“A good lawyer is not one who knows all the laws, but who knows where to find the laws”
A lecturer from my university always said that. For a while, I could not fully wrap my head around the statement. I always thought that to be a star lawyer, one must know all the laws, so if asked you about a legal issue, one would immediately pour out knowledge of all relevant law on that issue.
However, it did not take long for me to realise the truth about my lecturer’s statement. There are many federal legislation contained in the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, and some of them have subsidiary legislation. There are also numerous state laws and international treaties to consider on different subjects. Each piece of legislation has various provisions and a lot of the provisions have exceptions, exceptions to exceptions and numerous provisos. Also, there are matters beyond strictly legal texts that influence our laws and the way law is administered or practised. Thus, the best way to stay ahead as a lawyer is to read far and wide.
Let’s take a look at Annie. Annie is the first person to train as a lawyer in her family. She is currently in her 300 level and yet to study Land Law. Her father owns real property, which tenants occupy. A dispute arises with some of the tenants and Annie’s father goes to Annie to find out the provisions of the law regarding the issue. Annie’s father is not concerned about the courses Annie has studied or that she is yet to study Land Law. He only knows that his daughter is “The Law” and she has a solution. Before Annie can proffer any advice or solution though, she has to read up on tenancy law.
Reading expands your views, exposes you to other ideas and increases your knowledge. There are several materials every law student should read and they include:
1. Law Texts
Statutory provisions and judicial decisions are commonly found in law texts. Recommended texts in school form part of the law books you will use in your career. Use law texts to further your understanding of your syllabus and the law in general. You would find that there are writers who are authorities in some areas of law. Therefore, if you decide to practice, you can still rely on those books in your legal work. Do not just purchase books and drop them after you have completed the course; use them to improve your library.
There are perhaps not many professions that have as many published journals as the legal profession. The Nigerian Bar Association, law firms, law faculties, and various other bodies regularly publish journals where seasoned legal professionals and even law undergraduates publish articles that border on diverse areas of law. Also, there are online journals, both local and international that contain articles on various legal topics.
Journals can help a student in his/her research work, especially for term papers and long essays. Reading journals will also improve your legal writing skills, sharpen your critical and analytical reasoning and can spur you on to publish your own articles.
3. Newspapers and Magazines
It is good to be up-to-date with the current happenings in Nigeria and the world. Though social media has warmed its way into the hearts of people today, newspapers and magazines are still relevant. Newspapers have weekly legal columns, where legal professionals discuss topical issues. These topics are typically drawn from on-going legal issues which may come up as a discussion or group project in your class.
Magazines on the other hand, occasionally interview lawyers and law students regarding their work as professionals. These interviews can help you make informed career choices as advice and recommendations are usually given. Most times, these newspapers and magazines are made available online.
4. Websites & Blogs
So many websites and blogs have relevant information for law students. Depending on your preference, you can find information on scholarships, internships, post-graduate studies, law events, etc. The websites may not focus on law or issues that are explicitly legal, but they provide relevant resources for your educational and career needs.
5. Financial publications
Commercial awareness, which is a compulsory trait in successful lawyers, requires you to be financially literate and understand the basic workings of the economy. There are several publications on financial literacy, and papers that can help to increase financial knowledge. Financial knowledge can also help you in your spending and budgeting as a student. Even beyond that, it will familiarise you with terms and transactions which you may come across in school and in practice.
6. Novels and Fictional Works
Novels make for an interesting read, especially when you need to clear your head, after a hectic day. There is a wide array of novels you can choose from, but its best to choose a novel that is educative and enhances your command of English language or in any other language of particular interest to you. Novels help to spur your reading habit, and further increase your reading appetite.
Make an investment in books today, join a book club so you meet fellow readers, have a reading partner whom you can exchange conversations and ideas with from the books read. Even more, enjoy reading every time.
Chiemela Iwegbulem is a First Class Law Graduate of Afe Babalola University. She has interned with KPMG Nigeria and several law firms including top-tier law firms. She is interested in Tax, Mergers & Acquisitions and Capital Markets.
She is the outgoing Director of Moot & Mock Trials and has served in different capacities in the Executive body of her Law College. Chiemela is a Student Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK and the Nigerian Society of International Law.
Chiemela has a passion for law and is committed to helping others succeed in the law profession. You can reach out to her on LinkedIn here.