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KacheeTee: So You’re About to Go to the Nigerian Law School? Read This Before You Dive In!

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dreamstime_m_23748997Before writing this post, I needed some guidance on when Nigerian Law School (NLS) Bar II candidates were set to resume. So I asked the open ended question on Twitter. A young man responded “Who knows? We think it’s November though. Are you tired of waiting at home like me?”
I could almost feel his enthusiasm from his response. I replied, that thankfully, I had been there, done that. To think it’s been 5 years now.

Looking forward to NLS is often like being on a roller coaster – a mix of excitement and fear. And if we are being honest, a side dose of annoyance.
Annoyance that your roommate in first year, with whom you excitedly took endless photographs on matriculation day, is already earning a proper salary, post NYSC – having studied a four year course. But then, excitement that you’ll finally get the chance to wear a wig and gown; and dare I say if you happen to come from the Eastern part of Nigeria, your mum will be referred to as ‘Nne Barrister’.

As for you, the terms ‘Baby Lawyer’, ‘Junior Colleague’ and ‘Barrister’ could very easily take over your first name. Slight fear however, at the many tales you’re likely to have heard – of how tough the exams are, and the rather disheartening failure rate.
Irrespective of all of this, I think that the one year spent in NLS presents an amazing opportunity and whether you’re in it to make a first class or to simply get a pass, here are a few things to consider.

Fresh Start… From Day 1
First, forget your undergrad grades. People have had 2:2s and then obtained a first-class at law school. Forget the courses you thought you liked or didn’t like in Uni. Go in with a fresh, clean mind.
As you probably already know, NLS is graded based on your lowest score. Not your average. Even if you had 80s in 4 out the 5, a 39% could lead to a resit. So you need to make sure that in all of the subjects, you are being consistent.
You know what they say about cooking an elephant? Don’t worry if you didn’t, as I didn’t either. But apparently, they say cook it in small pieces so it doesn’t ever get too much to handle. That’s a law school trick right there. There will seemingly be a ton of material to cover. If you leave it till the last minute, it’ll get overwhelming. Attend classes, even if you didn’t manage to get the pre-reading done. Issues discussed in class will stick in your head and when you go back to study, you’ll understand better.

That said, make an attempt to study everyday! While some people have to sit at a desk to study, lying on the bed works well for others. Either way, it’s advisable to make notes as you study. This ensures that nearer to the exam time, you’re not exactly going about with textbooks and it’s easier to read your shortened notes. Exams are typically one a day consecutively for 5 days, so not much time for in-between studying! You’ll come across people selling pre-existing notes. It’s okay to use these as a guide. But be careful about the contents and do not digesting these hook, line and sinker.

Focus on the Outcomes and Use Past Questions
Ok, we’ve agreed to study from Day 1, but how exactly are you meant to study? It’s one thing to study long and hard. It’s another to study smart.

Law school totally demands that you study smart. Bear in mind that although students in the different campuses get taught by different teachers, they all write the same exam, and will be graded in the same manner. Some lecturers may spend unnecessary time, dwelling on areas that might not be relevant. This is where the course outcomes come in – as these are standardised. At the end of every course topic, students are expected to be show that they have understood the outcomes. Let this act as your guide. Don’t be tempted to overlook any, even the seemingly easy ones. Legal drafting in particular is one that’s often difficult to approach – because there’s the tendency to assume that you know how to draft it in your head. Don’t assume. Get out your pens and paper, and practice your drafting!

The second and perhaps more important advice is to use past questions! One can’t over emphasise this. I wrote my law school exams in 2011 and I recall studying all of the past questions from 1991 to 2010. Yes, almost 20 years of past questions. Obviously you need to be smart in doing this, as a lot of it will be obsolete due to change in curriculum. But some of the basics are still the same, so start from the recent years. The advantage of this, is that is gives you an idea of how questions are set. And more importantly, the answers show you how question should be answered. It may be hard to believe, but sometimes, a question that says “List 5 …” for a 20 mark grade, really just needs you to list and not explain. Please, start studying these leisurely from day 1, if you can.

Final tip for studying smart is to study in groups! And not a large group of 20. These are often a waste of time. Find 3 – 4 people whose goals align with yours. Discuss the outcomes, discuss the PQs. Have a go at drafting and marking your scripts.

