Skills You Need To Become A Lawyer And How To Develop Them

Warning: Do not lie on your CV. Your CV would be the primary talking point of your interview and you will be asked questions on any or all areas of it. Being caught in a lie is embarrassing and is the quickest way to be rejected.

Below are some of the skills required to be a lawyer and ways to develop and demonstrate them.

Attention to detail

In law, one word in the wrong place or forgetting that court deadline can mean something disastrous for your client. A lawyer is expected to be patient, thorough, meticulous and above all, accurate in his work.

How? The first way to demonstrate your attention to detail is by ensuring you do not commit any grammatical or spelling error on your application. None! There is just no excuse. Have two or three friends proofread for you if possible.

You can also highlight any experience you have writing or serving as editor for school paper columns or even blogs.

Communication skills

A good lawyer must be an excellent communicator; a proficient orator and/or a strong writer.

How? You can highlight any experience you have in your university’s moot or debate club, or any other public speaking experience you might have. For written skills, you can point to articles or papers you may have written.

Quick thinking/analytical skills

Logical reasoning and critical thinking are essential to practice law. Regardless of your eventual area of specialization, analytical skills are necessary.

How? Your experience with mooting or debating can show that you are able to formulate an argument and present it logically. You could also mention a period where you had to learn something quicker than usual.

Organizational skills and time management

Junior lawyers are expected to be able to perform well under pressure and with tight deadlines. The process of law entails a lot of paperwork, so you would also need to be able to demonstrate organizational skills.

How? If you worked or ran a business part-time at university, this is a good place to mention it. Provided that this venture did not negatively affect your final grade, you can show that you are able to prioritize your time efficiently to meet differing objectives.

Research skills

As a junior lawyer, a lot of the work you will be doing would involve some sort of research or the other.

How? Did you need to be especially resourceful when writing your university project/dissertation? This is a good place to explain that.

Teamwork

Teamwork as a lawyer means working with others to reach a consensus and reach the best possible outcome for all parties, whether in transactions or dispute resolution. Negotiations are based around working with teams which often not only includes your colleagues, but also opposing counsel, clients and regulators. The ability to work collaboratively and effectively with others is of central importance to successful law practice.

How? Good examples of teamwork and interpersonal skills could be involvement in group projects or societies at school. Feel free to also highlight instances where you held leadership positions in such teams and how you worked with your team to achieve a particular goal or target.

Commercial awareness

Law graduates are expected to emerge not only as good lawyers, but as sound business advisors as well. You cannot properly advise a client if you do not understand the sector they operate in.

So, if you are applying to a firm that works with oil companies for instance, you need to have a basic understanding of the structure of such companies and how they make their money.

How? The best way to improve commercial awareness is to read; read newspapers, read articles and legal literature.

Ambition, enthusiasm and energy

Many aspiring lawyers are extremely ambitious, determined and driven. Thus, a popular interview question is “where do you see yourself in five years”. While no one expects you to have all the details, you should have a clear and realistic outline of where you imagine your career heading.

How? At your interview and even on your application, demonstrate a genuine interest in the legal profession, the firm you are applying to, and the work they do. Give examples of some of their recent deals. Your enthusiasm and energy will enable you to talk about the firm and the reasons for your application in a vibrant way and highly-motivated way. Be careful though, if you fake or overdo it, people would be able to tell. If you are genuinely interested in a career in that firm and have done your research, this would come to you naturally.

 

Yimika Adesola is the Founder of Legally Engaged and an Associate in the Corporate/Commercial law arm of a top-tier Nigerian law firm.

She advises blue-chip companies on various areas of law including mergers, acquisitions and capital raisings, restructurings, taxation, finance, employment, compliance, etc.

She also seeks to provide direction to students and young professionals by providing them with the information they need to launch successful careers, and make better career decisions.

Follow Yimika on LinkedIn here.

legallyengagedSkills You Need To Become A Lawyer And How To Develop Them
Read More

Thinking of Becoming A Lawyer? Before You Fill That JAMB Form

“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”.

Law is an amazing and prestigious profession, but the honest truth is that it is not for everyone. In fact, it is not for the vast majority of lawyers. When a career is not a good fit for an individual, the issues are limitless – the lawyer is miserable, the employer is frustrated and the client is unhappy or even worse. But when the match is right, the journey can be a truly rewarding one (most of the time).

Law is an amazing and prestigious profession, but the honest truth is that it is not for everyone. In fact, it is not for the vast majority of lawyers. When a career is not a good fit for an individual, the issues are limitless – the lawyer is miserable, the employer is frustrated and the client is unhappy or even worse. But when the match is right, the journey can be a truly rewarding one (most of the time).

 

So how can you tell if the legal profession is for you?

 

Desire

It may sound a little obvious, but if you do not want to be a lawyer or if you are unsure, you may have a really hard time practicing as one.

Take some time out to ask yourself why you are taking the decision to become a lawyer. If parental, monetary or other influence has any bearing on your answer, it may be worth reconsidering.

