Access to Law School an immense problem; expansion needed – Deputy A-G-designate

Deputy Attorney-General and Minister-designate for Justice, Mr. Godfred Dame says there is urgent need to expand access to legal education in the country.

Answering questions before the Appointments Committee of Parliament, the private legal practitioner said access to legal education has been an immense problem.

He said whilst many universities and other institutions have been licensed to offer Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) programmes, the Ghana School of Law remains physically incapable of accommodating the large numbers of LLB holders desiring to pursue the professional law course.

“Part of the problem is also due to the manner in which legal educations is regulated because you have those universities which are offering LLB doing so by virtue of having received accreditation to do the programme but the law profession itself is regulated  by the Legal Profession Act (LPA) which stipulates that the General Legal Council shall have oversight responsibility for legal education and they have as a matter of fact  delegated that function to the Board of Legal Education by virtue of its powers under the LPA (Act 32). So you find a situation where the Law School itself is fully managed by the General Legal Council but the General Legal Council does not have as much control over the universities which are offering LLB,” he said.

He said a two-pronged solution – statutory and physical space – is required to fix the problem of perennial anxiety by LLB holders scrambling to enter the Law School.

“I understand that the Ghana School of Law has acquired a very vast expanse of land around Legon, Accra, which it intends to develop into a law village and that will actually enhance physical space that it can use to also boost access to the Ghana School of Law,” he revealed.

Mr. Dame expressed a view which he admitted did not align with that of his boss, the Attorney-General, Gloria Akuffo.

His view was that the current situation where a plethora of institutions are flooding the market with LLB graduates is not sustainable.

“The access to the LLB programme has to be commensurate with access to the Ghana School of Law – there is no point granting access for a person to pursue LL.B, [that is] Bachelor of Laws and then that person will become hindered in terms of his or her access to the Ghana School of Law.

“And again it has consequences on the quality of lawyers that are being produced because you find, with all due respect, all manner of persons having the opportunity of studying for the LL.B and then later on, also having the opportunity of becoming lawyers, thereby diminishing the quality of law practice in Ghana,” he stated.

Chairman of the Appointments Committee, Mr. Joseph Osei-Owusu, himself a lawyer, said it didn’t make sense to him that every Ghanaian had to come to Accra to obtain legal education.

“Why should I live, grow up, in Sunyani, obtain a degree from KNUST and have to come to Accra for the law school? Why can’t there be a law school in Ashanti region, in Bono Ahafo region, in the Northern region, in Volta region? he asked.

He said the General Legal Council could just maintain standards and be the certification body so that regardless of where a person studies, once they meet the standards, they qualify to practice as lawyers.

Joining the discussion, Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu asked the nominee if legal education should not be demystified.

“Mr Chairman, I totally agree with you, legal education ought to be demystified. I’m just concerned about the preservation of standards,” Mr. Dame asserted.

Accounting Professor, Stephen Kwaku Asare has been campaigning for the liberalisation of legal education in Ghana.

He filed a case at the Supreme Court challenging the legality of the General Legal Council’s restrictions on the admission of students into the Ghana School of Law.

That case has been pending for some time now.

Meanwhile every year, thousands of Ghanaians holding LL.Bs from local and international schools scramble for the few places available at the Ghana School of Law.