This article is written by Adithya Prasad, pursuing a Certificate Course in Introduction to Legal Drafting: Contracts, Petitions, Opinions & Articles from LawSikho.com.
In the current Indian education system, the concept of what is important and needed is quite different from what is emphasised to be important. This may seem overly simplistic on paper, the idea that a student may learn such skills through internships and apprenticeship however, in actual practice, things are not that simple.
Indian legal education system and its loopholes
The current status of the Indian education system is such that it does not bother with teaching law to any of its students. The concept of law is passed off as something that will be taken off as they graduate from high school. However, law school is nowhere near this either. Law schools emphasis their requirement purely based on academic discretion. Students who learn contracts, CPC, or CRPC are not taught how to handle a case because they do not fall under the purview of law school, at least in India it does not.
In the current legal education system, skills such as detailed research and drafting, negotiations and oration, and even presentation skills are often left aside. They are subject to small-term assignments which often have fixed syllabus paths leaving much to the student to home as a part of their skill set. The reason these skills remain pertinent is the nature of law in the industry. Students that do pass out will be required to have skills that will allow them to conduct research, negotiate and hammer drafts and agreements for their clients.
One can say that the reason for such an imbalanced structure is that law was often a family profession that used outside classroom experiences to bring about better lawyers or judges. Yet, in recent times, more first-generation lawyers are taking the mantle and they cannot be expected to know skills, methods, and processes which are required in the real world.
The argument of internships and apprenticeships can be a solution, however, the number of students who are able to attain such positions is often rare. Industry professionals only take students who have a considerable amount of knowledge and/or know-how in the industry to put them to good use. There are some firms that take in fresh students with no knowledge whatsoever, thereby affirming themselves to the endangered list.
Students therefore must take matters into their own hands and toil their way up the ladder of aspirants to secure prime internships that are willing and ready to teach them the ways of the law. This is supposed to be, in a large part, the responsibility of the school itself. Arguments are often made in favour of population increase and lack of facilities to justify their pure lazy approach to education. When considering the Indian education system, we must take out time to understand what the country has been through and where it has come from so that we may know the changes required to go forward.
The Indian colonial period over one hundred years saw India develop for the need of another at the cost of her most prized possessions. The arrival of the East India Company into India saw the Indian GDP at the time drop from 22.3% in the global economy at the time to 3.8% in 1952 post the company leaving India. In the early 1950s, the task of lifting people’s basic living standards was a herculean task. 3/4th of the Indian economy came from a primitive agricultural industry with a dismal literary rate of just 14%. This amounted to a life expectancy of about 30 years. With a ground zero state, the elected government needed a powerful proving strategy if India were to rise again. The five-year plans were the best approach, the concept of focusing all resources on a certain objective for a term of five years. This is commonly taught history however, during this period the old Indian education system was reformed for the need of operating factories, as a skilled labour production house. The system inherently dictated the need to have subordinates who know the basics but not what is needed to push through into the upper echelon of the career ladder.
Remembering this, let us examine our current legal education system. Even the most reputed institutions across the country have a syllabus that covers Indian law and its jurisprudence but fails to throw light on the applications required. Students have often reported across internships, both directly and through mentors that students who do come for internships or as freshers do not possess the necessary skills to make it in the field. A major skill that must be taken into consideration in the art of drafting. When looking at the average syllabus that is offered, the concept of legal drafting is often side-lined or even outright forgotten.
Skills required to be taught in law schools pertaining to drafting
Here is a list of must-have skills for every law student who wishes to stand out:
- Ability to draft legal documents including contracts, specific agreements, and other allied activities. Among the most sought for skills and with great potential when entering the realm of freelance work.
- Provide paralegal support, with seasoned research and analysis skills. Among the best-opening work opportunities that allow close working with persons of law and their clients through a variety of cases.
- Should be able to navigate the halls of the Hon’ble court, through law and jurisprudence. This is something that all students of law must do, they must see the halls of law in its entirety.
- Time management and capable of multitasking on various projects. A useful skill for any working professional but a vital skill for persons of law as this dictates the amount of work one can take and to the degree to which they can take.
