PART of the 64 lawyers who were admitted to the bar during the Call Day for Petitioners in Lusaka
PART of the 64 lawyers who were admitted to the bar during the Call Day for Petitioners in Lusaka

By Michael Chishala

The Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education (ZIALE) must be the most organized cartel in Zambia. The latest results, showing that only 18 people out of 187 (9.6%) who sat the bar exam are worthy of holding practicing certificates proves that the powers that be at ZIALE must be some of the most selfish people in this country. I do not mean to be mean and rude, but that is exactly how I and many other Zambians see these people.

We are not fools who can fail to see that the ZIALE Cartel artificially restrict how many lawyers come on the market so that we pay hefty sums of money to hire them, since they are also practicing lawyers. It has nothing to do with quality of lawyers. We are currently paying around K3,000 deposits just for a lawyer to open a case. By the time the case is over, legal bills reach K30,000 or more. How many Zambians can afford to spend such money on a legal case? And of course the more they fail students at ZIALE, the more money they get with each exam re-sitting.

The pass rate at ZIALE this year of less than 10% (it has been as bad as 3% in the past) suggests that it is easier to pass Engineering in Zambia which of course is nonsense. The argument that the quality of lawyers going to ZIALE is poor is a nonsensical argument. Some of the lawyers who fail at ZIALE were among the top students at UNZA and I have personally known such cases. Sadly, the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) has gone on record agreeing with this circus.

A simple thought experiment makes the point clear about the insanity of the passing rate at ZIALE. Imagine that all the students get 90% or more in a bar exam. ZIALE in their infinite wisdom will only allow 20 people to pass it, meaning that a person who got 90% of the marks is not worthy to be a practicing lawyer. How absurd can this logic (or lack thereof) be?

How can the qualifications to prepare legal argument be more difficult than for putting a man on the moon?

I simply refuse to accept that Law at ZIALE is a more difficult course than Engineering which I did in my youth. We had to learn complex Mathematics that allows us to design motor vehicles, railways, bridges, skyscrapers, spaceships, aircraft and many other complex things whose complications are best appreciated by watching an episode of “Mega Structures” or “Extreme Engineering” on Discovery Channel and National Geographic. How can the qualifications to prepare legal argument be more difficult than for putting a man on the moon?

50 years after independence, Zambia has just about 1,500 lawyers with practicing certificates because of the ZIALE cartel. That is one lawyer to 10,000 people. Compare with Europe which is at around 1,000 and USA which has a lawyer to every 300 people.

The ZIALE cartel are so shameless that at one time, they used to reject students from other Universities apart from UNZA. They used to quote the ZIALE act which specified admitting UNZA students until someone was brave enough to take them on in court. When the ZIALE Act was written, there was only one university churning out lawyers so a literal interpretation of the Act makes no sense. ZIALE lost the case and that is when students from other institutions could be admitted into ZIALE.

They also have this strange practice of barring students from re-sitting any exams for FIVE YEARS when they fail 3 times. Now, what logical explanation can anyone give for this senseless rule, other than again an attempt to restrict new lawyers getting practicing certificates?

 

The ZIALE cartel are so shameless that at one time, they used to reject students from other Universities apart from UNZA. They used to quote the ZIALE Act which specified admitting UNZA students until someone was brave enough to take them on in court.

Having few lawyers means the Zambian legal system is very weak. It affects economic growth because the strength of the legal system is one of the main things investors look at when choosing where to send their money. Investors want to be sure that if their investments are threatened, they can go to court and get recourse. The current scenario where the LapGreenN court case has been dragging on for years is unacceptable. LapGreenN has half a billion Dollars stuck in Zamtel in Zambia which they cannot access until the court case is disposed of.

If you are defrauded by someone, you usually cannot easily take them to court due to high legal fees or lack of lawyers where you are. Legal aid doesn’t work either because it is understaffed. Imagine all the lost opportunities that prevent you being more productive. Court cases involving retirees taks 5 to 10 years to conclude because there are too many court cases relative to the available judges since lawyers are so few. By the time money is being paid out, many have died due to depression and poverty.

Not only is the ZIALE Cartel preventing more rapid economic growth and perpetuating poverty, they are also participating in the deaths and misery of thousands of Zambians. How can they go to sleep with such a thing on their conscience as long as they are “eating”? This is why many people I have talked to say that they are selfish small-minded people who cannot see the bigger picture.

