A class size of 50 students (35 first-year plus 15 re-admitted) has been admitted to the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia, following a process of rigorous credential screening that included the administering of two entrance exams after 509 applications were received, according to a press release from the University of Liberia.
The disclosure was made by Counselor T. Negabalee Warner, Dean of the Law School, at the end of an intensive week-long orientation for the in-coming first-year students on Friday, September 16, 2016, on the Capitol Hill campus of the University, where the school is located.
“There were over 400 candidates that sat the two tests,” Dean Warner said. “On the first test, there were more than 215 applicants and 25 persons passed, while the second test was taken by 170 students and only 10 passed for a combined total of 35; they, along with 15 readmitted students, were admitted this year.”
During the orientation, the students received what is referred to as their first “legal baptism” into case briefing – a tedious academic exercise that dissects a court’s opinion to the key elements and discusses its essence.
According to Dean Warner, the students were taught the basic elements of a case: the facts of the case; the particular legal issue that is at question in the case; the specific legal rule of law that is applicable to the case; the application of that rule of law to the facts of the case; and then the court’s holding/conclusion.
“With the exception of the specific rule of law (which should almost always be quoted), the case brief should be a summary and paraphrasing of the court’s opinion in your own words,” said Dean Warner in one of the lecture sections.
But what the class seems to lack in terms of numbers it makes up in terms of professional diversity. In this class, which is expected to complete in 2019, there are several students with advanced degrees who occupy mid-level to senior positions in the private and public sectors. Among them is an experienced law enforcement officer; a police forensic investigator; an assistant minister; two former lawmakers; a deputy minister; a politician who claims to have founded two political parties; a young anti-corruption advocate; a youth advocate; four pastors; an oil and gas expert; and a magistrate, among others. The class has five females, all of whom are professionals in their respective organizations.
The class is also diverse in terms of the universities represented. Obviously, the majority of them are from University of Liberia; however, all universities in the country—with the exception of Tubman University, which is gradually building its alumni base—are represented at least by one graduate. Similarly, the class has graduates from universities abroad, including the Universities of Ghana-Legon, Liverpool, Maryland, and Columbia.
The Law School’s enrollment has been declining since the ascendancy of current President Dr. Emmet A. Dennis, whose policy places premium on admitting quality students rather than having many students. The last two classes had 44 and 60 first-year students each, and this trend is expected to continue under the new Dean.
In 2009, when President Dennis attended his first orientation, the class had nearly 100 first-year students. “You know when I walked in here few minutes ago, there was a stark difference between my first orientations as President in 2009. When I walked in here in 2009, this room was jammed parked. And I asked: ‘Are all these people needed? Does this group exemplify where we are going,’” Dr. Dennis recollected.
Fast-forward to 2016, Dr Dennis, who has elected to retire once a new president is found, is leaving behind a different Law School than the one he inherited, and he says that pleases him very well.
This is what he said in July about the school: “Over the past six years, the institution has grown, particular in quality. The quality of the students admitted to the Law School now is by far better than a few years ago and that pleases me very much,” he said. “The qualitative profile of the faculty has increased tremendously. Seven years ago, the Law School had just a few with an LLM degree—something around four or five—now we have about 22.”
Besides urging a rigorous admissions process and increasing its faculty profile, Dr Dennis also found a new Dean to replace Counselor David A.B. Jallah, who served the school for 15 years and under whose administration some of the current policies begun. The Law School also has several partnerships and relationships with other law schools abroad, including Indiana University, where many of the 22 Law Faculty were trained in the seven years Dr. Dennis has led the university; and Tilburg University, in the Netherlands, where he visited two weeks ago to renew a memorandum of understanding between the two institutions that could achieve many things for the UL Law School, including the possibility of awarding its Master’s Degree in Laws.
Among the 50 students admitted this term is Gerald Yeakula, 23, a graduate of the University of Liberia, who described the week-long orientation as transformative.
“I feel honored to be part of this class. A challenge has been placed before us. The first week was a transformative experience,” Yeakula said. “It took us from our world, the world we found ourselves in, to another world or profession. We saw things differently, and more importantly, we were urged to step up because we are going to a profession which is an important one, and because of that certain pressure will come to bear on us.”