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
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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.

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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
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Approaches to Studying for Law Exams – Part.2; Class Attendance

Editor’s Note: Akintunde’s article follows his previous reflection on approaches to studying for law examinations. This part focuses on the contribution of class attendance to examination success and shares tips on how to make the best of class attendance.

 In faculties of law in Nigeria, students must attend 75 percent of their classes to qualify to write the exams for the semester. However, class attendance is more than just a prerequisite for exams – it’s often the ace up your sleeves. Many a student, have faced an exam question that should not have been difficult to answer, if only they had attended a particular class where the lecturer told the class to focus on a specific aspect of the course, or even gave a hint on the exact question they should prepare to answer in the exams. In this article, I share some tips on how to make the most of class attendance for exam success.

Prepare for the class

First of all, you have to prepare for the class. Using the course outline as a guideline, you can read up on the topic for the week. At least, this gives you a sense of what the lecturer will say in class.  In the course of your study from textbooks, online materials or notes for senior colleagues, some concepts may not be understandable, but preparation will help you grasp the content of the class in the end.

When you prepare adequately for a class, the voice of the lecturer sheds light on the complex issues and directs you to important aspects of the topic that may feature in the exams. A lot of times, what comes to our rescue in the examination is not the case authorities or quotes from jurists, but the jokes, anecdotes, and side talks of the lecturer. These tips help in recalling the main points of a lecture.

Take notes properly

Another way to make the most of class attendance is smart note-taking. Some lecturers dictate notes while others simply explain and leave you to form the notes. Where the lecturer does the former, you should be careful not to copy down his/her words blindly. Take the time to ruminate over the words after the dictation. Also, take short notes of the side comments that the lecturer or other students make in class. You might think that doing this could cause you to fall behind, but this is because most of us believe that we have to write everything the lecturer says and in his/her words.

Pondering briefly on the lecturer’s words and writing them in your own words will help you learn from the class. You may even notice some discrepancies or errors based on your study, and then you are spurred to do some more research afterward. Well-formed notes come in handy when exams draw close. Based on how well you studied previously, other points that you’ve encountered before will come to the fore as you skim through your notes just before the exams.

Make audio recordings

Another way of getting the most out of class attendance is to make a recording of the class. It is useful to note that, some lecturers frown at recording their classes. If the lecturer does not mind being recorded, it’s an approach you can adopt.  If we will be honest with ourselves, it’s not easy to stay attentive in all classes, at all times, especially if the course/lecturer is not your favourite. At times, thoughts and side discussions preoccupy us or we are trying to catch-up on sleep.

Audio recordings always prove helpful, especially when you do not have a lot of time to prepare for the exam. You could play the recordings on your way to classes, or while you engage in other activities. Even if you are not entirely attentive, playing the audio so many times has a way of imprinting the salient words in your minds – the same way we learn the lyrics of songs without active listening. Also, if you are unable to attend a class, make sure to get a friend of yours record the class on your behalf. That way, you don’t miss anything at all.

Also, class attendance is all about the lecturers. One significant benefit you can get from attending classes will come from your course mates. The best place to identify those who will be willing to form study groups for exams is in the classroom. People who share their knowledge with the class, by way of questions and contributions, are the best study partners because of their ability to turn academic content into conversations.

To sum it all, the words of Woody Allen are apt where he said, “80 percent of success is showing up”. You don’t lose anything for being in class and participating in the lectures – it’s always a win-win situation.

 

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.

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A Nigerian Law Student’s Guide to Mooting – Part I

A moot is not a debate. In a debate, all you are expected to do is address people, usually without the use of any external material and I usually say, a debate is a performance and the best entertainer who informs people the most usually wins.

A moot is different. It is a conversation between you and the judges. They are free to ask you questions as often and as slowly as they like unless the competition rules expressly make a contrary stipulation.

So, yes a judge might ask you questions because he honestly is confused or mistaken about a fact, or the position of the law, and he wants clarification. Some other judges are just plain antagonistic. They have read the competition case, they are aware of all the facts, abreast of the law and all the contentious matters involved and now they want to show the world that you have not done your homework.

First Things First, Prepare

This just stands to reason. Confidence stems from preparation. Always contemplate the possibility that your judges and or opponents know a lot more than you do.

