The goals of the externship programme are stated in your externship handbook. The people over at law school must be listening because last year it was in hard copy and in some campuses people had to pay 500 naira to get one.
You already know that time is running out. Some people already have a countdown to bar finals ticking somewhere. Those people may be considered wise. And I want you to learn something from them.
The truth is that after externship you have practically no time to study. In the unusual event that you wasted the entire lecture period and Easter holidays on useless things (thus forgetting to study for the exam), it is not too late.
You need to understand that this externship is your last chance. So, tell us uncle P…how do we make good use of this last chance?
- MAXIMISE YOUR TIME
You need to cover as much ground as possible. I won’t deceive you- even if you’ve covered the syllabus before, you may discover that the workload is suddenly hefty. Do not panic…simply maximize your time.
- Get to court on time so you can be settled
- Take your summary notes with you everywhere. In traffic, in restaurants, in court, in the lobby…take your notes with you. You’ll notice that the more often you study, the better your memory gets. Sometimes you may even remember the entire page as if it were your family portrait!
- Observe court procedure…how do they announce appearances? How do you move a motion? How do you request an adjournment? All these questions will be asked during your portfolio Assessment.
- Avoid useless discussions that will not add any value to you. This is not a time to hang out with your girlfriend/fiancée…definitely not a time for a girls’ night out. This is the time to study and study hard.
- SET ACHIEVABLE GOALS
A lot of people deceive themselves by setting unrealistic targets. For example, you decide to finish the syllabus for civil litigation in 3 days. Or you want to revise every course every day. That’s just unrealistic, except you were born a genius and can handle the intense amount of new information.
How many weeks do you have? You want my advice? There are 18 weeks of lectures, and 5 courses. About 90 topics you have to cover. If the whole externship period is 3 months, you’ll need to cover about 30 topics a month. So if you cover 1 topic per day and understand it totally…you’ll be good to go by the time bar finals come around.
It depends on you. How much can you realistically take?
- TEST YOURSELF EVERY WEEK
- Have weekly appraisals. Check how much you’ve progressed. You shouldn’t fail a test more than twice. If you do, it means there’s something fundamental you still haven’t understood. By testing yourself, you can know which areas you’re weak (and need more attention). For example, because of my weekly tests I discovered that Corporate law was my weakest course. While I could score 70/100 in the other 4 subjects, I would have been lucky to score 40/100 in Corporate. SO I devoted more time to Corporate law in my studying. And thank God I did.
- Revise your Drafts Every Week. Your drafts often carry up to 50% of the marks in any exam. Practice drafting Deeds and lease agreements, Originating Summons, Charges, Writs, Death sentence Clauses, Letters and legal opinions and so on. They literally mean the difference between passing and failing your bar finals!
Revise your drafts until you can recite them without looking; Revise until you can write out any clause at ANY time. What I did was that during my externship, I made a new book strictly for drafts; Property Law, Criminal Litigation, Corporate Law, Civil Litigation and Law in Practice. I still have that book today and if I ever get stuck all I have to do is run there!
- ENGAGE FELLOW EXTERNS IN (ACADEMIC) DISCUSSIONS
Don’t be selfish or shy. Discuss what you’ve read with other law school student whether they’re from your campus or not. Don’t be surprised that what you find so difficult may be a piece of cake for other people. And what THEY are praying and fasting to understand…would appear very obvious to you. Swap ideas, test each other.
Sometimes someone may come up with a better way of tackling a question, and it could save your life. For example it was during externship that the Corporate Affairs Commission changed the Companies Regulation; they changed the incorporation/post-incorporation forms (for example particulars of secretary became CAC 2.1). If I wasn’t talking with my colleagues I surely would have missed out on that change.
Many others did.
- Seek advice from those who successfully scaled the bar exams
By reading this you’re already on the right path
The Idoma people have a saying, that “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan”
The Igbo people have a saying, “he who asks questions will never get lost”
In the multitude of counsel, there is safety (Proverbs)
Find out from people who did well- how they studied, what they avoided, what they ate, which books they used. There are some battles that are won by experience and strategy and not by strength. Your bar finals are exactly that sort of battle.
You’d be foolish to listen to tales by people who failed the exams; people who scraped a conditional pass. I believe they can teach you how to NOT fail the exams. If you want to do well, hang out with successful people.
As iron sharpens Iron, so does a man sharpen the countenance of his friends.
- PRACTICE WITH PAST QUESTIONS
I think this is where the secret of reducing anxiety lies. While law school does not repeat questions, you can become familiar with how the questions are phrased. Most of the exam questions are contextual; the age of answering direct questions died with the University system.
NOW you have to prepare your mind to reason the way the examiner does. Just like we understand God more by studying the Bible, you understand the examiner by studying what he’s written before. Study the marking schemes and know how much each question carries. Know which questions tend to reappear often. For example, in Criminal Litigation you can NEVER write any exam without drafting charges; In Civil Litigation you MUST fill out a writ of summons and draft a motion; In Property Law you MUST draft a Deed of Assignment; In Corporate law you MUST draft a resolution and fill CAC Incorporation Forms…you simply cannot avoid them! they are compulsory questions!
Your practice will help train your mind to understand, recognize and deliverexactly what the examiner is looking for in a question. A time will come when you can recognize patterns; keywords begin to trigger answers from your brain…because they are familiar.
JUST A NOTE OF WARNING: some past questions may have answers that are now wrong because of a change in syllabus, or a law that has been updated. Simply update the questions with the current laws. When I was in school, The High Court of Lagos state amended its Civil Procedure Rules when we had already gone half of the session. That changed everything! We had to update our notes AND the past questions too.
- SPEND TIME WITH GOD
I always save the best for last. Because God was the best part for me.
There are natural benefits of being close to God. The act of doing something consistently makes your mind sharper. Your memory becomes sharper when you memorize scripture. You’ll discover that memorizing scripture makes it easy to memorize sections of the law.
But Beyond that, there’s MORE. As a Child of God, the Holy Spirit whispers things into your ears that the ordinary man cannot hear. Others out there may be studying hard, but one word from God can lead you in the right direction. While others struggle with ill-health you remain healthy. While others are struggling to understand, the Holy Spirit becomes your personal teacher. When others are suffering memory loss, your own memory is sharp like the blade of a Suya man’s knife.
I tested it and my friends tested it. We’re here today, holders of Second-Class( Upper Division) degrees. The only person from my Campus who made a first Class, Kuti was a “fanatical” Christian who stuck to God. The people that mocked us for being so “religious” narrowly made a pass degree. I knew those guys were far more intelligent than I was ordinarily…but I had the element they did not. I had the ears of the God who knows the contents of a man’s heart before he thinks it.
There were times when I heard God say clearly “study this section”. I’d tell my friends and they would study too. It definitely would show up in the exams! There were times when I wanted to study a topic and I’d hear a voice tell me “don’t bother reading that. it’s not going to show up in the exam”. In summary, the only surprise in my Bar finals was how easy it was. It proved to me that I truly do have more understanding than my Teachers because the Spirit of God, God’s Holy Spirit lives in me!
The Grace of God made my effort worth the While. As my Friend Owanate Max-Harry Says,
“The grace of God is like throwing stones. Your human strength can only take you so far; The Grace of God gives extra lift to your stone and lands it where no one could have thrown it. But you must throw your stone for God to do something with it!”
Don’t be left on the fence with people who have no clue where they’re going. You need to be on the winning side!
THOSE WHO KNOW THEIR GOD SHALL BE STRONG AND DO EXPLOITS!