Ignore the Fears!
Okay, so you’ve heard of the ambulance that’s often kept outside the exam halls for students who may faint. There’s a large amount of fear being peddled out there. I recall my mum getting worried and asking what sort of exam it was that ambulances had to be provided. Truth is, I can’t even verify the authenticity of this, because I honesty didn’t see the ambulance and I refused to get that fear in my mind. You’ll also come across people who say they’ve written the exam five times. You’ll come across people who cut off all communication and leisure while preparing for the bar exams. While this in itself is not a bad thing, you need to be careful that you’re not acting out of fear. You will need to ignore this fear and stay positive, as your state of mind will definitely impact your performance. So, chill.

Oh one more thing, for those you are hoping for firsts class degrees. Some people say your campus determines whether or not you can get a first. I remember being downcast when I was posted to Enugu, because rumour had it that the Enugu campus hadn’t produced a first class candidate in years. And at that time, I really wanted a first class. Not for any particular reason, but because someone has said that my University of Ibadan first class degree was of no consequence and not adequate evidence of my abilities – until I obtained a first class at law school at well. Well, in my year, Enugu broke the record and produced three first class candidates. Ignore the fears and rumours.

Moot & Mock Trials; Court & Chamber Attachment.
For many, the court and chamber attachment is time to catch up on studying – or get a mini break. I was guilty as well, as I chose to go back to peaceful Ibadan for the three month period. But it really shouldn’t be. It should provide an opportunity to visualise and see the practical aspects of all the theory you’ve been fed. The exposure could also help you decide what area of law you choose to specialise. Although I genuinely love advocacy – the entire court set up made me realise we wouldn’t be a perfect match.

In picking a place for chamber attachment, I later realised that you can be strategic. I attended a final stage interview at one of the top corporate law firms in Lagos. The managing partner asked why I chose to intern at a small litigation firm in Ibadan, if I was serious about a corporate law career. So yes, you may need to bear this in mind and consider how your chamber attachment could help you get a foot in the door.

Participate in Moot & Mock trials! It gives you a practical angle, and it’s fun. Plus if you’re like me, it may be the only opportunity you’ll get in a long time, to address a sitting judge while acting as legal counsel (in equity). Can I just chip in that my ‘client’ won the case?

Network, Network, Network
Whether or not you’re hoping for a first or just a pass, please, don’t let this amazing opportunity pass you by. On the average, you’ll get to spend at least 6 months with about 300 other students . The mistake many people often make, is that they assume that every candidate there is straight out of Uni and all working their way to the top with not much to offer. Asides the naivety of that assumption, the reality is a lot of people in law school are much older and have so much life and career experiences and connection, you’ll often find useful.

And even if most people are in your age range, few years down the line, they’ll end up practising in different parts of the world (or being involved in diverse activities). Whether you remain a lawyer or take other routes, your network is invaluable and this is a great opportunity. As a lawyer in Lagos, you may need a lawyer in Delta to assist on a matter. Your law school mates are often your first point of call. Don’t spend all our time holed and studying. And don’t spend all your time with the same people. For some reason, a whole lot of my classmates from UI were in Enugu with me, and I just ended up being in the same circles. Not too good.

Meet people, exchange details, emails and LinkedIn contacts. Create a social media group etc. Now, let’s not forget all those IJGBs, who may have returned to take Bar I and II. We know how some of them often have useful connects and ideas! Asides this, make lasting and useful friendships.

Explore & Enjoy
In retrospect, my momentary sadness at being posted to Enugu other than Abuja was so uncalled for. Enugu was perfect. It provided an opportunity to explore. Thanks to that short stint, I’ve been able to tick Pine Forest in Enugu, off my list tourist attractions to visit in Nigeria. If you’re in Enugu, go there. Students in Abuja, also typically find time to explore the Guarara water falls in Niger State. Wherever you are, make it count.

Asides this, get involved in other activities within your environment. I recall a Christian group organising a visit to the prison in the state. It was such a humbling experience for me, and one I won’t forget. If you’re lucky to be posted outside your regular zone, it also gives you an opportunity to learn about new cultures in Nigeria. It was fun to see a lot of people from other ethnic groups trying out the typical eastern dishes in Enugu Campus, and totally loving it. Like Nsala and Oha soups – from the federal and state kitchens. And when finally, a new restaurant serving Amala & Ewedu sprung up, I loved seeing easterners queue up for such meals. Seeing my Yoruba and Hausa colleagues pick up a few Igbo words, was also particularly delightful. So make time to explore these little things.

Finally, for me there’s always the angle of prayer! Pray for serious things like wisdom, good health and clarity, and pray for seemingly less serious things – i.e. that whoever marking your script will not be in a horrible mood!
In a nutshell, grades will matter. But as everything in life, some things will matter more. I think the highest number of professionals in Nigeria who have taken a different route are probably lawyers.

