A guide book to law schools published in 1960 stated the purpose of legal education in East Africa in the following words: “The lawyer in East Africa has to be much more than a competent legal technician. With the coming of independence, the manifold problems that beset the developing countries have to be faced, and in doing this, great changes will have to be made in the framework of the society. Lawyers have a vital part in these developments, for upon them will fall a major share of the work of putting into practice the principles and ideas of their colleagues in the field of politics, economics and science, and ensuring that the resultant system works fairly and efficiently. Legal education must take account of these facts and see that students are made aware of and prepared for the future.”
This statement of purpose was translated by the Faculty of Law of the University of Nairobi in September 1978 during a seminar on law teaching. The faculty seminar observed that: “As a law faculty our primary goals should be the production of law graduates adequately educated and equipped with theatrical legal tools to enable them to think clearly and constructively, aware of the social, economic and political order, and last but not least, equipped with sufficient legal knowledge to enable them apply it in professional practice, the public service and any other realm in which graduates who have a mastery of legal rules and a sound grasp of interrelations between law and as a distinct discipline and other social science disciplines.”
The Faculty of Law lecturers in that seminar resolved that they should ensure the achievement of some common minimum standards in their teaching by providing law students with adequate theatrical framework and analysis of laws, a comprehensive analysis of historical foundations of law and a proper understanding in the interpretation and application of all the different legal rules.
To achieve this purpose, the University of Nairobi has laid various regulations for the administration of the faculty. During the 7-4-2-3 system of education, the law faculty admitted students who had in their “A” level examinations scored at least 14 points. This candidate would also be required to attend an interview to determine their eligibility. This was the most stringent requirement for entry into any faculty at the university.
The Bachelor of Law course took three years to complete and within that time, the student was to take instructions in a total of 15 subjects and wrote a thesis on a law subject of their choice. Each subject had a lecture of at least 2 hours every week, making it 198 hours per subject, or 2970 lecture hours in total. Tutorials, as discussion groups at the university are called, were to take a similar amount of time.
With the 8-4-4 system of education, the requirements to qualify for a Bachelor of Law have remained equally stringent. The 8-4-4 student has to undergo 59 subjects which are all examined. The total number of hours spent in class for lectures is 60 hours per subject or 3540 lecture hours in total.
After the student has graduated, he then applies for admission to the Kenya School of Law. Here, the student is instructed on the procedures and rules of law practice and sits for examinations for the award of a Diploma in Law.
The student also enrolls for eight months of pupillage with an advocate who has practiced for at least 5 years, receiving instructions on how to practice law. It is the pupillage that converts them from a graduate of law to a legal practitioner, as they learn how to attend to a client, prepare cases, draft court documents, address the court etc.
After completion of pupillage and passing of diploma examinations, the students can now make an application to the Chief Justice to be admitted to the Roll of Advocates. In the application, they must attach their degree and diploma certificates, a certificate from their master confirming that they have successfully undergone instructions on the proper business, practice and employment of an advocate, two certificates from respectable persons certifying that they are morally fit to be admitted as an advocate.
Once the application is made, the registrar of the High Court publishes a notice for a period of one month that states the student has made an application for admission to the Roll of Advocates. After one month, the student is invited to present his application to the Chief Justice. During the hearing, the Council of Legal Education and the Law Society of Kenya may object to the application made. If they do not object, then the Chief Justice administers an oath on the student enjoining them to be faithful to justice without fear or favour and then orders that their name be entered into the Roll of Advocates.
Throughout the training period, from entry into university, to the completion of pupillage, the advocate trainee is kept on their toes, made to think on their feet, to be meticulous with their work and honourable in their dealings. In a well regulated system, failure of the student in exhibiting the aptitude required of them in each of the requisite qualities could result in disqualification.
Even after admission, the advocate is always in training and supervision. They have to train themselves in the new fields they encounter in their practice of law and also accept the training of senior lawyers and judges that they work with. They are under the supervision of the Advocates Complaints Commission, the Disciplinary Committee of the Law Society of Kenya and every magistrate and judge they appear before. Judges have been known to refuse to listen to advocates who have misbehaved before them and in extreme cases have committed such advocates to jail in contempt of court.
Joining the legal profession today is still difficult as the requirements are still stringent. But there were days when the requirements were even tighter and the door was only slightly ajar.