This article is written by Paridhi Goel, a student from Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA. This is an exhaustive article which deals with the career aspects of becoming a law academician in India. The article discusses the domains of teaching law, eligibility for teaching, its importance and the skills that would be required.
Every individual, today, is expected to make a career, mostly in a field he or she is interested in working, to make it their profession. Building a career is not an easy task as it requires a lot of thinking and planning before one can choose what he wants to do. To set up a good career one has to look for a field of interest, study about it both theoretically and practically, look for ways to work in that field, and finally find the right job to do. There are so many career options available these days like becoming a doctor, an engineer, scientist, journalist, designer, business, and law. A legal profession is a very important and reputable profession among human beings as it governs the law of the land.
In India, we have a constitution that lays down the concept of Rule of Law where the country is ruled by the laws that have been made and not by the people. The Judiciary which ensures that this rule is implemented and followed by all is a legal body and part of the legal profession. A legal career is not only helpful for the nation but its people as well. Any person who gets involved in a dispute or is denied his rights seeks help from the legal professionals like lawyers and consultants that help them to find out a solution for the same. Every company, organization, industries require legal assistance to guide them through their problems. To maintain this status, the country needs a good legal education system to produce great lawyers that have a social vision. An education system is incomplete without the presence of good academicians that can help the children to recognize their talents and develop an interest in it.
Legal education is not a modern concept in India as it traces back to ancient times when Kings and Princes were taught about Dharma and Nyaya. There were legal representatives and ‘Gurus’ that perfected the legal skills of members of the royal family with practice. At present, law courses are offered for a term of 3 years in many universities across the country and another integrated course of 5 years is offered in National Law Universities. Apart from these, several private institutions teach law. For good quality education, good academicians are required in this field and it provides a lot of options for them to make a career in law.
Who is a law academician?
An academician is a person who works at a college, a university, an institute or a research centre as a teacher, professor, lecturer or a researcher. A person who teaches or researches in the field of law is a law academician. The system of legal education does not limit itself to teaching theory and different subjects in law. The explanation of the theory itself requires a practical approach for a better understanding of the topics. Not just the practical work, but studying law also requires a lot of research work that has to be taught to the students so that their research can be accurate and helpful to their studies. Moreover, studying law is a preparation period for the students before they start practising law as a legal professional. This means that apart from the theory and practical aspects, they also have to develop good oratory skills, learn from observations and inculcate professional habits required in a working environment. These responsibilities go beyond the work of a teacher thus, the term academician is used to cover all the duties expected from the individual. Any person who fulfils the requirements of a job in legal academics can become a law academician.
Planning a career in law
A career in law can be quite challenging for an individual as it requires a lot of research and training to become a legal professional. Law offers a variety of careers to explore from, however, an individual should plan his steps before making a firm decision for his future. The steps of planning a career are as follows-
- Find an Area of Interest– there are various prospects of teaching in a legal field out which an academician has to choose according to his interests. Not every person is comfortable becoming a college professor or a lecturer. A person does not have to limit itself to universities for making a career in law academics. Also choosing a particular subject to teach or research for depends on what that person can teach with full enthusiasm. This choice has to be made before applying for the job.
- Find out Details– once you know your area of interest in which you are willing to work, find out the details regarding that position like the institutes offering it, the syllabus and the work expected, the salary, promotion aspects and if there are any extra requirements to be fulfilled for getting the job.
- Have a Backup– many times, a person cannot get a job he desires for and might have to settle for something else. It is always safe to keep a backup plan in case the initial plan does not work out. It is suggested that you find out the details of that backup with the same vigour as you did for the initial plans. Also, having a backup does not mean you should forget what you chose for the first time. After the backup plan works, find out how you can achieve what you wanted in the first place.
- Find Motivation- Motivation is the key to good work. Applying for jobs or starting an own teaching career in law can be stressful. You have to stay motivated throughout the process of finding the most suitable job and even after that. For this, you have to focus on that one thing you want to achieve while making a career in law. If you have a vision of making your students one of the best lawyers in the country, keep reminding this vision to yourself so that you do not lose hope.
- Take a Decision– the final step to planning is to make a decision that you find will be right for your future. Often finding the ideal teaching job is difficult, however, you need to work your way through to get the position and respect that you have aimed for. So, the decision that you make has to be a combination of a little sacrifice on your part and the wish to achieve something bigger than what you are getting. The decision should be made after proper thought, but do not welcome overthinking while taking a decision.
One of the works of a law academician is legal teaching to provide good quality education to the students and make them understand the various legal systems and theories that would shape them to become great lawyers or any other legal professional in their own time. Legal teaching is not just limited to theories but also focusing on the practical skills of the students and to enhance their ability to learn new knowledge.
