by ABIOLA ADEKUNLE SAHEED LLB, BL (LEGAL OFFICER KINGS UNIVERSITY; ODEOMU OSUN STATE)
The externship program of the Nigerian Law School (NLS) is a program organized for the BAR II students between weeks 22-33 of the Nigerian Law School program and it is organized to achieve the following objectives:
- to develop the externs’ lawyering skills;
- to make externs understand various aspects of the legal system, as well as the legal profession;
- to inculcate in the externs a sense of professional responsibility and values; and
- to develop the externs’ ability to reflect on and learn from their experience.
SCOPE OF THE EXTERNSHIP PROGRAMME
This is in two phases, the Court and Law firm externship program.
Externship in the Court is for 6 weeks under the supervision of a field supervisor who most of the times the Judge (though, the Judges may appoint Deputy Registrar or other Court Officers to do the work). The Students are posted to various courts from State High Court, Federal High Court, National Industrial Court and Magistrate Courts.
THE LAW FIRM
Externship in law firms is also for 6 weeks (or close to 6 weeks) under the supervision of a field supervisor most of the times Principal partner or the Principal Counsel of the firm as the case may be (though, the Principal may appoint Head of Chamber or the Practice Manager or other Counsel in the law firm to do the work).
ROLES OF EXTERNS IN COURT
The externs in courts are expected to observe the proceedings before their respective Judges and where there are no sufficient cases before their judges, they are allowed to go to other busy courts to learn and ensure the objectives of the externship program are realised or achieved. In addition, the extern is expected to report at least two of the cases he witnessed and reflect on any of them.
However, despite the importance of the above expected roles, it has been observed overtime that, many externs only observe proceedings in order to get something penned down for the purpose of the filling the Log Book and bow out of the court to visit a close-by library and read for the Bar Finals. While, the lazy ones are always with friends, clubbing and flexing. When they accidently branch at the Court premises, they make photocopy of other externs note (from a different Campus) and lift it mindlessly.
The above shows that more often than not, the externs in courts are mere spectators rather than participants (though, the NLS program did not also encourage them to participate rather than to observe).
Roles of Externs in Law firms
In the law firm, externs are expected to follow the Principal and other counsel in the law firm to court, Corporate Affairs Commission, Land Registry and Police or other law enforcement agencies Division to watch the Principal’s modus operandi. The externs in turn are to report some of these in their Log Book and reflect on any of them accordingly.
Secondly, where the firm is less busy, the extern is to go through the old files and master the drafts, the externs are also at the liberty to raise abnormalities where necessary.
What many externs do in Law Firms?
No doubt, an extern is posted to a law firm that is convenient for him/her, this is the genesis of the problem, (the writer is not of the opinion that the externs should be posted to a far distance) the externs make friends among the counsel in the firm and as such he come to the firm at will, close before time and in fact, turn the law firm to an eatery.
Additionally, the externs have been turned to ‘errand boys’ in some firms, for instance ‘hey get me Akara and bread at the other side of the road’ since they want to be covered.
This happens because this obviously occur because there is no role special notable role for the externs to play in the law firm or court; in order to make the externs participants rather than spectators in this program, then, there is need to review the entire program to reflect some if not all of the below recommendations.
Nigerian Law School Externs: Spectators or Participant?
From the above analysis, it is evident that the externs are merely spectators and not participating in any activities, and the objectives of the program have not been realised. The period for many externs is nothing to write home about, due to the short duration, externs see it as an opportunity to read their book and sleep when the need arises. While, the less serious ones make use of the opportunity to make friends, visit friends, club and flex. This is due to lack of an important physical role for the externs to play during this period.
To this end, the following can be offered for externs towards achieving the objectives of the Program:
- The Body of Benchers should make a bye-Law, to allow externs to appear alone or with counsel in inferior courts during the program in order to make them participants.
- The period of externship should be extended to 6 months (1 month in court and 5 months in the Law firm), so that the externs can have enough time to study, observe and participate fully in the program.
- The Body of Benchers can also by a bye-law compel the Principal of the firms to pay certain amount to the externs at the end of each month particularly when the externs are allowed to appear in the inferior courts