Renowned city lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde has advised law students that they do not need to study the bar course at the Law Development Centre, to become successful legal practitioners and activists.
Ssemakadde made the remarks during a talk to Makerere University School of Law students of Clinical Legal Education on October 8, 2021.
Ssemakadde said LDC exists because of the law but is no longer relevant.
“The lawyers who wrote the LDC statute did not go to LDC,” he said. “They were trained in the Inns of Court in London.”
The Law Development Centre was set up by an Act of Parliament in August 1970. Before then, most of the lawyers in the country had trained in Britain, under the pupillage system (an apprenticeship or mentorship program which qualifies one to practise the law independently).
Challenged by the undergraduate students that they wouldn’t be able to practice without going through LDC, Ssemakadde said they should follow Male Mabirizi’s example. Mabirizi, a controversial lawyer, has not done the bar course.
He has represented himself up to the highest court – the Supreme Court of Uganda, as well as the East African Court of Justice at Arusha.
Ssemakadde wondered why LDC is not just an examining body, like the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) or Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (UBTEB), that only test candidates, but do not teach.
He said some countries like India do have bar examination bodies but the studying is optional or liberalized.
He said LDC, on the other hand, has restrictions on entry, attendance is mandatory and costly, failure rates are scandalously too high, and those who fail have only a small window of redoing the tests (moreover at exorbitant rates), after which they are condemned to the wilderness.
Ssemakadde said there are many ways of training legal practitioners.
He cited the case of famed socialite Kim Kardashian who has been trying to sit state bar exams in California, United States, without necessarily going to a degree-awarding law school or “a post-graduate tyrant like LDC”.
“If Socrates trained lawyers, doctors, engineers and philosophers in the days of yore,” he asked. “Why not now?”
He called for a complete overhaul of the legal education system in the country.
“The law should be amended to permit a non-traditional route to the bar, for instance by receiving mentorship from Socrates or an activist like me, even though others may opt for the traditional route of being indoctrinated by a state institution like LDC,” he urged.