- The students should be well versed in the English language and know the use of important legal maxims that will help them when they are practising law in the future. For this, the teacher has to have good oratory skills to be an inspiration for the students.
- The teachers are expected to teach them the landmark cases in detail so that the students have a general idea of the important judgments that they can relate with when analyzing a case. The teacher has to have a detailed knowledge of the cases so that they are able to clear the doubts raised by their students.
- The students are aspiring lawyers and they need to be taught professionalism, communication skills, and proper behaviour suitable to a working environment. To teach them these skills, the teacher himself has to follow a code of conduct as it will leave a good impression on the students.
- The students are often confused about the future prospects in the field of law and what all they are expected to do while practising law. To clear this confusion, the teachers should be able to share their own professional experiences, this means that they need to have a working background before they begin to teach law.
- The teachers should combine the studies with effective assessment methods that give the students feedback on their performance in the class. Thus, legal teaching includes a variety of work apart from the normal theories taught in the classrooms. It is important for the students to get acquainted with both the theoretical and practical sides of the legal education system which can be managed only by a good academician.
Conducting research work is another part of becoming a law academician. Research can contribute significantly towards improvement in teaching and more importantly in addressing the numerous challenges relating to law and justice. If we take a look at the profile of the faculties of top universities and law colleges, the emphasis is laid on research and publications among his academics and such research is vital for a career in legal teaching.
Research is important for the teachers as it helps them to stay updated with any changes happening in the country’s legal system, important cases that keep coming up, and new laws if introduced by the legislative authority. This knowledge helps the teachers to pass on the updated information to their children and also ask them to conduct their own research on these matters. Moreover, such academicians can teach their students effective techniques of legal research from their own experiences and such research will improve the analyzing abilities of the students. Research also helps in developing skills like patience and the ability to process new information that is required for the field of law.
When practising law, accurate research work in cases is necessary as the lawyer is committed to solving the problems faced by his client. Only a good researcher can teach and review the research work of other people thus, a profession in legal research is quite a success and helpful in shaping the future lawyers of the country. A career in legal research is gaining popularity day by day and anyone interested in this field should apply for this job.
The scope of becoming a law academician has increased tremendously with the establishment of law universities and the growing importance of law colleges both private and public, all over the country. There is also growing demand for lawyers and judges to help with the legal issues of the people and look after the pending cases thus, the legal education institutions are getting famous and important in this modern era. Even the students are shifting their interests from the basic doctor and engineering fields to focus on some challenging and exciting study of law and legal systems of the country. For this, we need good legal academicians to guide the aspiring lawyers on their journey of law.
In colleges or universities
A law academician has the option of teaching as a professor or a lecturer in any of the colleges and universities. Today there are about 21 National Law Universities in India and about 1200 law colleges including both the private and public sectors. Each of these colleges has a demand for a person with a legal background so that the students can understand better when taught by someone who already has experience in that profession. Every year the number of students applying for admissions in law colleges is increasing thus the demand for teachers is also high. When taught in colleges, the legal studies have to be divided into different subjects like contracts, torts, jurisprudence, family law, etc. thereby creating choices for the academician to pick a particular subject for teaching.
Law is the basic authority and the rules that govern a nation. Recently, legal education is being recognized as a general subject, a part of which should be known to all the citizens of the country irrespective of the fact whether they want to practice law in the future. Some schools find it important to teach their students, some basics of the legal system of the country which every youth should be aware of. Even though it is not a mandatory subject yet, these schools have taken the decision of introducing a subject of legal studies for the children interested in knowing the law of the country or who wants to build a future in this field. The schools also prefer teachers to have a legal background and experience so that they can motivate the children and they can learn better. Thus, law academicians are required at the school levels too which will help build a foundation for those students who aspire to become legal professionals in the future.
Legal teaching centers
Every student today is worried about getting into a good law college to receive a quality education and to secure their placements in the fields they choose. For this purpose, many coaching institutes and teaching centres have opened across the country to give basic knowledge of the law and prepare students for the various entrance examinations to get into the law colleges of their choice. This is an amazing platform for the law academicians to teach and motivate students to pursue law as their career and make them aware of the challenges that will come their way once they enter into this profession. Many teaching centres like Clat Possible, Career Launcher, TIME, etc. are popular in India and demand for good teachers with legal experience. One can also start a teaching centre of his own or join one of the existing centres as it has good pay and gives an opportunity to shape young minds and help them to build their own careers in law.
Eligibility and qualification
To be eligible for becoming a law academician, you have to be a law student who has graduated from a law college or University. The steps regarding the eligibility are as follows-
- Enrolling in an undergraduate course which may be a Bachelor of Arts B.A. or Bachelor of Science B.sc. or even Bachelor of Business Administration B.B.A. and then enter into a 3-year LLB program or just opt for a 5-year Integrated Program for under-graduation.
