General News of Friday, 14 August 2015
Some respected legal practitioners in the country say the current restrictive access to the Ghana School of Law to study law is senseless and must be changed.
They say the country badly needs lawyers which makes it dysfunctional to maintain a system where thousands of citizens wishing to study law are left out because the Ghana School of Law can only admit a certain number of LL.B holders.
Accounting professor and good governance crusader, Stephen Kwaku Asare broached the subject with a post on facebook.
“The various Law School Faculties graduate over 1,000 students with the Legum Baccalaureus (LLB) annually but the Ghana School of Law (GSL) has facilities to accommodate only 250 of them to pursue the professional law course.
“Most, if not everyone, who matriculate in the LLB program want the professional qualification. In consequence, the students have to incur cost to take an entrance exam, attend an interview and endure all kinds of emotional distress. Needless to say, the criteria for admitting the 250 are murky and breed corruption. All of these can be avoided by allowing the various Law Faculties to add an extra year beyond the Legum Baccalaureus (LLB.) where students are trained for the professional law course and exam. The function of the GSL should then be reduced to administering the Bar Exam, which should be administered twice a year,” he concluded.
The post generated a storm of debate with many posts denouncing the arrangement as needless conservatism.
Law Professor H Kwasi Prempeh agrees.
He posted, “What is the lawyer to population ratio in Ghana? Ghana is grossly under-lawyered, not over-lawyered. The mere fact that most lawyers are geographically concentrated in the Accra-Tema area, plus Kumasi, does not mean there are too many lawyers compared to the scale of injustice that goes unremedied for want of legal representation, among others. Besides, letting law schools produce LLBs without limit (and make beaucoup money doing so), then, imposing, after the fact, a rigid ceiling on entry to Makola is a rather crude, arbitrary, and grossly unfair way to regulate the supply of lawyers. It is a shame that a body chaired by the CJ and comprising lawyers and judges could come up with so arbitrary and so unfair a rule without any substantial study or finding backing it. The General Legal Council (GLC) Act needs to be substantially amended. The framework for the regulation of legal education and the legal profession in Ghana is archaic--stuck, as usual, in the 1960s.”
Prof. Prempeh, renowned for his unparalleled knowledge on constitutional matters, said, “My basic issue is the crude gatekeeper role the GLC is playing here. The GLC should be concerned with quality control, both in terms of ethics and competence. It should leave it to the market to regulate supply.
“Many lawyers do not practice law even after receiving their license. So, just using the raw output of Makola or the law schools to draw crude conclusions about oversupply of lawyers is something the GLC should not be doing. Neither the GLC nor the state has an obligation to find work for lawyers. Those licensed lawyers that can't fend for themselves in the legal market are free to do other things with their lives. They do not become a public charge.
“Besides, if most Ghanaians are priced out of legal services, you only make the matter worse, not better, by placing a crude, artificial cap on the number of law licenses that may be issued each year.”
Respected private legal practitioner with Bentsi-Enchill, Letsa & Ankomah (BELA), Mr. Ace Ankomah, joined the debate, calling for the abolition of the quota system.
He wrote, “I do not agree with this system of using entrance exams into the Ghana School of Law to maintain an automatic yearly quota of 250 lawyers.
"This country needs as many lawyers as possible. There can never be a glut of us. Water will find its own level.
"Please open the system up. Tighten the actual professional exam but please stop this quota system.”
Samson Lardy Anyenini, also a private legal practitioner, said imposing restrictions on the number of people who enter the law school has outlived its usefulness.
“The AG's dept (Attorney-General’s Department) has never recorded the requisite, not even a quarter of the, number of attorneys it needs here in Accra. It can't get lawyers in some regions having to deal in some instance with only a single lawyer for a whole region. That is the reality of the short supply of lawyers. It has long been the desire to replace police prosecutors with attorneys or to have sufficient enough attorneys to supervise their work in the interim,” he wrote.
Many more lawyers joined the debate expressing surprise that a medieval notion of controlling and protecting the respectable profession was still in vogue in 21st century Ghana.
Senior law lecturer, Maxwell Opoku-Agyemang commenting on Mr. Ankomah’s post, wrote: “Find out those who voted against the request to increase it for this year. How can we as planners and managers of our institutions fail to plan and cause our kids to sweat in getting to an institution we all took for granted. How can an institution with one campus admit over two hundred but admit same number after opening two more campuses. You have only 31 students at a campus that can accommodate almost 100 students and yet there is a backlog of applicants. It seems no one is bothered about the traumatic experience of these applicants. We are also not bothered about the professional path of progression for these unfortunate ones whose desire to read law is been truncated on emotive rather than on scientific basis.”
He said there is urgent need for a national debate on the issue, expressing frustrations that “Some of us have suffered for opposing these behind time measures.”