The Council of Legal Education (CLE) has included Egerton University in a list of institutions of higher learning that will in future administer bar examinations.
CLE Chief Executive Officer Dr. Wambua Kituku said for the first time in the country’s history, the examination that is a statutory requirement for any law graduate seeking to be admitted as an advocate in the legal profession in Kenya, will be held outside Nairobi at the varsity’s Njoro Main Campus from March 31, 2022.
Dr. Kituku stated that the move was part of the Council’s effort to devolve its administration of the examination whose centres have been exclusively in the Capital City at the Kenya School of Law (KSL), the Bomas of Kenya, the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology Karen campus, Cooperative University and (Kenya Accountants and Secretaries National Examinations Board (Kasneb)Tower among others.
“We are keen to deliver on our mandate. We are decentralizing our functions and will open more bar examination centers outside the capital city,” he said.
Council for Legal Education is the only state organ with the mandate to oversee law education in the country, assess and authorize the syllabuses of universities teaching law and also administer exams for law graduates seeking to be admitted to the bar.
Speaking when CLE board members paid a courtesy call to Egerton University Vice Chancellor Prof. Isaac Kibwage, the CEO indicated that lawyers’ training in the country was gearing for a turnaround following a review and implementation of a new curriculum.
He further revealed that bar examinations that have persistently recorded high failure rates are also changing with the content of the curriculum that prepares the candidates to join the roll of advocates being trimmed, rationalized and reorganized to conform to the industry needs.
Also present during the event were Director Licensing and Compliance at CLE Ms Mary Mutugi, Egerton University Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs Professor Bernard Aduda, Registrar Academic Affairs Professor Mwanarusi Saidi, Dean Faculty of Law Dr. Ruth Aura and the Chair Public Law Department Charles Getanda.
In terms of organization, the bar examination is divided into three components, namely, project, orals and written. Project and orals are formative exams done at KSL but moderated by CLE and constitute 40 per cent of the marks. Written exams are summative and administered by CLE and carry 60 marks.
The courses include Civil Litigation, Criminal Litigation, Probate and Administration, Legal Writing and Drafting, Trial Advocacy, Professional Ethics and Practice, Legal Practice Management, Conveyance and Commercial Transactions.
One must score at least 50 per cent on the aggregate of the project work, oral and written examination. He/she must also satisfactorily undertake a six months supervised pupilage.
Dr. Kituku revealed that KSL had in 2020 commissioned the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA), which compiled a revealing report highlighting aspects influencing students’ performance in the bar examinations.
In recent years, the KSL which is the trainer and the Council of Legal Education (CLE), regulator and examiner, have come under pressure due to the high failure rate of students in the professional examinations that lead to admission to the bar yet they have completed university education.
There are a number of universities offering law degree programmes in the country including University of Nairobi, Egerton university, Kenyatta university, Moi university, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Kisii, Embu and Chuka universities.
Others are Kabarak University, Riara University, Kenya College of Accountancy University, Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Mount Kenya University, African Nazarene University, Daystar University and Strathmore University.
Dr. Kituku expressed optimism that the review of the curriculum and implementation of some of the recommendations of the Kippra study will go a long way to improve students’ performance in the bar examinations.
“We worked together in revising the curriculum, involving students and all stakeholders, to plug the gaps and ensure proper alignment with the industry requirements,” the CEO pointed out.
Prof. Kibwage noted that despite the many ills that have faced the legal profession, lawyers in Kenya and other developing states have succeeded in remaining highly visible and influential.
He acknowledged that lawyers in Kenya have played a great role in advocating for change in their society adding that in order for them to remain relevant in such a dynamic society, they also need to re-examine the manner in which they function and see if there is a need for change.
The Vice Chancellor added “in light of this, lawyers need to explore other practice areas that have conventionally not been seen as the forte of lawyers. For instance, whereas in many countries tax law advice is offered by lawyers, in Kenya, this tends to be the reserve of accounting and audit firms.
With the increasing complexity of legal transactions, it is also time for lawyers to specialize in certain areas of law rather than remain “jacks of all trades”,
Prof. Aduda called for harmonization of eligibility requirements on matters such as training for non-Kenyans who practice law in the East African Community before seeking admission to practice law in Kenya.
“There should be a homogeny in legal training to enable a lawyer who trains in Kenya be subjected to the same curriculum as a lawyer in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi,” he stated.
“Lack of harmonization makes it difficult to admit lawyers from Rwanda and Burundi because the process of them being admitted to the bar is dissimilar with what the Kenyans, Uganda and Tanzania are subjected to,” he said.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor’s observations come against a background of Parliament proposing changes to the Kenya School of Law (Amendment) Bill and the Council for Legal Education (Amendment) Bill which if adopted by the House would allow Rwandan and Burundian advocates to practice in Kenya.
The amendments, if approved will change Section 12 of the Advocates Act, which currently only allows Ugandan and Tanzanian lawyers to practice in Kenya.
Rwandan and Burundian advocates were in 2019 locked out from Kenya, a move that Members of Parliament say contravenes the spirit of the EAC.