Read the problem 

Captain obvious’ you might say, but this is where many people get it wrong. By “read the problem”, I mean really read the problem.

Words are the tools of lawyers. Read the problem as many times as possible. Read it when you first get it. Read it every day after then until competition day. Read it on competition day. You never know what new issue you might find. In the last international moot I participated in, what I needed to establish that a particular municipal law was in conformity with international law was the fact that one of its provisions was separated from the others with a comma and not a semicolon as I had originally thought.I was not even the one that discovered it. It was a teammate.

A standard problem has parts that are favourable to both sides. You would do yourself a great disservice if you fail to utilize every single strong point for your side. It is also very useful to be aware of the portions of the fact that are not favourable to your case. The judges are probably aware of these facts. Do not run away from them. Find ways to justify them or tweak them in your favour.

Legal Research 

A moot is set on a piece of law that is uncertain. If you find cases that support a favourable view on the law, you should argue that these are relevant to the facts in issue or can be applied by analogy (because the cases border on the same principles of law).

If the cases are unfavourable, you need to consider how to ‘distinguish’ these cases so that your opponent cannot rely on them, or you can invite the court to overrule them.

Arguing with authorities is not the only way of arguing in a moot. Especially in the Supreme Court, International Court of Justice, etc. where there is freedom to change the direction of the law, it is important to provide some arguments on principle and public policy, detailing why the law should develop in a particular direction.

Rebut, and don’t be rebuttable!

Structure your argument strategically. In most moots, you will be arguing for both sides. The advantage of this is that you will have a good grasp of the arguments your opponents are likely to present for both sides since you are arguing them yourself. While writing your arguments, prepare to rebut your opponents’ arguments. Water down all their defences, you may say for instance: ‘The respondent may argue that Country A is not liable for the damage suffered by Country B because the damage was not caused by the fault of Country A; but the applicant submits that this argument is flawed on the ground that liability for damage caused to the surface of the earth by the space object of another country is an absolute liability, and no proof of fault whatsoever is required. Country A is therefore liable for the damage suffered by Country B.

You will not have a very long time to argue and more often than not, you will have much less time than you need to establish your case and exhaust every dimension of your argument. Rebutting your opponents, therefore, does not have to be a separate endeavour from your arguments. Use your arguments to rebut. Mention their arguments and then state yours to counter them. If this is effectively and cunningly done, you will have succeeded in destroying their case and establishing yours in the minds of the judges. Preempt rebuttals to your argument and rebut them.

It is usually the practice that memorials are exchanged before the moot itself, and this is particularly useful if you are appearing on behalf of the Applicant as you will not get the opportunity to listen to the respondent’s arguments before you address the court. The great thing about this is that many people simply argue the contents of their memorials. It is usually the case that once you get a hold of their memorial, you have their entire argument. They have no backup plans or alternatives. If you manage to rebut every relevant argument in their memorial, they are pretty much stranded, and this almost always happens. When they eventually make their oral submissions, they are unable to convince the judges as they are thrown off balance and are unable to recover from the fact that all their strong points have been watered down.

As the Applicant, after you have seen their memorials and arguments, you know for certain which of those arguments you predicted they will eventually be arguing. You may now use expressions like: Your Lordships, the Respondents have argued on Page 2 of their memorial, particularly at Paragraph 12, that Mr. Basco did not validly alienate the land in question to Mallam Kasili as he did not obtain the consent of the principal members of the family before carrying out the sale, we, however, beg to differ on that point. The respondents, in this case, have failed to take into account the fact that these principal members of the family were aware of the sale and did not raise an objection by instituting an action before the court for 15 years. The applicants submit that the equitable doctrine of laches and acquiescence is applicable in this case.

Once you can establish that the doctrine of laches and acquiescence indeed estops the respondents, then, you have faulted their argument and if they have no alternative arguments and have not proactively insulated themselves against this line of argument, then chances are that that issue will be resolved by the court in your favour.

If you are appearing as the respondent, unless you are arguing ex parte, you would have had a chance to listen to the Applicant’s argument (which is most likely a reflection of the contents of their brief). This is great! Now you can say, with some flavour of amusement and a subtle hint of disbelief: ‘Your Excellences, the Applicants have argued that the Republic of Rastalia granted Commander Borsch asylum in line with their sovereign rights, but they have very conveniently neglected the general principle of international law, reflected in the constitutions of most countries of the world which stipulates that states are to grant asylum only to persons that are being persecuted or are under serious threat of persecution in their countries of residence. The respondents submit that since commander Borsch was according to the Paragraph 7 of the statement of agreed facts, not under any persecution or threat of it in his country, Rastalia could not have validly granted him asylum.’

