05 Oct My Eleven Years Journey To The Bar
Somewhere in the first quarter of 2010, I received a call from Alexnder Osei Owusu (Lexis). I was then serving as a National Service person at the Akuapem Rural Bank in Mamfe – Akuapem. Lexis was my friend in council when we both served students in leadership positions at the University of Cape coast. I had discussed with him whilst we were yet to graduate, that I would like to study law after my first degree. He had seen a newspaper advert which was almost expiring so he called to prompt me. He said, Nii, tomorrow is the deadline for submission, have you submitted already and my answer was a no. I therefore had to quickly get permission from the office to go and buy the University of Ghana Admission forms and apply for the Post First Degree LLB. Everything was hand-written on physical forms and submitted physically at that time. I did not have my transcript at the time and it meant, I needed to travel to Cape Coast the next day, get the transcript and some recommendation letters on same day and come back to University of Ghana to submit those forms before 5pm on that Friday. Those two days were really terrific. In the haste, I committed a mistake on one of the triplicate forms which was later to haunt me in my attempt to get an admission to study the post first degree LLB at the University of Ghana.
The requirement was and it still is, that you write an entrance Exam. Shortlisted candidates are selected for an interview after which 120 students are selected to suit the capacity of the Faculty of Law (Now University of Ghana School of Law). I wrote and passed this exam and I was invited for an interview only to be told to go back home and come again the following year.
The interview took place at the old faculty of Law building in the University of Ghana. I met about 4 members of the panel but I can vividly remember two of them because they were the ones who interacted with me. The Late Prof. Benneh and Prof. Kumado.
Prof. Benneh: Young man why are you here?
Me: I applied to study Law and I am here to be interviewed.
Prof: Kumado: Why do you want to be a lawyer?
Me: I believe it is the profession that my personal traits tilt towards the most and …… (Prof Kumado Interrupts)
Prof. Kumador – Spell the word Integrated
Prof Benneh: Spell the word Integrity
Prof Benneh: So, you know how to spell and you couldn’t spell Integrated correctly on your forms?
Prof Kumado: (in a deep and slow voice) This clearly shows that you are not a careful person and if you are not a careful person, you cannot be allowed to read law. You may leave now.
Me: Sir, …
Prof Benneh: This one you cannot say anything, just comply and leave.
Me: Sir, this is an avoidable blunder and I plead for …
Prof: Benneh: Hei young man. How old are you?
Prof Benneh: and you are rushing like that? Some people come here when they are 50 years. Come again next year. Good Luck.
Me: Sir, the earlier the better
Prof. Kumado: You are very well dressed. I like your suit, are you married?
Me: No Sir
Prof Benneh: go and find a wife and come next year.
I was tossed here and there like this until I gave up, thanked them and left the interview. When I told my friends, who would attend the interviews after me in the coming days, none of them believed me and some of them unfortunately had similar experiences.
That interview was going to be based on the things you have written on your forms and the least mistake you made or your inability to defend what you have written gave them the chance to kick you out so they could have the 120 students they were looking for. That was and is still the capacity of the Faculty, now UGSoL.
In 2011, I didn’t try to apply again because, I had found a new Job and I wanted to settle in before I continued with my dream.
In 2012, I applied, and this time around I was successful in both Exam and Interview. I completed my course in 2014 and applied to the Ghana School of Law in 2015. I was fortunate to get admitted in that same year. I was part of the first group to experiment the New Professional Law Course which was a one-year programme as compared to the then 2-year programme that had been in existence and which has been re-introduced now.
With this new one-year system, students were required to study 10 subjects instead of 11 subjects in the previous system. One was also required to pass all 10 to before he/she would be called to the Bar. A person who failed 3 or more subjects was required to repeat and write all the 10 again. A person who failed only 2 subjects or 1 was however allowed to write that two or one subject and if successful called to the bar. Under this system, there was no room for remarking of exams if you failed. You could only apply for re-tallying which meant that the marks awarded to you would be re-calculated for you.
I wrote my first 6 subjects in 2015 and wrote the other 4 in 2016. The results which were released in 2016, showed that I had failed in 3 subjects. 1. Family Law, 2. Civil Procedure and 3. Legal Accounting and Law Practice management. This was very shocking to me. Even though I knew I wasn’t a perfect or outstanding student, I didn’t expect to fail in those three subjects. For this reason, I wanted my papers re-marked. I wrote several petitions to the Director of Law School and to the Independent Examination Board (IEB), later Independent Examination Council (IEC) but all to no avail. When I realized I wasn’t going to get a remark, I joined 8 others to sue the General Legal Council for an Order of Mandamus to compel them to remark my papers. We lost the case. And these were the reasons Justice Gifty Adjei gave.
- The Legal Profession Act, ACT 32, only mandates the General Legal Council to conduct exams. It does not mandate them to remark.
- We could not produce any written rule or by-law that said the General Legal Council, or the Ghana School of law can re-mark papers after exams.
- Our reference to the University of Ghana Hand book which made provision for remarking could not be good law since the University of Ghana hand book was not binding nor applicable to the General Legal Council and the Ghana School of Law.
We had argued through our Counsel that the provision in Act 32 which mandate the GLC to organize exams also implied marking and re-marking since one cannot conduct exam without being expected to mark. But GLC’s argument prevailed and we lost that case.
Interestingly, two days after the judge released our judgement, the Ghana School of Law now produced a new Students Hand book that said anyone who wanted a remarking could apply and pay for GHC 3,000 as re-marking fees per paper. Had this document come out early and had we laid hands on it, perhaps our case would have been victorious.
