A student guide to becoming a lawyer in Ghana
In Ghana, you are called to the Bar as both a barrister and a solicitor. Practising as a lawyer primarily involves advising and representing individuals and institutions in pursuing and defending their legal rights.
Being in the Bar can provide a challenging yet exciting and fulfilling experience. The Bar provides a close-knit but very sociable society and features many events such as the Annual Bar Conferences and educational lectures to facilitate further legal development and networking amongst members.
To qualify for the Bar, you must satisfy a 2-year educational and skill development requirement at the Ghana School of Law. To be enrolled in the Ghana School of Law for this course, you must possess a Law Degree from Universities and Institutions approved by the General Legal Council and must have passed the following subjects: Law of Contract Torts, Criminal Law, Law of immovable property, Constitutional Law, The Ghana Legal System and its History, Equity and Succession. You will then write an entrance examination followed by an interview before you are admitted to undertake the 2-year training. After completing and passing the Ghana School of Law course, you will be enrolled into the Ghana Bar if the General Legal Council is satisfied that you are of good character followed by a 6 month pupillage requirement after which a Solicitor Licence is issued.
Although the Bar is highly competitive, it is open to all individuals willing to take up the challenge.
ACCESS TO JUSTICE
There are various law firms in Ghana where you can obtain legal services. A list of Law firms in Ghana can be found through the various search engines and on legal websites. There is also the Legal Aid Scheme available for those unable to afford legal help although access to this aid is quite limited due to underfunding.
There are also firms that provide free services on a bro bono basis. Pro Bono is available to those who cannot afford a Lawyer and are not eligible for legal aid. You can contact the various firms to find out about their pro bono services. Pro Bono services in Ghana are very limited and mainly exist in the Human Rights Law field. There are also organizations that offer Pro Bono services. Some of these organisations include Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the Human Rights Advocacy Centre in Ghana, FIDA and Legal Resources Centre.
Pro Bono facilitates access to Justice and lawyers provide help with:
- Advice on a problem,
- Mediation, and
- Representation in courts and tribunals.
Due to the costly nature of litigation and the limitations on the Legal Aid Scheme in Ghana, you might find yourself in court without representation. In that case, you may have to represent yourself. This is known as “litigant in person”.
You may first want to assess your case to find out if it has merit to begin with. If you decide so, you may want to obtain information on how to proceed with your case from any legal sources you may be aware of including lawyers. These may help you determine the merits of your case and whether it would be beneficial to proceed to court.
If you decide to proceed, the first step is preparing your case. In preparing your case, providing honest evidence to the court may increase your likelihood of success. There are serious consequences in presenting a case you know is false. First identify what your case is, and how you want it to be remedied. After identifying your case, collate your evidence in support of your claim or defence. Beware of technical terms, time limits, statute of limitation and matters which require leave of the court before you take a step. There are various documents, which provide information on court proceedings. Most notably, there is the High Court Civil Procedure Rules (CI 47) for civil cases and the Criminal Procedure Code, 1960 (ACT 30) for criminal cases.
You can also explore an out of court settlement option which is cheaper and faster than court action. That option now provided by the courts and private centres is called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). There are various processes used to facilitate amicable settlement. These include negotiation, mediation and arbitration. This means that you come to an agreement with the other side on how to resolve your dispute, without going to court or if already in court going through full scale court hearing. Often, this means that you will have to compromise.