Dear Law Student 3 || Law School Tips: A TRUE STORY
Quote of the day: A goal should scare you a little and excite you A LOT. - Joe Vitale
I hope you enjoy today's post.
The Day that Changed Everything
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Externship had come to an end and we were ready to get on with it. By the dates on the calendar, we were to start our bar final exams on the 28th of August and end on the 1st of September, 2017. My study calendar had factored in those days. I was prepared to be done with everything a week before the bar exams started. Then I heard what seemed to be the worst news I had heard all year round. Our bar exams had been moved forward. Yes my dear, forward. The MCQs had been moved from the 24th of July to the 29th of July and the main exams had been moved to the 15th to the 19th of August. My chest was tight, my body was weak and my head was splitting. A few days before, when I was preparing my last study timetable, I kept having this nudge to plan as though the time was shorter since we knew that Sallah was on the 1st of September but I said no, that my head already felt like it was splitting with the amount of work that I had to do. We heard this on the 14th of July. I remember because it was Xtrim’s birthday. That evening, to calm my nerves, I went out to buy a few things to take my mind off things. I am one of those who suffer from ‘’see and buy’’ sometimes. I had been contemplating moving to an executive room. If you had between four hundred and twenty five thousand naira (N425000) to eight hundred and fifty thousand naira (N850000), you could get yourself a fairly decent room with privacy to stay in. With this news, I was sure. I didn’t want a clash of nerves. I didn’t want to look for where to study. Lagos campus is very small and as much as possible, I wanted to avoid people.
Portfolio assessment timetable also came out that day. Portfolio assessment is when you face a panel and give an account of your externship experience. The panel would open the confidential letters given to you by law firm, your attendance, your ethical dilemma and your slideshow. Don’t play with this process. People of God, it is possible not be called to the Nigerian Bar even if you pass the exam if you do not pass this assessment. It was starting on Monday. That first week, it was just portfolio assessment. But cruelty is first nature to Lagos campus so they made sure we came to thumbprint twice a day that whole week in our regulation wear. They weren’t going to leave us with all that time to study. Everyone was preparing as much as they could. Some human beings are so sold out to the work of God and to His word and true to it, they put others before themselves. One of these people is my dear friend and brother, Ikenna Okoli. People like him were busy encouraging others and helping them revise as much as they could. The week after was revision week and the Saturday after that was the day of MCQs. Incase you think we were getting ready only physically, you’re wrong. During externship, we had started praying on the roof top from 10pm till 11pm every Saturday night. The closer the date to the exam got, the larger the crowd. People were afraid. That’s what law school does. The environment was tense and people found solace in praying with other people. We had fasted and prayed from the 17th of July. We met in the chapel behind class and prayed and on the day of MCQ, I can testify that God came through for us. A whole essay for about four questions was missing in criminal litigation. Because of this, we were given extra time. Extra time for them to read out the question and ten minutes extra to enable us finish our work. I heard that in some places, they had more than ten minutes. Ten minutes in that exam is as good as sharing bars of gold. I’m sure you can imagine the way we thanked and celebrated God after the exam. Some people are bold and guess what? I am not one of them. These people actually went back to calculate their scores in the different courses. I left that life behind in university. One was down, the main hurdle remained.
Closer to the Day
The days went by really fast. We continued to revise. We had the compulsory mooting session for two days. We had to dine as well. All these things activities, the week before the bar finals. I can only attribute it to God that I finished almost every topic more than once. I crammed a few cases but I still wasn’t done learning my drafts. I even solved some past questions based on the emphasis made during revision. I couldn’t read every single day, we were doing so much at the same time and my brain was reaching its full capacity sooner than I expected daily. Sometimes, I couldn’t sleep. It was probably because I was tensed so I watched cartoons to help me calm down. Sometimes, it worked, other times, I just had a headache. I could tell that my body was trying to go down but I settled it by praying and taking communion and I was rejuvenated. I had summaries of everything that I had read. That’s what I read the morning before every paper and some of the laws too.
