With Six(6) Degrees, all with a First Class and Distinction. Best Graduating Student in Theology and Philosophy, First Class in Postgraduate Diploma in Education as well as Mass Communication, First Class in Law from both the University and the Nigerian Law School, Rev. Fr. Grabriel Emeasoba is, no doubt, worthy and in the best position to author this Epistle. Read on.
A LETTER TO MY BELOVED ASPIRANT TO THE NIGERIAN BAR
Dear Aspirant to the Bar,
I congratulate you on your graduation from the University. Being a graduate of Law alone is in itself a momentous feat for which you must be grateful and happy. Congratulations! I am aware that many of you have already completed your application processes in preparation for the Nigerian law school.
As undergraduates, many of you, just like me, dreamt of that day when you would have the opportunity to embrace procedural law, and be able to gather the last package of the necessary apparatus to launch you into the hallowed legal
profession. I am so glad, that in your case, that opportunity has finally arrived.
I feel obligated to write this epistle to you not because there is anything so special in what I want to say. Nothing gives me the assurance that I command the respect of your audience. I have only decided to write you because I learnt a lot from the experiences shared by
inspired members of previous classes at the Nigerian law school. I now know that with the right information, predisposition and attitude, the law school turns out to be A LAND OF OPPORTUNITIES.
I came to the Nigerian Law School – a Catholic priest – after my degree programme at the University of Lagos. I lived most times in the hostel at the Lagos Campus of the Law School. I
spent all my weekends in my parish ministering to God’s people and focusing on things other than law.
As an adult student, living under the hostel conditions was not easy. Law
school was the most stressful one year I have experienced in my life. I fell sick many times and nearly gave up countless times. Thank God I did not allow my strength to be broken.
But why am I telling you this? The reason is simple. If I could graduate from the Law school with First Class Honours, with all the challenges I had, any other person (especially, younger persons) who makes a genuine attempt, would certainly perform better. I have therefore decided to share with you some of my experiences and secrets.
Who knows? It might be of help. So, let me begin by telling you that the Nigerian Law School is not overrated. You must have heard a lot of things about how stressful the programme is. You will discover with time that you didn’t even hear enough about the stress. Nobody can truly narrate the experience of
stress; it is better experienced.
However, even though the Law School programme is a very stressful process, the Bar Final examination itself, for those who work very hard, could be the easiest examination you would take in life. If you burn your candles well and labour with interest, passion and focus, you would discover that the exam itself, unlike the programme, is overrated.
Therefore, if you could, throw in everything, I must tell you that the pain that accompanies failure at the bar finals is nothing to be compared with the stress
of law school. The pain could kill; it has indeed killed. But the joy of success at the Bar Finals heals all the one-year stress instantaneously. Believe me!
Therefore, immediately before law school, don’t burn out yourself with internships or other tight schedules. Try to rest and get ready. Don’t worry about buying a lot of books. Just have your money ready so that when the programme begins, you would know the right books to buy. Don’t buy all the books you see, otherwise, you would only discover that you had those books on the day you will be packing off from the Law School hostel. Wait for the
recommendations of the lecturers before making your decisions.
When the registration begins, don’t stay at home. Start from the first day with the right attitude. Try to complete your registration on time so that you get settled before the lectures begin. Don’t dodge the orientation programme. Take every programme at the Law School seriously. Your grade starts to pile up from the first day. Make sure you claim a seat at an advantaged position in class. Don’t stay at the “House of Lords.”
The first task you will face in your group is that of choosing your group leaders and sub-group leaders. The work of a group leader is extremely tasking. You will nearly run mad doing it. However, 90 percent of group leaders and sub-group leaders make Second-Class
grades and above. I doubt if I could have made a First Class if I was not a group leader. The reason is very simple. Law School, being a vocational school, deals with a practical course. And, most times, your group members would leave the whole work for you to do alone.
It means that you must read the topics before every lecture in order to do your tasks. You may have to stay awake sometimes till 3.00 am to make sure you deliver, otherwise, you would receive a query for failure to deliver (especially for those who would go to the Lagos
Campus). It means that you will have the opportunity to do the drafts firsthand and know them better than others. If your strength can carry it, take the role of a group leader, but if not, take that of a sub-group leader, at least. You will not die and you will not regret it.
