OVERCOMING THE ‘ALMIGHTY LAW SCHOOL’ MYTH
‘EZE’ GOES TO SCHOOL.
As far as I am concerned, going to Law School in April 2014 was a miracle! I was supposed to resume November 2013 but had issues in my university that got me cleared in February 2014. I had conditioned my mind to resume Law school in November 2014 or worse still 2015. When I got the April 2014 batch news, I was full of enthusiasm, grinning from ear to ear, full of hopes and the dream to “conquer”. I bought the whites, the blacks and the boring shoes, packed my bags and almost literally ran to school.
TONING DOWN AND RE-SHAPING THE DREAM.
When Law school classes began in proper, I noticed that I began to tone down and adjust my dreams of coming to “conquer” Law school, the topics got more complicated and bulky as we proceeded through the weeks. It got to the point where it seemed like the whole class had gone passed the red sea but somehow managed to forget me on the other side of the bank.
I kept pushing through the classes, most times zoning out and chatting with friends instead because listening made me feel more lost. Plus those expert student-lecturer-students who must always find themselves on the stage with the legit lecturers, don’t even get me started on that because I’d spend half the time rolling my eyes instead of typing this article.
Finally it was time to proceed for the court and law office attachment, and the usual Law School style which is to instill fear and more fear in us was employed once again by almost all the lecturers. “You are nobody as you haven’t been called yet so you better behave in the courts”, “the court is a holy ground, when you go in do not breathe, only watch, listen, learn and write”, “ fill in your log book with every detail possible and get ready for we will grill you for the detail of every case you witnessed”, “you cannot hide from our all seeing eye and our ends of the earth reaching hand” I panicked some more, was I truly going to make it?
WATCHING THE BAR AND THE BENCH
Court attachment turned out to be an awesome experience for me. Watching lawyers be intelligent and also be not so intelligent got me thinking. These lawyers are normal guys with usual day to day normal hustles, some worse than mine, why was I panicking…. I started to have the guts to dream again, plus the Judge in my court was fantastic, completely in charge of his court, the SANs, lawyers, EFCC peeps and the witnesses…whoever you were, he had total control, it felt good to be close to someone with such power.
This experience was so important because though we were told to learn to separate what law school wants from us from what was practiced out in the courts, I got the opportunity to become real conversant with the use of legal terms and see law in action. This came in really handy when it was time for bar finals as hearing these terms used practically helped me remember them with more ease. You don’t want to write “sinner” because you couldn’t remember the word “culprit”.
Plus we had access to learn from the Federal High Court Judge his very self, sharing his own experiences, giving us real olden days but still fresh, hard relevant truth to getting through law school and surviving afterwards.
It important you fill in your log book regularly, for people who write somewhere else before transferring, letting it pile up is another extra curriculum. There’s no need creating extra curriculum for yourself, the one law school has given is enough to last a life time. Fill in as regularly as possible, get it over with. Be vigilant, pick and notice as much as you can, it helps build your confidence. You need all the confidence you can gather to ease the tension when preparing for or writing your bar finals.
I must emphasize that;
a. It is important you pay attention in court, it may seem like repetition sometimes, or the cases may not come as action packed as anticipated but it is still necessary that you pay attention.
b. It is important you understand what is going on at each point, so much so that you try to link what is going on practically in court with what you were thought in class.
c. Try to dedicate 20 minutes of your day to filling your log book, so that you can participate in other interests without guilt or the knowledge that you have unfinished business increasing in the background.
d. Try to make friends, from other campuses and courts, you get to learn more.
LAWYERS, LIVING THE DREAM
I was very lucky to serve with a Law firm who had lawyers that were willing to advice and truly help in the best way they could. But honestly I got so much advice till I thought my ears will fall off, sometimes id blank out when another lawyer full of enthusiasm to help started another advice session. Thinking back now I see how important every advice I heard came together to help me out.
I was told not to be afraid of all the too many rules law school always seemed to present. They promised me that one of the best skill law school possessed was exaggerating the intensity of an activity.
They taught me to dedicate a whole lot of time to past questions. Law school will tell you not to rely on past questions as they are misleading, yes don’t rely on them completely, but they turned out to be huge tools to helping me excel. By practicing regularly I learnt to work within the three (3) hour allocated time, I got an understanding of how the questions came so much so that they were no longer intimidating, the more I practiced with past questions the more I rid myself of fear.
During the Law office attachment it is important to;
a) Participate: Do not be a lone ranger, go with the lawyers to court, go to AGIS, CAC, attend the office meetings, be friends with the lawyers and your colleagues. It is important that you pick and grab every opportunity to learn.
b) Ask questions: It is from friendships/acquaintances formed from participating in the office activities that access will be open to you to ask and gain good answers from the lawyers. Nobody know everything, feel free to ask questions, and do not let anyone make you feel less intelligent. Stay away from persons who must bring down your self-esteem in the guise of “helping” you.
c) Read a lot: Strike a definite balance in your reading and office duties. Your first loyalty is to passing the bar exams so try not to get carried away with office friendships and activities. There is time for everything, designate a good amount of time daily to reading and practicing past questions with your law school colleagues. I strongly suggest that you create time for yourselves for mock bar finals as frequently as possible. If you in the beginning, better still, you are getting failure out of the equation. Do not get discouraged if your marks aren’t great in the beginning, keep practicing till you get better, in time it eases the tension, plus it is a great way study and remember the answers. Helping your colleagues out by teaching aspects you understand is a sure way to getting yourself grounded in that area. Make sure to also listen your colleagues when they teach. Always remember, nobody can do this all alone.
We were told how the defense was going to work in class. We were to come with our log books and a laptop which had a power point presentation summarizing the whole attachment experience.
I promise you that the lecturers make it sound scarier than it actually is. Having fear is shooting yourself in the foot because then you seem fishy like you did not participate in the attachment exercise. Be calm, answer your questions, and if you can’t remember a certain incident or thing ask them to give you your log book to refresh your memory, BE CALM!
THE BUDDY SYSTEM
Having good friends was yet another blessing to me, yes we could play and eat too much, but there was that time when we had to put everything aside and just read….okay and eat some more while reading. It seems to me like my mouth was always moving that period with tasty stuff from mammy or lovito…can’t kill myself. My friends were very encouraging, having people around me made me realize I wasn’t in the fight alone. Having company when you are confused scared or even in intelligent mode all comes together to make you grounded all round. Note that you still have to watch out for people who came with drama, we are striving for positivity.
CAST AWAY FEAR
I had some neighbors in the hostel who had always been serious from day one, consistent in all the assignments, had a deep grasp of all the cases and sections, never missed church and could remember every word spoken by lecturers and all the spiritual call to bar programs coming up. It also turned out that they knew all the negative stories about Law school too, stories of people who ran mad a week to the exam, people who went blank immediately they got their question paper, jazz, sickness and all sorts of woes. They also loved questions and answers session designed to highlight law principles, cases and sections they knew so well, not to help you but an opportunity to shine. I went visiting one day, and came out feeling deflated and super discouraged, I decided right then and there never to go back. I don’t mean to say they aren’t good people but it’s important to stay positive and watch out for any actions that will reduce your boost and confidence. My only concern was getting out of Law school once and for all, it’s important you remember that, and with no sentiment kick out anything trying to get in your way.
Writing my bar finals was an accumulation of everything from the beginning, my initial gra gra, the humbling stage, the learning, sieving and finally triumph! Go through the processes, enjoy them, do your best that you know to do and throw away fear. I graduated with a second class upper to the glory of God…….in the end it was all worth it.
Law School isn’t almighty, God is, He made you….PROVE IT!
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