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Legal Council Tightens Lid On Lawyer Training


Members at the meeting. Inset: Ebo Barton Oduro, Deputy Attorney General delivering a speech at the forum 	Legal Council Tightens Lid On Lawyer Training

The Ghana General Legal Council, the oversight body of the Ghana Law School, has initiated a number of strict reforms and entry requirements into the Ghana Law School.

The reforms are aimed at considerably sieving the number of law graduates that the school admits while boosting the quality of professional lawyers that pass out of the institution annually.

With the proposed reform, graduate lawyers (LL.B) aspiring to practice professionally, would have to undergo rigorous vetting before gaining admission into the law school, including subjecting applicants to an extensive interview session to assess the personal background of applicants, the Director of the Ghana Law School, G.A Sarpong, stated at a stakeholders’ forum held on Friday to discuss the new proposals.

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In the new structure, students will need to undertake a lot more courses in their undergraduate level to qualify for professional studies. Initially, law undergraduates studied approximately seven key courses including; Law of Contracts, Law of Torts, Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, etc.

Now, about four additional courses, including contemporary law courses such as Natural Resource Law, Environmental Law, Intellectual Property Law, Taxation Law etc, have been added to the basket of courses that LL.B students should study and pass as a prerequisite for admission into the Ghana Law School.

These reforms, according to members of the legal council, will take effect from next academic year (2013).

Currently, there are about seven different universities offering law courses in Ghana, these schools churn out approximately 600 graduates each year, however, the Ghana Law School can only admit 300 students at a time, meaning about 300 students will forfeit the chance of advancing their professional aspirations.

“Not every LL.B graduate would be admitted to the Law School,” Justice Stephen Alan Brobbey, a member of the General Council and a Judge in the Supreme Court, told industry stakeholders.

“You can produce law graduates, but to produce lawyers who would practice law, then they must meet the requirements of the General Legal Council.”

“If you run a university, go ahead, but if you want to run a degree for people who want to be admitted to the Law School, then you have to be mindful of the new reforms,” Justice Brobbey cautioned universities offering law courses in the country.

The proposal has received mixed reactions among legal practitioners.

Though some say it would improve the quality of professional legal practitioners passing out of the Law School yearly, others see the reforms as a ploy by the General Legal Council to limit access to professional legal education in the country.

“The stance of limiting entry into the Law School is indefensible, in modern times, one does not need a Law School to be able to acquire the necessary skills sets to be able to practice law,” said Professor Kwame Frimpong, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA).

“The current practice of trying to control the training of professionals [in the Law community] is indefensible, to put it bluntly, that stance is outmoded.”

Some lawyers told DAILY GUIDE that the move by the General Legal Council has a lot more to do with protectionism and conservationism than ensuring the required quality.

Professor Jenny Hamilton, the Director of Undergraduate Law Programme at the University of London, told the paper that many countries face the headache of improving the environment for professional legal education, but have focused on increasing access to professional legal education.

According to Professor Hamilton, the UK, instead of capping the numbers, adopted a two-pronged strategy, where mechanisms were put in place to ensure quality education while expanding access to professional legal education at the same time.

In Ghana, practicing lawyers are concentrated mostly in the three major cities in the country- Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi because of the limited number of qualified practitioners in the country.

One institution that is bearing the brunt of this deficiency is the Attorney Generals Department, which has about 200 lawyers instead of 1,000. “Go through the process and look at the kind of cases one attorney handles a day in court, and you will see that we are seriously understaffed,” Ebo Barton Odro told DAILY GUIDE.

By Raphael Adeniran Source: Daily Guide



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