Finally, on the point of rebutting, it is a crime (by virtue of my personal criminal code) to rebut what has not been stated by the Applicants. For me, it shows nothing but a strong desire to say something irrelevant simply because you researched it. The unfortunate thing is that it happens a whole lot. I once had an opponent who spent about two minutes of her precious time rebutting something I never even argued (I considered it a weak/unnecessary argument) simply because she had it in her own argument for the other side. I kept looking at the judges to make sure they did not believe that I made such a submission, in case they had forgotten.


Tolulope Dada is a 400 level law student at Obafemi Awolowo University. She is passionate about Tax and Finance, and has interned with KPMG Nigeria and SIAO.

Tolulope is a member of the Debate Committee, and the Moot & Mock Committee of her Faculty. She started mooting in 2016 and has represented her university, Nigeria and Africa in a number of competitions.

The height of her mooting career came in 2016 when she and her team won the Africa round of the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot and went on to become runners up of the world finals in Guadalajara, Mexico, presided over by judges of the International Court of Justice. 

Other competitions she has participated in include Dele Adesina Moot and Mock Competition, 2016 and 2017; Professor I.O. Agbede National Moot and Mock Competition, 2016; Price Media Moot, 2017 and the International Humanitarian Law Moot, 2017.

 

legallyengagedA Nigerian Law Student’s Guide to Mooting – Part I
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Approaches to Studying for Law Exams – Part I; Personal Study

Nothing reawakens the awareness of being a student like the publication of the examination timetable for a semester. Everything else, including extracurricular obligations, religious activities, and even personal development goals, pale into insignificance after a student sights the timetable. At this time, the only thing that rings through is the advice most students often get from their parents/guardians – face your studies! As much as most students would rather go through tertiary education without having to bother about exams, Nigerian universities consider in-class, closed book exams as the best method of testing aptitude and learning.

This article is the first in a series that focuses on aspects, approaches, and tips for successful examination preparation. This article discusses three approaches to personal studying and suggests practical ways of making personal studying a habit or making the best of limited time when one inadvertently fails to keep up to his/her study schedule.

Other parts of this series will explore the role that review of past questions; consultation with senior colleagues, lecturers, and practitioners; class attendance, participation, assignments and continuous assessment; note-taking and reading beyond the syllabus; as well as, keeping abreast with the goings on in the national and international spheres, plays in successful examination preparation.

Personal Study

Personal study is a discipline that every student should strive to acquire and practice in the university. If the tales from the Nigerian Law School (NLS) are anything to go by, the skill and discipline of personal study will come in handy at the NLS. From the outset, its useful to state that the reference to personal studying in this article is not just reading textbooks, handouts or notes in preparation for classes or tests but also to any commitment of time to learning or researching a topic in the syllabus for a given semester. Therefore, apart forms time spent on studying the materials that professors recommend for their classes, desktop research, reading law reports, summarizing cases, catching up on news reports, etc. also fall into the category of activities that make up personal study.

There are prerequisites that make personal study possible for a student. First, a student must be aware of the topics that constitute the syllabus for the semester, and the textbook(s) and other reference material that the Professor recommends. It follows logically that knowledge of the materials is not enough, purchasing or borrowing the reference materials is also essential. This means that students must also make a habit of visiting the library.

Second, a student must design a flexible timetable for personal studying and do the best to allocate more time than necessary to every studying session so that it is possible to make up for any missed studying schedules. Third, there must be a comfortable location for studying. This place must be accessible, preferably, close to home or the student’s hostel, and devoid of distractions.

After one sorts out these prerequisites, it is important to adopt an approach for studying. The section the follows, discusses two approaches – the day to day and crash approaches. There is also the midway review method which is not covered in this part of the series.