 

Knowledge

Having at least a basic idea of how the legal profession works is essential in determining if law is for you. Internships and job placements are very important here. Take time out to intern at a law office close to you – this gives you the chance to make a fairly informed decision. It would be incredibly painful to discover after six years of legal study, what you could have easily discovered on a six week internship.

 

Grades/Intellect

You do not need to be a genius to become a successful lawyer, but you do need some basic to above-average level of intelligence. You need to be able to learn new things quickly and be teachable.

Also, most reputable law offices would require that you have above average to stellar grades. Your performance at your law studies is at first sight, an indication of both your understanding of the law and also of how hardworking you were at school.

 

Analytical mind/attention to detail

Logical reasoning and critical thinking are essential to practice law. Regardless of where you end up specializing, analytical skills are necessary; whether you are structuring a corporate deal or building a defence for trial. If you enjoy solving problems or logic puzzles, then you might enjoy a career in law.

Working as a lawyer involves preparing and reviewing a bucket load of documents, sometimes within a short period of time. Additionally, lawyers are supposed to prevent messes and foresee the unforeseeable. So your attention to detail is very key; you cannot afford to be forgetful or sloppy.

 

Way with words

Words really are a lawyer’s tool of trade. A good lawyer must be an excellent communicator; a proficient orator and/or a strong writer.

Litigation lawyers in particular must master the art of oral and written persuasion as they draft various pleadings, argue motions and try cases in court. While this is not a skill developed overnight, it is helpful to at least not have a paralyzing fear of public speaking. Corporate lawyers on the other hand would be required to draft transaction documents covering a wide range of scenarios, and present to colleagues, opposing counsel and clients.

 

If English was not your favourite subject at school, you may want to explore other opportunities in and out of the legal field.

 

Time commitment

You have to be ready to put in the hours!!!

Undertaking a law degree at a Nigerian university takes five years. Upon successful completion of the undergraduate law degree, you then qualify to attend law school for another year. This is a total of six years for legal study, barring any strike action or other delay.

The Nigerian law school is a full time scheme with lectures, classes, group meetings and externships. Engaging in other employment while at law school is almost impossible given the time commitments, but is also prohibited.

Even after qualifying as a lawyer, depending on your firm and practice area, you are largely expected to be available for long hours, or even around the clock. Most practicing lawyers don’t work a 40-hour work week. Saner hours and a work-life balance are more obtainable in-house, in the public sector or in academia.

 

Yimika Adesola is the Founder of Legally Engaged and an Associate in the Corporate/Commercial law arm of a top-tier Nigerian law firm.

She advises blue-chip companies on various areas of law including mergers, acquisitions and capital raisings, restructurings, taxation, finance, employment, compliance, etc.

She also seeks to provide direction to students and young professionals by providing them with the information they need to launch successful careers, and make better career decisions.

Follow Yimika on LinkedIn here.

legallyengagedThinking of Becoming A Lawyer? Before You Fill That JAMB Form
Read More

Making the Best of Your Revision Period at the Nigerian Law School

The externship period is gradually wrapping up and I know many law students are agitated at this point about how all that they have we read and all they know right now is not sufficient to scale through the almighty Bar Finals. Well, this is to let you know that you can still pass the exams and pass very well at that!

I will try to recount some of the all too familiar challenges you are probably experiencing at the moment as well as some practical solutions I consider useful to you in response.

You know more than you know

You are probably beating yourself up because you realize how much you do not know and find yourself questioning whether all the time at the Law School was not a sheer waste. Well, I am happy to inform you that this feeling is not peculiar to you alone. Trust me, you know more than you think you do, particularly if you have been studying in the past. What you should do now is get up, pick up your books and continue studying. Have some faith in yourself.

Face your lane

You have met a lot of ‘smart-asses’, you know, people you are convinced are guaranteed a First Class in the upcoming Bar examinations. This will be more real to you if you are from a campus other than the Lagos campus and you have met people from other campuses. However, my advice is that you should relax and make up your mind not to be intimidated by anyone. Rather, focus on the things you are required to learn and commit yourself to learning them.

Make the best of the time you have left

24 hours just seems to be too little. You probably wish there were more than 24 hours in a day as they just seem to be never enough to accomplish all the tasks you set out to do at the beginning of the day. I also had the same challenge in Law School and I will share the method I adopted to address this. First, you need to take the saying “time lost cannot be regained” literally. Live every second in the realization that you are never getting it back. This is the time to avoid irrelevant gist, chats, hang outs, etc.Shun procrastination. Do not neglect anything you feel may be relevant. As soon as you realize that there is something you do not know or are not sure of, do not procrastinate. Look it up immediately.

