Repeatedly politicians, members of parliament, businesspersons who own universities and some academics have asked the Law Council to end pre-entry examinations, which are a prerequisite to bar admissions.
The reasons argued are varied. For politicians especially legislators, their reasons are noticeably selfish. A number of them have tried several times and failed pre-entry exams – and thus missed out on joining the bar course at the Law Development Centre (LDC).
Therefore, the proposed scrapping of the examination works in their favour and gives them hope of becoming advocates without submitting themselves to the rigors and occasional tedium of writing the exam! The businesspersons who own universities that teach law have often argued that their students are subjected to unnecessary examinations.
They insist the Law Council approved their universities to teach law and, therefore, there is no valid reason to subject their graduates to pre-entry examinations. The underlying reasons for resistance are more than what meets the eye.
They (university owners) have to explain why their law graduates fail to join LDC. It’s about salvaging the names of their institutions. The minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Kahinda Otafiire, wonders why law graduates are subjected to numerous examinations.
He says the students should be left to fail under their own weight at LDC. After all, the minister argues, the students are paying their own money, and not wasting taxpayers’ money. And therein lies the problem. The bar course is not for those with financial ability. LDC was founded to prepare law graduates for the practice of law.
It’s a skills-imparting institution, and not an entirely academic entity. Law Council regulates the practice of law, and it is best suited to set standards of practice. Politicians and businesspeople cannot interfere with the setting up of values and standards of the legal profession.
Perhaps it’s time the role of LDC as a legal professional development entity is reevaluated. This will also mean reevaluating the way law schools teach this subject. In Uganda, universities separate substantive law training from that of practical legal training by having to undertake a Bachelor of Laws and then a Diploma in Legal Practice at LDC.
If there was an integration of the teaching of substantive law and the practical training, there would be no need for LDC, and no LDC pre-entry exams. Instead LDC would become a centre for preparing bar exams like it is done in some countries.
And the lawyers would prepare for these exams at their own convenience. So, the torture at LDC for another year would be done away with. And that would call for amendments to many laws and regulations governing the practice of law.
In that way, failing to join LDC wouldn’t spell doom. But until those changes are made at universities and LDC, pre-entry is still important and the Law Council and the director at LDC should not allow to be boxed into the corner by politicians and the urge for the centre to make money.
Podium declarations by a minister shouldn’t change the otherwise well-intentioned initiative that arose with the hope of reshaping the bar admission testing and guarding standards.