Space argument pathetic as Prempeh demands changes in legal education

Space argument pathetic as Prempeh demands changes in legal education
Source: Ghana||Nathan Gadugah
Date: 03-03-2018 Time: 07:03:51:am

The Executive Director of the Centre of Democratic Development says inadequate space cannot be a reasonable argument to deny prospective law students a dream to pursue their law career.

Prof H Kwesi Prempeh who described the “space” argument as “pathetic” said “physical space is an artificial constraint” which can be done away with.

Rather than holding on to what he refers to as an archaic 1960 law on legal education in Ghana which is run by the General Legal Council, Prof Prempeh would rather the training of lawyers is liberalised to provide alternatives for better legal education.

A critic of the status quo, the governance expert did not waste the opportunity provided by Joy FM under its Thought Leadership forum to forcefully demand a change in what has become a debacle for many who want to pursue a law career in Ghana.

Law education over the last few months has become a hugely controversial subject following a declaration by the Supreme Court that examination and interviews are illegal admission requirements into the law school.

The Highest Court charged the General Legal Council to take steps in six months to amend portions of the law in order to make those two requirements legal.

Under the Legal Profession Act 1960 (Act 32) persons with LLB certificates had the automatic qualification to study law and be called into the BAR.

However, with the entry becoming increasingly competitive and with limited space at the Ghana School of Law, the authorities at the General Legal Council, the supervisory body for legal education in Ghana decided in 2012 to include the entry examination as well as the interview sessions as part of the admission process.

But that administrative arrangement was contested in court by Prof Stephen Kwaku Asare.

In the 2017 ruling the Supreme Court insisted the Council must amend Act 32 of the Legal Profession Act in order make the examination and interviews legal.

But Prof Asare, popularly called Kwaku Azar, an unrepentant critic of the admission process insists the examination and interview process must be wiped out completely.

After winning the landmark case at the Supreme Court, Kwaku Azar and his proponents took the war to Parliament in an effort to stop the MPs from passing the LI that would legalise the interview and examination process.

He fought, prayed, lobbied and argued that Parliament should not give life to a dead GLC regulation on law school entry.

Prof Kwaku Asare

“In today's world of distance learning and assorted electronic learning platforms, it is entirely unnecessary for students to converge at a centralized location or any central locations to study evidence, procedure, taxation, legal accountancy, interpretation, alternative dispute resolutions, conveyancing, family, company, labor, banking and insurance law. The Ghana School of Law has no comparative advantage in teaching these courses. Nor are these courses so unique that they cannot be taught at the 10 Law Faculties,” he stated in part.

His campaign yielded some fruits but not entirely. The GLC decided to stand down on the interview process as an admission requirement but held on to the examination requirement.

The controversial LI has fully run the 21 mandatory maturity period and was passed into law on Friday, March 2, 2018 with examination considered a part of the entry requirements.

Way forward

On the Joy FM Thought Leadership program on Law education in Ghana, many luminaries were present to have a debate on the way forward.

“…Because the GLC sees itself as the main actor in this, it has acted without recourse to the many other constituents which must be heard in this matter,” he said.

He argued admission quotas have been taken administratively by the GLC without considering the opinions of other stakeholders.

“I have also heard the oversupply of lawyers...but this again is a false problem which does not exist, he said citing a testimony by the Attorney General that she is understaffed.

“There is clearly a problem of access to justice which refutes the oversupply argument,” he added.

On the argument that the quality of lawyers will be reduced if the current status quo were to be tampered with, Prof Prempeh said that is a “red herring.”

That problem he believed could be tackled at the LLB level and not to be used as an excuse to prevent people from accessing legal education.

He wants the issue to be opened up as a national conversation and not a lawyer’s problem.

The Attorney General Gloria Akuffo who was part of a crack panel including Samson Lardy Anyenini, Inusah Fuseini, Kofi Bentil, said the war or words cannot be used to solve the problem. It can only be resolved through dialogue he said.

“It is simply not acceptable that people who otherwise can become lawyers are denied the opportunity either because of space, faculty or facilities that are coming out,” she said.

She said if the LI were to be kicked–out, the problems will still not be solved and said there is a comprehensive programme being drawn by all stakeholders to find a lasting solution.

She said government reluctantly approved the LI at cabinet level as a stop-gap measure but charged the GLC to liaise with stakeholders for a longer sustainable solution.

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