The School of Law is fulfilling its promise of a development-oriented legal education, Dean Oladejo Justus Olowu told his audience at a recent lawyers’ summit in Port Harcourt.
The University has leveraged the National Universities Commission Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards, the Dean said, to introduce innovative, cutting-edge courses into its bachelor of laws (LLB) program.
The law program, which opened this semester, includes Law, Society and Development, Gender, Law and Development, Energy Law (beyond the conventional “Oil and Gas”), Conflict and Alternative Dispute Resolution, CyberLaw, and Law, Bioethics & Biotechnology. These courses, Professor Olowu assured those attending the Nigerian Bar Association annual conference in Port Harcourt in August, “...will be delivered in their national and comparative dimensions.”
Apart from the novel curriculum content, SoL has also employed innovative teaching methods, including action-based research and problem-solving. “These are only a part of our modest strategy for creating, building, and equipping the all-round lawyer of the 21st Century.”
In his paper at the NBA conference, Dean Olowu took a bird’s eye-view of legal education worldwide and suggested steps toward meeting the growing need for specialist lawyers in Nigeria. He observed that many professionals believe that legal education is in trouble because of the “rapidly increasing number of law degree programs, and the resulting decline in the quality of legal education."
“The echoes of these problems can be heard even today all around Nigeria. Gradually, not resolving them, and the total lack of state support and oversight, have led to the virtual absence of responsibility on the part of institutions of higher education... people are now demanding quality in legal education, which should not only reach a global standard, but also strive for a system of integration with science and technology.”
Olowu also asserted that domestic legal education needs internationalizing because, “The more actively Nigeria integrates with the rest of the world, the more contact the country has with others. It is necessary to provide a system of professional education, including legal, after which the graduates of any institution will be able to apply their knowledge in any corner of the world.”
The Dean said the key to the continued development of Nigeria’s preparation of legal specialists is the establishment of integrated connections with other disciplines, combining legal education with broadened practice, as well as the development of ties among institutions of higher learning and employers. Employers should have direct involvement in shaping the training of their prospective employees.
He urged the government to actively reform professional legal education: foster comprehensive preparation and retraining of legal employees; involve leading practitioners in the education process; create joint educational structures; have the instructors in institutions of higher learning take part in state special-purpose programs, and improve country-wide agreement and regulation of legal education.
By Innocent Nwobodo