Things They Haven’t Told You About Studying Law.

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.

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50 thoughts on “Things They Haven’t Told You About Studying Law.

  1. webale, kuba teka on notice much earlier, so tebakwekwase, thanks a lit for the proper diction and choice of words, its a well thought out letter

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  2. hahaha! i loved the portion about the description of LDC! wonderful choice of words and couldnt think of anyother way to put it…the innuendos that can be attached to the messages in the brackets!well i think it is better for one to read this letter after LDC its more hilarious then.

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  3. pheew! am glad i finally read the letter after four hours of frightening hold backs for that fear of distress, but this surely is one blog post i will read every other day i encounter hardships (like am already doing) in pursuing the law degree, I don’t know how you mastered the art of reading minds but i surely need lessons in that, when i finally become a lawyer, i’ll call you (if you still have ounces of breath then) to give testimonials on how inspiring you were….but it doesn’t end here tough, i will stalk you more when the going gets tough for lessons.

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  4. Thanx 4 that piece of information matter of fact that it kinda didn’t have the kind words one would have wanted 2 hear……..however this really holds 2 much substance 2 shunned…so for all u going down that specific path…please fasten ur seatbelts…..u wouldnt want to go through the wind shield wen the car jerks….thank u ROGER

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    1. Rogers, this is spot on. The said pride that comes with announcing that you are a law student is diminished at around that time when the results are about to be released. You almost don’t want anyone to know that you are expecting the LDC results. You exceptionally captured the harrowing tales and I can’t wait for Part 2. Kudos!!!

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      1. [The said pride that comes with announcing that you are a law student is diminished at around that time when the results are about to be released. You almost don’t want anyone to know that you are expecting the LDC results.]

        The horror! You even fear your own phone around that time, every time you feel it vibrate you get a mini heart attack.

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  5. Reblogged this on APENYO and commented:
    My entire HEL/D class was obsessed with law. We were told we wouldn’t amount to much if we failed/ refused to get into law school. I rebelled against my father and my mind by wiggling my way into Mass Communication (thank the Lord). Balamaga has written a sad and amusing post about what it really means to be a law student in Uganda. Enjoy.

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  6. Loved it. Good diction i must say…and funny! as for the message i hope he gets the courage to face it all coz one thing u forgot to tell him is that its an interesting journey with quite interesting people!!! i say its worth the risk…still thinking…tho

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    1. Of course it CAN be done. People have been through the system and passed. But the degree of emotional turmoil is what people on the outside don’t know about. That moment when you stand before the notice board and see that 36 students out of 500+ passed, 100 dismissed and 400 have retakes to do. In the end less than 200 of them graduate. [this was in 2010/2011, before introduction of pre-entry exams]

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  7. well i can say i didn’t expect anything “sugary” even before reading this post but all i can say is thanks for the insight.This coming from a “counsel” who decided to enroll at UCU, riding against all stereotypes met on the way.And talking about the sure footedness passing those interviews gave me,ooh boy! u couldn’t be more right.The light and kinda humorous diction used does however help the “i-know-i-can” feeling.

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  8. impressive piece, but there is always a way out with life’s choices i skipped the “shit hole” – am earning enough with just an LLB

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  9. Man eloquently written ! Am sure there are multitudes that will agree. The experience of law school in more ways than one is shared by all even when some dare to say different ! It’s like you were in my head. Brilliant mzee balamaga

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  10. Rogers…can’t agree with you more. we are so disillusioned when going thru law sch. then at the end of it all you find that your passions are so else where!!! like you, another TB or Earnest Bazanye in the making!
    cant wait for part 2

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  11. Rogers I have always known that you’re a Lawyer but I never thought you could write this better. This is my first time to visit your site and I should say I am really impressed; the topics and content are surely great and I know it could get better. I’m not a Lawyer, not even close to being one. But if there is one thing I am passionate about, it’s law. So Counsel Rogers, if I got a case and I need some legal help and I reach out for your services could you take it down for me? Blessings.

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  12. I’m in F.5 and i want to be a lawyer. Rogers makes law studying seem like a deppresingly mind unnerving slide mountain climb. Is there any thing more to what we watch on Boston Legal ?

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    1. Look, I didn’t intend to scare you away from the profession. But these are facts that no one ever told me before I started pursuing law and I’m sure a lot more people like you have no idea what you’re gearing you. I just wanted to reveal the side of law that you don’t see in Boston Legal.

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  13. Rogers, I was happy about my LLB admission in 2006. I did read law for two years and I asked myself; what new thing can I add that isn’t there in the legal fraternity? I looked for that answer and mid semester, I went to Sylvia Tamale and handed her a letter to be discontinued for LLB despite having a CGPA of 3.2. I later enrolled for BBA-Marketing, done with it and I enjoy what I am doing.
    Point is, some people enroll for these courses for prestige purposes and if they discover their interests before filling those JAB forms, they better.

    Lastly, most of people who were in my discussion group didn’t make it to LDC. Only two girls out of 7 people in the group. The other 4 are still trying to get to LDC, two years later. So much for legal practice certificate!

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  14. Well written post! Quite insightful. I suppose studying for law has its highs but one must know the lows too, in order to be prepared. I laughed terribly hard at the part that says, ‘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.”’ I was happy to learn that I am not the only one with such fantasies. Right now, I am wishing that the boss would be abducted (nothing against him as he is quite the nice boss) by say M23 rebels, for a month or more, so that everything would halt and all eyes would be on getting him rescued. In which case this annoying project I am working on, in which I am doomed – whether it succeeds or fails – would have to stop until he is returned and hopefully by that time, the project would be in someone else’s hands. Wishful thinking I tell you. But yes, well written post!

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  15. Rogers, love you man, your letter read like the story of my life, and by the way make no mistake i had that exact fantasy of a coup de’tat playing out in this Uganda of ours fraught with fears of near certain death should things not go my way after the oral exams. Then when i eulogize on my first job, makes me think you had it better, had to make do with UGX 20,000/= weekly allowance and UGX 150,000 per month while commuting from Pearl view to a Law firm opposite UMI, all on the account of my female Ugandan Indian employer, who had no qualms barking down on you in the presence of clients, lawyers, support staff and all sundry et’cetra, you name it. Then talk about traumatizing phone calls, it never ends even when your waiting for the LDC results, my Indian employers office phone would often cause me to skip a heat beat/have irregular ones to the point of literally needing a pace maker. For sure there are times i thought i needed one for straight eight months. Roger without being too wordy must say you ought to write one too about the meanness of senior lawyers out there toward there colleagues, the Gothic humour that you got from yours was child’s play by far. Otherwise loved every bit of your later the classic diction and all.

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