The Chief Justice, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah, has called for a paradigm shift in legal education with emphasis on quality to keep pace with international best practices.
According to him, quality legal education was a critical component of effective justice delivery as lawyers must be relevant and responsive to the country's development needs.
“The General Legal Council (GLC) which I am privileged to chair cannot and dare not compromise on standards in the wake of the proliferation of law faculties, otherwise, the adage that it is better to defend oneself in the face of the law than have a bad lawyer defend you will hold sway,” the Chief Justice cautioned.
The Chief Justice was speaking at a ceremony yesterday to officially induct the new Director of Legal Education, Barima Yaw Kodie Oppong, who is also the Manwerehene of Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area.
The Director of Legal Education is also the Director of the Ghana School of Law (GSL).
Justice Anin Yeboah said there was proliferation of Law faculties offering the Bachelor of Law (LLB) programmes at various universities due to the massive interest in the legal profession, a situation which had made admission to the Ghana School of Law (GSL) highly competitive.
However, despite this interest, the Chief Justice stressed that the council must not compromise on quality and standards as it could have dire consequences for the country.
He urged the new Director of Legal Education to make it a priority to scale up the quality of the legal profession from the faculties to the professional level.
“You, as the new Director of Legal Education in the Ghana School of Law, must rise up to the challenge by upholding the image of the institution by ensuring quality and not quantity of professionals that only walk through the gates of the school,” the Chief Justice urged the new Director of the Ghana School of Law who was called to the bar 23 years ago.
The induction – the first of its kind since the establishment of the school in 1958 – saw family, well-wishers and Justices of the Supreme Court, as well as students of the GSL in attendance.
Key among them were Justices Jones Victor Mawulorm Dotse, Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, Yonny Kulendi, all Justices of the Supreme Court, and the leadership of the Ghana Bar Association, led by its President, Yaw Acheampong Boafo; the Judicial Secretary, Justice Cynthia Pamela Addo; the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, among other dignitaries and legal luminaries.
The Chief Justice led the Director of Legal Education, to take the oath of office and oath of secrecy.
After swearing the oath, the Chief Justice robed the Director of the GSL.
The Students Representative Council presented a citation to Barima Oppong for his exemplary and invaluable leadership towards the expansion of legal education in the country.
Barima Oppong said his focus as the new Director of Legal Education was to build a legal educational system that would mould students into lawyers with a sound legal foundation who would contribute positively to national development.
In pursuant of this vision, he said, he had already secured funding to build the capacity of workers and also motivate them.
Again, he said under his leadership, the GSL had reached an agreement with some universities in the United Kingdom (UK) to conduct remote and on-site lectures from UK-based Post Call Law Course students.
The new Director also revealed that he was working to revive a dormant law firm at the GSL to provide pro-bono service for the vulnerable and also offer practical sessions for students.
The law firm, he said, would be headed by a practising lawyer and lecturer of the GSL, supported by two newly trained lawyers and further supplemented by 20 student volunteers.
When properly executed, the Pro Bono Unit of the GSL will gradually but steadily occupy a tiny but significant space in the noble field of free legal representation.
“In the process, the school will achieve two things. First, it will make reliable efforts to help the most underprivileged members of our community who are in dire need of legal representation but cannot afford it.
“Second, it will create a perfect platform for enabling, supporting and stimulating the development of our students' legal skills and talents to serve their communities,” he said.
The A-G, Mr Yeboah Dame, called on the new Director to collaborate with the GLC to tackle the infrastructure challenges facing the GSL.
He stressed the need to ensure the delivery of sound academic training for lawyers.
“A poorly trained lawyer is a threat to the sustenance of our democracy as a nation and a danger to the society in which he or she lives.
“I repeat an admonition I gave to law students, that Ghana cannot afford to gamble with its future by sacrificing the time-honoured virtues of the legal profession in the education of law students,” he added.
The Attorney-General further noted that it was important for the GSL to inculcate principles of professional ethics and standards in its students.
That, he said, must permeate the entire educational experience, beginning with the first hour of the first day in law school.
Barima Oppong is a lawyer, lecturer, chief, farmer and author.
He holds a Master's Degree in Oil and Gas Law (LLM) from the University of Ghana, and a first degree in Law from the same university.
He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, London and a board member of the Graphic Communications Group Limited.
Barima Oppong was part of the legal team that successfully defended President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo during the 2021 Election Petition filed by Former President John Mahama.