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Name: Onifade Hannah Oluwatunmise
Campus: Abuja Campus (First Class); Director General’s Prize for First Class Students; Sir Lionel Brett K.B.E and Babatunde Sbiodun Ibironke SAN Prizes for the Overall Best Student in Criminal Law Practice; Mrs. Oluwatoyin Doherty’s Prize for the Overall Best Female Student in Criminal Litigation; Chief J.K Gadzama OFR, MFR SAN Prize for the Best Female Student in Civil and Criminal Litigation.
University: Obafemi Awolowo University (Second Class Upper)
About: Hannah is a young lawyer/serial entrepreneur steadily learning to love God more daily. She is an alumnus of the great, prestigious and superbly awesome Obafemi Awolowo University and hails from Osun State. She enjoys writing, sleeping and is an absolute foodie. Hannah is currently undergoing her mandatory Youth Service in Lagos and can be reached at email@example.com.
I hesitated for a long time to share this story. I have followed the stories of my other colleagues and it really did not feel like I had a valid story to tell. After all, I am the girl so notorious for sleeping in class that someone once told me that I was wasting my parents’ money in law school. Anyway, I have finally realized that my story is my story, and if this story encourages another person who like me really likes to sleep and so cannot wake up at 3 am daily to read; who hates mental stress and “cannot comman goan die because of law school”, then I would be glad.
I resumed at Abuja law school a week after lectures started. Before resumption, I had spoken with a lot of people about what to expect from law school and what to do to succeed at law school. People told me a lot of stuff from read every day to never skip a class, draft everyday, make notes. It all sounded very easy at first. I mean it was just one year of my life. However, soon after my resumption, I found that this was impossible. Classes were long, and there was always too much information to learn and absorb. It seemed like there was not enough time to get everything done. I had a few out of school activities with firm deadlines that required my attention. Many nights, I would find myself awake, trying my best to meet up with my deadlines and spending the day napping in class and not paying attention because I was too tired. And the classes were boring too. It didn’t take long for me to realize that all the well meaning advice that I got would not work for me. I read many books by previous first class students who I had hoped to replicate their methods. It just wasn’t working. I tried to wake up early everyday but it didn’t work out. Turned out I liked sleep way too much. I tried to draft everyday but I was having enough trouble keeping up with the principles to add drafts on top of that. And at that moment, I realized that the first class arrangement that I had with God would require a change of strategy. I asked God for help and he directed me to my church, where I learnt a lot more about being a Christian and enjoying a deep relationship with God. And that was the turning point for me. I had daily assurances from God that He who had brought me this far would see me through. So, yes, I won’t say I read everyday and drafted every day, because that would be a lie. What I did was to make sure I understood most of the principles to the best of my ability. Sometimes it would require pre-class or post-class reading. Sometimes, it would require weekend reading. I made sure the timetable that I followed was only mine and not what law school thought was good for me. I realized that following the law school timetable of reading, group discussion and attending classes would give me hypertension if I tried to keep it up. So, I charted my own course and did what was best for me. I slept when I was tired and ate when I was hungry. And I went out every weekend with my friends to hang out and unwind. I feared that I wasn’t going through law school the way everyone else seemed to. I felt like I wasn’t reading enough, drafting enough, going to group meetings enough, but I just wasn’t comfortable enough doing those things at a level higher than what I was currently operating at. During one of my prayer sessions, I received a word that I should get my provisions ready, and he will give me victory.
Keeping up was hard I tried different methods: keeping notes before class, keeping notes after class, not reading at all. By the time externship rolled around, I was as unprepared for bar finals as anyone could be. However, the results of the first prebar test gave me a tiny bit of hope that my case wasn’t hopeless. This didn’t stop me from having a terrible fear of failing the bar exam which still looked like a possibility. My court externship was in Ife and I had this beautiful plan of covering the entire syllabus during those six weeks I had studied the curriculum (and I have the grace of being a fast reader) which made me think it was doable. However, one of my extracurricular activities took up the entire 6 weeks. By the time law firm externship rolled around. I was afraid and very sure the devil had won. I could not get help or support from my friends because no one believed that my situation was as bad as I claimed. I guess they just assumed I decided to play the day away and do some intense reading at night, but it was not the case. The MCQ exams were just like 2 months away and I had not read a single word. I went back to God in prayers to remind him that time was running out and nothing was going according to plan. Shortly after that, God put me in contact with people who made the journey easy. It was a tutorial/group discussion in a law firm where one of my friends was doing her extension which was close to my house. I would leave my law firm to go to this law firm to read with this beautiful people, it was through them that God collapsed time for me. There were a lot of sleepless nights, lengthy discussions and crash reading; but I was able to complete over 80% of the syllabus in those six weeks. I went back to school with a lot more confidence than I left with. Although there was still a lot of ground to cover, it was easier to do because I now had the will to do so. I put everything I had into those final weeks. At a point, I was practically sleeping on my books. By God’s grace the MCQs felt like a breeze.