The Day to Day Approach

The day to day approach requires students to have the end (exam) in mind from the first day of the semester. This method, in my thinking, is the best and should be the goal of every law student. Though relative to many other factors, a student that studies least 2-3 hours every day of a semester will likely not feel so much pressure when the exams draw near. It will feel like a revision exercise. For students that adopt this method, the primary task during the examination period will be to memorize some quotes, case titles and sections of the law, and to simulate writing under exam conditions. The beauty of this approach is that when accompanied with regular class attendance, the daily study sessions give an opportunity to review the day’s work and get personal insight that aid recollection during examinations. There is always the possibility that concentration will waver, especially when the course is abstract. To keep this minimal, you can make your notes, in your own words, based on your understanding of the lecturer’s notes, relevant textbooks, and reference materials. Since they are written in your own words, they will be easier to remember and study from time to time.

To succeed in this approach, a student must understand himself/herself – his strengths, and weaknesses. Some questions to help this self-diagnosis include: do I like to study in places with graveyard silence, like the library or, do I prefer some liveliness in the background, maybe some music in the background? Do I study more when I see others studying or do I thrive better when I am by myself? Also, what period of the day am I at my best? As is popularly said, there are different strokes for different folks, and in Nigerian parlance, one man’s meat is another’s poison.

There’s no reason to feel bad if the library isn’t your place. In the past, I was unhappy anytime I went to the library to study and ended up sleeping. After my first two years in the university, I understood that I thrive in a lively study atmosphere with people walking around and some music in the background. None of these would be allowed in a library. As inferred above, another issue to consider is the time frame that works best for you. Many people study excellently at night. I prefer reading during the first four hours of the day (except weekends) that is, within 12-4 am, whenever I can. This is the only period of my day shielded from distractions, and nothing or no one can come in the way of my books. Once the day officially starts with classes, meetings and personal chores, whatever time left would most likely be snatched by sleep.

Make the most of any block of two or three hours you can get every day. Don’t let those who brag about studying for long hours intimidate you. I’ve tried it before and found that I spent only half the time reading. I couldn’t account for the other half.

The Crash Method

I guess this approach needs no introduction as many students, including me, adopt this method more than the former.  The Crash method entails preparation for exams just after the release of the timetable. Crash students attempt to memorize a lot of course content for the sole purpose of pouring it onto a test booklet.

Except you have a photographic memory, such as Kyle or Mike from the series Kyle XY and Suits respectively, this approach is not advisable. I had to do this in Law of Contract in my second year. I started preparing twenty-four hours before the exam. I missed most of the classes, so I had no memory and scanty notes of the class discussions. I depended on Sagay’s “Law of Contract” to pull through.  Anyone familiar with the sheer volume of the textbook and the small print will know this was not a walk in the park. Not even the strong black coffee I drank through the night helped. I still slept halfway and woke up with a migraine. To sum it all, the result was a D.

But that notwithstanding, there is still a right way (though risky) to crash read and get the most out of it, and it doesn’t involve trying to read an entire semester’s work in one night, like I earlier did. Instead, you have to read smart. Because I know I will not always be able to read consistently, I try to record every class I attend. During the exam time, all these audio notes become my official music playlist. Get past questions and study which topics recur the most. For my school, an average past question has around 8 – 10 questions based on topics taken by different lecturers. So in choosing topics, try to achieve an equitable spread across the lecturers, instead of focusing on only one of them.

If you’ve been missing classes, inquire from colleagues those things that the lecturers harped on or issues that were unresolved in class that may be included in the exams. Not everything in the course outline gets the same attention from the professors. At times, the teacher may hint at the aspects of the syllabus students should focus on for the exams. Such information will help someone who could not prepare adequately for the exams.

But take note, this method is not without risk, and should only be a last resort. A question you were banking on may not come out. The lecturer’s tip might turn out to be a hoax. I had such an experience with Nigerian Legal System in my second year. The day before the test, the lecturer told the class to focus on civil and criminal procedure. But on the D-day, he asked us to describe the constitutional process for appointing a judge, citing relevant sections of the constitution. I almost cried in the lecture room. My only consolation was that I wasn’t the only one with a sad tale.

As stated already, striving for the day to day approach should be a student’s goal. Start out from the beginning of the semester and look out for others who have similar study goals. Appraise yourself periodically and make changes to your schedule until you arrive at a suitable routine. It is also useful to note that in some cases a student may have to sacrifice some engagements and fun things to keep up a consistent schedule. Prioritize your academics, and you will be better for it!