Someone gave this story of the conversation between her and her kids:
• Mum: Dave what do you what to be when you grow up?
• Boy: I want to be a doctor like Daddy so I can help cure sick people
• Mum: That’s good. Didi, how about you?
• Girl: I want to be a lawyer like mummy so I can be travelling and selling clothes!
Truth is for many of us, after the call to bar ceremony, the wig and gown is often dumped. So go ahead, and have a great one year. Do your best. Pass the exams. Get your name on the roll, and go on to live life and truly make a positive impact – in whatever way you may choose.

All the very best. Thank you to all the amazing people, including first class candidates and prize winners – who gave their thoughts on this piece. Nigerian Lawyers in the house – anything else?

Photo Credit: Sdeva | Dreamstime.com

36 Comments

  1. Ombre

    October 27, 2016 at 10:47 am

    This was so insightful! Thanks a lot. Did the bar 1, starting bar 2 on the 7th of Nov and hoping to get a first. #FingersCrossed

  2. Xoxo

    October 27, 2016 at 11:41 am

    What an excellent article. I so enjoyed reading this, veey very enlightening. I’m so sorry to digress but please I’d like to ask if anyone with experience in med school can write an article like this. I just graduated from uni (B.sc microbiology and industrial biotechnology). Waiting to go on nysc but after that I’ve been seriously considering going to med school. That has been my dream since I was 10. So doctors in the house please if you can write an article like this or perhaps drop a link if one has been written here I’ll be really grateful. I’ve heard how med school is tough and scary. I’ll really like to know what I’m diving into and I’ll also like to know what level I’ll be given admission into either in Nigeria or abroad (but mostly Nigeria tho, dollar rate is high). I’m really anticipating a reply. Thank you ?.

    • Obi

      October 27, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      Hi, for direct entry students (peeps that have graduated from a medically related field), entry is at the 2nd year- med school curriculum is 6 years (2- 3 yr- pre clinicals); 4-6 yr (clinicals).
      You would probably be able to breeze through pre- clinicals (2nd mbbs)- however, you should be aware that this is the most important and delicate exam in med school, as it determines whether or not you progress. For the rest of the years (clinicals)- with a steady head, you should do just fine. However, becoming a doctor is just a taste of the pudding. Specialization which takes minimum another fresh 6yrs (with all the steadiness your head can muster) is the real deal.
      In the end, whether its worth it or not depends on the amount of energy you put in… But in all, its a greatly rewarding field.. All the best!

    • Xoxo

      October 27, 2016 at 3:51 pm

      Thank you so much Obi… Sigh sounds like a lot of work, I really need to think this through well. Thanks for the info.

  3. Anon

    October 27, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Kacheetee, I just wanted to say I love your blog even though I never comment. ? And this is a great article even for those of us not going to law school. I’m awaiting NYSC now and I found some tips useful.

    • Anon

      October 27, 2016 at 11:49 am

      And you’re smart oh. Two First Class degrees in law in Nigeria. Mamiiiii

  4. F.

    October 27, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Awesome piece.. I just finished from Enugu Campus, and the experience was wonderful.. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  5. N.J

    October 27, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    A wonderful piece. I can totally relate, as I was posted to the Enugu campus too and had a splendid experience there. I advice that students should choose the state where their campus is located for their externship program and stay on campus for that period(even if its for a fee). It gives you the opportunity to study more extensively compared to when you spend externship at home. The ambulance stuff is real, but it was merely parked near the exam hall, but never used. federal and state kitchen has been closed and converted to examination halls in Nls, Enugu campus.

  6. Taiwo

    October 27, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    |Very good read and this would come in handy 10 years ago when I attended Abuja law school. Another important thing to note is the value of your note books!! They are extremely valuable

  7. Blackbeauty

    October 27, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Very well written. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it even though I’m not a lawyer.

  8. Dr. Ray

    October 27, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    This is a flawless piece and thanks for the share.

  9. Cheeoorr

    October 27, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Well written and all true. Law school is an experience really.

  10. Zino Alex

    October 27, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    I’m sure this is just what I needed to get the journey started. Thanks for the well put insightful advice!

  11. Still angry

    October 27, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Had a pass in Law School. Its been 12 years and i am still so bitter. I never knew this was how law school was graded o. That makes me feel better. Thanks. 🙂

  12. Prettyp

    October 27, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Wow, this is wonderful, I have been with this fear of law school even as I wait for my posting., but after reading this post, am beginning to have this assurance that I will pull through. Thanks Ma.

