Things They Haven’t Told You About Studying Law.
My dear friend Qatahar, I heard the news about your admission to the noble course and I was really excited about your achievement. Finally! You’re just 5 years away from attaining your childhood (if not your father’s) dream. I know you asked for this pep talk a while ago but having failed to make the time to meet you in person, I’ve decided to write you this letter. I’ve sent it open, I hope you won’t mind.
In this, I give you a sneak-peek into what you’re going to experience- if the things I’ve heard and witnessed are anything to go by. I’ll try to concentrate on what you may not have been told (purposely or inadvertently) by the people who encouraged you take the path of the learned fellows. You’ll have to forgive me if this letter comes off as a little bit sore; but it’s intended to help you brace yourself and not to discourage you (who would so cruel as to do that to an enthusiastic young man?)
When you begin your first semester, you’re going to feel like a demigod of sorts (if you don’t already for having been admitted) and it may occasionally skip your mind that there have been first year law students in Makerere University for the last 44 years. You may not intend it, but you may find yourself acting snobbish towards your colleagues in other faculties. Every time somebody asks you what course you’re doing, you’ll feel a momentary I’m-glad-you-asked flicker in your gut before you respond smugly; “Law, I’m pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Law.” If you’re very keen, you’ll notice that your parents are equally excited and respond to similar questions in reference to their son with the same narcissism.
If you’re smart, organized and as diligent as you need to be, you will go through the four years smoothly and graduate with a second class degree lower (you would have to be exceptionally smart to hit an upper). But if you don’t have the self-drive for law, or if you’re the kind that have to read like a Kitende student before you can cram the little things, then alas! The law will snuff the little life out of you and you may not have much time to remember that you used to be good at something at some point (being a good writer that you are). But in 2016 (when my first born starts school at 3) you will finally graduate with your LLB and your parents will throw you a big party and even buy you a car (if they can afford the generosity).
What you may not realize at that point however, is that the journey will only have started. With your LLB, you’re only as good as your friends with BBA or those other courses you despise (only that they may already be working) because you would need to go through the abyss a.k.a LDC (Bar Course) before you can sincerely respond to the flatters of “counsel” as your friends will mockingly or ignorantly refer to you.
Chances are that by the time you realize this, you’ll have been humbled by the cruel reality that without a puppet master in the field, no one will employ you in a law firm-(the most popular avenue) for any remuneration (which tends to be lunch in most cases). I hope this will influence you to make the right decision to sit home and read for your Bar Course pre-entry exam unlike your friends who will be misled to waste their time and parent’s money on transport to “work” where they’ll push paper under the illusion that they’re gaining legal experience.
I know it’s kinda early to tell you some of these things as a lot could change between now and 2016. But while preparing for that Bar Course pre-entry exam, read and discuss like your life depends on it (because it does). Have it at the back of your mind that you can’t afford to be among the ¾ who will fail to make the 50% pass mark and waste time and money suing LDC in a suit that will be thrown out of court with costs. But if and when you make the cut, you’ll look at how many of your friends didn’t make it and feel so proud of yourself like passing the pre-entry means passing the Bar Course.
When you start the Bar Course, prepare for the worst time of your life (I’m sorry I have no kind words for this part). Anyone who has been through that god-forsaken shithole will tell you that the 9 months you’ll spend there will trump the 4 years you spent in Law School. At some point (probably a few days towards oral exams) life will become too hard, even worse when you think about the scornful chuckles you’ll attract from your friends who didn’t make it in case you get discontinued. These traumatizing fears may even attract ridiculous fantasies like “I wish there could be a coup to overthrow this Museveni government, and then LDC would close due to the political instability and we could go home.” But guess what? There will be no political instability; the opposition will be crushed again like they were last year (to my disappointment). Just cling to the thought that you’ve come this far and it’s just a matter of months before you start minting millions (as you may be misled to think).
But when you finally make it through the June sifter to 4th term (with or without a few retakes); after you’ve finished the written practical examinations, hope you’re one of the lucky 10% who will get cushy jobs in banks and the top law and auditing firms in the country. These will receive a decent salary plus inviting employment benefits. But if you’re not so lucky, then that will be the beginning of a long and strenuous rat race as you wait for your results. I’ll unveil details of these tribulation times of hand to mouth in my next letter to you as this is already too long. For now, be happy that you’ve joined the queue and do your best.
Read Part II here.