Happy New Month! Dear Law Student 2: My Law School Experience
Hey guys! How are you doing? What'your week looking like? Personally, I can finally tick "Visit Ibadan" off my buck list.
Continued from last week.
...it became very necessary. We had been pre-forwarded our task for the day. After the morning session of lectures, we went on a break and came back for the afternoon session to solve the task. This session was handled by Mr Kanu, a very brilliant lecturer who added humor to his teaching. Each group came out to present and answer questions. How this process went varied. If Mr Kanu was the one asking questions, then you had to be ready to give your 100 because his questions were brain twisting. This was basically the routine for the 17 weeks of lectures.
Tuesday was for civil litigation. Now, there are teachers and there are TEACHERS. Mrs Odukoya, that woman broke down the life out of civil litigation. During our first lecture with her, she stood for four straight hours, teaching, explaining, giving the best examples. It was always a great time in her class. Her favorite word is ''circulate.'' She always said that after making corrections to a group tasks and instructed them to circulate the answers to other groups.
Wednesday was for Property Law Practice. Now Wednesdays were probably my most dramatic days in law school. The combination of lecturers for that course was an embodiment of perfection and at the same time trouble. They seemed to be a good fit for one another. Mrs Odusote, tall, beautiful, stern and intimidating. Mr Udemezue, jovial, intelligent and rather talkative. Mrs James, the absolute image of small but mighty. Her petite frame didn’t do justice to all the energy she had in her. It was in this class that I first heard the term ''committee of friends'' used outside the context of a social event. If you came in late to a property law class and Mr Udemezue was there, you would come to the front of the class as a member of the committee of friends and would have to answer a question before you were permitted to go back to your seat. Everyone desperately avoided this committee but many times, we fell prey at one point. I remember the day that even the Student Representative Council Chairman, Garrick Nosa John fell a victim. On some days, Mrs Odusote would start calling random registration numbers to answer a question. My heart was always in my hands. I can’t even lie. It was always a dramatic day because some students would refuse to own up to their numbers and answer the questions they were asked. She would then instruct Mrs James to take down the numbers. This was a mild threat to make you own up or be issued with a query. Or they would start calling hostel room numbers and tell you to call your best or worst roommate to answer the question.
One fateful Thursday in law school, I met a young man who is arguably the most intelligent person I have met: Kenneth Okwor Ononeze. This young man was still 24 when he became our lecturer. He is tall, handsome, well spoken, with a good fashion sense (even though some people I know may disagree) and most importantly, he was willing to teach everything he knew no matter how long it took. This young man actually taught alteration of a company’s memorandum from beginning to end without any guide. He taught straight from his head with his CAMA in his hand (he didn’t open it once) and taught walking around the class not missing any section. The course didn’t thrill me one bit. It might have been my nemesis at the end of the day. Who knows? But watching him teach it was everything.
Mrs James also taught this class. You see, I’m sure in my own way, I loved Mrs James but I didn’t appreciate her lectures for one simple reason; she always asked me a question. Which meant I had to put on my microphone and talk. Have I already mentioned to you that hard as I tried, while my body was in class, my mind was hardly there. But I have been like this my whole academic life. Once it was 11am or the very maximum, 12noon, my mind shuts down for that day but law school has failed and continues to fail to understand that people have different attention spans. So rather than letting us thrive as we should, they make everyone sit in class all day whether we are learning anything or not. You can imagine that everytime Mrs James asked me a question, I fumbled and flopped. Maybe she could see what lay ahead. I always suspected that she could see something in me that wasn’t good. When we get to the end of this story, we would all know.
It is important to explain why Mrs James bothered so much with me. I was an official in the campus recognized fellowship, CLASFON(Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria) for which she was the staff adviser. She made it a point of duty to ask as many officials questions whenever she was in class.
Finally, Fridays. On Fridays, we had Professional ethics and skills class. I can just hear Mr Udemezue saying “Prof Ethix.” This course had two main lecturers, Dr Hameed and Mr Orimunguje but from time to time, different lecturers came in to take one topic or the other. I hated this class because I found it extremely boring but I loved one thing about it; it always ended early. That was music to my ears when by 1:30pm or 2pm we are told that we are dome for the day. It was a blissful way to begin my weekend.
My Law School Roommates, my family
Kelechi was my hissing roommate who always had a new chiker every day. She is beautiful, slender and my birthday mate to add to the mix. Three of us were already roommates and were not in need of a fourth one.
