Hello, to those currently at the Nigerian Law School, I am sharing with you my experience during the NLS two months externship and how you can make excellent use of the opportunity to gain practical knowledge for your Bar Examinations and in the long run your legal career.
The Externship programme is a part of the Nigerian Law School curriculum to add practical experience to what is taught within the four walls of your NLS classroom. The programme is divided into two invaluable learning experiences to wit; the court room externship, which comes first followed immediately by the chamber/law firm externship. At the end of this programme, NLS students are made to undergo a portfolio assessment to examine them on what they have learnt during the programme. This is also a prerequisite for being called to the Nigerian Bar.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
I believe the under listed steps have been taken and you’ve all received your placements:
- Fill the placement forms for both court and chamber attachments. N.B: The system of choosing your preferred local government and state is intentionally made flexible for your convenience.
- Submit the forms
- Get your placement notifications from NLS
- Complaints? inform your NLS campus Externship coordinator or Group mentor, as the case may be based on the information given by your campus coordinator or Directors.
- Listen to the instructions given and obey. (Many, but important, especially to avoid hiccups during your portfolio assessment). For example – Making copies of work done during the programme;-Submitting a signed and up-to-date log book;-Filled assessment form accompanied by a letter & a copy of your attendance list to be in a sealed envelope from your chamber. Confirm if a court assessment is also required.
- Avoid rumors(listening to and spreading rumors). Get your instructions directly from the authorities which will be communicated to your various group heads or the Chairman Students Representative Council, as the case may be.
MYTHS ABOUT NLS EXTERNSHIP PLACEMENTS
Below, are some stories you hear about the Externship placements. Though not myths in all cases but in most cases. My colleagues may have shared some of these with you, bear in mind that this is subjective and wisdom is profitable to direct.
- I have to get into one of these top chambers, so that I can be retained after law school. True, but not everytime. If this is your reason for going to that top chamber, why not have a better perspective like learning the work culture of this firm that makes them top, gaining relevant skills because for all you know a better opportunity awaits you after law school and these skills will come in handy.
- Some Judges and chambers are prepared to work you out. Really!!!? You just have to manage your time properly. No knowledge is a waste. Remember, “Knowledge empowers”.
- I should get a stipend of 5 million Naira from my chambers after the externship programme. Don’t think it! Don’t say it! Not all law firms pay that stipend. As you said, it’s just a stipend. Max 100,000 Naira.
- I can write jargon in my log book, nobody is gonna read it. Hmm hmm, you’re on the wrong track Bruv! It may have worked for your predecessors but your portfolio assessment may not be less detailed like theirs. There’s a saying that: Taiwo and Kehinde (twins) were born on the same day but have different destinies.
MY LAW SCHOOL EXPERIENCE
As the heading reads, “my law school experience”, though with a lot to take home.
I had my court placement at Hon. justice Oyebanji’s court at the Ikeja High Court, Lagos and chamber placement at Bank-oki, Oyesanya (SAN) and co. Victoria Island, Lagos. I chose Ikeja High Court because of proximity to home and I felt the need for a support structure after the energy draining sessions at the classrooms and after lecture activities, before the Bar exams. Victoria Island because there’s a conducive hostel accommodation at NLS Lagos campus, though it came with a N20,000 fee. Law Clinicians at NLS Lagos had gotten the rooms free in time past during this period, I hope that’s still the case. I also felt the need to be in the school environment after a long break, share knowledge with colleagues present and get on with my reading pal.
“Coming together is a beginning; Keeping together is progress; Working together is success “- HENRY FORD
THE IKEJA HIGH COURT EXPERIENCE
Hon. Justice Oyebanji was in the family & probate division of the High court. I gained useful experience from the divorce proceedings, a vital aspect of civil procedure at the NLS, commercial matters because my Lord was previously in the commercial division and had a spillover of cases, had a daily dosage of how motions were moved and how trials were conducted.
My Lord also enjoined her externs to visit other courts. So, I did pay visits to the Criminal courts, civil courts, and the land division. Wow! What a bundle of practical knowledge to prepare me for the bar exams. Although this is not always the case, some Judges gave their externs assignments, tutorials and met daily to discuss observations from the day’s proceedings, same here as well. Some even had mock trials, interesting! and presentations. Made friends, shared knowledge and capped it up with a get-together and a group picture with my lady. My lady is intellectually loaded.
BANK-OKI, OYESANYA (SAN) & CO
Most of you want to work in a SAN’S chamber after Law school, but that’s not what made me exhilarated. Also, I met familiar faces (senior colleagues) but that was not the game changer. What was it? The interpersonal relationship between the Lawyers and externs, the assignments, court sessions attended, client interviews, quality time spent during the tutorial sessions especially by Kotun Tajudeen Adesina, an arsenal of legal knowledge and most importantly, the cordial relationship and team spirit amongst externs. I made friends, gist, solve past questions and at the end, a get together featuring a grand style but long speech from the Learned silk.
WHAT TO NOTE ABOUT THE LOG BOOK:
- if there are no activities for the day, find one for yourself and fill it in. You can create a legal scenario from your law school curriculum and reflect on it.
- Ensure every page marked to be signed are signed.
- Updating your log book: Depending on your style or the Judges/chambers style, it’s convenient to update them daily. I filled my activities for two weeks on the last day of my court externship, although I had a draft in my jotter and just did a freestyle but this didn’t work for my chamber placement.
- Reflections, this is the comments/remarks section of your log book. It doesn’t have to run to two pages, this is also subjective depending on your “Doctorial thesis prowess”. You don’t necessarily need to have one. For instance, I framed a question in my log book and drafted a Motion on Notice. The learned silk interested in this made corrections with his red ink, that was enough reflection for me.
- Protect your log book, reasonable wear and tear excepted, but it should be available for your portfolio assessment.
WHAT YOU SHOULDN’T MISS OUT
During your externship programme, do not, I repeat, do not hesitate to do the following :
- Reading and Studying unread topics.
- Revise read topics.
- Draft Draft Draft!!!
- Engage in relevant academic discussions, most importantly after studying.
- Solve past questions, don’t cram the answers, know the answers.
- Have a good rest
- Relax your brain muscles (Visit the cinemas, go window shopping, take a walk, Not kidding you, I did basically these three, Visit the beach, gist with friends, anything not to overstretch your brain muscles because you need that brain for your bar exams) but do not expend time on these either.
- Never discourage yourself when you can’t recall, don’t worry it’s stored in your memory. Why even get worried when you can revise your books.
- Don’t also discourage yourself when you have low scores solving mcq’s, it’s a step towards better scores. Keep solving, you’ll get it right.Winston Churchill once said “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”.
- Get in touch with your seniors, heed to their useful advice for the Bar Exams. Again, wisdom is profitable to direct.
- Most importantly don’t sacrifice your relationship with God on the altar of bar exams. Don’t forsake the gathering of the brethren, that could be your support structure.
On a final note, I borrow the words of David Bailey: “A positive attitude can make dreams come true, it did for me”.
All the best!
Babalola is a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He can be reached email@example.com
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