  1. Make your free time purposeful: attempt a draft or read a topic you are already familiar with again. It makes you more familiar with the topics and    you will be surprised how much you do not know about a topic you previously thought you had your hands on.
  2. Adopt a practical style: whilst the emphasis in this regard is on keeping notes (I did keep notes), I have heard about a young man who made a First Class from the Law School without having kept a single note. Undoubtedly, the safest and most popular approach is to keep a note as this makes the whole idea of constant reading much easier. However, if you have tried this method and find that it does not work for you or simply isn’t your style and you are convinced that you will be completely fine without notes, then by all means do.Another important issue that comes up in relation to style is time of studying. While some people prefer to study at night, some others cannot keep their eyes open in the dark to save their lives. If you belong to the latter group (as do I), then you just have to adjust your busy schedule to accommodate more study in terms of both volume and intensity. In addition, you may have to extend your definition of daytime to include all hours but those between 12 midnight and 4:00am. This way, you are able to have work within a longer period and still get to sleep at night.
  3. Eat and sleep: many variables are involved in what you ultimately make out of law school. Two of these include adequate preparation and good health. As much as you devote your to studying for the bar, you must understand the all-important responsibility you have to keep yourself healthy, as much as you can. In pursuance of this therefore, taking proper meals at the right times is non-negotiable alongside ensuring that you go to the hospital as soon as you feel the need to.There have been instances where people have failed the Bar exams on health grounds.
  4.  Shun fear: you will be doing yourself a lot of disservice at this point if all you can contemplate is how much you fear the forthcoming exams. This is like directing a two-pronged sword at yourself. While on the one hand, you are gradually robbing yourself of every shred of confidence you previously had, on the other, you are denying yourself of the ability to study optimally. This will definitely affect your ultimate productivity.

In conclusion, the bar finals are in a few weeks and my two-cents is that you maintain a calm disposition through it all, contrary to popular opinion. As long as you know you are doing the right things, some of which I have highlighted above, there is absolutely nothing for you to worry about. After all, people who have made First class in the past “do not have two heads” the same way you don’t.

See you at the top!


Precious Ivongbe is a First Class graduate of the Nigerian Law School, Abuja campus. She was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2016. She graduated from the University of Lagos in 2015 with Second Class Upper Honours. She is currently undertaking her compulsory NYSC programme at the law firm of Aluko & Oyebode.

legallyengagedMaking the Best of Your Revision Period at the Nigerian Law School
Read More

Six Things that Should Inform Your Choice Of Elective Courses In The University

At the beginning of each new semester, choosing courses to offer as part of meeting up with Law degree requirements is the norm. As exciting as this should be, it can be frustrating for unguided students. Generally, the Faculty/College of Law provides students with tens of courses with minimum requirements for the award of the degree of law. Of these courses, a good number are core courses while others are elective courses. The core courses are compulsory for the award of the degree and are fixed by the Faculty while elective courses are not compulsory and are chosen by students from a number of optional subjects.

Basically, an elective law course is designed to increase your knowledge of the law and to give you a broader view of the workings of the law in the society. Therefore, the courses are designed to ensure that students are not restricted to the general principles or the most popular branches of the law. Taking into cognizance the fast-paced advancements in the world at large and invariably the legal profession, the curriculum of many law faculties gets revised every now and then to equip future lawyers with information reasonably sufficient for them to tackle contemporary issues. These courses are most times classed as electives.

Before you choose that “easy A” course or explore that course of interest, I have highlighted a number of factors that should guide you in your quest for academic excellence.

1.      Your interests and values

In order to succeed in anything including in academics, interest is a must. It is good you understand what aspect of law you are passionate about. Just an interest will do, as you may not compulsorily have defined your career path yet. Before each semester begins, conduct a background study into the courses available for selection during the semester. A good way is to study the prospectus given by your faculty; consider the topics constituting each elective course to see which aligns with your goals or interest. Look up the area of law on the internet and read contributions of notable scholars in that field. Attend the introductory classes in that course. You should then be able to form an opinion on whether you would take the course or not.

2.      Previous performances in related courses

Although this would not apply to freshmen, it is a good pointer for returning students. Your performance in the subjects you enrolled in previous semesters gives you a clue as to your areas of strength. Your results in each course area are intelligent indicators for making course selections subsequently. For example, if you have scored ‘A’ grades in property law courses previously and have not performed too well in commercial law courses, it will be smarter to select the bulk of courses from property law as your electives.

3.      Weight of each course and the general workload

It is important to note that all courses have differing workloads. It might be the case that all courses – core and electives – carry an equal number of units. However, it is an undeniable fact that no two courses pose the same challenges. This is a critical factor as you would not want to be overwhelmed by too many academic activities that you don’t have time to socialise and engage in beneficial extra-curricular activities. Therefore, your selection should be guided by the demands of the elective course vis-à-vis the strength of the core courses you must take.

4.      Involvement in extra-curricular activities

Engagement in extra-curricular activities, membership of student associations and societies and even politics influences your freedom to choose electives. Based on the degree requirements in your institution, you might be required to take a minimum of one or two electives and a maximum of three or more electives every semester.  If you are involved in extracurricular activities, (and you should be), avoid conflicts by sticking to the minimum requirements, unless you are certain that you would strive to balance your activities with your academics effectively.

