De­fine my role

Daily Trust - - LAW - By Daniel Bu­lus­son Esq

Alaw stu­dent on cham­ber at­tach­ment be­fore go­ing back to law school said to me, “It would be bet­ter if law school de­fines the role law stu­dents are to play in a law firm dur­ing at­tach­ment, some of us didn’t even have time to study our books in prepa­ra­tion of our forth­com­ing ex­am­i­na­tion, in­stead we were work­ing round the clock help­ing the firm to solve its prob­lems, if a car­pen­ter comes to fix a shelf in the of­fice, we would help them fix it… we some­times func­tion as glo­ri­fied mes­sen­gers.” {Be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the is­sue, name of stu­dent and firm would not be sup­plied}.

An­other set of law stu­dents in a dif­fer­ent firm said, “We can count the times we have ac­tu­ally had phys­i­cal in­ter­ac­tion with our prin­ci­pal part­ner for the du­ra­tion of the pe­riod, we deal di­rectly with the head of cham­bers, we read case files of the cases the lawyers in cham­ber put ap­pear­ance in court, we draft as­sign­ments based on case files that tran­spired in court, then spend the rest of the day in the library read­ing our books; we even do tu­to­ri­als and an­swer past ques­tions with our su­per­vi­sor once or twice in a week. The only job we do for the law firm is to search au­thor­i­ties when the firm is work­ing on a case.”

The sce­nario is dif­fer­ent from firm to firm de­pend­ing on the op­er­at­ing style of the prin­ci­pal; do these dis­crep­an­cies in stan­dard and treat­ment to law stu­dents dur­ing at­tach­ment play any role in the out­come of their Bar fi­nal at the end of the day? Some would say yes, oth­ers would say No.

One school of thought has ar­gued that law stu­dents should be through read­ing the school cur­ricu­lum be­fore com­ing on at­tach­ment and should use the at­tach­ment pe­riod to fa­mil­iarise them­selves with law of­fice man­age­ment and op­er­a­tion. This writer be­longs to the school of thought that a firm ought to help the law stu­dent achieve his ob­jec­tive of be­com­ing a le­gal prac­ti­tioner, not the law stu­dent help­ing the law firm achieve its busi­ness ob­jec­tives. It is my be­lief that the pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity of a law stu­dent at the at­tach­ment stage is to pass the Bar fi­nals and be­come a Bar­ris­ter and Solic­i­tor of the Supreme Court of Nige­ria.

Truth be told, a law stu­dent who has qual­ity time to study dur­ing cham­ber at­tach­ment and mas­ter his or her draft­ing has a bet­ter chance of mak­ing good grades at the Bar

Each law firm has its pe­cu­liar­ity and dif­fer­ence in the way it con­ducts its af­fairs of the of­fice and so might not be con­ver­sant with a spe­cific task meant for law stu­dents on at­tach­ment

fi­nal, than those con­stantly en­gaged with ac­tiv­i­ties of the firm with lit­tle time for stud­ies. These firms give these tasks in­no­cently with the aim of fa­mil­iar­iz­ing the law stu­dents of how the le­gal prac­tice works in re­al­ity and so do not have the in­ten­tion of hin­der­ing any law stu­dent from mak­ing the Bar fi­nals.

It then be­hoves the Nige­rian Law School to set a stan­dard by set­ting out the role law in­terns are ob­li­gated to per­form dur­ing at­tach­ment in a law firm. This re­spon­si­bil­ity of set­ting a uni­form stan­dard can­not be achieved with­out the in­ter­ven­tion of the law school which does the post­ing ab ini­tio to the law firms. A de­tailed and spe­cific sched­ule of tasks to be as­signed to law stu­dents on at­tach­ment ought to be in­cluded in the cor­re­spon­dence sent to the firms on be­half of stu­dents.

Se­condly, each law firm has its pe­cu­liar­ity and dif­fer­ence in the way it con­ducts its af­fairs of the of­fice and so might not be con­ver­sant with a spe­cific task meant for law stu­dents on at­tach­ment. Some law stu­dents would tell you they close by 6pm be­cause they were work­ing on a case, there’s noth­ing wrong with these stu­dents help­ing in re­search, prepa­ra­tion and fil­ing of court pro­cesses to gain ex­pe­ri­ence, there is how­ever a prob­lem when such task is done at the ex­pense of stud­ies.

In or­der not to mis­place pri­or­ity which may neg­a­tively or pos­i­tively af­fect the out­come of Bar Fi­nals, it is im­per­a­tive that a struc­ture is cre­ated to de­ter­mine the kind of ex­pe­ri­ence gained dur­ing cham­ber at­tach­ment.

Wor­thy con­grat­u­la­tions to the new set of le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers just called to the Nige­rian Bar, wel­come on board. Good­luck and God­speed! Please send your com­ment {s}, rec­om­men­da­tion {s} or ob­ser­va­tion {s} to daniel­bu­lus­ or like us on www.face­book. com/ young lawyers col­umn

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