If you are defrauded by someone, you usually cannot easily take them to court due to high legal fees or lack of lawyers where you are. Legal aid doesn’t work either because it is understaffed.

Zambia needs not less than 5,000 lawyers in the next 5 years if we are to develop properly. Adding 20 lawyers to the bar per year when almost half a million people (at the current 3.2% growth rate per year) will be added to the population next year is utterly ludicrous.

Having more lawyers will drive down legal costs by the law of demand and supply but it will also create a much bigger market for law firms. They shall be able to set up in the more than 100 districts that do not have law firms or lawyers. They shall have access to many more people who will be able to afford the cheaper legal costs.

Mr Leon Louw, Executive Director of the Free Market Foundation and former head of the South African Law Review Project did a brilliant research paper called “Habits of Highly Effective Countries”. Sponsored by the South African government, he used a statistical method to find the top six or seven factors – as measured by various indices such as the Economic Freedom Index – that coincide with high economic growth rates. To his own surprise, the strength of the legal system in a country ranked in the top 3 factors for most countries.

If Zambia had more lawyers and more judges, the economy would grow faster because the better the legal system, the more people are willing to do business with strangers and take more business risks because they know the law will back them up in cases of disputes. The insanity of the Zambian legal system means the you can drive for hundreds of kilometres, pass through many towns and not find a single law firm.

The solution to this problem I have described is very simple. Amend the ZIALE Act in Parliament to allow any other competent and accredited institute to be set up as a competitor to ZIALE. Eventually students will vote with their feet and abandon ZIALE for the new competing institutions. If entire universities can be regulated through accreditation, I see no reason why the same cannot apply to ZIALE. Their counterparts in the accounting profession moved away from this cartel behaviour many years ago and I see no reason why the legal profession cannot do the same.

The solution to this problem I have described is very simple. Amend the ZIALE Act in Parliament to allow any other competent and accredited institute to be set up as a competitor to ZIALE.

Another solution is to separate the people who set the bar exam from those that mark it. We can bring in lawyers from the Commonwealth to mark the exam without any bias and the passing mark should be objective and fixed at for example 70%. If everyone passes, well and good. It means we have clever students which is good for the country. I however favour the earlier approach of competition since we cannot know what other ways the ZIALE Cartel will rig the system.

I appeal to our Members of Parliament to please get busy writing a bill to amend the ZIALE Act. Lets us do it for the sake for the entire nation. Let us stop pandering to the whims of selfish small-minded people in the ZIALE Cartel who are not representative of the legal profession which has many honourable and fair-minded people.

P/S – I also propose that all students who have been failed before at ZIALE be allowed to resit exams for free only once under new rules of a fixed passing mark.

Contact me at michael [at] zambia [dot] co [dot] zm.

REFERENCES:
LAZ defends ZIALE exams
http://www.times.co.zm/?p=60209

Passing ZIALE is all in the students’ hands – LAZ
http://www.postzambia.com/news.php?id=13205

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30 COMMENTS

  1. WHAT DO LAWYERS DO TO EARN A LIVING?

    WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF WE HAD 100,000 LAWYERS IN ZAMBIA?

    SO TO REMAIN RELEVANT AND PROTECT THEIR BUSINESS INTERESTS THEIR NUMBERS MUST BE CONTROLLED, OTHER WISE THEIR SERVICES WOULD MUCH CHEAPER THAN THOSE OFFERED AT A BARBER SHOP AT SOWETO MARKET.

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    • “We had to learn complex Mathematics that allows us to design motor vehicles, railways, bridges, skyscrapers, spaceships, aircraft and many other complex things whose complications are best appreciated by watching an episode of “Mega Structures” or “Extreme Engineering” on Discovery Channel and National Geographic. How can the qualifications to prepare legal argument be more difficult than for putting a man on the moon?”……….kikikiki…..how many things are being designed that you have listed ba Engineer? Engineering in Zambia is more theoretical than practical as compared to the Legal profession.

