In Summary
  • There are law schools with many students but no libraries, absent lecturers and administrators, rundown lecture halls.
  • Legal education desperately needs a dedicated body of scholars who are really fulltime.
  • We need to revise our class approach, teaching techniques and curriculum
  • When the teaching of theory is merged with the training of practice at university level, our Kenya School of Law (KSL) will become redundant as a bar training college.

Gina Yashere says in jest that in African families a child has four career choices: doctor, lawyer, engineer or disgrace to the family. When Yashere decided to become a comedian, she immediately slipped abysmally into category four, and thus became a ''disgrace to the family''.

Some professional colleagues often tell me that recent graduates (all of them, including lawyers, doctors and engineers) are a ''disgrace to their family''.

I disagree! I have found among millennials, amazing young men and women of character, deeply informed, excellent writers, sharp like never before. Men and women who will rock the world; young souls who have already made a deep impact in their fields.

Truth be told, I have also met young graduates who are disgustingly superficial. They cannot read and think coherently. They are lazy, uninterested, uninformed and unfocused. Their highest dream is to become wise by osmosis and billionaires thorough GoFundMe. Their horizons and professional ambitions are attached to the tip of their noses. They want an Easter Sunday without a Good Friday.

We (parents, educators and government) have let this happen through our apathy and lack of drive for change. Legal education is crying out for reform in four key areas. The change is possible and doable; there is no rocket science.

Legal education is crying out for decent facilities

First, there are law schools with many students but no libraries, absent lecturers and administrators, rundown lecture halls…when it rains classes are cancelled. How could these graduates become honest lawyers? How can they be wise men and women ready to fight for the common good?

We have sacrificed quality on the altar of quantity, and worshiped profit maximisation. Lecturers are poorly paid and need to make a living out there, in practice. This has deprived many law schools of dedicated lecturers.

The consequence is disastrous; teaching is reduced to passing on pragmatic essentials such as the technicalities of a spiritless law, how to manipulate the system, how to delay justice, adjournment tactics and how to confuse the judge. After all, the best lawyer is not the fairest one, but the one who wins more cases…at any cost.

We have forgotten ethics and those soft skills that will make or break our future graduates. Thus, young lawyers easily become learned hitmen, who have detached the ideal of justice from both education and the legal process. They are smooth operators who can swiftly abuse an archaic system for profit-making, not justice. They rush like hyenas for their prey- any unsuspecting client.

Today, we have around 4,000 lawyers in Kenya whose core business is ambulance- chasing. They make a living by extorting unsuspecting victims, often in collusion with corrupt police officers.

Full-time lecturers fooling themselves

Second, ''full-time'' lecturers who hold more than one ''full-time'' job are fooling themselves. A full-time lecturer who is grass-hopping between different campuses or trying to combine teaching with practice does not have time to prepare lectures, to innovate, to mentor, to create a school of thought, to seek grants or to dedicate any time or energy to such a demanding activity as serious research.

Academic grasshoppers will sooner or later become mediocre and suffer from intellectual stagnation. They will never publish, but simply perish, in a traffic jam.

Legal education desperately needs a dedicated body of scholars who are really fulltime; lecturers who dedicate time and brains to training students on the theory and practice of law, and assess each student’s developmental stage with respect to the core competencies.

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