  13. EseP

    October 27, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Really insightful… Well appreciated

  14. tee

    October 27, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    I hate LAWYERS

    • A Lawyer

      May 18, 2017 at 11:20 pm

      Go to hell.

  15. TeeA

    October 27, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Kachee..we are going in come November 7 and you just gave elderly advice. Bless you

  16. aj

    October 28, 2016 at 4:11 am

    wow! This article makes a lot of sense! although I am not a lawyer.

  17. Benbella

    October 28, 2016 at 4:47 am

    My law school final exams are perhaps the most difficult exams I have ever taken. There was so much material to cover, and some of the subjects such as legal drafting and conveyancing were a bit technical.

    It didn’t help that the auditorium had been very hot during the classes as the Abuja sun blazed, and many lectures had turned into a fan swinging contest between students. Some hot chicks (no pun intended) undid 3 or 4 buttons on their shirts, as they struggled to cool in the heat, creating a free show of cleavage for some pervs sat some rows above. Those sat below saw bush too.

    During the exam period, the campus fellowship was filled to the rafters. People who pre-exam, had spent most of their evenings and nights at the mammy market drinking, smoking or trying to snag chicks, now thronged to the fellowship on exam nights. If you don’t know by now, you will never know.

    Then the exams themselves were like a body blow from Bash Ali. I opened the question paper for Company Law, and felt like I had just eaten an expired muffin from Chocolate Royal. Sick to the stomach. The objective part of the paper written earlier had been no better for me, as I played mini mini mani mo, trying to guess the answers. I tried to think of case law to buttress my answers which would incur additional marks, but none came to mind. I looked around at fellow students around me to see if they were seeing what I was seeing. The girl to the right of me, who I recognized from carrying huge textbooks and compendiums, had a dead eye stare of confusion, like they had sworn for her from her village.

    I looked to the other side of me, I saw the class wiz-kid writing furiously as he balanced his spectacles on his nose with his finger. I looked across, and I saw one of the examiners looking straight at me like “Today na today; if you try cheat eh, I go put you for corner” Naughty corner.

    I looked down at my question paper and blinked; I clicked my heels 3 times, but no answers came to memory.

    One of the students who was an older Deeper Life SU type, had even taken off her head scarf in tension. Oh, that is it – lifting the veil to expose the sham. And somehow more answers came to me slowly like a song I wrote. I pulled out my Eleganza biro and started writing furiously, like the Nigerian Senate hurriedly passing bills in the last days of GEJ’s reign. And I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, smiling to myself with pride in my turn around in fortunes. I could feel the invigilator’s gaze upon me, as he wondered where I discovered this new found knowledge and zeal. He even came and stood behind for about 15 minutes, just to make sure I was not cheating somehow. May your blessings confuse your doubters and enemies!

    Four months later, I passed the exam. Congratulobia! The call to bar party rice my folks made was redder and sweeter than those who made distinction sef. I declared big time at the mammy market, buying beer and pepper soup for friends and well-wishers alike. Even people who had failed the exams, and had to re-sit the exams, partook of my largesse.

  18. Anonymous

    October 28, 2016 at 10:16 am

    This is great. Always remember to have fun, enjoy the process. It is a vocational/professional school, you are basically coming to ‘learn work’ so dig in and get all you can. Amen to forgetting about what you learned or hated in uni, it’s a new page for everyone. Wish all aspirants to the bar success ☺

  19. I said so

    October 28, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Lawschool year is one i would never forget in a hurry! See, without your hardwork, determination and the Grace of God it would be even more difficult to scale through.
    I thank God i scaled through inspite of the many distractions around me. One advice i always give the freshers there is to never compare it with University exams.(Huge Mistake!!!!) Bar finals is in a class of its own! Thinking you can start flipping through your notes few weeks to..you would be highly overwhelmed and your brain might not be able to process all the info you are trying to stuff into it within that short period.

    That was also the period that the hot chicks and guys who didnt know the way to RCCG or any other church were flocking there for evening prayers with bottles of olive oil as instructed by Oshamolu.LMAO i had a good laugh.

    In all it was a fantastic experience and i think every law student should take Kachee’s post seriously.
    I salute all my colleagues at the bar.

  20. Abike

    October 28, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    100%! Everything is so true. Especially the lowest grade aspect. Law school doesn’t want you to be lukewarm. You have to be hot In all 5 courses. In addition, ensure you adhere strictly to instructions. List where you are asked to, forget undergrad story telling. Answer each question on the appropriate answer booklet and don’t allow your village people tempt you to take your answer script out of the exam hall. The paramount thing about law school tho is the grace of God. Law sch is not only “I know book”. Study hard, pray hard and try to have fun too. My 2 cents.

