Lawyers are the most knowledgeable and distinguished of all professionals. By our very training and orientation, we are imbibed with diligence, hard work, integrity and other positive attributes that mold us into the special species of humans that we become. From the very first day one enters University to read law, we are presented with the stark reality that we will not get through life with a slapdash attitude. We are taught that life calls for earnestness and conscientiousness, work and effort, as Carl Jung once wrote. In this article, I discuss the guidance and direction we get as students and the absence thereof when we enter the profession after law school. I also discuss the strategies that have proven beneficial to legal practitioners and other members of the profession over time. I suggest that we adopt some of these strategies to ensure that we live life to the fullest and enjoy the journey all the way.
Life as a law student
The first lecture I attended at the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon, on a fine September morning in 1992, was Introduction to the Law of Contract. The lecturer was no less a person than the venerable Prof. G.K.A Ofosu-Amaah, the then Dean of the Faculty of Law. Prof. Ofosu-Amaah came in accompanied by two young female lecturers, Mrs. Christine Dowuona-Hammond (currently a Senior lecturer at the School of Law, University of Ghana) and Ms. Johanna Odonkor (now Mrs. Odonkor Svanikier, former Ambassador of Ghana to France and Portugal, as well as to the International Organisation of La Francophonie and the OECD Development Centre.)
After listening to the exquisite, almost ex tempore delivery of the one hour lecture on Law of Contract, the whole class became subdued. By the time the young lecturers distributed the ‘reading list’ containing about ten decided cases, including the famous Carlill v Carbolic Smokeball Co., the reference books such as Smith and Thomas: A Casebook on Contracts, Trietel’s The Law of Contract, and the ‘tutorial questions’, most of us knew we had made a mistake by not choosing other courses of study. By the time Prof. and his team left, our faces were bereft of the previous grins and smiles we displayed prior to the lecture. Suddenly, we realized we were sergeants-at-arms who had to make the cut among the 60 students to remain law students out of the class total of about 120 students. The unspoken admiration we had for each other as the special few on whom the Almighty had shone his countenance to be admitted to read Law began to wane at that very moment. We became each other’s competition for survival.