Let’s talk about the LDC Pre-entry exam…
So you want to become an advocate in Uganda? It has been your lifelong dream, you already passed the University pre-entries- got in and you have successfully finished your undergraduate Law degree. Congratulations! The graduation celebrations are done and dusted; gowns worn and caps thrown up in the air! However, despite this major accomplishment, the question that remains ‘are you going to pursue the bar course at LDC (Law Development Center)?’ This is a question that haunts most of the young aspiring lawyers in Uganda. Filled with all the horror stories told over the years on how it is near impossible to get into the Law Development Centre, most students opt to flee the country and pursue their bar course in other East African states.
In order for one to be admitted to the Ugandan bar, they must hold a degree in Law granted by an accredited university in Uganda or a degree in Law obtained from a University of Law recognized by the Law Council. That’s the first step. The second step is to get admitted to the post graduate bar course and upon successful completion, be awarded a diploma in legal practice. The diploma in legal practice will then enable you to apply for a practicing certificate and get enrolled onto the bar of advocates in Uganda.
However, as per (The Advocates Professional Requirement for Admission to Post Graduate Bar Course) Legal Notice No 17 of 2007 as amended by Legal Notice No 12 of 2010 P (3) 1) In order for one to be admitted to the post graduate bar course, they must sit the pre-entry examination set by law council and attain the pass mark of 50%.
Now this might seems easy enough. However, over the years is a bias surrounding the pre-entry examination for LDC. Each year thousands of eager lawyers sit this exam and each year the headlines in the newspapers read “Thousands fail the pre entry law exam”, coupled with numerous stories and statistics of how getting admitted to the bar course is close to impossible because of the pre-entry exam. From the outside looking in, the once hopeful university student who dreamt of becoming a practicing lawyer in Uganda then starts to make excuses, deflating their dream with statements such as, “I don’t even want to practice”, or “why should I bother to sit the pre entry, I’ll just go straight to Kenya or Rwanda”. Unfortunately, so much fear has been instilled in law students regarding the LDC pre-entry examination, that these days some do not even bother sitting the paper at all.
I used to be that student. Before reaching my fourth year in university, I had made up my mind that I was not going to sit for the pre entry examination and this was not because I had anything better to do, I was just scared. I was scared of failure, scared because every time I read the headlines to do with pre entry, I only saw the number of failed entrants. So I made up my mind not to sit the exam. However, after serious motivation from my parents and friends, a lot of procrastination and a thousand self-pep talks later, I decided to give it a shot. I succeeded in getting the pass mark and joining the bar course. It is possible.
Therefore, I write this article in hope that it will encourage any law student out there who wants to be admitted to the Ugandan bar but is afraid to try or needs some guidance on how to start reading.
After consulting with various lawyers who once sat for the same exam and passed, they all emphasized the following tips during your preparation. Hopefully these will guide you in your reading:
Exam Preparation – Take the exam seriously
Many students straight from university have a lot of confidence when approaching this exam. Now, this is not a bad thing. It only becomes bad when it negatively affects the way you approach your reading in preparation. Some students have the attitude of “I’ve been passing all my exams from first year, why should I be worried about this?” so the effort they put into this exam is riddled with complacency. It becomes very easy to get wrapped up in the celebratory fever of finishing under graduate law school that you forget to get back to serious business and read. There is also the attitude that having just finished undergraduate studies, the knowledge is still fresh in your mind and all you have to do is a little “touch up” but this is not always the case. It always helps to be serious from the get go. Train your mind to know that this is a serious paper you are going to sit and give it your absolute all.
Start from the beginning (Personal reading)
When it comes to reading, start from the beginning, and I mean from your first year work. You must be thinking “what? why? no!” As tedious and tiresome as it may sound, this is very useful and many times students tend to brush off reading from the beginning but in reality how you understood a concept while you were in first year, may not be how you understand it now. Plus it is important to sweep up and refresh your memory. For courses completed most recently such as your final year, it is easy to brush them aside and not be exhaustive in your reading, but this is not the case. It is always good to go back through those concepts and understand them from the root again.
One of the lawyers I consulted had this to say “..during preparatory discussions for pre-entry a colleague might ask a question and you don’t know the answer, then once they mention the answer you get a clue as to what they are saying, you get the false confidence that you know what has been asked, yet in reality you don’t know. Because you had to be reminded, so you just know bits and pieces when hinted to. The key question is whether you are able to answer the question when alone?..” this highlights the importance of personal reading and reading from the beginning, it gives you a clearer understanding of topics.
Discussion groups/Study groups
Discussing with your colleagues that are preparing for the same exam helps a lot. You get to cover a wider range of topics in less time than you would have if you were doing personal reading. You also get to test each other’s memory and share key pieces of information.
It is very helpful to do both personal reading and work in study groups. This way, if there is something you didn’t understand during your personal reading, it can be clarified during your peer discussions.
Go over past papers
This too is vital. Many a times, the questions in the pre-entry exam have featured in papers within past years. Reviewing past papers also helps you know the form and trend the questions take in the examination. Luckily we are living in a generation where everything is online and you can easily access the questions for the previous years in soft copy.
Read your legal sources (Legislative acts etc) and know the major cases
This is a very important tip because most times it doesn’t help much to read your notes in isolation. It is always helpful to read the different acts that relate to the different course units. For example, in evidence law, you need to read the evidence Act, contract law needs to be read with the contracts Act, criminal procedure read with the criminal procedure code Act, the Magistrates Court Act and the penal code Act, and for constitutional law read the constitution of Uganda. It is best to read using the Acts because that is where the questions stem from and most times the answers are within these Acts.
Make sure you are also familiar with the locus classicus cases under the different course units, this is because most questions tend to ask for the principle laid out in such cases or any other details.
Mentally preparing yourself
It’s natural to feel nervous, scared and doubtful. However try and stay calm. It is possible. Have confidence in yourself and remember that success starts in the mind. I am a firm believer in the law of attraction, I believe that “once you see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand”. Many times students panic out of fear and this can interrupt your train of thought. I personally had this problem when I had just started reading for the pre entry, I realized I had so much to read and the time was just not enough. I then began to rush through topics, I didn’t understand one bit of what I was reading and I would spend a lot of my time panicking instead of actually reading. It wasn’t until a friend of mine sat me down and told me I needed to calm down and let go of the fear, was I able to do my part and leave the rest to God.
During the exam
During the examination, don’t rush. Read and understand the question thoroughly. This might seem cliche but make a point to do it. You need to fully comprehend it before you give your answer.
Aptitude and Values
The exam has aptitude tests. These carry 20 marks. It therefore helps to work hard and giving equal maximum attention to pass the aptitude and values section in the paper. Because it carries 20 marks, many people tend to overlook this section because it only tests your general knowledge and it is often not legally related. However, 20 marks is a lot and passing this section is a huge plus in bringing you closer to the 50% pass mark. Use the fact that it does not test your legal knowledge to your advantage and ensure that you pass it.
This is the final piece of advice…pray real hard, pray all the time and hope for the best. No matter what the outcome is, never be too scared to try again because “our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”
I hope you find this helpful! All the best!