Quality Legal Education Is the Bedrock for an Effective and Efficient Judiciary-Justice Theodora Wood

Quality Legal education is the bedrock for an effective and efficient judiciary, Chief Justice Mrs. Georgina Theodora Wood has declared. “Senior Ghanaian judges complain that the quality of legal education is suffering a nose-dive. Especially judges in the senior judiciary are not quite happy with the standards in our courts”. The Chief Justice was speaking at the 2017 African Law Schools Forum at the Coconut Grove Hotel, Elmina. The theme for the forum is “Decolonizing Legal Education In Africa”. It is being held under the auspices of the International Association of Law Schools, which has a membership of more than 150 Law Schools from all over the world. The mission of the association is to bring these schools together to improve legal education globally. Most importantly, it is trying to prepare Law students to work in every part of the world since the world is now interconnected. The association is divided into four that is Americas, Africa, Asia- Pacific and Europeans regions. The Chief Justice there was the need to be concerned about the falling standards of legal training because “we draw our judges from our pool of lawyers, so if we get good lawyers we are bound get good judges’. Mrs. Wood intimated that the law served as the fundamental principle of civil society since it was the effective, efficient and proper application of rule of law in governance that leads to development in every sphere of life be it economic, social or political. She stressed that good legal education should teach, model and shape a student’s sense of moral and ethical responsibilities as someone who has been trained in the law. “The ethical grounding for me is the most important element of legal education. Judges need it, practitioners need to have sound and ethical moral grounding”. “So perhaps as legal educators you need it more than anybody else, because if we succeed in providing for ourselves highly ethical legal educators, quite a number of the problems we face will pale into insignificance”. On protocol admission into law Schools, the Chief Justice challenged legal educators to keep to admission requirement to ensure that the standards of legal practice were not compromised in the country. She said Justice “knows no protocol, so for me I will highlight this element, we need to hold each other’s hand and encourage ourselves to build a strong ethical system by ensuring that we ourselves do take the initial approach”. Another matter of concern according to the Chief Justice was the lack of strong faculty in Ghana, “saying these weak systems affect other areas”. She told participants of the forum that trial judges were being engaged as lecturers in Law Schools. She indicated that the General Legal Council has decided that no trial judge was permitted to serve as part time lecturer in a private university. This was because it violated constitutional principles and as such judges were paid as full time staff by government and also for the fact that it affects output of judges. She however explained that Appellate court judges have been permitted to do so because they do not sit on daily basis. “We have written to all law faculties not to entertain judges in their institutions. I will like to encourage our legal educators that they lead the way and we follow”. On his part, the acting Dean of the Faculty of Law UCC, Prof. Obeng Mireku said they were concerned about imposition of Western legal concepts which have all along been used to teach and produce lawyers and judges. “Lawyers and Judges in Africa have challenges in their work, yet their mindset and training do not consider the indigenous laws. We have sacrificed them for laws that come from Europe and therefore we are concerned as Law Deans in Africa to have a relook at the curriculum and how we teach it. We need to promote African values that have hitherto been ignored or distorted because of the Eurocentric nature of the legal curricula we inherited,” Prof. Mireku explained. The acting Dean said they had secured the consent of the judiciary who regularly give them inputs into what they expect from the law graduates that are being trained in the law schools. Prof. Mireku said it was not belated to have these changes done, because if they were not immediately dealt with, it would be very difficult to get rid of them. “Ghana for example has inherited the English legal system since the bond of 1844, that bond was the first step to impose the English Common law tradition into Ghana at the expense of the indigenous legal thought processes”. He noted. “Although there are differentiations, what we need to do as legal educators is to identify the common trends and also appreciate the differentiated practices and put all these together and sanitize them because some of them are not consistent with our situation, for example the bill of rights”.