The most important aspect of life at the Law School is attendance to lectures. I don’t need to tell you to attend lectures. You only need to know that apart from the fact that you need to meet a certain attendance threshold to take the Bar Final exam, no textbook will teach you more than you would learn in the classroom. No surrogate lecturer can give you more than you would receive in class.
Make sure you don’t sit behind. Make sure that your seatmate is not a distraction. The Law School Lecturers are a bunch of determined, selfless models. They are an example of the positive things one can say about Nigeria. They are experts and they are good at what they do. Follow their lead!
Take notes in class. No note could be better than yours. If you have a complete note and read it well, it would be difficult for you to fail the bar exams. Do all the exercises in class and all your assignments well. Ask and answer questions in class and contribute to discussions. Never be afraid of using the microphone in front of you.
As Mr Nasiru Tijani of the Lagos Campus of the Nigerian Law School would say, there is an intimate connection between obedience and success at the Bar Finals. Never ever get tired in class to the extent that you leave the class and go to your room. So many do it when it gets tough but never join them. When you feel
like sleeping in class, look behind and you would see a seventy-year old man or woman sitting behind you, awake and taking notes. Try to lift yourself up and continue.
Don’t shy away from making presentations in class. Somehow, all these things have a way of making the huge volumes stick. Know your body system. If you have health challenges, try to take care of yourself within
the stretch of the programme. Don’t go hungry, otherwise, you would faint in class when they become unduly long. Many did faint in my set.
Organize your reading times well. In my case, I tried to sleep immediately after class and lunch for at least one hour. It helped me to stay awake in the night. You will be divided into groups for group discussions on daily tasks and topics. Make great use of this opportunity. Join in doing group assignments, otherwise, you will never learn how to draft processes.
It is in group meetings that you would discover very intelligent classmates from other schools. Don’t be ashamed to approach them for help in case you need any. Collaborate with each other but avoid toxic people. If you are more privileged than others, try to share. Teach and teach and teach. By teaching, you help others and what you know gets more crystallized.
Help the older ones among you. Be patient with them and carry them along all the time. If it’s difficult for you to endure the programme as a younger person, imagine how difficult it is for them. I must tell you that you will meet so many people who will change your life for the better in your group, even after Law School.
Immediately after registration, you would notice that so many students came to the Law school with a lot of negative attitudes. Just be focused. Don’t be deceived by the anonymity of the crowd. Be respectful and human. Some people
you meet in law school could become your best friends and human saviours, ever after.
Live your life. Make sure that you avoid unnecessary troubles that could distract you. Don’t be caught in the web of any query. Just obey the rules. Don’t waste time complaining about the minor inconveniences you experience in the hostels and other places. Just find a way to cope. You have to decide whether to read in your room or in the library. Whichever one you decide, be consistent.
Never attend any lecture in Nigerian Law School without having an idea of the topic of the day. Read your textbooks before class and do your tasks and then, get clarified in class on the dark areas. When you read and try the drafts before lectures, the topics are easier to assimilate.
At the Law School, you will receive lectures on Criminal Litigation, Civil Litigation, Property Law Practice, Corporate Law Practice, and Professional Ethics and Skills. None of these courses is more important than the other. Pay equal attention to all of them and don’t
neglect any. Criminal Litigation has a lot of minor details you need to pay attention to.
There are so many exceptions to the general rule. I learnt in Law School that sometimes, the exceptions could be more important that the general rule. Read the Criminal Procedural Laws over and over again. Look at the Laws and take note of the distinctions made in class. If you understand the first seven (7) lectures in Criminal Litigation, you would be good to go. You must pay attention to drafting charges. This, you must do by drafting a lot of charges and not just by reading it. Charges are not read; they are drafted.
