BY: Juma Mabor Marial, Kenya, OCT. 10/2012, SSN; My recent trip to the Republic of South Sudan enabled me brainstorm with few legal minds in the area of legal system in our country and when I coupled these deliberations and compared them with the ones that I got from some big persons at the concerned institution, I came to the conclusion that there is a lot more that need to be done in order to establish an effective and efficient legal system in our country.
Why do I have these convictions, to lawyers and other legal trainees, the answers here are obvious. For instance, I graduated with a bachelor of laws degree recently and because I intend to practice Law, I must undertake specialized legal training such that I can obtain an advocate-practicing certificate and be relevant in the market with professional authority to give legal service to the clients that may desire my legal advices.
This training is realized through established institutions like School of Law where Lawyers go for specialize and practical training after obtaining their first degrees in Laws.
For Example, closer Home, Uganda had established an institution called Uganda has established an institution called Law Development Centre (LDC) where their graduands of Laws goes for training so that their enrollment into the Roll of advocates is guaranteed. This enables the country in question enhance competency in the legal profession as well as minimizing unnecessary influx of unqualified personnel into the profession.
In Kenya, graduands go to Kenya School of Law for advocate training after obtaining their bachelor degrees and one year into the training, they again go for a pupilage for six months after which, they can petition the Chief Justice of their Judiciary so that they are enrolled into the Roll of advocates and becomes full time trained and practicing advocates that are qualified to give legal service to their clients.
The same is the situation in the United States of America where getting to the bar in order to practice law is even very restricted so that for any advocate to practice law, they must take three years of training beside their initial attainment of Laws degree and this makes it more longer than the two East African countries that I have given as examples above.
This is the common procedure followed in most if not all of the countries all over the world and the whole policy behind this bureaucracy in the profession is to ensure that the qualification as advocate and service delivery are not compromised.
Now, after seeing the above examples and contrasting it with our own legal system in the Republic of South Sudan, then one must be assured and convinced that we are not an inch closer to the said systems let alone trying to be in the same level to qualifications with the countries that I have mentioned above.
Why do I say so, my conversation with the few legal minds and the leadership that is supposed to establish and facilitate the admission of advocates to the bar conclude that: one, if one graduated with a law degree like myself, the procedure is to present my degree to the ministry of justice which will in turn attaches me to a practicing advocate and after six or nine months, the said advocate will recommend me to the ministry of justice and I will be issued with a license to practice.
Two, that there is a proposed Legal training institute where legal personnel will be trained after their first qualifications and this would be equivalent to the school of law in other jurisdictions where the bar exams will be given. The same institution will also be a center for training judges and other legal personnel. However, the only problem with this institute is that it is still just but in the paper and it has not been established for the reasons best known to the policymakers.
Third, that one can study for six or so months, be given bar exams, and after passing them, then he/she can be given the license to practice but the puzzle about this and my colleagues did not tell me is, which exam body gives this bar examinations?
With the above three options of venturing into practice in our country, I came to the conclusion that we do not have a legal system in place because take number one where you are recommended by a practicing advocate after being attached to his/her law firm, this is not a good procedure because, legally, one does not go for pupilage before training which is what the intention of the first option tries to portrays.
This option is likely to be abused by those who want their relatives to practice by taking them into their law firms and recommending them for practice even when they lack the necessary skills and knowledge to do so.
Secondly, the ministry of justice only recommends the enrollment of an advocate to be enrolled by the chief justice to the bar and does not have any legitimate powers to give licenses to the advocates to practice, thirdly, the issuance of license to lawyers who are untrained but only attached to law firms for purposes of pupilage or favors is an upside down procedure and is tantamount to producing sub standard legal services to the country and an abuse to legal profession.
On the other hand, the second option of establishing legal training institute is a viable one although the name needs to be reviewed and a very straightforward legal framework put in place to hurry up its establishment. This is the only institution where efforts will be made to downsize the unscrupulous advocates who are the beneficiaries of the first option and usher in the crops of qualified advocates.
The question of studying for six months and sitting for bar exams needed to be qualified and efforts made to associate the same with the Legal Training Institute such that an examination body is known directly as an institution and not to keep the Lawyers in suspense as to which body offers them examinations to enables them practice.
Surmounting these challenges:
The only mechanisms through which this quagmire can be overcome is by promptly establishing a Law Training Centre where some of us who intend to practice can go for specialized training, secondly, the ministry of justice as an institution within the executive should only be limited to the powers of recommendations and the final enrollment of advocates be left to the prerogatives of the Judiciary, thirdly, the question of giving lawyers licenses before they have undertaken an advocate training should be discouraged or in fact, cancelled if the country intends to have a strong, vigorous, competitive and viable legal system among other family of nations.
Fourthly, the Law Society of South Sudan has a critical role to play by ensuring that all the lawyers, advocates and any legal practitioners have their names and any necessary details about themselves recorded with the society such that it can be able to check and supervise their activities and qualifications, in fact this is an institution that should be in charge of issuing, renewing and even withdrawing advocates licenses and give safeguards on other ethics of the profession.
In conclusion, an effective legal system in any country is the cornerstone of nation building because with it, principles of the rule of law, democracy, human rights, constitutionalism, checks and balances, transparency and accountability are guaranteed and therefore the realization of these great principles is anchored squarely on having qualified and professionals in each institution and most particularly in the institutions concerned with the interpretation of laws like the judiciary.
It is therefore my utmost believe that the concerned authorities will heed to these opinions and do what is necessary with regards to the question of establishing an effective and efficient legal system in our nascent country.
Juma Mabor Marial just graduated with a Bachelor of Laws Degree from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Kenya