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Name: Somuyiwa, Mosimiloluwa
Campus: Lagos Campus (First Class), Director General’s Prize for First Class Students
University: University of Lagos (Second Class Upper Division)
About: An avid lover of God, Family and Friends. Similoluwa Somuyiwa is an alumnus of the University of Lagos, and also hails from Ogun State. In his spare time he enjoys playing basketball and also loves watching football. Simi is currently undergoing his mandatory Youth Service program in Lagos, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
MY BAR FINALS TESTIMONY
Pastor Sam Adeyemi once said that success becomes cheap when you know what to do. This in fact is what I hope that this accomplishes for anybody reading this who desires to succeed in any particular endeavour.
A lot of people ask me how I felt when I saw the results as well as how I particularly feel now that the euphoria attendant with getting a first class is over. Frankly, I can’t describe how I felt at the point because I didn’t expect it. I guess it was a rush of mixed emotions at the time as I was still trying to grapple with the new reality that was staring right back at me from the screen of a blackberry z10 smartphone.
However, I remember that Friday morning when the Director-General released the breakdown of the results, highlighting the general performance of the candidates; a colleague at the firm where I was working as a graduate intern at the time informed me that 24 candidates graduated with a First class out of which only 8 of them were from Lagos campus. My heart stopped for like 4 seconds, as I was certain that I would not be among the 24 elders, let alone the chosen 8. (I even started to count those who I felt will be among the 8 from Lagos campus, but stopped when I reached 15 and resolved that all hope was lost)
Retrospectively, when I remember the notions that were instilled by my predecessors about law school, the proper approach to adopt if I wanted to be ’successful’, and even down to the law school I should go to, I can only laugh because most of my plans and preconceived beliefs about law school were revamped once I was subsumed into the system.
Abuja or Abuja
After my final exams at the University of Lagos, the predominant thought that consumed me each day was where I was going to be posted for law school. The idea of having to go to a place I disliked for about 9 months coupled with the rigours of the Nigerian law school was petrifying. Hence, like most of my colleagues, after a careful consideration of each campus and its peculiarities my preference was Abuja, as it was the only place I thought I would fit in and function at my own pace.
As a regular Nigerian, I tried to ‘work’ it, and I put a considerable effort towards it. For me, it was either Abuja or Abuja. However, I remember that fateful Saturday morning, when the posting came out. I logged on to the portal and to my greatest surprise, I saw Lagos. My heart broke. I was this close to tears, as Lagos was my last choice. Nevertheless, I resigned to fate after realising I had no choice. I had to reconfigure my mind to the new reality, which was; I was going to be in Lagos campus for the next 9 months.
Finding My Balance
The first two weeks started and I was so misbalanced. I had no direction. I just did things as they came. There was even no time for reading. Before law school, I was determined that I will read every day for four hours. Lol, if I hear sey I read for four hours, coupled with the stress of classes. There was no time when we closed by 4.30. I needed to sleep to gain some strength for group meetings. The first two weeks were tough. I was hanging on. I knew that soon enough, I would adjust and get used to the whole system.
People often noted that I panicked a lot, especially when I was faced with a daunting task or under a considerable amount of pressure. Although I usually dispelled these statements, I soon realised that there was some truth in what was being said. I remember that we occasionally had snap tests, which were basically a test of your knowledge at the relevant time, as most of us were not fully prepared for the main exams. Whilst I must confess that I failed most of these tests (lol), I realised that the major bane to succeeding in these tests was just lack of patience and a clear mind. This was primarily because I always panicked during the tests, resulting in the making of unforgivable mistakes, which cost me huge marks. However, as time went on, the mistakes began to reduce and the panic attacks reduced drastically.
Also, I must advise that it is imperative for any candidate to have good friends. The importance of friends cannot be over emphasised as the friends you keep, to a large extent shape your values, and help you to maintain a balance in an intense environment like the Nigerian Law School. On a related note, I must state that God is the only reason I am where I am today, and I was determined to make him my friend in the law school. Interestingly, I was not regarded as one of the smartest in my class, and I often felt intimidated by many of my colleagues who were always exuding deep knowledge of the law during our classes. However, I trusted God to come through for me despite my inadequacy. Hence, as they say God is not mocked, whatever you sow you’ll surely reap. This is the best time to be close to God!
Basically, the curriculum at the law school is voluminous, and except anybody wants to deceive himself, it is not something that you can read in four hours. You have twenty topics and five courses, that is a hundred topics. So it’s not a child’s play. It is advisable to read in bits, small portions, read them as they come so you don’t get overwhelmed. That was in fact my approach, and I tried as much as possible to read almost every day. However, I must note that some days were not just convenient for reading, as I didn’t feel like reading. On this point, you must realise that you are not a machine and if you feel tired or don’t feel like reading, it is okay to have some days to chill. ‘Body no be firewood’, don’t be too hard on yourself. I even joined a couple of friends for Karaoke a few times.
Nevertheless, you must continually push the envelope to get your desired result. One funny thing I realised is a lot of people were focusing on the section and cases and leaving the principles out. What I learnt is that, basically, for a law school question that is pegged at five marks, three and a half marks is allotted to the principle – getting the principle right alone. Then, the sections score about half mark or a quarter mark.