We appealed the decision of the High Court but our appeal also failed.
We were denied the right of remarking and so we could not verify if we truly failed those papers and my doubts are still present on my mind. I have not been able to accept that I truly failed those three papers in 2016 and these are my reasons.
- Those three papers were subjects I took very seriously for various reasons and I was very confident, I wrote what was required of me in those three papers. I suspected that there could have been an error on the side of the examiner and a second look by a different person would have helped me get even 1 pass so I changed from repeating all 10 subjects to rather re-sit at lest 2 papers.
- I was rather expecting to fail the Interpretations Paper I wrote that year.
- I was sick three days to that paper.
- I couldn’t do any proper revision for that paper.
- It was also one of the courses I had missed classes the most because of the time for its lectures
- The instructions were for me to answer at least 4 questions.
- Each of these 4 questions carried 25 marks.
- The pass mark was and is still 50%
- I was able to attempt only 2 questions.
- The Maximum I could get from these 2 questions would be 50% but that would always be impossible when writing an Essay which is also a Law Essay.
- Interpretation is a very subjective subject and no student would write an essay and get 25/25.
- If I did so well, it should be around 40/50 which was a failed mark.
- The raw scores the School gave me however said I got 68% for interpretation.
This left me with serious doubts on my mind as to whether those three papers which I believed I wrote to the best of my abilities, I really failed.
I had no option than to go back to school and sit for all the 10 papers again. Even my attempt to defer the course so I could have a proper Psychological mind frame to come again was rejected. On this second attempt, I passed 7 papers again and failed 3 different subjects from the first three I had failed.
This time around, I didn’t even bother to apply for remarking. For I didn’t believe it would change anything. Perhaps I was very wrong. For this year, over 90% of the persons who applied for remarking came out successful and were called to the bar. I regretted so much for not taking that chance.
I applied to defer the course again and this time around, I was successful. This one-year leave from the School gave me some peace of mind to put myself together and come back again. It helped me rest both mentally, physically and financially. In the last quarter of 2018, however, I applied to be re-admitted. By this time, the law school itself was tired of the one-year system and had reverted back to the 2-year system. So, the new admission letter told me I will be now part of the two-year system. This was last quarter 2018.
Fortunately, this 2-year system worked better for me. I wrote and passed my first 6 subjects in the first one year, then it took me two years to complete the next 4 subjects. That was because Family Law became difficult to pass again. When the results were posted I had failed in Family Law. I went for my raw scores which showed that I had obtained 48%. I needed 2 marks to make it to 50% to pass. So, I applied for remarking and also registered to re-sit. It is important to state that by this time, the IEC had also reduced remarking fees from GHC 3,000 to GHC 1,500. The remarking results wouldn’t come until I had finished rewriting.
In fact, I was so confident I would make it so I had asked my father to give me money to buy my wigs and gowns ahead of the enrollment, which he gave me part before he sadly passed to eternity. The result of the remarking however was shocking. I only got one mark more and so I had still failed. After teasing me and asking me to find an IT course to do, as he usually does, my father encouraged me to pray and remain steadfast for victory will come one day. And so, on the day I saw that I had passed this family law, three months after he died, my eyes were filled with tears. As I sat in the hall waiting to be called to take my certificate, I kept wiping my tears. Because, I know how happy he would have been at this occasion. I pray the good Lord to keep his soul well till we meet one day.
About 3 weeks after the remarking results had come, the re-sit results also come and I had failed again. This time around 46%. At this time, I had decided that even if I write 100 times and failed, I will apply for remarking for each one of them. So, I did apply for remarking. Lo and behold, the remarking this time around worked. My marks jumped from 46% now to 56%.
On 24th September 2021, I had closed from the day’s work and I was driving home. I hadn’t been on my phone in about 2 hours so when the red light came up, I picked up my phone and went to check my WhatsApp. Then I noticed that a group for Transitional Students was buzzing with messages. I moved to the nearest bus stop and parked, then took in a deep breath and downloaded the PDF to see. To God be the glory, my hopelessness had become a success. I had planned to save up money to get a hostel for 2 weeks before I write family law again in January 2022. That is because, I didn’t believe I was going to get pass 50% after remarking with my 46% mark. For even when I had 48%, remarking brought me only 1 more mark. I shouted, I took a snap short and sent it to 3 people who must see it before I slept. Then I posted these words “To God Be the Glory” on Facebook and with my excitement continued driving home.
Joy came with tears at the same time. I had toiled for this for a decade and a year. I had hoped to pass and make my father proud. But he passed 3 months before I saw this victory.
It has been a decade of faith, hope, determination and resilience.
This has been the dream I have pursued for the longest period of time in my life. I had given up within myself many times. But each time I did, I looked up to the heavens, looked back at where I have come from and I reminded myself that I would rather die trying than to live and not try.
I felt depressed and stressed when I met friends who took other routes and had successes. I asked myself several times. Why didn’t I rather opt to do a Master’s Degree or a PHD? I could be a Lecturer or a consultant and be comfortable. Why didn’t I travel to Europe or America? I could have found some Jobs to do and make money. The Whys were just uncountable in my mind.
I have decided to put this out because I know it will inspire someone out there who is thinking of giving up. Please do not give up. You have the capacity; you have the strength. Each time you fail, just revise your strategy and give it another try. With God, all things are possible.
In all of this, God has used various people to help me cross these difficult waters. It will be very difficult to list all of them without the risk of omitting some. Therefore, I say thank you to all the Family and friends who have supported, prayed, encouraged and heled my hands in so many ways.
Richard Amarh Esq.
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