The reason is simple. The law school made provision for four beds in the room and three wardrobes. Like, what is the plan right? Well law school is what it is. We got Beebah as a fourth roommate. We were not welcoming at first. We made it clear that we owned the room and clearly didn’t want her. With time, we got over our childish ways and mixed nicely. Beebah and Kelechi became bestfriends. They did everything together. Went to class together, studied together, bought indomie from ‘’man of god’’ together and as is the next thing, always got into an argument of some sort with each other. However, I spent the most time with Beebah. During our externship, we remained in our room. The easiest way to describe what we had going was sisterhood. We became sisters. It didn’t matter that I was Igbo and she was Yoruba or that I am Christian and she is Muslim. We learnt to love and live with each other. We had a few misunderstandings. We had to. When I decided to participate in the hallelujah challenge by Nathaniel Bassey, she made sure she woke me up to participate every time it was 12midnight and I had fallen asleep.
Remember how my roommates came into this discussion, we were talking about my weekend. My weekends in law school were far from your ideal weekend. I didn’t start with “it’s Friday and we must chill” or anything like that. A good Friday night involved a good laugh with my rommates, a show on youtube and a peaceful sleep. I remember so many times in law school when this sleep was interrupted on a Saturday morning. That brings me to a part of my law school experience that will forever remain with me; my fellowship.
One lovely day after lectures, Mrs James made an announcement that if you were a CLASFON executive in your university, you should wait behind after the class to meet with her. I did as I was an executive in university and I loved CLASFON. A few of us met with her and that was the beginning of it all. We had our first fellowship the next week, filled out data forms and were eventually invited to interviews one faithful Saturday morning. The following Sunday, I was made the drama co-ordinator of the fellowship.
That was a shocker but I could handle it, at least I thought I could. It was a big responsibility to take on with the intensity of the work load. We had fellowships on Thursday and service on Sundays. I had all kinds of fears. Would I be able to handle it? Will I serve well? Will I please God? Was it God’s will for my life? Was I good enough to have been chosen by God?
Those were my initial troubles until I had my first executive council (exco) meeting and I was sure I didn’t want to work with a few of the people I had been appointed with. That weekend went by very quickly and we were faced with our last week of lectures for the term. It was yet another Friday and I had a lot of backlog of note forming to do. I was glad it was coming to an end today but I was met with the shock of my life, a snap test.
See eh, nothing prepares you for it. And I certainly was not prepared for it. I was so worried that I had disgraced myself and that the results were going to be uploaded to the website for everyone to see. Later that evening, we had a meeting as excos with Mrs James. It was a prayer type of thing. She prayed and prayed with us. I saw some things go on that day that made me in awe of her in some way, yet in another way, I held a type of resentment against her. I may have been intimidated by the fact that even though she wore no earrings and make up and didn’t fit into my definition of beautiful, she had an amazing sense of confidence and what I perceived to be a strong relationship with God which I coveted. That meeting went on and another was rescheduled for the next day by 6am. I’m like “whatttt.” To cap up my misery, the next day was a Saturday. We were to have a prayer walk before our meeting. At this point, let me introduce you to my CLASFON president whom I despised in the beginning who later became one of my best friends in law school, Nonso Egbumokei. He is a perfect description of “spirooooo”. That’s where I’ll leave it. At the end of that meeting this precious “Saturday” I was drained. More often than not, as time went on, I had one meeting or program scheduled on Saturday.
School was done for the term and boy was I grateful. My birthday was a few days away, my family and I were travelling to celebrate my aunts 50th birthday. It was an amazing time for me. But like the song writer asks “why do all good things come to an end?”. Mine came to an abrupt end and I was saddled with take home assignment that I hadn’t done. Thankfully, I had Marcus as a friend so I just dubbed his for the most part.
My study pattern…
What is this story if I don’t tell you how I burned the proverbial midnight candle?
Before starting law school, I spent about two months with a friend in Enugu. While staying at her place, I woke up very early every morning to pray and do a little reading before stepping out for the day. This pattern seemed to work very well for me. And as the person that I am, please don’t judge me, I believed God had given me a pattern for law school. Yes. I believed it. And so I lived it out. I woke up between 4:30am and 5am prayed, got dressed and went to class to prepare for the day.
