Starting at the Nigerian Law School soon? Here are some things you need to know.
There are six campuses of the Nigerian Law School – Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Yola, Yenogoa and Kano, with Abuja being the headquarters. All the campuses are headed by Deputy Director Generals, except for the Abuja campus which is headed by the Director General of the Nigerian Law School.
The campuses are designed to be self-sustaining,as with most university campuses around Nigeria.
There are two phases of the Nigerian Law School, namely Bar Part I and Bart Part II.
Bar Part I is designed for graduates that obtained their law degrees from universities outside Nigeria and takes place over the course of approximately four months.
The following courses must be undertaken as part of Bar Part I – Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Nigerian Legal System and Nigerian Land Law. These courses are considered pillars of Nigerian law and must be studied by every person who wishes to practice law in Nigeria.
In addition, Evidence Law and Commercial Law are mandatory for foreign-trained aspirants who did not study them at university.
Bar Part I is graded on a pass/fail basis. Provided you attend your lectures and do the required reading, you are not likely to have serious issues with Bar Part I.
Bar Part II is the ‘real NLS’ programme and it runs for almost one year (approximately 9 months). It usually begins in October/November of every year and ends in August/September of the next. There could be variations depending on the current calendar. There are three terms within the Bar II Programme, the first for Lectures, the second, the Externship period and the third, the period post-externship including the period in which the Bar Exams are written.
The session begins with registration of students followed by a weeklong induction.
Students undergo approximately 20 weeks of classroom learning, after which they embark on compulsory court attachment and law office placement. Students must take the following courses – Corporate Law Practice, Property Law Practice, Civil Litigation, Criminal Litigation and Professional Ethics and Skills.
One course is dealt with per day from Monday to Friday. There are slight variations in the way the courses are taught from campus to campus. In the Lagos campus, lectures take place from 9am till about 2pm, after which the students break for lunch and then return for group discussion. In the Abuja campus, lectures in the form of PowerPoint presentations by the lecturer(s) take place from 9am till 11:00 am when students are entitled to a 30-minute break period. Group discussions take place from 11:30am till 1:30pm followed by a lunch break of about 1 hour 30 Minutes. An interactive session usually follows and takes place between 3 and 4pm.
Past questions are usually discussed and students are allowed to ask questions. In all of the campuses, every class ends with a task that students are expected to tackle within their groups and present at the next class.
The law school curriculum could be intense depending on how you approach it. If your intention is to play during the year and crash read for one month, you will most likely fail. The key to excelling at the Nigerian Law School is consistent hard work.
Students are divided into groups based on a number of criteria. Some campuses do the distribution on the basis of the last digit of the students’ registration number. Thus, if your registration number is 1346, you would be in group 6, and if your registration number is 1930, you would be in group 10.
These groups are expected to meet on a daily basis to prepare for the next class. The group meetings usually take about two hours of your time daily, which is a lot, by NLS standards. While some students find it very helpful, others do not, it is important to make adjustments depending on how helpful you find it, but please note that these group meetings are “compulsory”.
The Nigerian Law School operates what some of its lecturers refer to as the “weakest link” grading system; the final grade of a student is based on his lowest grade. For instance, if a student obtains 4 As and 1 C, he will be rewarded a C as his final grade (which is a Pass). The informal argument put forth by the Nigerian Law School officials is that a student is only as strong as his weakest point. Many prominent lawyers have correctly argued that this system defies logic and an average grading system should be applied as is obtainable in reputable educational institutions around the world. An average grading system takes into account a student’s best and worst grades to arrive at an average and fair result. Nevertheless, the Nigerian Law School still operates this grading system and students have a responsibility to take each of the courses seriously. You are not afforded the luxury of having a Favourite/ Worst course!
The Nigerian Law School programme is a full time programme and attendance is compulsory. In all campuses, attendance is recorded, with some campuses using biometric devices to record attendance and punctuality.
Students that fail to meet the mandatory [75 per cent] attendance threshold set by the Nigerian Law School may be disqualified from sitting the Bar Part II exams.
Students at the Nigerian Law School are required to be dressed in ‘regulation wear’. Males are to be dressed in a dark (black is safest) trouser suit, with a white shirt, black tie and black office shoes. The collarless shirt informally known as “Lawyer’s Shirt” is not allowed as it is not possible to wear a tie on it. Note that it is not compulsory to wear a jacket or suit to class.
