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Ghana may end up with ‘lawyers who don’t know any law’ – SC nominee warns

...recommends revocation of accreditation of all law faculties in Ghana

A Supreme Court nominee has questioned the quality of Ghana’s legal education, and recommended the revocation of accreditation of all the law faculties of the various universities in the country offering undergrad law degrees.

In the view of Prof. Nii Ashie Kotey, the competence of those being churned out by the various law faculties in the public and private universities are below par.

He warned of dire consequences if those in charge of legal education do not act swiftly, saying, “If we don’t take care, we will unleash on the people of Ghana, lawyers who don’t know any law.”

At his vetting by the Appointments Committee of Parliament Thursday, Prof. Ashie Kotey who is a former dean of the University of Ghana law faculty gave instances to buttress his point that the quality of legal education had gone down.

He said he was a part of an interview panel to vet LLB holders for a master’s programme at the University of Ghana at which some of the interviewees couldn’t cite a single case constitutional law and business law among others.

“There were people with law degrees who could not tell me the requirements of a valid contract, who could not tell me what a lease is, who could not discuss a single case in constitutional law,” the nominee revealed.

For instance, he said one of them was asked about a popular case, the 31stDecember case and all that the person could say was “the 31stDecember Movement?”

Such persons, he said, when given the opportunity to cite even a case they themselves were comfortable with so the panel could discus with them, could not.

Prof. Ashie Kotey

The nominee, who has over 30 years of higher education development, observed the country’s “legal education is at a crossroads”, noting “issues that we are confronting are very serious”.

“The problem is not just what is happening after LLB…it’s a very serious matter and we should confront it properly,” he advised, suggesting the acredition of all law faculties should be revoked for them to re-apply.

“If it means all of us, including Legon, disaccredit all of us, let us re-apply, let’s go through it properly and see,” he recommended.

He argued this would afford the accreditation authority the chance to access the institutions well to ensure that the faculties have “lecturers. Do they have libraries or resource facilities, classrooms, do they have moot rooms?”

When chairman of the Committee, Joe Ose Owusu asked whether he would use his influence and present a paper to the Chief Justice who is the head of the General Legal Council, on the issue, he said “I would have no objection to doing that”.

He however said there are others who “as a country we can draw on [their] resources beyond me for the purpose of legal education reforms for the country.”

Law theoreticians, academicians vs law professionals

When asked whether the absence of legal academicians on the bench of the Supreme Court was affecting the quality of judgements of the apex court, he answered in the negative.

“We have had very good judges and judgements and decisions in the fourth republic Supreme Court and this would be both from those who came unto the Supreme Court bench from the academia and those who did not,” he observed.

“And I don’t think one can actually say that the decision of the judges who rose through the judiciary is any less intellectual.

Prof. Ashie Kotey contended If there were some concern about quality, “it is at lower [courts] levels than the Supreme Court.

He thus underscored the need to ensure continuous education of judges and magistrates.

“I think with that, the key to improvement is continuous legal education and ensuring that the magistrates and judges are continually improving themselves,” he said.

 By Stephen Kwabena Effah||Ghana

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