On some days, I was great following the lecturers and all but on others I was just tired and trying to sleep. After class, I would sleep and wake up and study in my room for as many hours as I could or I would go to the library. I don’t want to deceive you into believing that I read like there was no end to it during the 17weeks of lectures. I tried my best but the truth is, it was difficult for me. After a while, I stopped waking up so early. One of the main factors was because I had to attend my compulsory group meeting by 6pm everyday which sometimes lasted till 7:30pm or 8pm. This was after ending lectures by 4pm or later every day. After that, I’m not a robot now, so I had to eat. While getting dinner, you may meet a friend or two and engage in a discussion and before you know it, all your time is gone and it’s time to go to bed and start the whole process again. I considered it wise to make a few changes. Wisdom is profitable to direct right. I stopped my morning routine and just made sure that I went through the task for the next day either the night before the class or in the morning before the class. Most of the time, I went through the already solved task which my group had submitted.
I don’t do well just reading my textbooks. I am a note former. I tried forming most of my notes in class while the lectures were going on. This process had an appeal for two reasons. First was that it helped me stay awake and follow the class. Second was that in the evening when I was going through my textbooks, I only had to add a few things here and there. I strongly advice anyone in law school to do this. Form your notes while in class and please follow the corrections to the tasks while the lecturers are going through them. You will discover that law school is more of what you listen to and understand in class than what you read later. There was a lot to read, there was little time to read it. What I simply did was follow the lectures as much as I could, solve the tasks for the next day and read after class. There were days when I was too tired to do any of these things. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, I was discouraged.
One thing you need to know is that law school, at least the Lagos campus is an institution that thrives on fear. The lecturers claim to be encouraging you but the truth is, they tell you all kinds of stories about how people fail, how people who did well in university come to law school and flopped (this was my worst story), how you shouldn’t offend them, how you are to know everything because you don’t know where the questions would come from.
On a normal day and in a reasonable environment, these things don’t seem insurmountable but the Nigerian law school has an extra twist to it. You are graded by your lowest grade. If you make all A’s and one B, you leave the institution with a 2.2. There’s no focus on all your strengths, just your weakness.
I am one of those strongly against the law school grading system. People may think I am bitter because I was one of those affected by it. They might be right. My take on it is that, if you want the first class grade to remain as sacred as it, then to make a first class, you must make straight A’s. Anything short of that will be determined by the average into the other categories. I have always been against the grading system and the fact that I am a victim of it only gives me more standing to speak against it. The sum total of 9months in one institution should not be determined by a mistake or two in one course. Your strengths and your weaknesses should be used to judge you. Not your weaknesses alone.
At some point, I told myself that I will start my reading afresh during the externship. I made it through the 20weeks of lectures with God on my side. I was determined to make the best out of my externship period. There were books to read, multiple choice questions to solve, past questions to answer, unformed notes to form. I chose to stay in Lagos. I believed I would study better here since I was in an academic environment. My mates were here with me so we would do a lot together. Fortunately, I didn’t have to pay to stay on the hostel. I was in the law clinic and it was free for its members.
Externship is made up of Court placement for six weeks and law firm placement for another six weeks. I was posted to the High Court of Lagos state. Specifically to Hon Justice O.A Adamson’s court, court 52, commercial division which was also a fast track court. If you’re ever in the high court of Lagos state area, I beg you, look for his court. I promise you will learn a thing or two in his court. His assistants and registrars are also the nicest people ever. I found the first week of my court placement interesting. The cases were good, the judge was very knowledgeable. It was a wholesome experience. I also needed to fill my log book which was actually steesful. You would think that recounting what you did in a day should be easy to recollect and pen down right? Well, when you have to write out your activities and reflect on them in accordance to a rule of law or something you have learnt, it isn’t so easy after all.
By the second week, all I wanted was to leave court early enough to study. I started reading in court sometimes with my tablet. Some of our predecessors had some lifesaving notes that I advise everyone to get. I am of the strong view that notes like that of Kenneth Okwor, Adaji Rose, Gabriella Ndu and Adaeze were better than most of our textbooks.
