#MyBarFinalsTestimony is brought to you by the MCQ APP in conjunction with Ekaete Hunter.
Name: Temitope Giwa
Campus: Lagos Campus (First Class), Director General’s Prize for First Class Students; Chief F.R.A. Williams C.F.R S.A.N., Prize for the Second Best Student in Property Law Practice
University: University of Ibadan (Second Class Upper Division)
About: Temitope Giwa hails from Isale–Eko in the Centre of Excellence. She is an alumna of Queen’s College Yaba and the University of Ibadan. At the University of Ibadan, she served as Deputy Head, Law Dinner Committee; a Justice; and later on as Chief Justice of the Law Students’ Society. She graduated top of her class in 2014. She was later called to the Nigerian Bar on the 30th of November 2016 where she bagged two prizes. She is currently undergoing her mandatory Youth Service. In her spare time, she bakes delicious cakes and pastries and voluntarily tutors law school students at the Oasis, RCCG. She can be reached at email@example.com.
My Law School Experience
Pre-Law School v Post Law School
I waited 11 months after University before going to law school. One would think that was enough time to prepare for the work at law school. Some of my mates had started reading and even knew the course content but that was not me. As at October 2015 I knew (or heard) the following things about law school: you are scored by your lowest grade; in Abuja it is two per room and they finish classes early; in Lagos they finish classes late and you would be exhausted from the classes; in law school there is no time to watch movies or hang out and your relationship with those outside law school might suffer; and most of all that getting a first class is a herculean task. As at September 2016 I learnt the following about law school: yes, you are scored by your lowest grade – it is because you need to be an all-rounder; there is still time to relax and do the things you like but it can affect your relationships; getting the grade of your choice is not impossible neither is getting a first class, law school is a fresh start; and you can achieve anything you set your mind to achieve with God and hard work. I say God first because as humans we cannot do anything by ourselves.
I have never been a dull student but I am definitely not the brightest student. I simply believe that if you study well and dedicate time and effort to your goals, you would achieve them. So I went to law school with this mind-set. I wanted a first class but I did not really think I could get it. I attended classes dedicatedly, I tried to read ahead of every class, I also tried to attend group meetings. I did not engage in study groups or discussions because they’ve never been my thing. I did however practice drafting with a very special friend before I opted out of the classes because it was a struggle to keep up. I also had a good support system with my friends where we encouraged and helped ourselves through difficult times.
Nothing I have said so far is special so I will share the things that really helped me. DO NOT BE AFRAID. Fear is the easiest way to fail Bar Finals. I know you might be confused now, you might be overwhelmed, and you might be frustrated but just calm down. Draw a composite table of the topics for each course per week and follow it weekly until you finish. That way you can easily track your progress. You might not have enough time to make notes during the week, make good use of your weekends. Your December break is not a holiday but if you didn’t use it to study, don’t worry there’s still time. Use your externship period wisely. You HAVE TO cover up and finish the syllabus at least once. Listen to the corrections lecturers make during classes and tasks. Those are the tricky parts you need to be careful about.
Snap Test/Pre-Bar Exam
We had three snap tests in Lagos campus. The first was a mixture of multiple choice questions and theory. I did fairly well because of the MCQs. The second was purely theory. Long questions to be answered in a very short time. I didn’t get through half of the questions before the time was up. The last snap test was the real eye opener. The questions were more than the exam questions and they were to be completed in less time and all were compulsory. I knew I couldn’t finish but I planned to get far enough. I was better prepared for this test because it was close to our exams. So I soldiered on and took the test like it was bar finals. In civil litigation, there was a question where the scenario was based in Abuja, the sub question changed the scenario to Lagos and I drafted under Lagos. The subsequent sub questions remained in Lagos but I thought the scenario was back in Abuja and that was how I missed the entire number 1 question because of wrong drafting. Trust me I felt I had ‘finished them’, until I stepped out and my friend was rejoicing that she didn’t fall for the trick. It was then I realised I had not only fallen, I drowned in my error and bounced out of the lecture hall like I soared through the test. I made very grave mistakes during that third snap test but I took one important lesson from it – read the question more than once, process EVERY word and be very careful.
I had a similar experience during one of our criminal litigation revision on drafting charges, where I had drafted 5 counts in the State High Court before realising it should have been Federal High Court. I was immediately discouraged and knew that if that had happened during exam without me realising it, I was done for and if I realised, then I would have wasted time correcting my error. The lesson again was to be meticulous.
The Bar Exam
Here’s the special part. I was not afraid of failing the exam. I was afraid I would not make the grade I wanted, but I was okay with having a 2.1 in case I didn’t make a first class. I also wanted a first class so my significant other could understand what all the unending “I’m reading” was about because it affected our relationship. I was so exhausted at several points but two things kept me: the joy and satisfaction at the end and that God was going to help me the way He helped others. At the end of lectures, we had a worship session in school and I cried almost throughout. I barely made it through two lines of the song we were singing before I started crying. I thanked God and prayed to him and that was how I purged myself of every iota of fear and doubt. The weeks before your exam, you will feel like you have forgotten everything but don’t worry it will be there if you have really studied. You only need to squeeze your brain as one of our lecturers would say. Hours before our third exam I had attacks of some sort. I was cold, I had a blurry vision and could not stay focused. I went to the clinic and they gave me multivitamins after the tests they conducted showed I was okay. I wondered how I was going to write the almighty corporate exam. I couldn’t read so I took a nap for about 10 mins before the exam. I prayed to God as I settled down in the examination hall and told Him He had to make me fine and I didn’t care how He was going to do it. By the time the invigilator said start, I was fine. I fought this battle by God’s grace for the next two exams. During my criminal litigation exam, I was totally confused about the number of counts to draft. I knew how many marks charges carried and what it would mean to my result if I got the drafting wrong. So I told God again to help me do the right thing and that was how I finished my Bar exam. I am a first class graduate of law school by the grace of God, by the efforts of my law school lecturers, by my hard work and the support I had from friends and family.
Take home from my story:
- Prepare well and practice your drafts, don’t just read them.
- Learn from your mistakes before the Exam.
- Find a system that works for you and stick with it. What is good for one is not necessarily good for all.
- Anytime you’re afraid pray to God or talk to someone who can encourage you.
- Do not bother yourself that others know so much and you know so little, just make sure you catch up and have faith that you will make it with hard work.
- You can’t pass bar finals alone. You need good health, the right state of mind and grace and only God can give you all that.
I wish you all the best in your law school journey.