5.      Advice from your course advisor

This would be particularly useful for students who have a working relationship with their course advisors. Your course advisor is there to monitor your academic progress and render all necessary assistance for the attainment of your academic goals. Your course advisor will usually have a robust knowledge of the degree requirements and what each course entails. He/she might ask questions relating to the points highlighted above and advise you accordingly. It is advised you maintain a working relationship with your advisor and get his/her advice before you register any course for the semester.

6.      Do you really need that extra course?

This would apply more to students in their penultimate or final years in the university. A little arithmetic would come in handy here. Would you have met the minimum degree requirements (measured in terms of course units) after adding up all the courses you have done and any outstanding core course? If that is the case, you might not need an elective course except of course to feed your interests or to boost your GPA.

I cannot close without stressing the need to avoid fear while choosing your courses. How older students fared previously in the course is not a factor that you should consider before choosing electives. Faith in yourself and in your abilities and a personal resolve to get the best grades should be your motivation and not what an older student whom you probably hold in high esteem told you about the course(s). Be selective in accepting and following the advice given by older students, especially unsolicited advice.

With all that has been said, it’s imperative to mention certain non-negotiables. Attendance at classes and paying rapt attention during classes (the latter being more important) are very crucial to getting desired grades. Also, working hard and smart is very important and cannot be overstressed.

 

In conclusion, whilst I understand that no student can take all the elective courses available, always ensure that you at least have a working knowledge of the other courses, as such knowledge can come in handy later on. In other words, be versatile and well-rounded!

 

Grace Gureje is a First Class graduate of the prestigious University of Lagos where she obtained her LL.B in 2016. She is currently a student of the Nigerian Law School. She aims to be a notable corporate and environmental lawyer and believes strongly in the Nigerian dream. She loves singing, reading, and writing.

legallyengagedSix Things that Should Inform Your Choice Of Elective Courses In The University
Read More

LLM Interview with Ojonoka Agudah (Swansea University)

I studied LLM in International Intellectual Property Law and Commercial Practice at Swansea University

I studied LLM in International Intellectual Property Law and Commercial Practice at Swansea University

I studied LLM in International Intellectual Property Law and Commercial Practice at Swansea University

I studied LLM in International Intellectual Property Law and Commercial Practice at Swansea University

I studied LLM in International Intellectual Property Law and Commercial Practice at Swansea University

I studied LLM in International Intellectual Property Law and Commercial Practice at Swansea University

I studied LLM in International Intellectual Property Law and Commercial Practice at Swansea University

I studied LLM in International Intellectual Property Law and Commercial Practice at Swansea University

I studied LLM in International Intellectual Property Law and Commercial Practice at Swansea University

I studied LLM in International Intellectual Property Law and Commercial Practice at Swansea University

I studied LLM in International Intellectual Property Law and Commercial Practice at Swansea University

I studied LLM in International Intellectual Property Law and Commercial Practice at Swansea University

I studied LLM in International Intellectual Property Law and Commercial Practice at Swansea University

legallyengagedLLM Interview with Ojonoka Agudah (Swansea University)
Read More

LLM Interview with Ikechukwu Uzoma (New York University)

Ikechukwu Uzoma, New York University, LL.M Class of 2017

 

Please note that all opinions expressed in this interview are the opinions of the lawyer interviewed. They do not necessarily represent the opinion of their institution or of Legally Engaged.

[vc_tta_accordion style=”flat” shape=”square” color=”sky” spacing=”2″ gap=”2″ c_icon=”chevron” active_section=”1″ no_fill=”true” collapsible_all=”true”]

I just completed my Masters of Law (LL.M) program at New York University (NYU), United States. I was in the traditional LL.M program and focused on the intersection between International Law, Environmental Law, and Development. Specifically, I considered the environmental precursors of conflict, forced migration and under development across the world, especially in Africa.

First, my passion for Nigeria.

 

I look forward to contributing to the resolution of the problems of Nigeria. I believe that the neglect of environmental standards is at the root of Nigeria’s pressing challenges. The incidence of desertification in the North; flooding in South-West and North-Central Nigeria; erosion in the South-East and varying degrees of pollution in the South-South contribute to underdevelopment in the country. With the growth in global awareness about Climate Change and other environmental issues, I decided to get a head start and prepare for the future when expertise in this area will be required.

 

Second, my career goals.

 

I felt the need to undertake graduate studies because I am interested in teaching. I derive fulfillment from teaching people, and I believe that teaching keeps a person relevant in the long term. Obtaining a masters degree brings me closer to that goal.

Sincerely, I did not give this a lot of thought. I just preferred the United States to other countries and applied to more schools in the United States. I got admitted to NYU, and I accepted the admission. However, I believe the US provides a good post study program for graduate students. Unlike some other countries, graduate students have the opportunity to work in the US for 1 year under the Optional Practical Training program of the US government. Prospective students should consider the post- study programs as they apply to schools.