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    • I we chimbwi we are looking at development not how cheap the services will be.No wonder ZIALE is failing students because of that mentality. The matter will be tabled before parliament and we will repeal the law that has given ZIALLE more powers

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    • Ba engineer,designing motor vehicles, railways, bridges, skyscrapers, spaceships, aircraft and putting a man on the moon in Zambian universities is theoretical whilst courses taught at ZIALE are practical……..kikikiki. Kukosafye bane!

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    • ZAILE in a way represents everything that is broken in our society. Where mistakes go unabated in an institution where 90% of the students fail. Its either the students are very dull or the institution is broken but having known a lot of lawyers as some of the best brains in the land it is clear that the latter is the case. Just think for a minute if nearly all students who sat for exams for The Royal College of Physicians; ACCA;CIM or The Institute of Engineers to name but a few , failed! There would be an investigation. But this is Zambia where sadly things only gets investigated if it threatens the sitting government. We never seem to learn from past mistakes.

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    • Pa Zambia ubufontini, still using those colonial wigs when the English colonizers have got rid of them.them. Eiiish I can imagine the heat in those brains, no-wonder they cant think clearly but to ‘fail’ new entrants to their profession.

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    • Believe it or not, when a lot of students perform well during exams sometimes the names of people to pass are drawn by lottery.

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  2. WHAT DO LAWYERS DO TO EARN A LIVING?

    WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF WE HAD 100,000 LAWYERS IN ZAMBIA?

    SO TO REMAIN RELEVANT AND PROTECT THEIR BUSINESS INTERESTS THEIR NUMBERS MUST BE CONTROLLED, OTHER WISE THEIR SERVICES WOULD MUCH CHEAPER THAN THOSE OFFERED AT A BARBER SHOP AT SOWETO MARKET.
    WITH THAT HOW WOULD THEY FINANCE THEIR EXAGGERATED LAVISH LIFE STYLES?

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  3. iam also of the same view that there is something wrong at ZIALE certainly. to me it simply means UNZA is lower than ZIALE. if UNZA can produce a graduate who fails at ZIALE , then why have UNZA. let ZIALE start training lawyers from school to whatever level they want. let ZIALE learn this the more lawyers they have they more money. look at ACCA or CIMA, these are richest profeesional bodies in the world. when you are accredited with CIMA or ACCA, you will be forever be paying to them for the rest of your life for sing their name and the pass rate is quite acceptable, POUND chabe. Certainly, ZIALE can tell me that all these years they dont communicate with universities on their expectations. if they do., then lets not train lawyers at universities but all at ZIALE. muname bandani,…

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  4. SO the more students they will have the more money; some pipo have completed law degrees but fear going to ZIALE because they are aware that things there are FISHY. le there be more lawyers around and the quality of service will deter some of them being attractive, its not about few lawyers who can practise.there are so many accountants everwhere but ACCA/CIMA graduates have aklways stood out. AT the rate things have been moving at ZIALE, corruption and bad governance will never end or reduce

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  5. It’s quite sad that in 2015 we’re still talking about this. LAZ will always back ZIALE because they are amongst the elite set of lawyers and they want to protect their personal interests and pockets. Absurd. Very good article and I wish I could make the papers

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    • It is absurd to argue that ZIALE is just regulating the market! You can not have a fail rate of 90% in any professional exam and still pretend that all is well. As the writer of the article has said, something is very wrong somewhere and it is time the govt became interested in the matter. The govt should not wait to act until it gets to Load shedding scenario.

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  6. “ZIALE Cartel”. What a fitting description of that institution which, I am told, specialises in failing students.

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  7. I DO NOT SUBSCRIBE TO THE ABOVE VIEW ,WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW IS THAT MOST OF THE PEOPLE STUDYING LAW ARE THOSE WERE NOT GOOD IN MATHS ,HENCE THE NUMBER. THERE IS SOME BASIC ACCOUNTING AT ZIALE WHICH MOST OF THEM FLANK

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  8. Having had first hand experience with ZIALE, I am also of the view that it is indeed hindering development in Zambia. I live abroad and previously had intentions of resettling in Zambia. I started making enquiries at ZIALE to enrol on the practising course with my UK law qualifications. From the outset, it was an uphill struggle. The unprofessionalism and narrow mindedness I experienced from ZIALE was unbelievable. I was given all sorts of advice from people on how to deal with ZIALE. A number of people told me how I should reduce myself in my appearance and speech, as the people at ZIALE love to feel important. Sadly, there was some truth in this. I work for a body equivalent to ZIALE here in the UK. I see how access to the profession by different people and by different routes is…

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  9. ……….. is promoted. There is no over-regulation that is apparent with ZIALE. On the contrary, young people from all backgrounds are encouraged to enter the profession. There is a lot of forward thinking. It is disheartening to see over-regulation of the profession by ZIALE in order to protect the interests of a few which serves no benefit to the country as a whole. ZIALE should not be an exclusive members club!..

