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Bar Course Students Overhwelm Law Development Centre :: Uganda Radionetwork

Bar Course Students Overhwelm Law Development Centre

It is feared that the numbers could affect the quality of graduates and eventually the law practice in Uganda.

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The Law Development Centre (LDC) has noticed a surge of students seeking to be enrolled in the bar course fearing that if not regulated, it affect the quality of lawyers.

Established in 1970 with a modest inaugural cohort of just 12 students, the LDC has over the years registered an increase in the number of applicants for the course.  The applicants have reportedly shot up to about 3,000 annually.

LDC Director, Frank Nigel Othembi noted the big numbers pose challenges, especially in ensuring that quantity does not compromise quality. 

He said big numbers are already straining the human and material resources. The big numbers have been due to an increase in the number of Universities that have over the years come up offering law courses.

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Speaking at the 51st graduation ceremony held at the LDC campus in Kampala, Othembi disclosed that the center is contemplating proactive measures to address the surge in applications. 

One potential strategy under consideration is advanced admission, wherein a portion of applicants would be admitted in advance, prioritizing them for subsequent intakes.

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Despite efforts to expand capacity, including the establishment of satellite campuses in Mbarara, and Lira, and plans for a new one in Mbale this year, resource constraints ranging from training facility and staff among others remain a significant challenge for the administration.

Othembi added that while the admission process remains open, stringent standards will be upheld, with only those meeting the requisite criteria progressing through the program.

“Those who deserve to pass, pass. Those who deserve to fail will fail. Marks are awarded by LDC and should never be politicized. Students go all over the country looking for Marks. Don’t panic.

He said LDC has no ill will or malice towards anyone " We can no longer guarantee you the best of the best. We get complaints about the quality of those who have passed - imagine the complaints we would have about those who are still with us,” he said.

He added that; “As an institution that teaches law and has among the best legal brains in the country we are very careful that all our actions are carried out in accordance with the law. When we get it wrong it is not to do with the law. I understand your frustrations with academic challenges but follow our well laid out rules and procedures and advice.

Recently, Annet Karungi, the head of the Bar course at LDC, urged the Law Council to initiate an investigation into the authenticity of degrees issued by specific universities.

Francis Atoke, the Solicitor General said the Law Development Centre (LDC) must manage the surge in applicant numbers and prioritize only those who can receive the highest quality of education. 

He warns that exceeding capacity could compromise educational standards, especially given the limitations of available resources.

Expressing concern over the rising incidence of professional misconduct within the legal profession, Atoke underscored the crucial role of rigorous training at the LDC in mitigating such issues. 

He cautioned that high student numbers could overwhelm staff and professional advisors, undermining their ability to ensure that graduates meet the requisite standards.

He said the legal profession demands exceptional discipline, necessitating the LDC to implement rigorous screening measures to weed out candidates who may not meet the required standards.

, Justice Irene Mulyagonja, Justice Irene Mulyagonja, Court of Appeal Judge and Chairperson of the Uganda Law Council urged the grandaunts to focus on the importance of excellence and ethical conduct in the legal profession.

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She acknowledged the challenges posed by the escalating numbers not only for the Law Development Centre (LDC) but also for the Law Council, particularly in the process of admitting new attorneys to the bar.

Justice Mulyagonja noted that delays in the admission process have been observed, with some graduates from the previous year still awaiting their licenses, emphasizing the need for patience among this year's graduates.

The Bar course is an intensive program designed to prepare lawyers who have graduated from various law schools for their roles as legal practitioners. 

It focuses, among others, on honing skills in drafting and interpreting legal documents and materials, to cultivate a deep understanding of their practical application.

Joel Ssenyonyi, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, the National Resistance Movement Deputy Secretary General, Rose Namayanja, and Hussein Hudu, the RCC Masaka City said the bar course was rigorous and demanding. The said the challenges of the course are outweighed by its value.

Namayanja suggests that professionals from other fields could benefit from an equivalent of the bar course to better prepare them for their respective careers

LDC Public Relations Officer, Frank Obonyo said the 51st graduation which was held in parts at the three campuses this year will have graduated 1077 students.

He noted an improvement in the institution's passing rate to 51 percent after students sat for supplementary as provided for by the rules governing the bar course, up from the previous year's 44 percent. (a total of 2087 students sat for the bar course)

“The general performance is good taking into account different factors that influence performance. But students passing in the first class have decreased. We have 58 first classes compared to last year's 130,” Obonyo said.

On Friday, LDC passed out a total of 868 grandaunts with 16 receiving Diplomas in Human Rights, 279 receiving Diplomas in Law, and 573 completing the Bar Course.

LDC decentralized its graduation ceremonies, which now take place at different campuses. On 12th of April, one ceremony was held at the Mbarara Campus, the 19th was for the Kampala Campus, and on the 26th of April, a graduation ceremony will take place at the Lira Campus.

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