In Nigeria The Argument For More Adjunct Faculty
by Akindeji Oyebode
The Faculty of Law University of Lagos prides itself as one of the best law faculties in Nigeria. I know this because I obtained a law degree from the faculty a couple of years ago, before I proceeded on a sojourn to the United States to see a different view of the world. I went to America to get a masters’ degree in law. Following my uncle’s footsteps, my destination was the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Philadelphia.
My desktop research and anecdotal information did not prepare me for our first meeting. Like a scene from the famous Nigerian movie, “Osuofia in London,” I was pleasantly surprised when I got to Penn. The University’s aesthetics welcomed me; a good blend of old and modern buildings lying bare in the middle of the city devoid of visible demarcations. My first experiences of Penn Law was amazing. The sprawling library was littered with thousand of books, supported by an impressive digital library that gave unfettered access to titles from Alaska to Zhengzhou. The faculty itself was fascinating with leading professors in different fields of law tutoring the next crop of American lawyers. In every way imaginable, this school did not fall short of its Ivy League reputation. However, before this becomes a marketing document for my alma mater, I will now focus on one of the numerous initiatives that caught my attention, one I believe Nigerian law faculties can emulate, to raise the standard of lawyers currently produced from our universities.
The role of adjunct lecturers in a leading law faculty cannot be over-emphasized. It is no coincidence that the law faculties of most of the Ivy league schools in America have a high percentage of adjunct lecturers. The impact of this composition of the law faculties is an important, but often overlooked reason American law schools rank very high around the world. Most of the classes I took while at Penn Law were taught by adjunct lecturers, and provided a different perspective to legal education.
In one of those classes, the adjunct lecturer engaged her colleagues in legal practice; so, every week we had a different visitor teaching us a different aspect of corporate lawyering. This helped the class also view law from the everyday life of a corporate lawyer, in addition to the academic view from various textbooks. In my year at Penn, I was taught by partners of leading American law firms, General Counsel of leading American corporations and heads of U.S. government agencies.
Now to Nigeria—permit me to ask a few questions. How many partners in leading Nigerian law firms teach? How many government officials teach? How many non-academic Senior Advocates teach? How many judges teach? Should teaching be left to only the academia? Would legal practitioners not learn more by engaging law students? Is teaching too much to give back to the society? I believe it is time for accomplished legal practitioners to give back to their society. Teaching 2-hour class weekly would not hurt the busy schedules of successful legal practitioners. To make this happen, such interested parties should appoint research assistants who will handle the logistics of their classes. The class can be restricted to a limited number of students so as not to overburden the lawyers. The classes can be scheduled as evening classes so as not to disrupt the daily activities of the adjunct lecturers. The adjunct lecturers will bring an enormous bank of practical legal knowledge and also help serve as role models for law students as their careers will inspire these students. The names and reputations of these adjunct lecturers will also help improve the images of our Universities in the international community. The lawyers will also benefit from this system. They will have a good access to a pool of law students and this can help improve the recruitment process in the legal profession.
The dream of making Nigerian law faculties competitive with counterparts across the globe is a collective dream. It is time to cease complaining about the quality of graduates and the time to brace up to the challenge. It is a little price we must pay to improve the system. We do not have to wait for government legislation or direction from the Nigerian Bar Association before contributing our quota to the development of legal education in Nigeria.
As it is widely said, “the reward of a teacher is in heaven.”
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