How I made First Class in law school against all odds

November 14, 2020

In this piece, Kelechi Madu tells the story of his Law School experiences and how determination propelled him to the top.

The fourth of July, 2020, was one of those hectic days for me. It must have been a few minutes past ten P.M, when I woke to the bang on my door and to the yelling of my younger brother.

“Law school result is out!” he kept saying.

He confirmed getting the information from my friends on social media. With a mixed feeling of fear, anxiety, and perturbation, I decided against checking the results myself. So, I gave my brother my examination number to do the result-checking on my behalf.

I also gave him instructions to adhere to depending on the outcome of the result. If the result was bad, he was to keep it between us for the mean time until I was in a proper state of mind to break it to the rest of the family. However, if the result was good, he should loudly announce it so everyone in the house could hear my success story.

After sometime, I heard my brother shouting, repeatedly, “He made a first class!”

I was in doubt of what I just heard. Minutes later, it dawned on me that I just made a ‘first class’ from the Nigerian Law School, and I had no words to express the feeling.

My Nigerian Law School journey would be incomplete if I fail to mention the past two years preceding my entry. Those years were the most challenging part of my life—I was involved in a ghastly motorcycle accident, and I lost in major competitions I participated in during my undergraduate. I was distracted and endured various setbacks that almost made me lose touch with reality. I lost a couple of close friends I held in high regards. I made a whole lot of mistakes, failed more times than I could count, and even got myself ridiculed in some instances. However, all these never discouraged me. Rather, they got me a step closer to success.

I received the news of my posting to the Abuja campus of the law school less than two weeks after surviving the motorcycle accident. Since I was already two weeks behind in class, making up for lost time to catch up with the rest of the class wasa daunting task. Furthermore, I had to get accustomed to the Abuja campus culture and its busy schedule to fashion a timetable that best fitted me, in my quest for the prestigious and famous red scroll.

A major difference between my undergraduate days and my time in law school was my purposeful intent to graduate with a first class in the latter. Although I was in the range of graduating with first class honours in my freshman year, I did not give it much thought nor was I intentional about it. On the contrary, the ardent desire to make my parents proud, among other reasons, fuelled my pursuit of first class in law school from the very first minute.

I realised earlier that any strategy I would come up with, to achieve my goal, will require making certain sacrifices. These sacrifices may involve putting myself in few uncomfortable conditions.

Before then, I only heard about depression in movies and television advertisements, but law school brought me closest to experiencing it. My near experience with depression was not because of the tasking activities, but for other challenges I was also facing during my time at the school. The pain and torture got unbearable a few times and I literally cried. Thankfully, the good Lord was my solace during those trying times.

Despite the stress that came with law school, I tried as much as possible to have my own share of fun. Some days, I take myself out for pizza and ice cream. I even visited close friends and relatives in Abuja town. I also did not miss out in things that helped to relieve tension, like listening to music and watching football, especially on weekends.

I remembered one time my football team, Real Madrid, had a Spanish Super Cup final just a day to my first theory paper on Property Law Practice. I had to stream the live match on my phone. In retrospect, it still amazes me how I chose to watch a football game over reading for an examination that could make or mar my career.

As my examination approached, I tried to read less, as reading more prior to exams, from my experience, only helped in putting me under undue pressure. Pressure was not what I needed during those times. So, I decided to take every obstacle before me a step at a time.

Law school afforded me ample time to reflect, as a voluntary disconnection from distractions like social media made me appreciate simple things. I got to understand the importance of value, and transient nature of friendship—from losing a lot of friends and making a few. I also learnt that loyalty, respect, and honesty are necessary qualities for true friendship. The remaining friends I had and the new ones I made in law school embodied these qualities and more.

Law school taught me to pay attention to details. I realised that answering questions did not necessarily depend on how well you know the subject but on how much of the question you understand. In short, I learnt that understanding the question is part of the answer, which was helpful to me. I was more focused on myself in law school in contrast to my undergraduate days where my selfless nature felt the need to carry others along.

On my Call to Bar ceremony, I was awarded two prizes: The Director General’s prize for making a first class and the Chief Ernest Shonekan’s Prize for the third overall best in Property Law Practice.

These awards were accompanied by demands and expectations from some, and envy and hatred from others.Having made a first class, everyone expects highly of me. Even people who never rated me before now do. There will be no significant change, on my part, to meet up with their expectations of me, since I am only human. I have nothing to prove to anyone at this stage of my life than to improve on my yesterday.

However, I do have a perfect understanding of what my achievement meant to my parents and my extended relatives. On breaking the news of my achievement to them, they were overjoyed. Offers started flying in from everywhere. It almost became a race of who would sponsor: graduation suit, wig and gown, shoes, bills, etc. I felt so much love from everyone, and I was happy my achievement made my loved ones proud.

When my result came out as first class, some friends, colleagues, and seniors advised me on some money-making schemes. Moves that could make me possibly cash-out off my result, like writing a book on ‘The Secrets to First Class’—a secret I do not even know—and selling it to bar aspirants.Others suggested I organise paid webinars, tutorials, and all sort of trainings that could make me money.

Although their thoughts may be right, I felt it would be ridiculous of me if I go through with them. I believed my making a first class was a privilege granted to me by God. I had friends and colleagues who prepared far better than I did, but could barely make their desired grades. So, I decided against monetising any assistance I afford to younger colleagues, as it seems wrong and improper to me in all ramifications.

Moreover, I did receive free advice and counselling from senior colleagues who made first class. So, it is, at least reasonable, that I pay forward their kind gesture. Helping othersshould be altruistic and not attached to a need for personal gain. As such, I try as much as I could to offer help and reply questions addressed to me by younger colleagues and students or direct them to others that may be able to help.

I have many plans for myself lined up during this post-law-school era. Some of such plans include me starting a blog where I discuss matters like sports as it relates to law. I also intend to work for awhile during my National Youth Service and during that period take the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) exams. After my youth service, I plan to start a Master’s of Laws (LL.M.) programme in either Sports Law or Laws of Taxation or both.

And, eventually, during the process of all these, I intend to give back to the society by creating a foundation dedicated to the work of charity and helping members of the society who are less-privileged. Although some of these plans might not seem feasible at the first instance, I pray I could be able to achieve them in the long run.

Making a first class from the Nigerian Law School alleviated my pain and gave me a positive mindset towards challenges I have endured and any that may lie ahead. It is one of my biggest achievements in life, so far.

My time in law school, Abuja campus,would not be forgotten in a hurry. I achieved more than just being a member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). It made me a better person and a significant member of our society.

I hope my story would excite others in their quest for knowledge and strengthen those that may doubt their ability.


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