The process for becoming a lawyer in Ghana is “increasingly becoming an assembly line”, former Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo has said.
In an interview on Thursday, 9 November 2023, she insisted that being a lawyer “is not a question of numbers” but “a question of quality and the content, scope and magnitude.”
In her view, the call to the Bar has become a conduit for other ulterior aims.
“How many of them are lawyers because they want to help rather than ‘it is a stepping stone to some big thing: to a political life, to being rich?'”. “That is my impression”, she indicated.
She expressed her worries about the consequences the ‘assembly line’ lawyers portend for the judiciary.
“My concern is that the calibre of the larger number of lawyers is what is going to dictate the calibre of the greater number of judges in the future”, explaining: “Because you are a member of the Bar before you become a judge”, the former CJ said.
She said unlike now, law students went through rogorous processes to be called to the Bar with dedicated lecturers.
“The process we went through was hard, harsh, and militaristic”, she recalles, adding: “Maybe, we knew that every person who was teaching us was setting very high standards, so, if they tell you ‘it’s out of ten’, you know that to get to seven, you have almost broken the teeth and you work accordingly”.
The lecturers, in her time, unlike today, Ms Akuffo noted, were not distracted by other engagements.
“They were not lecturing in six different universities and then being private practitioners at the same time. They were lecturing us and giving us their all, as far as I am concerned”, she told Bola Ray on Accra-based Starr FM.
In 2019, while she was still Chief Justice, Ms Akuffo signalled that as long as she supervised legal education in Ghana and the judicial system, she would not allow the mass production of lawyers, as it posed a great danger to the country.
Addressing the Bench, Bar and Faculty Conference at the Labadi Beach Hotel on the theme: “The Changing Landscape in the Law – the Judge, the Lawyer and the Academic”, the then-Chief Justice said any attempt to allow the production of lawyers without efficient control, checks and balances will be rejected irrespective of whom is advocating.
In her address, Justice Akuffo noted that: “Those of us who have been too long on the General Legal Council, those of us who spent too long on the disciplinary committee, we’ve cause to worry because the kinds of misconduct are such that there is no way anybody envisaged these categories of misconduct when the Legal Profession Act was being enacted in the 1960s.”
Focusing on her concerns about legal education in Ghana, Justice Akuffo said: “Those of you lawyers and those of you lecturers who are busy advocating free scale, mass admissions into the professional law course, and mass production of lawyers, be careful what you wish for.” “So long as I have anything to do with it, it won’t happen,” she added.
“Just like you can’t mass-produce doctors and surgeons, Ghanaians must not have mass-produced lawyers imposed on them,” she said at the time.