Females are permitted to wear plain dark dresses (with visible sleeves) or skirt suits with a plain white shirt, blouse or camisole and proper office shoes. Skirts and dresses should be below the knee with small slits, and jewelry should be small and moderate. Coloured hair is not allowed. Note that it is not compulsory to wear a jacket to class.
Members of staff stand watch at the entrances of classrooms to turn back students who are not dressed accordingly.
Before a student is called to the Nigerian Bar, he must attend three law dinners; all three are usually held before the Call to Bar ceremony. A few days before the first dinner, students are typically given a crash course on etiquette and table manners.
The dress code must be strictly adhered to at these dinners and we find that the wardens are stricter in their enforcement of the dress code policy – guys have been turned back for not wearing socks!
The dress code is pretty much the normal, except students must wear a suit and ladies are not permitted to wear hair extensions of any sort. This means no wig, attachments, etc. – yes it makes no sense to us either!
As for the food actually served, it’s nothing to write about.
Punctuality is taken very seriously at the Law Dinners as you must be seated in the Dining Room 30 minutes before the arrival of the Body of Benchers (the group of high ranking legal practitioners and Justices responsible for admitting new members into the legal profession). There have been instances where people were not called to bar for failing to keep a single dining term!
Depending on the calendar, students are sent on a compulsory court attachment programme in April with log books in which they are expected to record their daily experiences.
Here, students are ‘attached’ to a court of law in Nigeria. This court could either be the Magistrate, State or the Federal High Court. During this time, you would typically meet students from other campuses and a lot of knowledge-exchange takes place during this time.
The all-inclusive nature of the Bar II Syllabus makes each of these courts important so in the end, it does not actually matter which you get posted to as you require the experience from all three courts to sit the Bar exams. It is important to learn as much as possible from the court externship and ask the judges questions if you require any clarification.
Most importantly, learn how to “move a motion” while you are there because this is almost the ultimate test of your participation in the externship exercise.
Similar to the court attachment, students are sent on compulsory in a law office within a state of their choosing. Like the court externship, they are given log books in which they are expected to record their daily experiences.
This period is closer to the exams and it is typical to see students reading and memorizing law school related information in preparation for the exams.
It is important to focus on Bar-Finals related issues at this time. Also, reading should be streamlined and directional. Try not to be intimidated by how “knowledgeable” other people are. Concentrate more on learning what you have been told to.
Yet another ‘compulsory requirement’ for admission to the Nigerian Bar, its aim is to determine how much students were able to grasp while away from school.
Students are usually expected to submit their Externship Log Books, two essays, one titled “An Ethical Dilemma” and the other “The Management and Organisation of the Law Firm Where I Worked During the Externship Programme”.
The Portfolio Assessment is usually a walk over except for students who actually did not participate in the Externship exercise and are not smart enough to be able to disguise that fact during the Assessment.
A student who fails this Assessment will not be deemed to be qualified for admission into the Nigerian bar even if such student makes a First Class after writing the Bar Exams. Such student will be made to repeat the Externship exercise and be called to bar at the next Call to Bar Ceremony.
They need no further introduction. The Bar Finals as they are popularly called take place in two phases – the Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) and the Theory Questions. The exams are usually set by the Chief Examiner, the Director General of the Nigerian Law School from a pool of questions set by the lecturers across all the campuses.
The MCQs usually take place about 3 weeks after the Externship exercise. Thus, students are encouraged to commence preparation for this exam during their time away from school. It constitutes 20% of the 100% which is the maximum number of marks allocated to each course.
There are usually 100 questions, 20 for each course, which students are expected to answer in 60 minutes.
The Theory Questions usually take place in about a month after the MCQs. They are usually scored over 80 since the MCQs are 20 marks.
The five courses are usually written within 5 days at 3pm on each day. A lot is usually put into ensuring that the exam questions do not get exposed before the actual time of writing them. Questions for each course are usually transported to the other campuses from the Abuja campus on the morning of each day and all campuses start the exams at the same.
It is usually held within two days. There are four sessions i.e. morning and afternoon each day. The last call i.e the Afternoon Call on the last day is usually the Prize Giving ceremony. The students who made First Class results in the exams would be presented with Red Scrolls (every other person gets a blue one) and a Prize from the Director-General. Students who excelled in different courses are also awarded. The Overall Best Graduating Student is recognized and awarded as well.