The first paper was property law. I wasn’t afraid at all. Just the usual exam jitters but I was fine. The exam was generally good. I had said that I would win an award in property law and criminal litigation. During the exam, one question didn’t make any sense at all. It seemed like it should have been the question for a different scenario. Towards the end of the exam, my suspicions were confirmed and the question was corrected. They didn’t give us any extra time but I had a few extra minutes and I had premeditated that this was an error so thankfully, I was able to cancel and re-answer in good time. We gathered in the chapel to thank God for the success of the paper and went on to prepare for the next.
I loved criminal litigation. Sincerely, I did. Maybe it had to do with the lecturers who taught it or the fact that it was straightforward. The exam on the other hand was tricky. Question one was the length of my whole body. I spent a total of one hour two minutes on question one alone. There was 1a which was on charges. They had told us the court to draft in. The confusion was in how many counts to draft and whether to or not to add the people together. I ended up with twelve counts. Each count is repetitive so you’ll find yourself repeating the same words over and over again. I kept praying to the Holy Spirit to give me speed and help me finish all the other questions and finish them well and God came through for me. I finished and I was grateful. I was very unsure of a lot of my answers so after the exam and we were well out of the hall, I asked my friend and seat partner, Tobi Babalola what he wrote just to check if I was correct or not. I don’t think Tobi likes revising after the exam because he always said very little.
Thursday morning, I had corporate law exam, that morning while I prayed and read my bible, God have me a word. With God, nothing shall be impossible- Luke 1:37. The day before, I had sown a seed in someone’s life and she prayed so much for me. Also, a friend of mine had called me to tell me that God told him to tell me to be anxious for nothing. For me, these were all good signs. My new roommate Folake and our adjoining roommate Lisa had prayed that afternoon as we stepped out. I was ready to go and then I opened my Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) just to confirm the section for auditors. This I think, was the greatest mistake I made in law school. When I entered the hall and saw some questions, all I have to say was don’t mess with your revision classes. As in, at all. Then the confusion started. It was number three, an optional question. It was about auditors. As soon as I saw it, I jumped for joy since it was the last thing I had just looked at right. Number two was obviously easier but because I saw auditors I went straight into it. As soon as I started writing the answers, I became confused and started cancelling. I don’t know why I didn’t just stop in my tracks and go through all the questions in that number to be sure that they were what I could tackle. Maybe I would have realized on time and stopped and started answering number two but I didn’t. By the time I was done with the question, I was demoralized because I knew my best bet was to answer the other optional question but it was too late. Time was already gone and there was nothing I could do about it.
I prayed hard after this. I tried to exercise my faith. I wasn’t aware that a greater confusion was waiting for me in Civil litigation. To a great extent, civil litigation exam was easy. There was just this confusion about whether question four was representative action or class action. A lot of questions followed later under that number that were truly dicey. This was a compulsory question so my only option was to attempt it. I was close to the end but I was weak. The combination of corporate and civil litigation in my head made me kiss the First class goodbye even though I struggled to believe that it was still a possibility.
Professional ethics was long. We were asked literally everything. But it was the end and we were done. We prayed and prayed over our exams. There is absolutely nothing that God cannot do. I am still a strong believer of that. Then we rejoiced. Our time with each other was cut short because the NBA conference was starting that weekend and some lawyers had paid to use our hostels and not hotels. Does this make sense now? That exams were moved two weeks forward and suddenly, there was money to renovate old facilities. The hostels were even fumigated while we were in class writing one of our papers. Suddenly, everything made sense to us. It was the worst type of realization to have. The insensitivity of it all.
Results were scheduled to come out on the 7th of October. It was later moved to the 21st of October. It came out in the early hours of the 22nd. I couldn’t check so my friend Chukwuemeka checked for me. It was a 2.2 people. I was hoping that if I didn’t make the first, at least, a 2.1. I had called my friend Bond, he made a 2.2. I didn’t know what to say. I called Nosa, same thing. Nonso? The same thing. When I heard mine, I was weak. The first thing I did was to get down from my bed, kneel down and thank God. I told my parents and sent them a screen shot of the result. I couldn’t believe it oh. God? Na me be this? Chai! Law school has finished me. These were my thoughts. A few of my friends were disappointed too. Marcus for one. I was sure he would make a first but he didn’t. Ikenna was my biggest fear. He was the one helping everyone. Praying for others and leading the prayers. I was afraid that he would be mocked. That God will be mocked. People called me and I laughed about it all. I had so much to say. Everyone simply thought I had taken it well but I hadn’t. I was bleeding badly inside and putting up an appearance for everyone to see. I was glad that some of my friends had made it. Viola Echebima, Cyril-Okafor Jennifer and the baby girl herself Faith Onimiya made the first. This gave me comfort and joy. Especially Faith. Faith and I had become good friends just before the exams through Tolu Ajiboye who I met during my law firm placement and absolutely loved.
