore have expected that the particular writer/student, and indeed every other student, whether (s)he failed or passed, should be out on the street of Nigeria, and on the social media, applauding the Management of the Law School, and the teachers/lecturers for the extraordinary measures taken or deployed to take care of what was an extraordinarily unprecedented situation; for the wonderful quality of the lectures administered; and for the richness of the academic contents delivered during for this session, which Hisb now codenamed (by the general public) “The COVID-19 Session”.
▪️ The Management of the NLS and the Lecturers usually do not crave applause; I have established that they expect that the best way to appreciate them (the management and Lecturers) for a job well done, is as follows:
(a). Its students should take very seriously, all what they have been given/taught (the lectures, the tutorials, the mentoring, the counselling, and the materials), and make the best use of same towards excelling during Bar Final Exams, and
(b). After their call to the bar (for those who pass and meet other pre-conditions for call to the bar), to stay stuck to religious adherence to, and pragmatic abidance with, the Legal Ethics, while being in action, good ambassadors of their ultimate Alma Mater, (the Nigerian Law School). This they can do by being good, diligent and serious-minded practitioners who know how best to deploy the rich knowledge, robust ethics, wide experience and vast values gained from the Law School, to solving the problems facing their clients, the society in which they live, and world at large, and also towards advancing the cause of humanity.
▪️ However, while the Law School does not beg for praises from its ex students, yet, it would be unfair for the same students or for any of the students for which the Management and staff of the Law School have risked all, sacrificed all and given all (notwithstanding scarce resources and acute dearth of facilities) to now turn around and start making unfavourable statements of ingratitude and disparagement or statements grossly and unfairly misrepresenting the School as having not done enough for its students.
▪️His show of appreciation out of place? Appreciation is the act of giving something or someone their proper value and recognition; everybody and every institution has value. Excellent work should always be recognized, acknowledged and differentiated as such. Credit should be given as due, and tribute paid as necessary. Instead of bland castigation, public disparagement, and bogus “self-taught” claims, the affected ex student ought to have been saying something like: “Thank you so much, NLS, for all that you’ve done for me. Again, thank you for all that you have done to lead me to success at bar final exams! Your teaching, mentoring, tutoring, counselling, moulding, encouragement and faith in me do not go unnoticed”. Truth be told, great teachers are a huge treasure to their students and to the society. Hence there’s need (whenever opportunity beckons, to express one’s appreciation to such excellent educators.
In my humble opinion, Nigerian Law School Lecturers are much more than Teachers; they’re mentors, inspirers, motivators, comforters, life-builders, counsellors, and partners-in-progress, comrades-in-arms with their students. It can be hard to put in words exactly how much of an impact teachers at the NLS make in the lives of their students, aspirants to the Nigerian Bar; NLS teachers consume themselves to light the way for their own students. It must however be pointed out (and this is the way I personally see it) that the principal object of education at the Nigerian Law School, is to prepare Bar aspirants to educate themselves throughout their lives. The Nigerian Law School is a vocational training institution. The reason is understandable; the Life of the law has not been logic. It has been experience.
Teaching in the Law School is geared towards assisting discovery. Clay P. Bedford once said, “if you can teach a student to learn by creating curiosity in him , he will continue the learning process as long as he lives”.
What NLS Teachers want to see are “students in pursuit of knowledge”, and not “knowledge in pursuit of the students”. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s words ring bell at the heart of training at the Law School: “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of becoming”. No wonder NLS students are regarded informally as “Lawyers in Equity” perhaps because equity sees and treats as done that which ought to be done. Besides, as Aristotle put it, “whatever you want to do, you should learn it by actually doing”. Hear Samuel Butler (1835–1902): “Don’t learn to do, but learn in doing. Let your falls not be on a prepared ground, but let them be bona fide falls in the rough and tumble of the world”. I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand. You must learn by doing the thing; for though you think you know it, you have no certainty, until you try. At the Nigerian Law School, the teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself. However, such self-entering doesn’t make the system Self-Taught. It remains what it rightfully is: Teacher-Taught, although Student-Focused.
In conclusion, as I noted in my earlier commentary, published under the head, CONTEMPORARY TRAINING AT THE NIGERIAN LAW SCHOOL: AN INSIDER’S ACCOUNT, “the vocational training at the Nigerian Law School under the New Curriculum is not just business as usual. The system… is designed to ensure that only serious-minded people are enrolled into the legal profession…success in the Law School depends much more on hard work and determination than on mere possession of talent; at the Nigerian Law School, hard work would beat talent if talent does not work hard. There is no room for anything goes; the School is not a dumping ground for the “never-do-wells,” who try to get enlisted into the legal profession through the back door”. (https://www.google.com/amp/s/udemsyl.wordpress.com/2017/01/29/education-at-the-nigerian-law-school-an-insiders-acount/amp/)
God bless Nigerian Law School.
God bless Lawyers and Aspirants to the bar!
God help Nigeria!
Sylvester C. Udemezue (Udems)
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