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  10. I know that when LPE (now Ziale) started in the 1970’s, students came from UNZA only. With time, the population has increased yet tertiary institutions have lagged behind. In the last 10 years, a number of colleges have been created that offer many subjects including law. Yet, those in the teaching profession seem to question the caliber of students that graduate from certain colleges. Is this a coincidence? My humble contribution is that we must first start from creating institutions that offer quality education. I find it questionable that certain institutions are renting rooms/houses/office blocks dotted across town. In addition, education in Zambia remains difficult because passing is truly a miracle as opposed to other countries with stocked libraries, motivated…

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  11. While the writer has made valid points, it is also indisputable that the quality of certain law graduates (especially a majority from private universities) leaves much to be desired of. Some of them cannot even articulate themselves both orally and in writing. In his article titled “Judicial Reform, Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law in Zambia: From a Justice System to a Just System” which appeared in Zambia Social Science Journal, Number 1, Volume 2, Number 1 (May 2011), Professor Muna Ndulo remarked thus: “The mushrooming of law schools in Zambia with low admission standards, inadequate libraries and inadequately trained teachers can only but pose a serious risk to the high standards demanded of the legal profession. It seems to me that it’s most likely contribution to law practice…

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  12. Just study hard and you will pass the exam, you will be Amon the few selected. Zambians have developed this insatiable appetite for getting things on a silver plate and this is why we have a lot of exam paper leakages, plundering, etc.

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  13. It is unfortunate if the strictness is just to keep a minimum number of qualified Lawyers, so as to charge high fees to access their services, and also protect their prestige. However, on the other hand, churning out without regard could promote incompetency in the profession, considering that some people are offered jobs even if illqualified in professions not restricted.

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  14. In 1969 Skinner CJ said “The constitution of the Republic of Zambia provides that every person charged with a criminal offence shall be permitted to defend himself before the court in person, or at his own expense, by a legal representative of his own choice. The right which is guaranteed in our fundamental law has for a long time been recognized to be of great importance to the maintenance of the freedom of the individual in many countries having a similar jurisprudence to our own.” Almost 50 years on Zambia needs to have sufficient lawyers to provide that representation.

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  15. Elitism at its best. Good lawyers are known by the cases they win, not passing licensing exams. Many people go to jail because they cannot afford lawyers to represent them. Without money many people don’t have access to fair trial and justice

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  16. What is this ZIALE I have been hearing about? Can a Lawyer practice law without ZIALE? It seems this is a scam that has been going on and nobody in authority is doing anything about it. If ZIALE means to certify, or is it license, twenty people then they should only take twenty people in and make them learn and pass that exam. There’s criminal behavior here. You can’t take money from one hundred people and only certify ten. This is daylight robbery, to use a tired phrase. People, start a campaign for this institution to be shut down. If you make enough noise and for a long enough time, someone will listen. FORM A COMMISSION TO EXAMINE ZIALE TODAY!

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  17. Zambians are not known to serious speakout on issues that matters this. ZIALE suppose to closed long time or another organization independent from ZIALE should be formed , the more you have this kind of organization – then more we gonna have even better services from this corrupt lawyers. This does not include , good one …out there . Zambian please raise to your feet and do something …..

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  18. In fact law is simpler than even putting up a good analytical spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel!

    The government must step in and stop this nonsense. I call upon all disadvantaged people to come together and lobby government for review of the law, or to give ZIALE a minimum performance benchmark, or face a revolution.

    ACCA used to behave in a similar way in the past, but now a business can employ an Accountant without ACCA! They are now crying for new students. The same should be done to ZIALE.

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  19. Comment : wow so then how do we develop our nation if such keeps happening, this is why brain drain has hindered most of zambia’s development, I want to study law and If these people keep doing such they will their own people out of their own country

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