Proliferation in law schools triggers quality concerns

The proliferation of law faculties at universities across Ghana has created a situation in which the institutions are grappling with how to get the right lecturers to teach the students, Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has said.

Speaking at the opening of an international conference, ‘The Future of Legal Education in Ghana/Africa’ on 29 November, Akufo-Addo said: “Some of the new law faculties are struggling because they do not have enough qualified law teachers.

“No matter how good the lecturers in Legon [at the University of Ghana] are – and they are good – a lecturer at the law faculty here cannot possibly teach all the classes adequately in all the universities for which he has lent his name for accreditation,” he added.

He was referring to a practice whereby new universities, in order to get accreditation, list the names of their proposed lecturers on the forms they submit for accreditation purposes. Lecturers in some of the public universities are known to have allowed their names to be used in this way.

Akufo-Addo said a reform of the system under which the legal education currently operates in Ghana, is necessary to accommodate current realities, adding that, the new system should be guided by a strong element of sustainability.

“Sustainable legal education will have, as its base, the establishment of a regime that will consider the pressing needs of the growing law student population and the expected demands of the generation unborn that will study law,” Akufo-Addo said.

He said sustainable reform should “be qualitative in its operation, but with a fair and balanced quantitative selection system”, adding that, “it must also streamline the regulatory dualism between the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission and the General Legal Council”.

Quality paramount

Akufo-Addo said there was an attempt to reform legal education in the country and cautioned that there should be no compromise on quality in the attempt to open up the opportunities in legal education.

“A badly trained lawyer is a danger to society. A badly trained lawyer can cause untold damage to life and property, and a badly trained lawyer will bring the legal profession into disrepute much faster than any revolution,” Akufo-Addo said.

“I do not reserve my passion for people being well trained in their profession for only lawyers. I doubt that anyone will argue over an assertion that a badly trained plumber is a veritable danger to society.

“We need a lot of plumbers, but I am sure nobody will suggest that we should cut corners in the training of plumbers,” he added.

“We need a lot of doctors, but I am certain no one will tolerate the concept of a badly trained doctor, or a badly trained engineer or teacher. I suggest we do not try to find a solution to the problem we face by compromising on the quality of the training,” the president said.

He emphasised that, as the authorities work on how to expand legal education with the provisioning of extra buildings that are needed to accommodate the extra numbers, there must also be enough accomplished lawyers to teach the courses.

Attorney-General Godfred Dame said the importance of a profession is assessed by its contribution to social progress and advancement.

“There is, thus, no doubt that law is a very powerful profession on which the safety, development and prosperity of the nation rest,” he said.

Dame said it is irrefutable that the quality of a country’s legal education determines the quality of its legal profession.

He said the foundations of Ghana’s legal education were laid in 1958 with the establishment of the Ghana School of Law, which accommodated 97 students, but now caters for about 2,000.

Dame said there is evidence that the quality of products of Ghana’s legal education since independence compares favourably with the very best around the world and it would be wrong to say that the law profession has served the nation poorly, adding that this “will clearly be mendacious or, at best, a gross exaggeration”.

“In spite of these achievements, it is correct to say that the system of professional legal education is bedevilled with severe challenges arising out of the recent proliferation of law faculties or schools running the bachelor of laws programme without a corresponding increase in facilities for the professional law course,” he said.

“A very honest examination of the facts would disclose that the system, itself, has, over the decades, in a bid to live up to the circumstances of the times, undergone a lot of evolution and reform,” Dame added.