In Nigeria, the education of a lawyer starts properly at the University. Faculties of Law are to be found in the Universities all over Nigeria. The conditions or qualification for admission to study law are usually as published by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board Act.
A prospective lawyer may also chose to study in a foreign University.
The content of the course of study leading to the award of a law degree whether from a Nigeria or foreign University must be approved by the Council of Legal Education. Only foreign Universities in common law countries or teaching common law courses are approved by the Council. The Council usually insists that the subjects taken must include Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Law of Contract, Tort, Land Law, Equity & Trust, Commercial Law, Law of Evidence.
The Council of Legal Education runs the Nigeria Law School and all persons who have obtained a University degree in law and want to practice as lawyers in Nigeria, must attend the Nigerian Law School.
Admission into the Nigeria law School is also open to persons who have passed the final Bar Examinations of the English, Scottish or Irish Bar or the Solicitor’s Final Examinations of England, Scotland or Ireland.
After a course of study at the Nigeria Law School, the student who passes the final – Bar Part II – examinations receives a certificate from the Council of Legal Education and is then Called to the Bar by the Body of Benchers as provided by the Legal Practitioners Act. This is followed by enrolment as a Legal Practitioner at the Supreme Court of Nigeria
Before the setting up of the Nigeria Law School, all the persons enrolled to practice law in Nigeria were trained in England mostly as Barristers at the various Inns of Court.
These English-trained lawyers did not study the Customary Laws of Nigeria as part of their education even though, Customary law was and still is a very important part of the Nigeria Legal system. Apart from this lack of customary law training, there was the general disorientation to be expected from a foreign education and training in a foreign system.
The Government of the Federation of Nigeria decided to remedy the situation and in 1958, asked the Attorney-General – himself and Englishman and trained as a lawyer in England – Mr E.T.C. Unsworth to be the chairman of a committee to look into the problem. The report of the committee led to the setting up of the Council of Legal Education and the Nigeria Law School in 1962 when the Legal Education Act was enacted.
The first Director of the Nigerian Law School was an Englishman, Mr. G. Rudd who served from 1962 – 1967 . He was followed in succession by Dr. Olakunle Orojo from 1968 – 1976, Mr. Justice J.O. Sofolahan from 1976 – 1978 and the legendry Babatunde Ibironke. SAN who served from 1979 – 1993 . Mr Ibironke was succeeded by Chief John Kayode Jegede SAN who headed the Nigeria Law School with the new title of Director-General. Chief Dr. Kole Abayomi, SAN became DG after Chief J.K. Jegede and ran the Law School from October 2004 to November 2005. Dr Maman Tahir succeeded Chief Dr. Kole Abayomi, SAN as DG
Today, persons educated in foreign countries can only practice law in Nigeria after being trained at the Nigeria Law School. For this purpose, the course is broken into two parts.
The first part – Bar Part I – is designed for persons educated in foreign countries. The courses taken are Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Nigeria Legal System and Nigerian Land Law.
The second part is for all students whether trained in Nigeria or not. The courses taken include Civil Procedure, Company Law and Commercial Practice, Criminal Procedure, Law of Evidence, Legal drafting and Conveyancing, Professional Ethics, Legal Practitioner’s Accounts, Law Office Management and General Paper.
For the students trained outside Nigeria therefore, they must first take and pass the Bar Part I examinations before they can join the students trained in Nigeria for the Bar Part II course.
These courses – Bar Part I and Bar Part II are taught by the academic staff of the Nigeria Law School and outside experts – Judges, Senior lawyers and accountants – who are called in to deliver lectures from time to time.
From 1962 to 1994, the Nigeria Law School had only one campus located in Lagos. Today, the main campus is in Abuja. The other campuses are the old one in Lagos and others in Enugu, Kano, Yenagoa and Yola. These campuses are headed by Deputy Directors-General.