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school has failed; Law let us put students under lawyers instead

By Rodgers Onyancha | August 16th 2019
Some legal stakeholders have proposed opening up more Kenya School of Law institutions in Kisumu, Mombasa and Eldoret to supplement the Nairobi one. [Standard]

The ISO-certified Kenya School of Law (KSL) is overrated and over hated, the former by the stakeholders around the Council of Legal Education (CLE) and the latter by its current and immediate former students.

Students at KSL are ever on the edge longing for the end of the 12-month professional training so that they can start their six months of pupillage where all and the sundry believe the true training to be Advocates of High Court of Kenya begins.

For the last decade or so, the road taken by legal students to be admitted as Advocates of the High Court has been fraught with peril leading to mass failure in the post-graduate diploma, Advocate Training Programme (ATP) exams. It all boils down to the pedagogy of legal education in Kenya.

A few weeks after being admitted to KSL, the anxiety among students turns to pure frustration upon realising that the one year at KSL is nothing, but an extension of their university lecture classes. The ‘T’ in ATP is lost as over 300 students in a lecture hall have to endure four hours every five days of the week for a whole year jotting down lecture notes.

Whereas the LLB degree taught in the universities is an academic concept, ATP is a theoretical concept. Failure by the CLE, KSL and the rest of legal stakeholders to have a clear distinction of the two and their place of application is the most genuine reason behind the mass failure of ATP exams.

Universal Practice

Lecturing LLB coursework, university lecturers apply academic concepts and the students are supposed to understand key ideas to meet the objective of the lesson. In explaining an academic concept, effective lectures define the concept and provide examples and non-examples, rules that apply, distinctive attributes or comparison with related concepts. The LLB, being taught as an academic concept, is a universal practice and is the reason behind the fact that students can study it in another jurisdiction and still practice in Kenya.

The theoretical framework is the structure that can hold or support a theory of a research study. This is the concept KSL should have adopted. To execute it to satisfaction, it needs the trainer to have close contact with the student. This would have afford the students an opportunity to formulate theories, explain, predict and understand phenomena and in many cases, to challenge and extend existing knowledge within the limits of critical bonding assumptions.

The method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept (the pedagogy) of legal education strongly mirrors a methodology for legal analysis, IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application and Conclusion) where in pursuance of LLB degree, the universities embark on the first two, Issue and Rule as academic subject and KSL to impart the latter skills of Application and Conclusion.

Immense Pressure

Due to the huge number of students admitted to KSL in the last 15 years, the future, where KSL can offer effective training to lawyers looks bleak. This has put immense pressure on the school and the trainers have inadvertently replaced the theoretical approach with academic concept in order to cover the syllabus.

A section of legal stakeholders have proposed opening up more Kenya School of Law institutions in Kisumu, Mombasa and Eldoret to supplement the Karen (Nairobi) one. Others have proposed that CLE grants the mandate of training of the advocates to some universities offering LLB across the country. But will that not be re-inventing the wheel?

Post-KSL, the frustration of students do turn to astonishment when what the lecturers struggled to impart on them for 12 months at KSL starts to make sense during their six months of pupilage (internship) at a modest law firm under the guidance of an astute pupil master; the grooming, the art of advocacy, oral skills, examination of witnesses, legal drafting. It is in law firms that lawyers are transformed into advocates.

Pupil masters can take up to two pupils for the six-month pupilage. There are no provisions whatsoever for CLE and KSL to remunerate the pupil master despite the pupil paying Sh145,000 to KSL for training that never comes and another Sh45,000 to CLE for an exam they have an 82 per cent chance of failing.

The time has come for the CLE to prepare the ATP course outline at the beginning of the year, share it with the students and set the exams. Let the students take the course outline and devolve the Advocate Training Programme across the country in the chambers of advocates with five years experience and above for 18 months, a period inclusive of holding over, their tuition fees channeled to the advocates accounts as fees paid for training and without doubt the mass failure of bar exams will become a thing of the past.

Mr Onyancha is an advocate of the High [email protected]

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