Since the British colonists introduced a formal justice system and legal education to the country and Mr John Mensah Sarbahbecame the first native of the then Gold Coast to be called to the Bar by Lincoln’s Inn in 1887, the rise in the number of Ghanaians desiring to be lawyers has never waned.
It is on record that those were the days when the country’s lawyers were trained abroad, mostly at the Inns of Court in England.
The Ghana School of Law (GSL) was established by the Legal Practitioners Act, 1958 enacted by Parliament to train lawyers locally under the watchful eyes of the General Legal Council earlier created under the same Act. A Board of Legal Education was also instituted
In December 1958, the School was officially opened on temporary premises in the Supreme Court with 97 students selected from about 600 applicants and they moved into the present premises whose plaque was unveiled byDr Kwame Nkrumah on March 5, 1959.
Until recently when other tertiary institutions, both public and private, were allowed to offer the LLB course, which is now the principal requirement to the GSL, only the University of Ghana Law School was offering it.
What that means is that the number of LLB graduates being produced now are more than the GSL can absorb and so, obviously, it must find a way to admit the best just as it has been doing since its establishment.
It must be recalled that in October this year, Parliament, by a resolution, directed the Minister of Justice and Attorney General and the General Legal Council to admit the 499 students denied admission to the Ghana School of Law despite making the 50 percent pass mark in the entrance examination organised by the General Legal Council.
The students had petitioned Parliament and staged protests over their denial, while some of them also sued the General Legal Council over the issue.
The legal profession has become very important in modern times due to its role in the administration of justice and job opportunities and this has caused the desire for it to soar even higher than anyone had ever envisaged.
This is why plans by the government to introduce a new legislation, the Legal Profession Bill, to regulate professional legal education in the country is laudable.
The legislation is meant to make provision for a multiplicity of law schools to train professional lawyers though under the General Legal Council, to break the monopoly of the GSL.
The bill would help create space to accommodate the growing demand and public interest in the legal profession.
The move by the government is a very good one because many other people are capable of doing law, yet at the moment, the legal profession in the country has actually been organised as “a guild, a small club of mostly men, which is difficult to penetrate.”
President Nana AddoDankwaAkufo-Addo has broached an important conversation that should not be discounted in any way because the current system creates a class society.
The GSL started in1958 giving admissions to all manner of capable people, including teachers and civil servants, not only people from certain families.
This should be the case because with all the checks in place, the country can produce good lawyers and the kind of quota system being run now can be proven unproductive and restrictive.
After all, having more lawyers in the country would first and foremost demystify the legal profession, while there can be varied opinions in law that can help shape our legal system to suit our circumstances.