First, NYU’s ranking attracted me. NYU is ranked #1 in International Law United States, and NYU has two very active negotiators of the Climate Agreements on its faculty.

 

Second, the location. NYU Law is situated in the heart of New York City – full of life, opportunities, and fun. Schooling in NYC doesn’t come without a price, but it is worth it in the long run if one leverages on the many opportunities it offers.

The best time to consider further studies should be after one has a clear idea of the aspect of law where he/she wants to specialize and also finds funding for the program. I have learned from experience that people with more work experience attract more funding than those with less. So it is advisable to have 3 – 5 years work experience before applying for a masters program. Students with exceptional academic portfolios may not necessarily need to show work experience to qualify for funding.

Yes, I did. For NYU as well as other law schools such as Harvard, Columbia, and Cambridge, the process is not cumbersome. Applicants are required to submit an essay expressing their academic and career goals. Certain schools require the applicant to discuss an issue and proffer solutions to that problem stating how the funding will enable the applicant contribute to solving the problem. It is a very competitive process so the application must be excellently done. Most funding programs are merit, and not need based, so applicants should express the unique abilities that make them exceptional and deserving of the funds.

First, the applicant needs to apply for official transcripts from his/her University and the Nigerian Law school very early in the year. Applications to schools in the United States are usually due in November, so applicants must plan to have transcripts ready for dispatch by July. For most US schools, students apply through the Law School Admission Council’s LLM Credential Assembly Service. Applicants need to set up his/her LSAC account while applying for transcripts.

 

Next, the applicant has to reach out to Professors and Supervisors at work for strong references. A good reference should show that an applicant is special and deserving of admission and funding. Applicants should make that their referees know them personally and can recommend them favorably. References from alumni of an applicant’s school of interest will be an added advantage.

 

The application package comprises of a Curriculum Vitae (CV), completed application forms and essays. CVs for application should not exceed one page. Write essays in simple language and endeavor to express independent thought. It is helpful to refer to the publications of members of the school’s faculty in the  personal statements or essays. Express profound interest in the ideals and interests of the school and her faculty.

 

Grades are very important. University grades are more important that Law School grades, though law school grades do matter. Some schools only admit first class graduates from Nigeria. Most schools in the US are not explicit about their grades preferences.

 

Some applications request links to published papers. It may not be a requirement, but I believe a published applicant has a competitive edge over a non published applicant.

Timing is everything. Don’t wait until the last minute. Start between January and March to research and write an excellent personal statement. Also, reach out to the school and speak to Professors and currents students. Learn as much as possible from about the school especially about funding and student jobs.

Plan to complete your immigration process in good time before you have to travel. Immigration officials get cranky when applicants cannot show that they can fund their master’s program or when applicants are dodgy during interviews. Applicants should be truthful and clear. Applicant must ensure that they have accommodation plans and evidence of financial capacity.

It was not difficult to settle in but adjusting to the weather, food and school routine took some time. As for the course, NYU and, I believe, all law schools in the United States adopt the Socratic teaching style where the Professor teaches by asking questions and rarely lectures. It took some time to adapt to this style of teaching. In all didn’t feel disadvantaged

Yes, there are opportunities to work within the school during the program. Many students work with Professors as research assistants or teaching assistants. It is difficult and not advisable to get a job outside the school during the program.

First, carefully study your school’s website to understand your program of interest and the opportunities available for international students. Be proactive. Contact the Global Affairs Office to ask any question you have as you study the website.

 

Second, when you arrive, you may want to identify with school organizations such as the Black Allied Law Students Association, African Law Association; Journals; Students Bar Association, etc. These organizations can serve as platforms for networking with individuals and organizations within and outside your school community.

 

For studying, the LL.M program requires a lot of reading and analytical review of academic papers. It is helpful to actively develop quick reading and comprehension skills as you prepare for your program. From my experience, the US law schools adopt a functional and multi-disciplinary approach to legal education. Most classes borrow a bit from economics and basic science. It will be helpful to brush up your knowledge in these fields.

 

In my opinion, the most critical aspect of the LLM program is the choice of classes. A student must be clear about his/her interests and find out what classes serve that interest well in advance. In this connection, the Office of Graduate Affairs or its equivalent  is a resource that students should leverage. Students should study and understand the class bidding process. Don’t choose classes based on their titles; read the class description and look at the class surveys from previous classes. Be conscious of the credit load of each class as well as the number of classes you sign up for. It is advisable to take up a slim credit load in the first semester and a heavy one in the second semester. For students with interest in the academia, identify Professors whose work/research relate with your research interest and reach out to them. It could be helpful to take classes with them or propose to co-author a paper with them. A friendly relationship with your Professors is a valuable asset that can come in handy any day.

