Meeting with Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and other stakeholders on LDC pre-entry exams
Discussed in the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary affairs on September 25th, 2018
By Francis Obonyo
The Meeting was chaired by Hon Oboth Oboth.
Introduction as presented by the Chair
In May 2018, the Parliament of Uganda Passed a resolution to scrap off pre-entry exams to law development centre. Law development centre later argued that the decision of parliament is only persuasive and not binding. This committee meeting sought to bring a clarity on why LDC ignored the resolution of parliament and if it was within the law to do so. The committee sought clarity on the following;
- Whether LDC was within the law to ignore a direct resolution of parliament
- Why LDC Ignored the resolution despite many graduates who pass pre-entry still fail to pass the course and yet many who fail pre-entry can pass the bar
- What the various schools of law think about the requirement for one to pass a pre-entry exam to enter the legal practice training program at Law development center?
Issue 1. Communication from the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs
The reasons for the removal of pre-entry are as strong as the reasons for the existence of pre-entry exams. It regulates the quality of teaching through the students who pass pre-entry still fail to pass the bar course. It is our opinion that other Schools of law within Uganda be allowed to establish their own legal training Centre but be regulated by the Law Development Centre. It is without a doubt that everyone must be given a fair opportunity to have legal training.
Currently, there are not enough lawyers in the country. According to the Uganda Law society secretariat, there is only one lawyer for every 4325 persons in Uganda. This defeats the purpose of promoting Justices in the Country, as a result, we have many convicts and suspects in prisons on remand.
Pre-entry is not meant to ringfence the profession but to strengthen the regulatory system of the legal professionals.
It would be very difficult to let other universities establish their own legal training Centre most especially if they do not have the standard requirement to do so. This will cripple the legal system in the country as bad quality lawyers and advocates will be produced.
Issue 2. Communication from the National Council for Higher education
The Council for Higher education has set the basic standard requirement for one to be able to qualify to pursue the diploma in legal training. In Uganda’s case, a bachelors degree of law from any charted university teaching the law program. This where the Councils role stops.
However, as a result of subsidiary legislation laid upon institutions by the Parliament of Uganda, they have a choice to either add more requirement and conditions for one to qualify to bar course. The liberty is at the hands of the institution and whether or not they make passing pre-entry exams a condition is not the work of the Council to interfere but offer advisory support where necessary.
We agree there is a need for more lawyers in Uganda and also the need for quality assurance in the legal profession but where do we begin to gauge the quality?
Is it at the beginning of law school or at the end? Why should there be two pre-entry exams, what significance does the this do to the country? A person who fails pre-entry will most likely pass in the next sitting, this means failure of in ones first sitting only delays it to the next sitting?
Issue 3. Communication form Law Development Centre
- The pre-entry exam is the first mechanism for ensuring Quality of lawyers in the legal profession
- There are many students who apply to join LDC but the centre cannot accommodate them all. Pre-entry is a funnel that helps reduce on this number
- There are very few legal practice trainers and teachers. Filling the Centre with thousands of students will increase the teacher to student ratio and this affects the teaching plans strategies
- We have a backlog of a student who has not yet passed the bar. Many of them form as far back as 2014. When we combine this with current number, it very big and will be unmanageable
- The government expects LDC to generate revenue but how can we generate revenue if we are not allocated for sufficient funds to run the institution
Issues 4. Communication from various schools of law
- The need for quality is understood but how can quality be guaranteed if even the very student who passes the pre-entry exam fail to pass the bar course.
- The right of regulation can be left to the Law Development Centre but it is about time other schools of law are permitted to carry out legal training of lawyers. This will greatly reduce the number that floods LDC and also reduces on their administrative costs
- It is over ten year since pre-entre to LDC was introduced. It is about time that it is though and
Reaction from the committee;
The committee acknowledged that there are limited resources to accommodate the entire influx of students into the legal training program. It is for this reason that the new Centres in Mbarara and other locations are being established.
The committee also acknowledged the need for quality lawyers and pre-entry is a screening mechanism for this. Members were of the view that pre-entry could still be made mandatory but this time, if passed then other schools of law, could take on the legal training but examinations can be administered and graded by the LDC to ensure that quality.
The committee requested all the stakeholders to go back further make more research on the matter submit it to Parliament
The meeting was then adjourned.