‘Boosting lawyers, firms’ global rating, certification’
The International Business Development Manager of Barbri Global, Monique Morrison and the Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Law and Business (CLB), Dapo Oyewumi, in this joint interview with NGOZI EGENUKA, explained that the partnership between the two bodies is aimed at exposing great professional opportunities that exist in Britain and America for Nigerian lawyers and would-be lawyers.
Firstly, what is your view about law practice in Africa?
When you look at Africa, you look at Nigeria from its obvious size, exposure and international awareness. Africa has a very unique and special position and a large number of lawyers, who are very exposed and learned using the common law system, which is applicable in 60 per cent of the world. That means Nigerian lawyers are part of that per cent, which puts us in a position to be able to offer services to 60 per cent of the world. This would be further enhanced by this qualification programme, which would make one a truly global lawyer. So, you have your primary jurisdiction, where you were called to the bar and these other ones, which allows you practice or offer services across at least 60 per cent of the countries. I think Nigerian lawyers have done very well and even historically, Nigerian lawyers practicing in Britain are doing well. We have lawyers that transcend both jurisdictions. Even right now, there are various areas including arbitration, where Nigerian Lawyers are doing very well.
What’s the aim of your partnership and of what importance is it to lawyers?
Barbri Global is one of the largest Bar preparation course providers, whose programmes have opened doors for more law and non-law graduates to become qualified professionals.
It’s designed for candidates to become attorneys at law in America or solicitors in England. The programmes are designed to prepare candidates for those exams they would take to qualify. Our partnership is based on ensuring that these opportunities are available to all West African students, predominantly Nigerians in a more affordable and efficient way.
Does this process eliminate the traditional way of having such qualifications?
Yes. The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) has replaced the traditional route to practice as a solicitor. The traditional route is the LLB in the legal practice course. Presently, students don’t need to engage with those courses because lawyers can now do things in a much more streamlined process. They don’t have to study for five years. They can study for less, as their previous qualifications are now recognised, whereas before they were not. Also, their work experience is now recognised, unlike before. So, a lot more doors to opportunities have been opened via this new route.
How long has Barbri Global been in existence?
We were founded in 1967, so we have been around for 55 years.
Would you say lawyers take advantage of international study opportunities as much as other professionals?
Yes, a lot of lawyers leave because sometimes, they get to a point in their local law firms that they can’t reach that partnership status they desire and a lot of American and British firms are capitalising on that to take them away from the local law firms. Also, local law firms that have been sending their trainees abroad to qualify are finding that they are not coming home and giving back to their local society. So, that’s where Barbri Global and CLB come in because we are helping law firms keep a hold on their real assets and at the same time, encouraging those local law firms to develop their inhouse lawyers and ensure that they improve on their professional development without the risk of losing them.
What informed the firms’ decision to launch in Nigeria?
For many reasons! The calibre of lawyers you find in Nigeria is second to none and there is no other country that comes close to that. So, when I came into the company, my primary focus, looking at international partners, was Nigeria as the most premium and highest quality provider. That’s where CLB comes in because it meets all of those requirements too. Barbri Global needed a body that is internationally recognised, that has a lot of experience to deliver international law and CLB was found worthy because it has been doing that for a while.
What’s the nature of the legal education programme?
The SQE 1 is the undergraduate stage and it replaces the Bachelor of Law Degree (LLB). In England, it costs about £30,000 to get LLB and about £17,000 for a legal practice course, but enrolling in our programme, the most you will spend is £10,000 for an international student. SQE 1 is £3000 SQE 2 is £3499, exam fees are about 4000.
The cost of our programme for the U.S. bar, whether for six months or 10 months is $6,000 and there are scholarships, installment payments and reward plans.
SQE 1 is completely virtual, but for SQE 2, the student has to travel to take the exam, which is for just two days.
For the exams, you need a tourist visa because you are only required to attend for two days so you don’t need to worry about student visas. Some Nigerians are concerned about tourist visas but as long as you have our programme and your eligibility confirmed at the state bar association, you will easily get a tourist visa.
What is the qualification requirement?
The requirements are same as to be a qualified lawyer. Second is to have work experience in paralegals, or have Chartered Legal Executive Lawyers (CILEX) qualification or any other relevant certificate or must have completed an apprenticeship programme in a law firm. The third is that it is open to all undergraduates no matter the discipline. And lastly, anyone who holds an equivalent to a British level six qualification is eligible, because some undergraduate degrees are not equivalent to it.
How is the Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) relevant to the programme?
It allows you to develop your legal competency in all areas whether internship, legal advisory, pro-bono or para-legal work. I am talking about all experiences you must have had at any point, they are now recognised. Qualified lawyers do not need to engage with SQE 2
Considering the harsh economic realities in Nigeria, what does the payment structure for the courses look like?
It depends on the student. If he or she engages with the 40 weeks programme, they can pay in parts over the eight months period. Same with the 20 weeks programme. For the 10 weeks plan, there is no need for an installment plan, but one could make it in two installment payments. So there is an installment plan available for all students.
Tell us more about the scholarship services?
We have the CLB/Barbri award, which allows students, whether it’s the SQE or American bar to get a 10 per cent discount and we have scholarships like essay writing scholarship, first class honours holders scholarship, scholarships for people working in NGOs and others. The amount differs according to the scholarship. Some are 10 per cent, others are bigger than that.
What areas of law does this programme address?
In England, there are around 30 law practice areas, which is constantly growing. For the SQE 1, we focus on around 14 and about six for SQE 2, but for the American Bar, it is across the board, so all practice areas are taken.
What does the enrollment process entail?
Usually, when applying to a traditional law school, you will need to upload your transcript, and other documents, which involve a whole process of contacting your old school. You would also be required to write a personal statement of sometimes 3,000 words or more. This usually causes a candidate to pause because they have to source that documentation, write that statement and be confident in it. Sometimes, the personal statement stops the student from moving forward, grammatical errors for instance or other things.
Transcript can also hinder a student, because sometimes they are unable to achieve the required grade boundary. We don’t want to deal with any of that. We just want to know that the student has an undergraduate degree. It could be a pass, third class, 2.2 or First class honours. So that is the difference between seeking admission to a university and enrolling at a law school. This is designed to be inclusive.
After enrolling, study materials would be shipped to the individual’s home address and everyone is allowed to have a personalised study plan.
How long does the course last?
There are a few ways you can do our preparation course. For 40 weeks, 20 or 10 weeks. SQE 2 can be fine for 20 or 10 weeks.