 

Find time to meet your classmates as well as the Juris Doctor (JD) students. LL.M classes, especially in a school like NYU, comprise of students from diverse nationalities and cultures. My class had students from over 50 countries. Meeting and learning from students from other parts of the world enlarges your worldview and impacts your perspectives on issues. Relationships are assets – one never knows when such relationships may be useful.

I am a beneficiary of one of the internship opportunities offered by NYU. I will be working with the United Nations this summer. After this summer I plan to gain some experience working on Climate Change governance and policy. I will consider an appropriate doctoral program afterward.

It is too soon to assess the impact of my LL.M program because I have just completed the program. My internship with the United Nations is one take away from NYU that, I expect, will broaden my knowledge and network. The internship fulfills one of my life’s dreams. I am more confident around the International Law and Environmental policy issues, and I feel I can contribute to developing academic literature in this area especially relating to Africa. I have also developed transferable soft skills that make me a lot better and resourceful.

[/vc_tta_accordion]
legallyengagedLLM Interview with Ikechukwu Uzoma (New York University)
Read More

Overview Of The Nigerian Law School

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.

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.

legallyengagedOverview Of The Nigerian Law School
Read More

Ask Legally Engaged – What Role Does My CGPA Play When Seeking Employment?

Dear LE,

Results for my final examinations came out this week. They weren’t bad but not exactly great either. I graduated with a second class upper but I fell short of having a 4.0 CGPA by 0.01. So I’m very determined to make a first class in law school.

I’ve always wondered how much of a role one’s CGPA plays when seeking employment. Is the CGPA something prospective employers are particular about when evaluating resumes?

Kind regards,

R

—–

Dear R,

Firstly, congratulations!!! That is not an easy feat and is definitely worth celebrating.

We know exactly how you feel, as many lawyers have been in this same position, so we can tell you this; we understand you are disappointed, but do not allow anything to knock your confidence or rob you of your joy.

As for your employment prospects; don’t worry, you are more than fine. There is a decreasing number of firms that would hire you solely because of the “First class” on your certificate. A First class may open the doors, but you need much more to actually succeed on the job. Those extras are what firms are looking for nowadays. Read the series of articles Beyond Good Grades for more on this.

We know of several lawyers who did not get a First class at the university or the Nigerian Law School, but got employment offers from various top-tier law firms in Nigeria and even abroad. So don’t beat yourself up. Do your very best in law school, and also focus on internships and other activities the average law student may not really avert their mind to.

We should say, however, that where a First class might make things easier is when applying for Masters programmes at ivy league institutions abroad. But even here, you can sell the fact that you were only a mark off. Together with extracurricular activities and hopefully stellar results at NLS, you should be fine.

Best,

The AskLE Team

The above answer represents the views of certain members of the Legally Engaged team. Whilst these views might be borne from real occurrences or experiences, Legally Engaged gives no warranties and makes no representations as to the accuracy, quality, validity or completeness of the advice given above.

Please note that the above answer has been edited to make it more suitable for publication.

legallyengagedAsk Legally Engaged – What Role Does My CGPA Play When Seeking Employment?
Read More

5 Tips for Securing a Scholarship for Study Abroad

On July 27 2012, I received an email from the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust that I’d just been granted a full Commonwealth Scholarship for my LL.M degree at the University of Cambridge. Only 20 persons were awarded the scholarship worldwide out of thousands and thousands of applications! I had to email the Trust ASAP to confirm or reject the offer. Ordinarily it would have been a no-brainier, but a few weeks prior to that I had accepted a full scholarship for an LL.M at London School of Economics (LSE). Ok, it was still a no-brainer. I mean we were talking about Cambridge here!

I rejected the LSE offer with sincere apologies. Interestingly once I mentioned that I was choosing Cambridge over LSE, the LSE staff actually said “That’s ok – we totally understand”

While there are no hard and fast set of rules, I think these tips might be helpful in securing a scholarship.

1.      Research, Research and Research

This is the probably the single most important factor. You cannot apply / be considered for scholarships you do not know about – no matter how awesome you are! So, as early as possible, do your research. What course are you planning to study? What universities offer these courses? What scholarships are available? Some scholarships may only be available for certain courses. What are the requirements for the scholarship? – would you be required to take a test of English language, write a personal statement, submit a piece of original work, provide hard copy references and  a transcript? Or will your referees be required to upload the references online (at this point you realise you need tech-savvy referees!)

What’s the time frame? Some scholarships and the most competitive ones usually have really short time frames. For example the primary scholarships for Cambridge, Harvard and Oxford open in September and close by November. If you start your research late, you’ll most likely miss the deadline. The requirements are broadly the same from year to year so it’s helpful to start a year in advance. Make a list of all the schools you’ll like to apply to, and request your references and transcripts from your University in bulk.

What are the conditions? For example the Commonwealth Scholarship requires you to return to your home country at the end of your programme! This was the one reason I may have refused the scholarship, as the LSE one provided an opportunity to stay on and search for ‘greener pastures’. So if you’re certain you can’t live with the conditions don’t bother applying.

