Sources and Means of Access to Legal Information by Lawyers in Uganda

Article excerpt

Introduction

The availability, access to and provision of legal information is one of the key elements in transition from a closed dictatorship to a democracy. A democratic nation relies on efficient and effective judicial system. Broady-Preston and Williams (2004) note that vitally, information plays a key role in organisational/judicial efficiency, enabling firms to differentiate themselves from the competition, and improve their competitive advantage. By streamlining information provision to lawyers, time, and therefore cost savings, could be passed onto clients, achieving increased customer benefits. According to Okello-Obura, (1998) legal information can be defined as the requirement or right established by law, which resides in all electronics and written records. Legal information consists of laws and rules, case law and legal literature. The history of legal information or literacy in Uganda can be traced right from the colonial days when Uganda was under the imperial rule of Britain. Britain issued four African orders in council for most of her African protectorates in 1894. These orders in council established a system of governance that among other things established a legal system. In Uganda the major order in council was the 1902 one which introduced a dual legal system. This system, as Harvey (1975) states, allowed the native institutions based on customary law to exist only with the colonial legal system. This in essence created avenues for the production of judicial resources. With the development in information sector and economy, many legal materials are now being produced calling for their identification, access to for efficient and effective/judicial services delivery. It is on that basis that this study was instituted to address among others the objectives in Section 1.3.

Contextual Background

Lawyers can be defined as knowledge workers. They are professionals who have gained knowledge through formal education (explicit) and through learning on the job (tacit) (Gottschalk and Karlsen, 2009). The system of legal literacy though it had started, its scope was narrow, its appeal limited and its effect minimal. This was brought about by inter alia, the syllabus of the school. It taught the penal code, civil procedure ordinance, constitutional and administrative law, evidence ordinance, Uganda land law, construction law, law of tort and statutory interpretation. Its weakest point was the requirement upon the student to master Roman law, legal history among other things. This formal legal training was later to be solidified and expanded by the establishment of the Faculty of Law of Makerere University and the Law Development Centre located in Kampala, Uganda. The Faculty of Law Makerere University trains the students in formal system of law awarding at the end of the course Bachelors Degree of Laws. It also awards a Masters Degree of Legal laws. The Law Development Centre on the other hand awards a Diploma of Legal laws among other awards. Section 2 (1)(a) of the LDC Act provides for LDC to organize and conduct courses of instructions for the acquisition of legal knowledge, professional skills and experience by persons intending to practice as attorneys in the subjects which shall have been determined by the law council under the provisions of any law in force. LDC is mandated to organize courses for various personnel involved in administration of justice, assist in law reform, research, publications of law reports and other materials to promote better knowledge of law and provision of legal Aid and advice to indigent litigants and accused persons. Over the years this formal institution has carried on its mandate in producing among other things local attorneys who are currently in practice both in furthering legal information/literacy and culture.

There are other private institutions involved in the provision of legal knowledge. For instance Uganda Christian University (UCU) located in Mukono in Uganda is credited for producing practicing lawyers under its Faculty of Law. …

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