President Nana Akufo-Addo has stated that a reform of the system, under which legal education currently operates in Ghana, is necessary to accommodate current realities, adding that the new system should be will have to be girded by a strong element of sustainability.
According to President Akufo-Addo, “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. It will be qualitative in its operation, but with a fair and balanced quantitative selection system”.
He also stressed that “it must also streamline the regulatory dualism between the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission and the General Legal Council when it comes to legal education. I have to restate my conviction that the General Legal Council must have the final say."
The President made this known on Monday, 29 November 2011, when he delivered a speech at the International Conference on the Future of Legal Education in Ghana/Africa, held at the Auditorium of the University of Ghana School of Law, Legon, Accra.
He indicated that he has already asked the Attorney General to fast-track the balance of consultations on the Legal Profession Bill, and lay it before Cabinet and, ultimately, Parliament as soon as possible for enactment.
“This Bill aims to address comprehensively, the issues of legal education in Ghana today. It must dispel the notion that the legal profession is a guild, a small club of mostly men, which is difficult to penetrate”, he said.
President Akufo-Addo, nonetheless, indicated that even if the new Legal Profession Act, which is under consideration, provides for a multiplicity of law schools to regulate the teaching of the professional examinations, and break the monopoly of the General Legal Council in that regard, “there can be no substitute for the General Legal Council being responsible for the maintenance of standards in the new system”.
He was hopeful, though, that the new Legal Profession Act and the various Regulations that will result from it, “will bring the many issues surrounding legal education in Ghana to fruitful resolution once and for all, at least for this generation”.
Don’t compromise on quality
While reiterating his belief in opening up the opportunities in legal education, President Akufo-Addo stated that there should be no compromise on quality.
“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,” he said.
The President continued, “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. 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.”
Apart from the provision of extra buildings that are needed to accommodate the extra numbers, President Akufo-Addo noted that there must be enough accomplished lawyers to teach the courses.
“I do not break any secret code, I am sure if I say here that 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 are, and they are good, a lecturer at the Law Faculty here cannot possibly teach adequately all the classes in all the universities for which he has lent his name for accreditation,” he added.