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.

legallyengagedApproaches to Studying for Law Exams – Part I; Personal Study
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A Nigerian Law Student’s Guide to Mooting – Part II

In the first part of this guide to mooting, we discussed the need to prepare adequately beforehand, and also discussed in-depth, techniques and tips to bear in mind while preparing.

Now that you have prepared:

Be confident

If it helps, you can do what I do. After I have prepared adequately (on the assumption that everyone in court is smarter than I am), just before I get up to moot, I tell myself: Tolu, these judges cannot do what you are about to do, they will be impressed. You are a better public speaker than they are (this is not necessarily true, by the way). You know the facts of this case and the position of the law better than they do. You have been preparing for days/weeks/months. That cannot have been for nothing.’

Don’t judge me. I’m as humble as they come.

Now, confidence is not arrogance. No one likes an arrogant counsel/agent. You will challenge the judges with your arrogance. When they ask a question you have pre-empted, smile. You can say ‘thank you, your excellences for that question, in fact, the answer to your question brings me to my very next submission, which is that…’

In the preliminary parts of your moot, (your appearances, stating the case before the court, and asking the judges if they would like a summary of the facts of the case) please be easy going. If you are a female especially, smile. Yes, I understand that you are very concerned about the well-being of your client, but it is okay to be relaxed at first. You’ve got this. It is easy, the judges are not monsters. They are people’s mothers, fathers, friends, etc. Chances are that they have probably been in your shoes before, so relax.

Arrive at the court in good time so you can be settled before the moot. Dress well too for a confidence boost

Be yourself

A wise man once said- “be you, everyone else is taken”. No truer words have ever been spoken.

Now, in the Moot and Mock Committee at Obafemi Awolowo University, we are taught to be the best, the absolute best. We have a standard; we speak brilliantly, argue logically and we vary the pitch of our voices to suit the needs of our audience. We speak with confidence; our speech is polished, clear and distinct. In short, representatives of OAU’s Moot and Mock Committee always stand out. People know who we are even before they ask. This is undoubtedly due to the training we receive and the determination of our predecessors to impart excellence.

Notwithstanding this seemingly uniform manner of mooting established and sustained over the years, one thing that has remained constant is that every one individual is different and this uniqueness is reflected in their styles of argument and mooting.

The best mooters that have passed through the faculty of law, did not moot the exact same way. All excellent public speakers and advocates in their own right.

I remember the day I was chosen for the Space Law Moot. I found a video of OAU students mooting at the competition in 2011. In that video, a particular student was announcing appearances, and I just loved the way he did it, from the way he stood to make his appearance to the way he brought his hands together when he did, his tone, and to the pitch of his voice. To me, everything was perfect, and I made up my mind that that was the exact same way I wanted to make my appearances in South Africa.

Eventually, I didn’t even get to make the said appearances as I was not the first speaker. That is not the point though, the point is that in attempting to moot exactly like that, I student, I forgot that we were not the same person. Firstly, he is a guy and I am not. There was no way on earth I would sound exactly like he did and anyway, there was no need at all to make appearances the way he did. I eventually learned that in my own way, I was a great speaker, and I was interesting to listen to, and I could impress by simply being the best version of me.

Please tell yourself this sometimes, just because it’s true. Don’t get me wrong, however, it’s okay to try to improve and emulate some mannerisms and expressions, but if they don’t fit, don’t force it.

Answer questions brilliantly

I have hinted at this before. This is probably the most difficult part of mooting. Expect questions from the judge. If you know your arguments, you are aware of the facts and are not completely reliant on your notes, you should be able to deal with anything the judge throws at you.  Always remember that you are trying to win over the judge, so if the judge is unhappy about something and needs to ask a question, you need to deal with that issue. It is okay to pause for a bit to consider the question before replying.  If the judge has defeated one of your arguments, remain gracious and move on to an alternative argument. However, if you think the judge is pushing you in the wrong direction or has misunderstood your point, you should gently attempt to refocus the argument. Never interrupt the judge.

Very importantly, even with all your cunningness and brilliance, it may happen that there is a question posed to you by a judge that you are absolutely unable to answer (this should rarely ever happen though if you are proactive). When this happens, make an attempt if you like, but if that fails, and the judges let you know you are getting it all wrong and offer an answer, please do not waste your time my friend. Defer to the wisdom of the court with the little dignity you have left, take the hint and move on.

