Going by history, Law school study by correspondence has existed in the United States since 1890 when Sprague Correspondence School of Law (which eventually merged with Blackstone Institute, and later was known as Blackstone School of Law) was established by William C. Sprague in Detroit, Michigan.Among the school’s early graduates was Antoinette D. Leach, early Sprague Law Correspondence Law School graduate and first woman attorney in Indiana, who in 1893 became the first woman admitted by the Indiana Supreme Court to practice law in Indiana. The school and others (including American Correspondence School of Law of Chicago; Columbian Correspondence College of Law in Washington D.C.; New York Correspondence School of Law in New York; and others) were innovative for the time in providing many poor, working-class, women, and ethnic minorities educational opportunities.
Among the La Salle Extension University graduates who went on to make contributions in law and politics are governors Harold J. Arthur and Eurith D. Rivers, Senator Craig L. Thomas, U.S. Representatives John S. Gibson and William T. Granahan, and African-American leaders Arthur Fletcher, Jessie M. Rattley, and Gertrude Rush.
For years, many have been wondering why the impact of education is not being felt in Nigeria. It was observed that, as the country continue to produce more professors, more doctors, more graduates etc, so the level of educational impact is declining. This according to observer is not unconnected to our attitude towards learning.
It is my view that, many Nigerians including those in authority confine themselves to the past, failing to see reason in what is obtainable in the present. As other countries including those who gave us our present system continue to embrace change and moving along with it, we continue to wallow in ignorance, holding unto the non-existing standard while depriving our citizens the benefit of the modern opportunities.
While some have blame it on lack of proper education, others blame it on the inability of individuals to make adequate use of their acquired education.
Being from the Open University myself, I have no doubt what soever that the quality of learning taking place in this institution far supersede that of many conventional universities, but it was a surprise to read that the law graduates of this first of its kind University are being denied a chance at the Nigerian law school without any justifiable reason.
Let’s face fact, the non-recognition of Open University law degree is another example of how education has failed once again, to make effect even among those in legal authority.
The policy of the Council of Legal Education and the Body of Benchers, which are the statutory bodies vested with the regulation of training and admission of aspirants to the Nigerian Bar, is that the study of Law must be undertaken on a full-time basis in recognized and accredited institutions. To them, only through such process can law be adequately learned.
But come to think of it, is the Nigerian legal system not tailored after the British legal system, just as the Nigerian Open University was after the British Open University? So, if the British Open University can offer law degree through correspondence and is well recognized, why should the custodian of legal practice in Nigeria blindly assume that such cannot be replicated in Nigeria? Or are we now saying the Nigerian legal standard is of greater standard to the British legal standard?
If our government and educators continue to make references to best practice across the world, why should they ignorantly reject the best practices of Open University as seen across the world?
Here, we know that the CLE none-recognition of NOUN is as a result of politics. However, what the CLE should tell us openly is that they want to restrict the number of lawyers in Nigeria because as far as we are concerned, NOUN posses all requirement if not more. I challenge the CLE to evaluate their performances through NLS and compare it with other university students.
It was obvious that those against noun students admission into NLS are for their selfish interest/sentiment.
For the records, the law degree of Open university in United kingdom is the most popular law degree in in that country with over 6000 students.
Upon completion, they are 100% guaranteed acceptance in their law school and to practice as lawyers.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
In the United States, many state institutions offer law degree through this process and they are well recognized. One of the state that offers an ability to practice law via successful completion of a mandated 4 years of law school through either a correspondence or online law school is California. Once a law student has successfully completed his first year of law school, Business and Professions Code section 6060 requires the student to take and pass the First Year Law Student Examination, commonly known as the “BABY BAR,” within thefirst three attempts of becoming eligible.
Distance legal education in Germany is available through FernUniversität Hagen, a public university similar to the British Open University. The graduates receive LLB or LLM degrees.
Distance legal education in China is available through Beijing Foreign Studies University through a partnership with Spirit of Law School of Law.
Even in South Africa, Distance legal education is an acceptable method to become a lawyer in South Africa, and is available through the University of South Africa (UNISA).
Distance legal education in the United Kingdom is accepted by the Law Society of England and Wales as a qualifying law degree and one of the possible ways to become a solicitor or a barrister.
In several other countries influenced by the British legal heritage, legal education can be obtained through distance education, including India, Indonesia, Australia etc.
I am of the view that, if the entire world is moving forward by catching up with modern practices, Nigeria shouldn’t be left behind. Not recognizing Open University on the basis of non-existing barrier will hurt our dear nation and rob it of the gains of the 21st century.
We must be concerned with the nations progress, not our selfish desire.
In Present day, Northwestern California University School of Law is the oldest existing correspondence law school in the United States. It was founded in 1982 and began presenting its correspondence program entirely online in 2002. It is the first online law school to offer Internet based and faculty led videoconferencing sessions for students for some courses.
In 1996, Abraham Lincoln University began a hybrid in-class and correspondence approach to law school, designed to offer scheduling flexibility to students, before adding an online component in 2004.
The first law school to offer a degree program completely online was Concord Law School, a unit of Kaplan, Inc., which started in 1998. As of 2006 Concord is the largest of the seven distance learning law schools. Concord graduated its first class in November 2002.
The California School of Law, founded in 2007, is the first law school to utilize synchronous technology in all courses. Such technology provides direct communication between professors and students in live “real time” virtual classrooms.
If these respected institutions across the globe can offer law degree using correspondence, what gives the Council of Legal Education and the Body of Benchers the impression that such cannot be done in Nigeria?
Rather than condemn Open university without basis and unfairly deny its graduate, the Council of Legal Education and the Body of Benchers should give the Open University graduates a level playing ground to showcase themselves.
Only through such an avenue, can the quality of this noble institution be properly appreciated.
Let me conclude by warning that, NOUN cannot be prevented from law school without cogent reason. I advice those in authority to stop this politics and quickly retrace their steps. Should the law school continue to deny our law graduates, we shall not relent, but seek legal redress.
Written by Abdulrazaq O Hamzat, Congress of Noun Students.