Searching for a Job
I didn’t realize the intensity of the grade I had made until I started attending job interviews and it was a question to be asked. A particular law firm that I had done so well with actually told me that it was the reason they couldn’t take me. For months I bled and laughed. My sisters Chisom and Ijeoma tried to encourage me. Ugo said it didn’t stop anything. I had heard their words but kai! Do you understand that I made a first class in my University. I am smart. It was like my worst fear (the stories they told in class) had just happened to me. I didn’t pray anymore. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, I just didn’t have the strength to. I lived through the days. I started going through a healing process with my friend Soma. She had been dealt an even heavier blow.
Finally, a day to my call to bar, I got into an argument with my mum about my attitude towards my call to bar. I told her I didn’t want any serious celebration. I kept emphasizing it. When she confronted me about my attitude, I decided to explain why to her and that’s when I burst into uncontrollable tears. Chiderah wept. Actually wept. It was nothing small at all. I knew what I had worked for and the disappointment was huge. I wept and I wept hard from the debt of my heart. My mum held me and encouraged me. Then she prayed for me in that way that only a mother can. I knew she understood. After that, I started feeling better. I went out and bought two dresses. One of which was going to be my reception dress.
Where I am Now
The truth is, getting a job was very difficult. One, because I actually wasn’t applying anywhere initially. I wasn’t interested in getting a job in a law firm. I had no particular plans. I was simply exhausted by the educational system, by life as a whole or what my life seemed to be like.
When all my friends started going to job interviews and getting offers, I realized that I should actually be looking for something. I had several disappointments. I failed an LSAT test. I was told that I did well during my interview but that they couldn’t take me because of my law school result. From some firms, it was just silence. Deafening silence.
This is my story. But I know people who never got good places or the expected results for their efforts. I’ll tell you something, you have to take life one day at a time where you are. If you don’t have a job, keep applying to different places. If you can, pursue your other interests while applying. One thing you need to understand is that your time is your greatest asset. So if you still have control of it because you don’t have a job yet, try your hands on interesting things. You may find that your other interests may become very profitable and help you discover a new path. Whatever the case is, use your time well. It is the one thing I currently desire most, to have control over my time.
I’ll leave you dear reader with this advice- you could be a law student, a lawyer, or simply a human being reading this. While my analogies will be in relation to the bar exams, I believe you can apply it to whatever area of your life.
LIVE: Live your life. Let your imaginations of your life while you’re in law school outlive law school. Plan your future so much and don’t hinge it on your law school result. Invest in yourself.
Plan to pass the bar exam. While living, know that the strength of your law school result does open crucial doors for you. My friend Viola didn’t attend one job interview. The law firms were requesting for her and not her for them.
Shut out the doors and windows of fear. No matter the stories they tell, that it happened to someone does not mean that it would happen to you. Remind yourself daily about the grade you want and confess it till everything in you agrees with it.
Study: no knowledge gained is wasted. Look at it as building your knowledge base and not just reading to pass. It may become fun to you amidst the stress.
Find your strength. If discussions are your strong areas then discuss. Whatever is your strength, find it and build it.
Pray. This story does not sound like the story of God coming through for someone, so why should you pray. I may not have gotten the grade that I wanted but I’m definitely getting a life that is greater than what I desired. It hurts to wait for it all to pan out but patience is actually a virtue. Through it all, some diehard fans have stuck through with arsenal, why won’t you wait it out with God?
I hope you enjoyed reading this story. I hope you learned a lesson or two reading it. I did.
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Lily of Nigeria.