About 2 weeks to bar finals, I was able to launch a new business that had been in the works for weeks. While it might seem like I do not have my priorities right, it felt like it was God’s timing. The day before bar-finals started, I had an issue with one of my clients that wasted my time left me demoralized and discouraged coupled with the stress of the upcoming exams. The devil used the opportunity to plant a seed of fear and doubt in my mind I was gripped with fear so terrible that I had a panic attack. My brain felt so empty I could not fathom writing an exam the next morning. I decided to take a walk around the law school campus (it had become a habit of mine whenever I was feeling discouraged. I would walk as far as my feet could safely carry me, which was usually a round trip). I cried, begged, prayed, and made confessions into the exams and my future. I ended up calling a friend to pray with me and encourage me. I attended the early morning CLASFON prayer meeting to put the exams in God’s hands. Encouragements started to come from all sides and I just had peace in my heart.
Each paper was interesting in its own way. For property, I was halfway through an entire question when I realized I was writing rubbish. For criminal litigation, I was told when I came out of the exam hall that my entire draft of charges were wrong and that was an entire 25 marks lost. I started negotiating with God that he should help me with the other questions so that I can get an average of 70 marks. I have given up hope on the charges question. Corporate law was also very interesting and I went to church straight after the exams to commit the exams unto God’s hands. Civil litigation and professional ethics also went by. It was the longest week of my life. The Friday night after the exams, I slept for about 8 hours straight.
Waiting for the results was another trial in its own way. I spent those forty-odd days in varying levels of faith and doubt. I would try to make positive confessions, then I will find myself switching to negotiating with God. On the night the results were supposed to come out, I was awake all through the night refreshing the results page. By the time the results came out, I was asleep. People had somehow found out and I woke up to a lot of missed calls and texts. I was so confused. A friend eventually called me and the first thing he said was congratulations. I was like, “Ok, thank you, but why?” Then he broke the news. I could not believe it. I thought it was a joke or a rumour but my entire body was shaking. I open the browser page but couldn’t type in my exam number because my hands were shaking. My mum had to take the phone from me and help me type. Another friend called at that time and he was just so excited. “You made it, you made it,” he was saying. At that point, I was in tears. I was crying hysterically. I could not believe it. Of course I had prayed, fasted, sowed, agreed, begged, bargained etc, but it felt like a dream. I had never seen my parents so proud. It was the best moment of my life. I couldn’t stop the tears. I was so grateful to God.
My law school experience was a blast. I made the best friends (I still love you guys :*), I had fun, I experienced God in another dimension. I also learnt a lot, both life lessons and advice that can be passed on to new generations of law school students.
- It does not matter if you’ve not started reading or if you have not read enough, it is never too late to begin. Just start now and give it your best. No matter how hopeless it seems, never give up hope and faith. There is nothing impossible with God.
- When it comes down to it, it is what you remember in the exam hall that matters. So, create your own timetable and stick with it. Do not bow to pressures around you. Do not be intimidated by other people’s reading habits. It will not matter how many hours you spent reading for an exam if you do not understand what you read.
- Please always take time out to relax. Meet people, form friendships, have fun. Law school might be your last experience in a formal school setting (not everyone will go for further studies). Make the most of it!
- I don’t know if this will work for everybody, but please read your textbooks. There are so many tiny bits of information that somehow disappear when forming notes. Your textbook will always provide fuller insight.
- READ ALL THE QUESTIONS WELL!!! Not all bar final questions are made equally. Some of them appear difficult but you realize after the exam that it was actually simple. Cover as much ground as you can while reading. Read sample and past questions, create your own scenarios, form acronyms, create reading methods that work for you. The bar exams are just exams, like every other exam you have ever written.
- Success or failure at the bar exams starts from your mind. You have to be convinced that you are a success. Approach the bar exams from a standpoint of victory, not defeat. Do not feed your fear or doubt. Don’t give in to fear. If you are afraid, call your closest friend and do not be ashamed to ask for encouragement. I don’t think it is possible to go through law school without having paralyzing moments of fear and doubt. However, succumbing to that fear is why you will not read questions properly or answer correctly. DO NOT BE AFRAID!
- God is a factor that should be negotiated in your law school career. I really do not know how you can run the race without Him or his Spirit giving you direction. Pray and read as though your life depended on it.
I believe strongly that with belief and determination, we can accomplish anything we set our hearts to do. I believe in you. Go and excel.