Kim Kardashian has an easier path to being a lawyer. 1000s of LLB Holders in Ghana do not. By Shafic Osman

Oh me I know a lot of things oo. A lawyer must always be abreast with things. I have an Instagram account. I even know about the Kardashians.

This was the only time I heard the name “Kardashians” in a law class and it happened to be a Torts class with Kwame Gyan (Esq). Ordinarily, you will not expect to hear that name in a space like a law class. Maybe if you did, it might be strewn in after a convoluting discussion on how OJ Simpson’s acquittal was led by the patriarch of the Kardashian clan after which a detour will lead us into the jarring world of reality TV. But no, this had nothing to do with the race tinged criminal case of OJ. It was an out of the blue reference to the millionaire reality TV star.  That should have been the last time the name Kardashian and Law were to mix in a discussion on the law, at least in Ghana. Today, those two have popped up again in several legal circles in Ghana.

On whatsapp statuses and Facebook profiles of some law students and legal practitioners in Ghana, news clippings of Kim Kardashian talking about her enrollment in a program that grants her a pathway to becoming a lawyer by 2022 is all the buzz. The story has it that after working on a clemency appeal for 63 year old Alice Marie Johnson who had been imprisoned since 1996 on non-violent charges, Kim realized the potency of being a lawyer. While interacting with President Donald Trump on how to reform the criminal justice system, all she could offer during the deliberations were what she calls the human side of it all. But everyone else can give the human side including lawyers who in addition, have the advantage of also giving the legal side of it.

Of course you do not need to be an LL.B holder (or JD, in the case of the USA) to opine constructively on matters relating to criminal justice. But wielding such a degree gives you a track to becoming a lawyer and eventually, someone well placed to actively and directly effect whatsoever change you deem necessary within the framing of the law. Interestingly however, Kim Kardashian does not need to hold a JD to be eligible to sit for the California bar and become a bona fide lawyer. Being an apprentice at a law firm for four years while taking some elementary law classes suffices. While this was the route prior to the growth of law schools around Common law countries, four states in the United States of America continue to have a route to being a lawyer that can be devoid of law school  (California, Vermont, Virginia and Washington).

Ordinarily, it will not be shocking that the genuine and selfless intentions of a woman who wants to help marginalized communities is enabled by the system of her country. People who profess a desire to move out of their privileged positions and towers of comfort in other to help others ought to be afforded a means to do this.  In an increasingly classist world where access to common goods such as justice continues to elude a lot, a moral duty can be said to exist which compels persons in charge of the relevant systems to create these enabling systems. Law provides a sure and steady means towards fighting back against the class divide that makes access to justice illusionary for so many. Kim Kardashian recognized this and decided to pursue a career in law despite how exacting it will be on her given her celebrity status.

When you apply to enter an LL.B program in Ghana, one of the first things you are told to not say during an interview is how becoming a lawyer will make you a voice for the voiceless. At first, it might sound like a deliberate attempt to kill every iota of altruism in you. But months into your law degree, you will personally come to the realization that the primary incentive to be lawyer cannot be sustained in altruism. At best, it is self-sustaining when placed within the parochial interest of the individual. Making lawyer money, getting the societal status that comes with it etc. are motivating enough. Very few law students will tell you they stay up late so they can one day help a poor cocoa farmer, without taking a penny, win his case against a multinational company trying to adversely possess his land. Yes, most lawyers in Ghana engage in pro-bono work but that is not where they got their drive to become lawyers from.

This belief that law holds some key to a door of bountiful blessings is held by thousands of young people across the country as evidenced by the ever increasing number of law students at the faculty level across the country. Add to that number, the many students who graduated from their LL.B studies but currently do not find themselves on the path towards obtaining the professional training which crowns their legal education.

Since the Ghana School of Law started restricting entry into its campuses via what could best be described as a quota system, more and more students continue to be caught up in this net which wields in 1000s of students each year, whose legal education falls into abeyance. Despite repeated calls from student leaders and faculty members across the various schools which offer the LL.B program, the status quo remains and entry into the famed and dreaded Makola remains the preserve of a few. Even though the previous law (L.I 1296) on professional legal education did not grant the GLC the power to conduct entrance exams, the council did so and quickly passed a 2017 legislation (Legal Profession Regulation 2017) which retroactively, gave it the power to run the entrance exam.

Standards are necessary and must always be upheld. The argument therefore cannot be against the usage of some metric to determine who gets admitted into the professional program. The argument however, can be against a system which seems to be based on a quota system. As such, even in a situation where there is a 100% passage right, not everyone will get admitted into the professional program. Why? Because the three campuses for the professional program cannot accommodate the swelling number of students graduating each year from over 12 LL.B faculties around the country plus the backlog of students who were previously not granted admission.

It is very telling that in a country like the USA where lawyers are always in supply, an easier path exists for more persons to enter the legal space. So much so that, you can still become a lawyer even without an actual academic program within a tertiary institution. All Kim Kardashian needs is to apprentice for four years and take elementary law classes. In Ghana, that is not enough. Regardless of how well you excelled in your LL.B study, you are still subjected to a one paper based on 10 subjects exam which essentially determines the usefulness of your entire LL.B study. You are then subjected to further grueling processes during your professional study, if you are lucky to be one of the nearly 500 out of close to 2000 students who apply. You are for instance, asked to answer four questions out of 5 in a particular subject but questions 1, 2, 3 and 4 are all compulsory. Now take that for an easier path to being a lawyer!