 

In conclusion, seek feedback after your moot. Remember, you are a great mooter if you can construct a sound argument, manipulate an awkward precedent, come up with clever answers quickly, and turn a hopeless case around.

Tolulope Dada is a 400 level law student at Obafemi Awolowo University. She is passionate about Tax and Finance, and has interned with KPMG Nigeria and SIAO.

Tolulope is a member of the Debate Committee, and the Moot & Mock Committee of her Faculty. She started mooting in 2016 and has represented her university, Nigeria and Africa in a number of competitions.

The height of her mooting career came in 2016 when she and her team won the Africa round of the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot and went on to become runners up of the world finals in Guadalajara, Mexico, presided over by judges of the International Court of Justice. 

Other competitions she has participated in include Dele Adesina Moot and Mock Competition, 2016 and 2017; Professor I.O. Agbede National Moot and Mock Competition, 2016; Price Media Moot, 2017 and the International Humanitarian Law Moot, 2017.

 

legallyengagedA Nigerian Law Student’s Guide to Mooting – Part II
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How to Deal with Procrastination in Your Studies

Someone once commented that an Association for Procrastinators should be established, and someone else responded: “Let’s do it tomorrow.” This narration is a humorous but apt one.

One of life’s greatest lessons is that life does not reward indolence or even condone it. Delay is dangerous and expensive. When students understand exactly how much of an effect their grades can have on their lives and how much procrastination, in turn, affects those grades, then they understand the danger of delay.

Procrastination is insight without discipline. It involves deferring an important task(s) and focusing usually on a less important but more enjoyable one. Procrastination is one bad habit that could appear harmless, but whose effects are very far-reaching and often irreversible. For a student, it is failing to study until the very last minute.

I have heard friends say they will start an important task by 8 o’clock and then postpone till 9 o’clock simply because it is 8:02 and they missed their window and ‘it doesn’t feel right to start at 8:02’.

Procrastination has so many negative effects, ranging from ruining a person’s sense of discipline to failure to achieve important tasks, either in time or at all. Procrastination hinders to a great extent, one’s ability to enjoy the tasks being performed as well as their positive benefits.

The sad truth though is that virtually every student procrastinates to some degree; many people indulge in that one extra hour of sleep or chat with friends, movie watching, playing of video games or surfing the net while they should be studying.

According to Margie Warrell, in her book, Stop Playing Safe, “Life rewards action. Nothing great is accomplished without it”. It goes without saying then, that procrastination is a hindrance to accomplishing the objectives of studying and what good grades can stand to secure. Like all other bad habits, procrastination can be subjected to the 21-day rule which is to the effect that anything you can successfully do for 21 days becomes a habit. Students can overcome procrastination, and there are easy steps to doing so.

1.      Plan ahead and write your plans down

Never underestimate the power of planning. Planning saves time. It makes you accountable to you. Failing to plan or set deadlines implies that you do not hold yourself accountable for your time and you have no means of actually keeping track of your time and knowing how much you spent in useful pursuits.

Be realistic in your planning. Do not plan an overly strenuous schedule like planning to read for thirty hours non-stop. The chances that this might actually work out are very slim and it may discourage you from even studying altogether.

2.      Set timelines for your plans

Tie your plans to timelines; timelines keep you on your toes. Where you do not set timelines for your plans at all, you permit yourself to postpone them indefinitely. If you do not meet your deadlines, at the very most, you will fall a little behind on them.

Therefore, for instance, instead of simply making a generic list, you should set time limits for your study plan.

So, for instance, write Monday (5pm-7pm): study Law of Contract. A procrastinator may vaguely write, ‘Study Law of Contract’ in his jotter and claim that he has made a plan. Sure, it is a plan, but it is one that is bound to fail as it is not time to a particular time.

3.     Tick off accomplishments

It is very helpful to make a habit of breaking your goals down into the smallest possible components. Set little milestones for yourself. If the chapter on Privity of Contract is 12 pages in the textbook, then allocate time to each page, say ten minutes. You can set a timer that goes off at ten minute intervals. This is a time tested and trusted tool that can help even the laziest students to deal with procrastination.