Civil Litigation is very voluminous but very interesting if you pay attention. The challenge with this course is that it has a lot of drafts. Have a practice note where you learn how to draft and correct yourself with the directions in class. Once corrections are made in class, just redraft your previous attempts and keep, otherwise, you will not find any better relevant model afterwards. Be clear on the principles and don’t bother about the discrepancies between what you are told in class and what you find in textbooks. Follow your lecturers’ instructions. There are so many drafts you must memorize. If I did it, you can do it as well.
You will discover, as I did, that Corporate Law Practice is the most technical Course offered in the Nigerian Law School. Yet, there is nothing to fear about this course. If you read the text books before every class and pay attention to your lecturers and your Companies and Allied Matters Act, and other Laws and Rules and Regulations used, you will enjoy it. There
are so many procedures to memorize. Use of mnemonics could be helpful. If you don’t practice the drafts in this course, they will deal with you. Always see this course as part of normal life.
Whenever you read it, imagine yourself in a corporate environment making
common sense decisions. This will help you appreciate the provisions of the law, especially under corporate governance. You will discover that corporate finance and restructuring will be very challenging to assimilate. Just be calm and read the topics over and over again.
Ask questions where you don’t understand. Don’t play with your Securities and Exchange Commission Rules. If you begin on time, with time, everything will make sense. But, never
ever give up on this course because it knows how to return such gestures.
There is no rocket science about Property Law Practice. If you pay attention to the first seven lectures, you will get a formidable foundation. In this course, you must be ready to draft and memorize. The drafts are sometimes similar. Once you get the major framework, you can handle most of the drafts in this course. There could be many but discordant drafts in your text books. Stick to what is taught in class.
The most neglected course by students is
Professional Ethics and Skills. As easy as it appears to be, a lot of student miss their targets at the Bar Final Exams because of this course. You have to be meticulous to do well in this course. I had to memorize all the provisions of the Rules of Professional Ethics. This is very
easy to do if you take two Rules per day. Once you know the geography of these Rules, you would be able to do other things. Then, pay attention to the drafts and other relevant topics. Generally, you must know that if you miss classes, you would see questions on the exam day you would think were never taught. Believe me!
By the time you go for Christmas break, you would have covered a lot in all the courses. The Christmas break is a very big catchment area for a prospective First class candidate. If you like making notes, it’s possible to make packaged notes on all the topics handled before the
end of that break. What this means is that you will have less work to do during your Externship.
If you spend your time attending weddings, most of these couples would be among the first set of people calling to know your grade when the results are released. In some Campuses like Lagos, you will have impromptu snap tests. Don’t let these choke you to death. Be serious with them by just being ready every time. If you do well in them, don’t
get too proud. It is not an assurance that you will get the ultimate prize. If you fail them, don’t get despondent. It’s a wake-up call. Pick up your stretcher and keep walking.
Only those who endure succeed at the Bar Finals. If, like me, you made a First Class grade in your university degree, never be presumptuous. Law School will humble you. From experience, I
know that those who wear the cap in their heads never get to wear the ultimate cap on their heads. Just pretend as if you have never tasted success before. Think not too much about the weight of expectations from home and your university professors. In the end, you have your life to live.
After the 20th week, you will go for the Externship programme in the courts and law firms. You may have more time to read at the Magistrate Courts but you will learn more from the
High Courts. Don’t dodge court proceedings. Most of your questions in civil and criminal litigation will come from what you observed in courts and law chambers.
Fill your log books every day and never leave them to pile up. If you manage your time well, you will read well during the time for Externship. Go home when the courts rise and take your lunch and
sleep. When you wake up, you can read for six to seven hours every day. There is no way you would not be ready for exams after three months. This is also the period you take time to practice the Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ).
Deal with all the past questions you lay your hands on. It is dangerous to enter the exam hall without solving many past questions. Don’t just look at them. Buy exercise books and solve them one after another. Where you have difficulties, contact more intelligent colleagues to help. That is why you need to have them as friends.
When you go back to school after the Externship programme, there will be so much distraction coming from exercises like Portfolio Assessment and Mock Trial competition. So, you must make sure that you are at least 60 percent ready by that time. Don’t shy away from Mock Trial Competitions. If you join in the preparation of the processes for the Mock Trial Competitions, you would have covered a great deal of civil and criminal litigation without knowing it.
