* …As lawyers canvass rejigging legal education

Law students of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) can now heave a sigh of relief. The school authorities have resolved the uncertainties surrounding their admission to the Nigerian Law School.

While speaking to the aspiring lawyers at a dinner held at Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Lagos, to mark the end of the NOUN Law Week recently, the director of the McCarthy Study Centre, Lagos, Professor Mba Okoronkwo, revealed that the vice chancellor of NOUN, Professor Abdallah Adamu, was determined to ensure that the law students attend the Nigerian Law School and are called to the Nigerian Bar before the end of his tenure.

Corroborating the position of the VC, a lawyer and staff adviser, South-West, NOUN, Mr. Njoku Nduka, said the issue of admission to the law school has become a mute point and no longer an issue for active conversation.

“I charge the students to take their studies very seriously like never before and be good ambassadors of NOUN in all their endeavours. The school does not accommodate mediocrity, and all of you must have that mind set and act accordingly.”

The dinner opened with the singing of the National Anthem and NOUN’s anthem, led by Master Godswill Testimony Balogun. It was a night of awards, as many stakeholders who stood out in different ways were rewarded. On the honours list was The Sun Publishing Limited, media partner for the event. Thereafter, the students wined, dined and interacted.

In her opening speech at the dinner, the president of Law Students Association (LAWSA), Lagos State chapter, Obazuaye Anna, said: “The Annual Grand Dinner is the flagship event in the calendar of the Law Faculty and a window for the students to converge and rub minds with legal luminaries and intellectually sagacious minds in our nation, Nigeria.”

She thanked the school management and all the participants for gracing the event.

National president of LAWSA, Fred Patrick, told the reporter that the hopes of the students were raised by the assuring words from the VC’s representative.

“Our morale has been boosted. We will engage in our studies with renewed confidence, knowing that our labour is not in vain and will certainly be crowned with our ultimate aspirations of attending the Nigeria Law School,” he said.

Another 500 level law student, Mr. Fidel Ekwute, expressed joy at the disclosure. He said: “My determination never wavered. I believed the matter would be resolved one day. Now the stakeholders are working endlessly to tie all the loose ends to ensure that our admission into the law school is made a reality. It began to take shape when the Act that set up the school was amended.”

The event also featured a public lecture. A lawyer, Michael Orimobi, while speaking on “Specialisation in legal Practice,” said the success of a lawyer starts when he defines clearly why he wants to study the course.

“If you want to be a lawyer because you want to make money, the legal profession is not for you. If you want to be a lawyer because you want to fight your enemies or because your parents want you to, you have a wrong reason.

“Everyone is not wired to be a lawyer. It is not even everyone wired to be one that will succeed as one. There are several businesses you can do and make good money without engaging in all the stress that lawyers undergo throughout their lives. To succeed as a lawyer, you must be willing to embark on endless learning and reading, even if you are 70 years. It is only your love for law, what law stands for and what law can do for you that will make you succeed,” he said.

He added that lawyers were trained to have strong deductive minds, “A lawyer’s ability to look at mountains of problems and deduce the needful makes lawyers adaptable to many areas of endeavour.”

He also stated that there was need for specialisation in legal practice.

“You command more professional fees when people know you are great in this area; that’s when they will pay you your worth,” he said. “Many people think that because Nigeria is an emerging market, the law profession is saturated and they must do everything so that, if this does not pay, the other may work. No. It may even put you in prison because you will not have enough knowledge to guide your clients better. And if they lose money because of your reckless legal advice, you get into trouble.”

He noted that, for a lawyer to be worth the claim of ‘learned gentleman’ while others are ‘educated gentlemen,’ such a lawyer must be knowledgeable about almost everything, but must focus efforts on one area of law and know all there is about it.

Orimobi said that in his 15 years in legal practice, he had only been to court on two occasions: “Litigation does not interest me. But once it is about merger, raising capital, forming corporations, my adrenaline begins to run.”

He said that finding areas of specialisation was not difficult, “Look at the courses that intrigue you; the ones you score high marks in. The fact is that, if you love what you do and feel fulfilled doing it, there is 90 per cent chance that money will follow.”

He advised fresh lawyers to work with attentive minds when they do internship because the jobs one was passionate about would be one’s area of specialisation. He advised law graduates to do internship for at least 10 years before opening their own chambers.

He also emphasised that the curriculum of law faculties should be rejigged to make the training of lawyers more practical and a replica of what is obtained in real legal practice. These, he said, should include offering legal opinions, drafting contracts and getting tested with real issues that clients would present to them in practice. If that happens, he said, the yawning gap between what is learnt in school and what is practised has been bridged.

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