It is also good to form a habit of ticking off goals you have achieved in order to spur you on to achieve more.

4.      Keep the big picture in close view

The big picture as far as your studies go is your academic goal. Do you want to graduate with a First Class? Do you want to graduate with a Second Class Upper? Then you must understand that these do not come easily. You have to work hard to obtain such grades.

Some law courses are very voluminous and have several case law and sections of statutes that you have to commit to memory. It is best to get an early start.

To literally keep your goal in close view, you may choose to write down the grades you want to obtain in each course on a sticky note and attach it to your wall. This is motivation and could go a long way in ensuring that you study when you should.

5.      Remove distractions

Turn your distractions to rewards. You may permit yourself to surf the net for an hour as a reward for three uninterrupted hours of effective studying. The keywords in this statement are: ‘uninterrupted’ and ‘effective’. This means that you must not have indulged in your distractions while studying. Ensure that you meet the goal you set for yourself for those three hours.

If it is the first time you are studying the topic, then your goal should probably be to fully understand the topic by the time those three hours are over. If you were studying for exams, your goal in those three hours might be to have memorized all the sections relevant to the topic. After this, you may treat yourself to some net surfing time, or some sleep or video games. These treats are something to look forward to while you’re studying and should serve as some motivation.

Do not multitask while you are studying. Resist the temptation to read contract and labour law simultaneously, or study and surf the net at the same time. Some persons argue that doing this helps them concentrate, but this is quite doubtful.

6.      Have an accountability partner

Tell someone who can hold you to account about your goals. This will keep you in check. Any number of persons may be your accountability partner, ranging from your roommate to your mentor.

7.      Be self-motivated

The human mind is a very powerful tool. From your mind, you have to summon a sense of urgency and ‘fear’ that pushes you to study. You have to understand the importance of studying early. You have to be convinced that it pays to study at the right time; to study ahead, to study during weeks of lecture, to study for tests, to study hard during lecture free weeks and to study purposefully for exams. Failing this, you may never overcome procrastination.

You have to create the drive to study hard for success by yourself. In fact, this is the most important of all the steps to beating procrastination. Self-motivation stems from keeping the bigger picture in close view.

8.      Ensure that your study area is clutter-free

A good number of students cannot study where there is a clutter. As much as possible, let your study space be neatly arranged so that you are not put off and distracted from your reading. Also, choose a place to study that is conducive to your needs.

 

Tolulope Dada is a 400 level law student at Obafemi Awolowo University. She is passionate about Tax and Finance, and has interned with KPMG Nigeria and SIAO.

Tolulope is a member of the Debate Committee, and the Moot & Mock Committee of her Faculty. She started mooting in 2016 and has represented her university, Nigeria and Africa in a number of competitions.

The height of her mooting career came in 2016 when she and her team won the Africa round of the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot and went on to become runners up of the world finals in Guadalajara, Mexico, presided over by judges of the International Court of Justice. 

Other competitions she has participated in include Dele Adesina Moot and Mock Competition, 2016 and 2017; Professor I.O. Agbede National Moot and Mock Competition, 2016; Price Media Moot, 2017 and the International Humanitarian Law Moot, 2017.

legallyengagedHow to Deal with Procrastination in Your Studies
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Gaining Non-Law Work Experience

As an undergraduate, there are several avenues you can explore to make you stand out when it is time to hit the labour market. These are avenues through which you can acquire invaluable skills and imbibe work ethics and values. The following are a few of the avenues for a law student to gain work experience that could positively impact on his future career.

  1. Participating in Student Politics

As an undergraduate, I realized early that since advocacy is an indispensable aspect of legal practice, I needed to hone my advocacy skills. I knew that if I was going to defeat my greatest inhibition, I had to be ready to speak more often.

My greatest challenge with speaking was not shyness or fear of addressing the crowd, it was my accent. This fear prevented me from speaking up in places where I should have voiced my thoughts or made contributions. Thus, in a bid to overcome this challenge I decided to run for elections in my state students’ association as the Public Relations Officer, knowing well that vying for that office was going to require me to speak more often.

From campaigning, presenting my manifesto and eventually winning the election, I greatly improved on my public speaking skills. I also honed my advocacy skills as I had to engage in persuasions, presenting arguments and most importantly, I had to communicate the objectives of the association to the members at large lecture halls and cafeterias.

