THE failure rate at the Zambia Institute for Advanced Legal Education is simply scandalous and must be exposed for the ploy that it is – it is simply meaningless.
It cannot be that out of 323 lawyers who sit an examination only 75 pass and are admitted to the bar. The 75 represent about 23 percent of the candidates. This is worse than Grade 7 examinations!
Surely it must be clear to the Government and the legal fraternity in general that there is something very wrong with this situation. Add to this that some of the people sitting these examinations would have failed in previous sittings and had perhaps one or two papers to re-sit.
According to Ziale rules if they fail one such paper they must sit it out for the next five years.
Not even those doing neuro-surgery or quantum physics suffer such meaningless pain. It is true dealing with criminals requires an amount of ingenuity but even those represented by the best brains still got to prison and others have their cases thrown out by the courts.
In statistics the standard measure is the bell curve which distributes the population and its inherent character and anything below 50 percent is significant and calls for examination because it defeats the natural structure and distribution.
It is true law may have many subjects to cover and therefore represents a fairly difficult challenge to surmount, but it is not true that 70 percent of those who set out to sit the exam are incapable of passing resulting in such a huge and offensive figure of failures.
Older Zambians will remember that only a few years ago we had a similar situation with the accountancy profession where only those who qualified in the U.K. merited being called chartered accountants. Our own diploma of accountancy was so looked down upon that eventually it had to be done away with.
At the bottom of it all was the selfish inclination of those who wanted to restrict entry and maintain a fallacious status for themselves, disregarding the needs of society and the effect a shortage of accountants and in this case lawyers has on the economy.
In the case of lawyers the fees currently being charged are beyond many people and the promise of pro bono services for the indigent has never quite materialized, leaving the most needy members of the population without legal representation and therefore at the mercy of the State in the case of criminal cases.
A visit to any prison will reveal the depth of the problem as hundreds are detained without any hope of bail either because they do not know such a facility exists or indeed because they cannot engage legal representation as the legal aid system is still very under-developed.
It is a reality that modern society depends for it’s functionality on the legal profession. Nothing will be achieved without a contract or some legal papers being signed, but these come at a cost, which many cannot afford.
As a result courts are replete with cases of individuals duped out of their inheritances, victims of unrequited contracts, victims of shoddy services and indeed victims of lawyers. One famous Musa Mwenye, actually had a choice description of the situation!
There is urgent need to regularize the situation and ensure that those who desire to pursue the law must be allowed to do so without facing artificial limitations which are simply meant to limit entry and leave privilege to a few.
There is no scientific justification whatsoever that Ziale and lawyers only should be so poorly intellectually endowed as to fail entry examination.
A perpetuation of this culture is a disservice to the nation, the people and the profession itself.