2.      Believe in Your Story

If a person or an institution is going to pay a whole lot of money for you to undertake a graduate program, then your story must be compelling. As a prerequisite, good academic qualifications are required. But this is by no means limited to First class students. Second Class Upper students are often considered. To be honest though; if you had a Second Class Lower, you may have to provide other compelling reasons as to why you should be considered.

But having just good grades isn’t enough. In Nigeria today, there are lots and lots of first class graduates all competing for the same spots. As an example, I didn’t even get an admission to Oxford, talk less of a scholarship. I knew my written piece of work was not exceptional.

Sell yourself in your CV and personal statement. No lies, but no unnecessary modesty.  Have people look over your CVs. If possible, people who have succeeded at this. Some scholarships also require financial need i.e. that based on your circumstances you need the scholarship. If you’re an average Nigerian kid, I’m sure you need it. If you’re one of the more well off kids, well, don’t make up lies saying you’re poor and all. Even though you need to sell your story, remember to comply with the instructions. If this says “In 300 words…”, a 305 word wonderful essay may just be tossed in the bin!

3.      It’s a game of numbers

Honestly it is. Applying for scholarships is draining. But the competition is huge. So put simply, the more you apply the more your chances of winning. I must have applied for at least 5 different scholarships for the Cambridge LL.M programme alone. Some people argue that certain countries are more favourable for scholarships and student loans. Create the time, do your research and apply to as many as possible.

4.      Consider Internal Sources

When we think of scholarships, we automatically think of foreign scholarships. And we are not to be blamed, especially when we see how some youths who had been sponsored locally have been ill-treated and left without payment. But still, it remains an option.

In my case, I considered an appeal to the Anambra State government and I had a draft letter ready if no scholarship came through. It was worth a shot as you miss 100% of the chances you don’t take. Maybe they’d have imposed a condition that I had to work for the State, but that may not have been so bad especially now that younger people are being made commissioners! I may actually have been successful if I sent out that letter, because a few months later, the Anambra State government commended all the first class graduates from the state with quite a decent sum of money.

I also know a friend who also sought the help of the Lagos State Government and other wealthy individuals, and obtained a considerable amount of funding. It’s also useful to consider your current employer. If you’re exceptional, they may be willing to fund you (usually on the basis of your returning to work for a few years). As long as the conditions are not onerous, it may be worth it.

Social media is such a powerful tool these days and your cause could go viral, if your story is exceptional. A dicey one, but in this age of GoFundMe accounts, if people believe in you, every little Naira helps.

In considering these internal sources, it’s useful to split it up. Asking an individual for 7 million naira may land your letter in an office shredder. But asking 14 people for 500,000 naira each is probably more feasible.

5.      There are always plans B – Z

It’s great that getting a scholarship for study abroad is your plan A, but don’t get all hung up on this. Consider alternatives, and generally just keep striving to be the best version of you! Some people argue that today, the value of a foreign degree is tricky especially with the number of Nigerians who already possess such. While I think there’s still value in it, I also think it’s possible to still get ahead without it.

Finally, for me there’s ultimately the faith factor. I was not on the initial 20 person shortlist for the Cambridge scholarship, as my application was not ‘as highly ranked’. I was however on the reserve list, should anyone turn down their offer. Needless to say someone must have turned it down and I got a slot! Keep your faith up.

 

Kachi Ginigeme is a corporate solicitor in London, advising on Mergers & Acquisition, Private Equity, Project & Infrastructure deals.

She has a first class degree from the University of Ibadan (2010) and the Nigerian Law School (2011). She also obtained her LL.M in Commercial Law from the University of Cambridge in 2013.

Prior to re-qualifying as an English solicitor, she worked as a corporate associate in a top tier commercial law firm in Nigeria. Asides law, she enjoys writing lifestyle and career related articles and runs a blog at KacheeTee.com 

 

legallyengaged5 Tips for Securing a Scholarship for Study Abroad
Read More

How to keep yourself busy during the ASUU strike

From this week, most public universities in Nigeria will proceed on an indefinite strike action, due to the failure of the Federal Government to implement the 2009 Agreement, which was borne out of a strike action, and renegotiated in 2013, to end another strike action.

Its details are not our concern here. Rather, it’s the ultimate losers; the students. To be more specific, law students.  Because of this strike action, exams have been either cut short or suspended (making all the preparation a waste). Exam results cannot be processed. Final year students or graduates who are supposed to be putting final touches to their projects/long essays, or getting cleared for law school/youth service,  have been put on hold. They can’t move forward or backward. If historical antecedent is anything to go by (hopefully not), this strike could last up to 6 months. It’s a bad situation to say the least.

So what is the effect of this? The average law undergraduate, like all his other peers, now has a lot of unwanted time that he must make the most of. This leads to the purpose of this article. In this piece, I’ll be discussing on some activities law students can get involved in during the ‘holiday’ to add value to themselves.

