The Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education (ZIALE) is undertaking reforms relating to Student Rules and its curriculum to address the high entry-level barriers law graduates sitting for Bar exams are currently facing, says Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president Eddie Mwitwa.

And Mwitwa says the exponential growth in the number of law graduates has led to a scarcity of job opportunities in the legal fraternity.

Addressing a question on high-entry level barriers law graduates had continued to face when undertaking Bar exams in Zambia, Mwitwa announced that ZIALE was currently undertaking reforms relating to updating its Student Rules and its curriculum to address the problem.

Last week, only 5 law graduates, who sat for the 2019 ZIALE final exams, passed out of a grand total of 355 students, representing a 1.4 per cent pass rate.

“I am quite aware, due to my involvement that I have with ZIALE on account of my position, that at the moment, what ZIALE is trying to do is to amend the law in relation to what are known as the Student Rules and the curriculum. The process started some years back; I did participate in that process. So, to that extent, there is some reform in the pipeline. And, naturally, there is the hope and anticipation that with those reforms, there will be some improvement in the performance of students in the Bar exams. Whether that will have a significant impact or otherwise, I think only time will tell,” Mwitwa said during a half-day meeting on civil society and media engagement in the law reform process organized by the Zambia Law Development Commission (ZLDC) in Lusaka, Tuesday.

He, however, pointed out that structural reforms relating to legal study courses at Zambian higher learning institutions were equally required.

“But I think I should also say that, in my view, other than law reform at ZIALE, what is also needed is structural reform, and also interrogating the manner in which students at universities that are sending students at ZIALE are being prepared for what is expected of them at ZIALE. As some commentators have said in the recent past, ZIALE is an institute, which prepares students for the professional or practical side of the law; at universities, students are generally prepared for the theoretical side of the law, and I think that may also need to be interrogated,” he noted.

He also hailed female law graduates, who had tended to outperform their male counterparts.

“From past experience, ladies tend to do well at the stage of writing the Bar exams. Generally, ladies tend to do better, and the reasons advanced for that are that ladies tend to be more committed or focused on studies whereas guys would be looking for money; maybe, some of them are going there (ZIALE) and are looking after children and a wife somewhere…the dynamics tend to be slightly different, but the statistics tend to show that ladies do better,” he said.

And Mwitwa, the renowned Lusaka lawyer, who himself was admitted to the Bar nearly two decades ago, observed that there had been an exponential growth in the number of law graduates, a situation that had led to a scarcity of job opportunities in Zambia’s legal fraternity.

Speaking when he officially opened the ZLDC workshop at Best Western Hotel earlier, he said that LAZ looked forward to resolving the challenge in due course.

“We, as LAZ, are at a critical stage in the life of our Association because we are also in the process of interrogating the Legal Practitioners’ Act, Chapter 30 of the laws of Zambia and the Law Association of Zambia Act, Chapter 31 of the laws of Zambia, with a view to proposing amendments to these two enabling pieces of legislation so as to enable the Law Association of Zambia and legal profession as a whole to respond to the challenges and opportunities of our time, such as the exponential growth in the number of law graduates and advocates in our country, which has led to, among other things, a scarcity of job opportunities for newly-admitted advocates,” said Mwitwa.

“In this regard, we look forward to working with the ZLDC of finding lasting solutions to these challenges.”

The ZLDC is a statutory body established under Chapter 32 of the laws of Zambia, whose primary mandate is to review and reform the law in the country.

The media engagement workshop was organized as part of the Commission’s efforts to engage all stakeholders in the law reform process, and designed to share information with stakeholders on on-going law reform processes and to discuss possible areas of collaboration.