Our lecturers would disagree with me but maybe one day, they should take a look at those notes for themselves. They might change them to their new lecture guides. I decided to read a course for about 6-8 days first without forming my notes. I called this just reading to understand. I did this for every course but professional ethics. By the time I was done with this, about 25days were gone out of about a 100 and I began regretting this decision. I am a planner. I am not a good executor. I struggled with my plans but God had mercy on me. I really needed help with my MCQs. A book had been introduced to us in class which contained MCQ questions, answers and the reasons for the answers done by a corporate law lecturer in Enugu. It was during my search for where to purchase this book that one of my best friendships in law school developed. I was told that the SRC chairman, Garrick Nosa John had copies he was selling. I didn’t like him very much at the time but whatever, I needed the book. After contacting him for days, I was finally able to reach him and purchase the book. He obviously noticed my keen interest in doing well at the bar exams. Later that night, I got a text message from him asking if I wanted to solve MCQ questions together. I was definitely in need of the help and so I said yes. Garrick became my reading partner. For 3 hours every day, we made sure we solved the MCQ questions and timed ourselves. We even made little shading papers to use as practice papers. After we were done, we would use the answers at the back of the question book to score ourselves. After that, we would take each question one by one and try to determine the real answer and why. We would search our textbooks, compare the laws, argue and argue till we came to a perfect conclusion.
On some days, we were fortunate to have Oliseh with us. After this, we started drafting. I got the list of all the drafts required topic by topic and we solved as much as we could every night and made corrections. I’m not sure how long we did this for but it was a refreshing way to learn.
At the end of May, we started law office placement. You see, you have to fill that form carefully. I got posted to a law firm not too far from law school. So did 11 other people and the law firm took only 10 persons. By my calculations and forehand information, two people were going to be left roaming the streets of Lagos looking for another firm to accept them and really that couldn’t be me. Beyond looking for another firm, you had to report to the externship coordinator who was in charge to either find you another place or approve where you had found for yourself. It doesn’t like a big deal right now, but when 10days later you still don’t have a firm but you’re to attach yourself somewhere so you can fill your logbook and stand the risk of not being called to bar because you don’t meet the criteria for portfolio assessment, you suddenly realize that you are actually in boiling soup, you are on fire, the pot is on fire and so is the gas cooker.
The law firm is not one of the big names you know. All ten of us were kept in their conference room. It was the only place that could take us. Four out of ten of us knew each other very well. We were in the same drama family in school.
Permit me at this point to introduce my drama family to you. Surely, you remember that I was an executive member of my fellowship and that I was the drama coordinator. Being drama coordinator meant that you had to create awareness about the fellowship. I had been told that we could even do skits in class you know. I thought this was a brilliant idea. We did a few skits in class. The first was an attempted spoken words. I didn’t go well. Someone actually put on his microphone and asked if it was a Nigerian movie. I was so hurt and discouraged. But I was encouraged because three people who I had just met in law school for the first time believed in my idea and agreed to go with it: Ife, Fiyin and Tobi Babalola. We needed to do more skits for the different departments and their different activities. Two stand out for me. First was one done for the music department and a program they had coming up. Believe it or not, the whole class broke out singing and clapping. I was thrilled, shocked and worried that we would get reported. The second was an invitation to draft day. It was done by Blessed and all I can say was, he killed it with his acting. The turnout for the event was beyond massive. On the program of events for the fellowship, the drama department had its own service. Every single member brought their A game. We had spoken words, a dance, a drama and a dialogue. It was so good we were invited to a church to minister. You’re probably wondering what type of law students we were but this was us and I loved every single one of them: Ife, Fiyin, Williams, Izunna, Vivian, Chdinma, Uche, Demola, Chike, Elizabeth, Korede and Chima. They were the best family and my greatest joy is that we all made it to the Bar.
Yes, so four of us were posted to the same law firm with six other incredible people. There’s this belief that where there are a lot of girls in a place, and less guys, it is catastrophic. Our case was different. We were seven young ladies and three young men and for the most part, we got along really well. Getting along really well had its down sides. We were always talking. We had to consciously decide to take time to stop talking and read. At this point, I still hadn’t finished making some of my notes but there was nothing I could do about that now. It was the middle of June and MCQs were close by. I decided to read and read the topics I hadn’t formed and tried to write out what I could remember instead of forming a note. That way, I was sure I had read the topic at least once. I was still solving MCQs, I had started drafting as well. A few times, I got to look at past questions. MCQs were scheduled for the 21st of July and I had to as much as possible, get 20/20 in all the courses.
To be continued next week. Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel.
For the non lawyers MCQ means multiple choice questions. It's a compulsory part of the bar part 2 examinations, and is usually administered in July/early August every year.
I hope you truly enjoyed this weeks post. Please leave a comment.
Alexandra for Lily of Nigeria.