Internships

This is definitely the number one thing on the minds of most law students, but there’s no harm in rehashing it. Apart from just giving you a clearer image of the practice of law (if you intern at a law firm), internships help to build personal discipline and organizational skills, necessary for success, both in and out of school. This comes from having to juggle different assignments along with day to day activities at the office. It can also bring out the detail hawk in you. I have a friend who interned in an accounting firm and almost cost her boss a client because of an error in the report she was to prepare. Suffice it to say, she’s learnt her lesson, and will definitely be more careful when handling her own clients in future.

Furthermore, internship opportunities help you get a clearer the career path you want to ply. Is litigation your thing? Should you move to Lagos, where it seems the money is, or just practice in Ogun State?  In short, many will attest to the fact that internship opportunities, even if it was just one, helped them to define their career goals.

Business

The sad truth is that we all cannot get internship opportunities, at the same time. For a more in depth discussion on this, read ‘Ask LE – Why am I not getting any internships?’.

Be it on a self-employed basis, or working under someone, getting involved in business will place similar demands on you like an internship would. Speaking from experience, earning money for the things I do has made me appreciate how it is earned and more spendthrift about how it is spent. Before I resumed as a law freshman in my current university, I was a teacher at a local primary school. Coincidentally, there was an ASUU strike then. I was drafted to teach the Primary One class. It was there I learnt the ability to explain things in a conversational manner, something that has proved an asset for me since then as a content creator.  After all, it was Albert Einstein that said,

‘If you cannot explain something to a 6-year old, then you don’t understand it at all.’

But that was the enjoyable part of the job. Most of my time, was spent writing lesson notes that had to conform to the standard (or they would be rejected), grade assignments, and of course, to use the cane. From this I learnt that no form of employment, despite how glamorous it might look, is devoid of its ugly aspects. You have to take the bad with the good.

Conferences & Seminars

Conferences and seminars are definitely a viable platform for alternative education and networking. Usually, school work gets in the way of us attending them as we please, but now there’s no excuse. Whether political, academic, economic, or legal, conferences usually feature some of the best in their field who come to give away a chunk of their knowledge and experience gathered over the years, within a few hours, at little or no cost. Apart from this, they are veritable platforms for making new friends who share similar interests and even leaders in the field who can build a relationship with.

Have you been targeting a person whom you would like to have as a mentor? Try to find out if the person has any speaking engagements and attend them. After the event, walk up to the person and share your insights about what was discussed before going into your main reason. This is typically what is called ‘famzing’. But we all have to do it at some point. Most likely, the person would be in a more agreeable mood, since he just finished giving a lecture or speech.

But what if you’re not even sure where to start from to find out what events are happening. In that case, Eventbrite.com is your friend. This website is like a giant online billboard informing you of all the latest events, be it in the arts, music, technology, networking, master classes, and even ‘owambes’. Based on your location, it shows you events that you can attend, most of which are free, so you only have to worry about transportation cost. It is also available as an Android app for ease of access.

Skill Acquisition/Certification

An indefinite strike from ASUU gives the best opportunity to acquire money-making skills and certifications that add value to a CV apart from the LL.B. With no schoolwork taking most of your time, you can pour your energies and time into adding a new money-spinning ability to your skillset. There are so many to choose from, but I would personally recommend coding or computer language, because of its increasing influence in not just legal profession, but generally all professional callings.

If you follow the online discourse about increasing role of robots, AI (Artificial Intelligence), and the digital media in our world, they usually end with one grim prediction; many lawyers, doctors, accountants and the like are going to lose their jobs to robots and smartphone apps in the coming years.

There are now legal practice management software that do all the research for your case. With that job taken, what is left for the intern and first year associate? They are also applications that can draft any kind of contract. The user only has to input the relevant facts of the transaction. With that done, what will become of the solicitor? And this is just for the legal profession. Other disciplines are also facing their own battles. The only alternative is for lawyers to learn how to manipulate the tools that threaten their employment, hence, coding.

Luckily, there are over 20 major computer languages to choose from, based on your interest. You could learn these languages as courses at coding schools in physical establishments or as an online distance learning course.

To wrap up this article, the words of Benjamin Franklin will be poignant, when he said:

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of’


Akintunde Ifeanyichukwu Agunbiade is a 400-Level student of the Faculty of  Law, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ife. He is a decorated public speaker, having represented his Faculty and the school in national debates, and winning the award for “Debater of  the Year”, from the Law Students’ Society, OAU, for the 2015/2016 Session. He is also a member of the Students’ Representative Council (Parliament of the Students’ Union), representing the Faculty of Law. He participated in the formation of the Tax Club, Intellectual Property Law Club, and the ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) Society. He also led the team that drafted the constitution of the Tax Club within 8 days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

legallyengagedHow to keep yourself busy during the ASUU strike
Read More