However, what you find is that a lot of people spend hours cramming the sections and leave the principles out, which is dangerous. You must realise that principles of law are sacrosanct and until they are altered they aid your understanding of any concept especially as an aspiring lawyer. Ironically, learning the principles helped a lot because once I understood the principle, it became difficult for me to forget the relevant section.
A lot of people have asked that due to the intensity during the academic session, is it advisable to start reading during the externship programme? This is one big lie that a lot of people told themselves during my time. Ironically, although I started reading before externship, after the programme, it felt like I had not read anything. So I must restate again, it is a big lie for anyone to tell himself. ‘Don’t worry, during externship, I have about three months, so I will read the whole syllabus.’ Trust me, during externship you will not have time. It is better to read in bits, so as not to be overwhelmed by the end of the day.
Answering Some of Your Questions
One thing that law school teaches is the ability to adapt to different situations. Personally, I had never believed that I could sit for an examination without forming my notes. So throughout University, I had always formed notes. I formed my notes diligently such that it became a religion for me. However, due to the intensity in law school, I realised early enough that I couldn’t finish forming notes before the exams eventually started. So I converted my textbooks to notes, and never even bothered about how neat my textbooks looked.
Notwithstanding, it depends on what works for you. If you feel that seeing the wordings in your own writing or in your interpretation will help you, then by all means form your note, but just try and be fast about it. But if like me, you copy the whole text book just in your own writing, it is advisable to read from the textbook, and just write your own understanding in few lines so as to save time. Quite frankly, law school is not bothered about what you know, nor how beautiful your notes look, but what you can write down in your answer scripts. So priority should be given to studying as opposed to forming of notes.
On answering of past questions, I must note that, I don’t know how to say this, they repeat questions and they don’t repeat questions. Well it’s the same 20 topics they have been teaching since, as far as I can remember, maybe 2010, but they will never ask it the same way they asked it last year. You must try as much as possible to attempt as many past questions you can. This will generally help you to understand the way questions are set and the numerous tricks employed by the examiner in setting questions. It must also be noted that it is not advisable to just be cramming the answers to the questions. Rather, an effort must be made to understand the questions and the reason why a particular answer was given in answer to such question.
In my preparations for the exams, I tried as much as possible to help some of my friends that had challenges in some topics. This helped a lot because I was conscious of the fact that every knowledge shared is also gained. Similarly, It was also a learning process for me because a lot of things I discussed with people had a funny way of sticking. It also helps to share ideas with people, because one cliché in law school is that no man is an Island. I learnt a lot just from listening to people in law school. This is particularly important as some folks are reading like 9 textbooks per course. Hence, try and soak in as much information as you can so when its time to ‘squeeze your brain’ you may be lucky to remember what you must have heard on the corridors of the law school.
I must mention here that God was a critical factor in my preparations as I tried as much as possible to be closer to Him during my stay on campus. As you must have heard law school is 95% God and 5% effort. I tried to be devoted to God, and also attended as many church programs I could. Thankfully, I can confirm that it was not a waste of my time as my results are a testament to this assertion.
I will reiterate why God is so important. The MCQs were just a week after we ended externship and I was fully prepared for them, but when the exam started, I panicked and just couldn’t understand any of the questions. At this moment, I realised that I had no other option but to pray. After praying for about a minute or so, it was like my eyes were opened, and I was able to attempt all the questions properly.
The reason why this is particularly important is because prior to the MCQs I had been feeling really inadequate in relation to the exams because a week before the MCQs, the results of one of our famous snap tests were released where I performed woefully, and all through the week thoughts of failure were predominant in my mind. So when I blanked for a few minutes during the MCQ I was certain that I was going to flunk the exams. I remember vividly that one of my major fears was that a lot of people knew I was reading, and there was the likelihood that I would eventually become a reference point, as the guy who read and still failed. I recall praying to God that I couldn’t afford to fail after all the effort I had put into the exams.
My Greatest Testimony
My story will not be complete if I fail to share perhaps my greatest testimony. During the few weeks preceding the exams, I was introduced to a compilation of notes, which I must add was largely used, by most of the students. Since the notes were easy to read and comprehensive enough, I decided to personalise the notes which I also adopted as my sole material for the exams. In fact, the notes became an assurance of my guaranteed success provided I could cram all the information contained in it.
Unfortunately for me, my laptop where these notes were contained crashed a week before the exams. I was devastated as I was certain in my mind that there was no way I could get a good result. It was too late to start reading my textbooks, and it was really at this point that I feared for the worst, that is, there was a likelihood that I would fail the bar exams. All of my hopes were dashed. I didn’t know what to do anymore. I was so confused. After realising that I had no other option, I prayed to God reminding Him that I had always wanted a result that will glorify Him, and this was a great opportunity for God to show Himself, as I had no other person to turn to. With this in mind, I picked my class notes (which were rather scanty) and hoped for the best.
The exams were generally good, much to my surprise, as my class notes were my only resource materials. Surprisingly, the questions were not anticipated at all. There was a radical shift in the form of the questions asked. Nevertheless, every paper was a testimony as the Holy Spirit practically directed me to the areas to focus on a few minutes before the exams. Hence, when most people state that I must be a genius to have achieved such a feat, I am always quick to point out that I am a product of grace.
The summary of my rather long story is that with hard work and the God factor, you can achieve whatever you desire once you believe in its possibility. I hope this inspires somebody to achieve great things not just in the bar exams but as you face the challenges of life.
I wish you all the best, and a little bit of luck!