The ability to draft basic legal documents like legal notices, basic contracts, and agreements often goes a long way to improve a law student’s profile. However, despite the importance of such a skill, it is often neglected by most legal syllabuses across the country.
A subject that is most in synchrony with the statement made would be contract law. In most colleges, if not all, contract law as a subject dwells into the importance of understanding what a contract is, an agreement, and cases that seek to challenge these definitions and their scopes. However, it is seldom taught by lectures on how to draft and proofread such contracts. It is third-party institutions that now offer such courses which train students on such vital skills which should be the primary concern of the legal education system. It does not however stop there; most conceptual concepts are often left untaught through the course of the curriculum while stating reasons such as:
- The Indian law is too vast for one to cover in such a short period.
- That the practice of law must be learned through practice and not in a class
- That the study of Indian law conceals the spirit of the law and therefore must be given primary importance
- That the basics of law must be learned first before actual practice.
These are often the reasons one may hear from any teacher or official who tries to defend the questions asked by students and other professionals. The real truth that remains blatantly clear is that the education system, including all its core members, are either lost, confused, or profiting from a situation that prevails. As it stands now, students and freshers are deprived of essential skills that can change their careers and even their lives. So, what is the solution?
It is clear that the Indian law, in all its jurisprudence, is quite vast, spanning centuries into the past. Therefore, it would be logical to have a more practical approach with law students, however, the reality is much more bitter. In many parts of India, the lecturers of law are incompetent or have an incomplete education in the field of law which would entail a professional experience in the field. No underqualified person, concerning professional experience, then such teacher should not be able to get a job. However, India, as a country, focuses on mass learning and not quality learning.
During the pre-globalisation period, the country needed people, competent people to catch up with global standards. The elected governments during this period created a network that would see a majority of the population in school with a basic 10th or 12 standard class. This however was designed for the mid and late 20th century. A change towards a more quality-induced education system is required. Despite the new regulations and prospective plans released by the education ministry proposed for 2 decades from now, it seems too late. India right now hosts among the youngest average population age in the world, this should make the change required a priority alert.
Suggestions to reform the Indian legal education system
Until this change is realised, what can we as students do to tackle such deficiencies in our education system and our profiles? Here is a list of things that can be done:
- Join e-learning platforms to learn the essentials: Platforms like Lawsikho, having understood the importance of these skills offer essential skills which are worth the time and price invested. With practical experience and real industry experts, these skills could make or break one’s career start. These skills include Legal English, Drafting of legal documents and agreements, negotiation and proof-reading contract/agreements, and other allied activities.
It is not enough however to just learn these skills, it is always advisable to work on the learnt skills through freelancing, internships, apprenticeship, or any other activity that will let you hone your skills.
2. Spend more time at courts: All law students, be it any specific field must spend time roaming the halls of the Hon’ble court. Courts do not require any fee or cause of action to be able to visit the premises. Yes, a lot of law students are often intimidated by such courts and what they have to hold. However, consider it a rite of passage. There are times when judges and lawyers notice your presence which could lead to interesting opportunities.
3. Start as early as possible: One thing that all law students must know is that you are never too early for legal internships. Yes, tier-one law firms do not take in first years, yet however, some firms are willing to take the first years. Search smart and without a predisposed mind. Intern through college in the evenings and during your holidays, increase your time as each year passes. Now, this does seem tedious, but the law is such that perseverance wins in the end.
4. Be open: Many students and freshers often have a narrow mind towards one part of the law, international vs national, civil vs criminal, private litigation vs corporate and so on. The best advice to anyone is to keep their mind open during their first few years. This is important because interests change through college. Interning at places that cater to multiple disciplines often can give a perspective that classes can seldom give you.
It is difficult to ask the education system to change overnight, speaking specifically with the legal education system, the need to incorporate practical teaching while also embodying the very essence of Indian law is a huge task.
Until such a time can come when the legal education system can catch up with modern times, students must take the initiative to go beyond the law school dynamic to gain that advantage that will set their profile apart from others.
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