Tuesday, 24 March 2009


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I have many friends at the Law School. I sit out with them now and again over some drinks (Is that not what the bar is about after all?) and recount my own Law school days.
Of course the genial hands of time are steadily moulding my memories of the place into an idyllic monument, so at the slightest push; I wax lyrical about it. But these friends of mine never get caught up in my enthusiasm. Most of the time they listen with a woe-begone expression and subtly change the subject. After much prodding, they  finally let me into their reservations and I am most tempted to reproduce them on this page, but of course they swore me to secrecy…it is infamous conduct to harbour thoughts of that hue about the revered institution.

On closer reflection, I am inclined to hold that the vehemence of their feelings might be a bit exaggerated.The issues are purely based on a conflict of perspectives and a break in communication. In this regard, I think that the liable party is the Council itself. There must be something faulty with the orientation programme they package for the entrants.  Oh, forget that charade of effusive speeches and polite applause. These rehearsed monologues hardly enter one ear before leaving through the other.

They fail to understand that the new applicants to the bar are usually at their most impressionable, thus a well delivered message goes a long way. You can see that from their willingness to jot down any sound that escapes the speaker’s throat. (Coughs and sneezes not exempted.)The council should make their policies known from day one so that the new students can understand what they are up against.

I hate arm-chair critics, so I have decided to contribute actively to correcting this anomaly by sketching a model welcome address for the D.G. that will serve to make the new intakes understand better the probable perspective from which the Council sees legal training.

The speech shall run a little like this:

We use the above term with no apologies whatsoever to the gender hyperactive ones among you. The term has subsisted these long years to cover both sexes and we do not see any reason for it to be tampered with.
We must point out that we do not accede to the ludicrous version “gentlemen in skirt” when referring to our females members…As this is not Scotland, the very picture of a gentleman in skirt wakes up disturbing images which thankfully our laws have not yielded to yet.

That said, we proceed now to offer you our congratulations for having scaled the tortuous hurdle of tertiary study. While we are impressed that your numbers soar with the passing years, we fail to quell the nagging suspicion that the lecturers in our universities are growing less imaginative in setting exam questions. For what good does a sieve serve when all the grains make it through? But then, that is matter for another day.

As I look into your midst, I see a sea of eager faces, eyes glittering with the exhilaration within. I see barely concealed bloats in your egos, no doubt created by the prospect of being received into our regal fold. I see holders of certificates that boast of worthiness in the sublime merits of character and learning. With the above, we shall not be so hasty to concur; what with the distasteful news that filter daily from our Universities of today. We strive to believe that your various Faculties of Law shielded you from the stains, but we cannot be too sure. While we acknowledge your LLB status (it is surely no mean feat) we shall not forget that the erudite Alexander Pope points out the perils of half learning. Our focus in this institution is to provide that missing better half, a task we shall set about with the stoutest of resolves.

In your university days, you enjoyed freedom; you were like birds, with the horizon as your ambit. Those days are now irretrievably gone. Here we recognize the danger in trusting the notion of free will. Unbridled freedom negates the very concept of our profession.The Law is meant to effect a coercive order of human behaviour.The Naturalists may hold reservations about this but the Council has attained its present enviable status largely because we choose to stay positive.

Therefore, from henceforth, any nocturnal stroll between opposite members of the sexes is declared illicit. Likewise, we forbid visits to any hostels that house members of the opposite sex. While we do not wish to make hermits of you, we are worried about the effect that the fertility of your minds may have on your bodies. Mens sana in corporea sana.
We shall observe you closely at all times. Such public displays of heterosexual attraction as pecks and hugs shall be looked upon with a stern frown. Gentlemen greet themselves with smart hand shakes and we shall unwaveringly adhere to that standard.Your ultimate conquest of the world begins with the annihilation of every unwholesome thought and desire.

We proceed now to the issue of fees.
We gather that there has been an outcry among some of you against the relentless rise in our fees with every new batch and that we make the purchase of laptops a stringent requirement.
We are glad that this cry is not unanimous. Our position is vindicated by graduates of our private universities who consider what we charge as akin to a tax holiday.
The council proposes to reward such progressive thinking by accrediting more of such institutions. We also hope to swell the number of our (oh so adorable) students in the Diaspora, who toe the same progressive line.

The allegation stems exclusively from the beneficiaries of public schooling.
This peasant category has come to expect life to be replete with subsidies and gratuitous grants. We wish to inform them that while education may be expensive, ignorance keeps a dearer school. Our profession is not for commoners, and if they cannot cope, they should please exploit the open door policy of this institution, literally. We shall not miss them. And as for the laptops, we have our strong reasons for them. We have fashioned a do-it-yourself curriculum. (Your spoon feeding days are over) Your lecturers would be spared the irritations of your oftentimes na├»ve questions…With the laptops, simply google the answer and save the whole class precious time needed to cover the volumes that make up your schedule.

Following from this, we also wish to reiterate that while we encourage fearlessness and diligent courage as virtues of the lawyer, they are placed at subservience to the prime notion of order of precedence and seniority at the Bar. Our predecessors who set this laudable standard have deemed us worthy to wear this grey wig of wisdom, but you are as yet mere applicants. So even in the unlikely event of all of you here eventually making it to the bar, you are by far our juniors and we shall therefore brook no challenges whatsoever from you with respect to our authority. While we wish you luck in your quest, we maintain that you recognise your place in the interim; to be seen not heard, except when you are specifically addressed.

Ah! I see creases of dissent on some of your faces, you mouth the silent question; are we breeding timid lawyers? No we are not gagging you, we only groom you to say the right things and save the profession the embarrassment of vociferous radicals.

Lastly, I must inform you that over the years, we have received strong worded protests over our grading system. We are accused of using the lowest score to determine a person’s eventual grade. Such questions make me marvel at the phenomenal laziness creeping into the minds of our youth. The law admits no apostles but the impeccable. On this ground, the test is no more that of the reasonable man, but of the intellectual.

So, if you record a mere pass despite a string of 80s and 90s, I hope you understand that you still possess an Achilles heel…that part of your anatomy, the profession suffers you to relinquish. Do not give me the quote: “God forbid that a lawyer knows all the law…” The learned jurist that made that famous dictum unfortunately overlooked the fact that ours is largely a profession of atheists.

Once again, we welcome you to Law School and wish you a most enjoyable stay.’

 I rest my thesis

First published in Thisday Newspapers: March 24, 2009

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