For the rest of my University days, I continued participating in student politics and in the process, I developed human relations skills, team spirit, creative writing and dispute resolution skills. Years down the line, the ability to persuade an audience or present an argument in the calmest ways has proved to be an invaluable skill acquired by just running for an election.

These skills are no doubt prerequisites to becoming a sound legal practitioner.

  1. Volunteering

Volunteering is an effective way of gaining experience. This could be volunteering with faculty committees, religious organizations or campus associations. One major thing volunteering does is to present you with real-life challenges. Your ability to work in a team will be tested, you will need to translate instructions or objectives to concrete goals, and your ability to multitask will also be tested. Volunteering presents you with the opportunity to develop the ability to carry out tasks under pressure.

Equally, volunteering as a senior student mentor can help you understand how to relate better with junior colleagues at your workplace. In the course of volunteering, you gain experience and imbibe workplace ethics like meeting deadlines, punctuality, professionalism and dedication.

  1. Attending Model United Nations (MUNs)

MUNs are simulations of the United Nations. MUNs seek to inculcate in participants caucusing skills which majorly involve the art of diplomacy. Beyond diplomacy, these MUNs present participants with opportunities to network with people from different backgrounds. These skills can be invaluable in the workplace.

There are quite a number of MUNs in Nigeria and beyond, such as, the Lagos Model United Nations which is organized annually by the University of Lagos, the National Model United Nations usually held in New York, the Harvard Model United Nations and a few other domestic and international MUNs. Often times, these MUNs require funds, however, sponsorship for them can be provided by international donors and local fundraising means.

  1. Summer Internships Outside Law Firms

Though internships are becoming increasingly popular among law students, many still believe the only place they can gain valuable internship experience is in a law firm. Many have failed to maximize internship opportunities provided by insurance companies, banks, and companies engaged in businesses other than legal practice.

For those who intend to go to into commercial and corporate law practice, the ideal places to get internship experience, other than corporate/commercial law firms, is at these corporate organizations. Internships in these organizations expose a law student to firsthand experience in corporate practice.

  1. Entrepreneurship

Many would have heard that law is a business. It is not just a hobby; hence, the aim is to make money. Your entrepreneurial skills can make you very valuable to an employer. Employers are often looking for rainmakers, that is, employees with business sense. Thus, your entrepreneurial experience can make you stand out in the labour market and endear you to your superiors.

This could be by learning graphic designs, with the intention of receiving contracts relating to the printing of publicity items for student programmes; learning photography with the aim of being paid as a photographer; or securing contracts to supply refreshment for faculty programmes among others.

  1. Anchoring Programmes

Compering programmes seems ordinary but it is definitely one way a law student can further develop his communication and presentation skills. Compering programmes involve being able to carry the audience along in the course of the programme.

Developing this skill will help one not to struggle to hold the attention of a Judge when presenting an argument or to hold the attention of colleagues and superiors when making presentations at work. As a student, you should seek out and embrace opportunities to compere programmes.

  1. Research Assistant

Lecturers and PhD candidates often require the services of Research Assistants to review literature on their areas of study, collate and analyze data essential to the study; meet and conduct interviews with research subjects and also ensure confidentiality of the information gathered from questionnaires administered. Taking up Research Assistant roles will not only help you build professional relationships that could foster your career advancement, but it will also help you hone your research skills which are essential for legal practice.

 

All the above and more are essential if a law student must be distinct and fit for the labour market. This is in the light of the changing expectations of employers.

 


Omotayo Akinrinwa is a recent graduate of the Nigerian Law School, Kano Campus. He is an alumnus of the University of Lagos and Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria where he obtained his LL.B. in 2017 and B.A. in 2013 respectively.

As a student, he held various leadership positions including Head of Chambers of the Gani Fawehinmi Students Chambers, University of Lagos. Omotayo has interned at various top-tier law firms in Nigeria where he has been mentored by notable lawyers. He is an avid reader and writer whose articles and essays have been published in Nigerian legal journals, print and online media. He has taken part in Moot Competitions and Mock Trials.

Omotayo aims to be a notable corporate and commercial litigation lawyer and believes in contributing to national development. He loves reading national dailies, networking and talking about national growth.

legallyengagedGaining Non-Law Work Experience
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