  21. koins

    October 28, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Also remember that law school is not a test of your intelligence. I just finished and got my results back. I had 4 first classes and one pass in corporate law and automatically finished with a pass. I cried like a baby, but then realised that it does not undermine my previous or future achievements. Law school was a humbler sha!

    • Clara

      October 28, 2016 at 4:25 pm

      Me too! It was really painful but I am glad i passed anyway 🙂

    • Chris

      October 31, 2016 at 5:00 pm

      How were you able to find out, please? I have tried to get my transcript but apparently it can’t be sent directly to a student. Thank you.

  22. Tope Adeyanju

    October 28, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    Hi KacheeTee! Great article and truly sheds light into how Nigerian Law School is!
    Thanks a lot!

    I just finished from NLS with a 2.1 (2015/2016 Lagos Campus set) and Im looking to relocate to the UK. (I have a UK LLB)
    From your bio, it states you’re a Corporate Lawyer, so I’m wondering how you crossed over to practicing law in the UK – did you take the QLTS? Or the Compliance route? An LPC? Any advice/tips/light on how you cut across would be great!

    Just in case you are able to reply, either on here or via email – t o p e a d e y a n j u (at) g m a i l . c o m

    Thank you!!!

  23. Tope Adeyanju

    October 28, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    Hi KacheeTee! Great article and truly sheds light into how Nigerian Law School is!
    Thanks a lot!

    I just finished from NLS with a 2.1 (2015/2016 Lagos Campus set) and Im looking to relocate to the UK. (I have a UK LLB)
    From your bio, it states you’re a Corporate Lawyer, so I’m wondering how you crossed over to practicing law in the UK – did you take the QLTS? Or the Compliance route? An LPC? Any advice/tips/light on how you cut across would be great!

    Just in case you are able to reply, either on here or via email – t o p e a d e y a n j u 8 8 (at) g m a i l . c o m

    Thank you!!!

    I tried to contact you via your website but there was an error message.

  24. Ade Ade

    December 4, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    I am so glad i came by this great post. I am currently at the Nigerian law school. Kano campus to be precise.
    For some reasons I graduated with a not too good grade at the university. I know my worth and what I am capable of doing but for some reasons I graduated with a 2.2. My CGPA was 3.49. I was just one point short of a second class upper. I became so depressed.
    Now I have put that behind me and I am more than determined to graduate from the law school with distinctions. I have now set my priorities. I have learnt from my past mistakes in college. I won’t give in to my fears any longer. I look forward to living the law school with a much better grade and hopefully I will come back to share my testimony here when I am finally done with the law school. Thanks for this post. It was very helpful and insightful.

    • Emeka

      January 11, 2017 at 3:28 pm

      I wish you the very best. I recall there was someone in my set who finished from Uni with a 3.49 GPA. He was disappointed but remained confident that he would make a first class from the law school. He did – in fact, he was the second best overall or something like that. Go get ’em!!!

  25. Uche

    November 8, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Nice piece kachee. I observed nobody has posted anything here of recent. However, I have learnt alot from this post, especially from Ade Ade. Our case seems to be similar and I will really like to know what u eventually graduated with at the Nigerian law school. I’m a fresh graduate from oau, and my CGPA is also 3.49. #sad. But I am determined to make a First Class at the Nigerian law school bcus I know I can do it. Though we haven’t been posted yet, but all my fears are gone already. God bless you kachetee

  26. Adino

    September 25, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    Very insightful and deep. This post has helped in quenching my fears. I am a law school applicant waiting for posting.

  27. cassan

    October 6, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Thanks Kachi. I found this very insightful and it was an interesting read.
    I am an aspirant at the NLS, awaiting posting and this is just what I need. I agree with you about students keeping an open mind. I have big dreams for the NLS but I acknowledge the fact that anything can happen and I have resolved to take it a day at a time. Thanks for sharing once again. Very Insightful.

  28. Wada Joseph

    May 2, 2019 at 10:22 pm

    thank for the write up. please stick to learning outcome can it really be a proper guide to take someone to the promise land with better grade???

  29. Wada Joseph

    May 2, 2019 at 10:41 pm

    I’m currently on Externship program please I would to know if concentrate on learning outcomes is a proper guide to helps me get better grade as you stated in your write up.Thank you.

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