The Law Development Centre (LDC), an institution established by an Act of Parliament to impart practical legal skills and training of lawyers upon completing the undergraduate law studies, among other things, is reeling with embarrassment after 90 per cent of the lawyers who sat for the academic year 2019/2020 Bar course failed.
Several reasons have been given by the institution administrator for the debacle. Though such huge failure is not unprecedented at LDC, there is a peculiar difference with this one.
Out of the 1,474 candidates who sat the examinations, 1,329 lawyers failed. The director of LDC, Nigel Othiembi attributed the woeful performance to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced students to resort to online instructions in third term.
He further blamed it on the suspension of the pre-entry examination which has been the perquisite for admission for the bar course. This suspension was imposed on the Law Council in 2019, when it was denied money to conduct the pre-entry examination.
The LDC and Law Council are under the ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. While the standards of legal profession ought to be subjected to improvement and thereby hone the skills of upcoming advocates, hence the need for pre-entry examinations, the politicians mainly MPs and the then minister of Justice and Constitution Affairs, did not think such quality control was necessary anymore!
The manner in which this provision was suspended is devious, little wonder then that the results of those who tried to use shortcuts have been abysmal.
When LDC was established in 1970, upon the recommendation of Prof Gower, then there were only two universities teaching law: University of Dar es Salaam and Makerere University. And the number of graduates was about 60.
The ratio of lecturers and professional advisors to students was about 1 to 4. Now LDC admits 1,400 students! And there are more than six universities teaching law with different standards or grading systems.
The purpose of the pre-entry examinations was to select students from different universities on merit instead of relying on their respective university awards. Therefore, this yardstick was not unreasonable or unfair to any applicant.
LDC should return to what they ought to do best. They should not bow to pressure from politicians for fear of losing their budgets.
When Prof Gower committee recommended for the establishment of LDC, it didn’t think LDC should be an income-generating institution. Far from it. Gower envisioned the replacement of an existing apprenticeship system of legal training with a formal system of institutional training designed to impart practical legal skills.