From experience, most people who participate in the Mock Trial
Competitions do well at the Bar Final exams. Check the records. After the Mock Trial competition, in the period remaining before the MCQ examinations, buy the prototype answer sheets for the MCQ exams and practice with it. Focus on speed and accuracy.
With much practice, you would not score less than 15 in each course. This is possible even for below average students. It only takes discipline and efforts. With that score, getting a First Class grade would only be a matter of choice and determination.
The period between the MCQ exams and the main Bar Final Examination is very critical. Don’t spend time mourning the mistakes you made at the MCQ exam. Move on! The MCQ exam will help you to be more strategic in reading as you prepare for the main exam. You
must know that 80 marks are still up for grabs and this is not a joke. Apportion proportionate time to all the courses. There are some courses you can easily deal with by group discussions. However, there are others you must sit down and read and memorize.
The greatest enemy at this time is fear. The fear that flows round the campus at this period could be so overwhelming that people give up. I saw my classmates praying for just a Pass. If you could defeat fear at this period, you will do well in the exams. Refuse to accept that
you are not good enough. Refuse to accept that you have not read enough.
Believe in your strategy. Once the exams start, there are no margins for error. Read the instructions very well. Use the right answer sheets for the right answers. Not being able to do this has cost people their success at the Bar Finals.
In the exam hall, make sure you finish reading the questions to the last word. The word “not” could be inserted somewhere at the end and this totally changes what you are required to do. Just be meticulous. When compulsory questions appear monstrous on first
reading, refuse to accept that you do not know them. It is somewhere in your head. You just need to dig deep.
At the Bar Finals, you could get 3 out of 5 just for making a beautiful attempt. Don’t leave any question blank. The lecturers will teach you how to approach questions at the Bar Finals. Don’t forget their directions. Don’t be unnecessarily verbose. Answer the questions asked first, and then, give your explanations.
Don’t waste time crying about questions you got wrongly, after your examinations. You don’t have the luxury of time. Banish your question papers to your bags and rest, in order to read for the next day. If you waste time mourning a poor performance on Monday, you would do worse on Tuesday. Most questions carry only 3 marks. Don’t keep yourself down when you are not even sure you would fail up to 25 marks in the paper written. Your First Class dream could still be intact.
I want to tell you that the Nigerian Law School is A LAND OF OPPORTUNITIES. A person who made a 3rd Class grade in the university can easily make a First Class at the Bar Finals with the right attitude. It is a place where you may discover for the first time in your life
that you could go the extra mile. It is a place where the omen of stress and fear could push people to encounter God.
People have met their spouses at the Nigerian Law School in the past, and when the circumstances are the same, history repeats itself. Therefore, the worst way to live your life at the Law School is the close yourself to these opportunities that abound.
Finally, it will be unfair if I don’t tell you that God is the most important variable in the Law School equation. Find time to pray. Find time to perform your religious obligations. Don’t pray alone; pray together, if you can. When you do your best, seek the face of God. Submit
your struggles to Him. Only Him can grant ultimate success.
One secret of success at the Bar Finals is charity. There are ample opportunities for charity in the Law School. You will meet students who need help, materially, academically and spiritually. Don’t turn your back when you can help. Always bear in mind that there is no person too poor that he cannot give and there is not person too rich that he cannot receive.
My dear, I wish you all the best as you embark on this journey. I pray that you would succeed as we did. May God give you the strength to seek and find. God bless you.
Gabriel Emeasoba (Rev. Fr)
Nigerian Law School Graduate, 2017/2018 Set.
Ask your questions and give additions in the comment section.
Joseph Jagunmolu Ogunmodede is the Founder/CEO of THE LEGAL DIARY.
He is a Double First Class lawyer from the prestigious University of Ibadan and the Nigerian Law School. Joseph is an Attorney at Udo-Udoma and Belo-Osagie with interest in Corporate Law, Energy Law, Real Estate Law and Commercial Litigation.