- After graduation, you have to pursue a postgraduate program in law that is LLM. An LLM degree can be pursued from a college in India or even Abroad. After completing the LLM course, it is suggested that you also pursue a degree in LL.D.
- After LLM, one should aim for either cracking the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research University Grants Commission National Eligibility Test (CSIR UGC-NET) or get a PhD.
- For Cracking the National Eligibility Test, you need to know the syllabus, prepare notes by referring to good books, learn time management and solve practice tests as many times as possible.
- Apart from the degrees, you have to make a strong and impressive resume or curriculum vitae (CV) in which you should mention all the internships that you have done, your legal work experience if any, the achievements that you got through competitions, extra activities that you are interested in and finally previous teaching experience if any.
Criteria for a private institution
To teach in a private institution, specific eligibility criteria designed by the institution has to be followed apart from the general qualifications. The criteria are as follows-
- The academic record of the academician should be good enough with at least 55 per cent marks in the L.L.M. Degree.
- The National Eligibility Test (NET) has to be cleared.
- For a direct appointment of professors, a PhD degree is mandatory.
- Those who have a Ph.D. degree are exempted from the requirement of minimum eligibility condition of appearing in the National Eligibility Test.
Criteria for National Law Universities
The national law universities are not like the traditional colleges of law but were opened after the number of students taking admissions in law courses were increasing. These universities offer a 5-year integrated undergraduate course for the law students to complete their law degree in one go. They are quite reputable universities today, ranked as the topmost institutes for studying law in India. Their criteria for hiring academicians is a little extra than followed by the other colleges. The criteria are as follows-
For a professor of law-
- A scholar with a Ph.D. degree in the subject he is interested in teaching at the university.
- A minimum of ten-year teaching experience in some other university or college is a must.
- A good score in the National Eligibility Test (NET) and also a score in the Academic Performance Indicator.
For an Assistant professor of law-
- A Masters degree in law with at least 55 per cent marks from either an India University or from a University in Abroad.
- A Ph.D. degree is required.
- A Minimum teaching experience of four years as an assistant professor.
For an Associate professor-
- A masters degree in law with a minimum of 55 percent marks from a recognized university.
- A Ph.D. degree in the concerned subject of law.
- A minimum of eight years of teaching experience as an assistant or associate professor in any university or college.
- Innovative skills in designing new courses and introducing curriculum.
A good academician is the one who is eligible for the job, has all the qualifications required, is an interactive teacher, does research and publications and has a strong background so that he can motivate the students to pursue the law as their profession. When you decide to become an academician, you do not just apply for a job or position straight after doing your post-graduation. A good law teacher needs experience in his field and this experience will help you to clear the doubts of the children when they raise certain questions regarding their own future plans of making a career in law. So, good quality education from some top universities and great marks will not lead academics to a great career too. A little extra effort is required to set a background first which can be in the form of-
Internships are quite essential as well as helpful in a career in law. They help the law students to experience the practical side of the legal profession by actually working with legal institutes, companies, law firms, Non-governmental organizations and courtrooms. An internship trains a person to do some tasks that will eventually help him in his future legal career. A legal academician is expected to have been involved in informative internships while he was in a college studying law so that he can share his experiences with his students and also internships build a good resume of an individual. An applicant is recognized from his resume that he presents while applying for a job. Thus, even when someone is aspiring to be a law teacher, legal internships are necessary to show work experience.
To become a teacher, especially a law academician is not an easy task. There are certain skills that every teacher must possess and a code of conduct that has to be followed by a teacher. The way a teacher communicates or behaves in class, teaches his students and plans out effective assessment methods for them, has to be taught to the teachers through training. After studying in a law college or university, a student does not acquire the skills of teaching on his own. Proper training on how to be a good law academician is vital for getting good jobs and positions in future.
After acquiring the master’s degree, one can practice law in the form of litigation or in companies. What else can constitute a legal experience than actually practising law to deal with the day to day problems of the clients and working on a lot of cases surrounded by legal procedures and information? After working, when one aims to become an academician, he is well-versed in law and courtroom practice, he can teach his students easily about the practical aspects of the profession, he can help the students with their queries about litigation and lastly, he can look after the class ensuring that discipline is maintained. Moreover, it strengthens the resume of an applicant.
Working in a Firm
After the master’s degree, there is another option that can improve the individual’s legal background and that is working in a law firm. Law firms can be hectic and stressful yet they help the individual in staying updated about the latest legal news, to work in a formal environment, to make use of the oratory skills while interacting with the clients and board members and learn teamwork. An academician who has worked in a good law firm leaves quite a good impression on the selection committee and they often get the job of lecturers in top colleges of law.
Why choose this career?
A career as a law academician is both challenging and exciting as the professors get to research and think about interesting ways to teach law as a subject in classrooms, they can get creative by coming up with activities for the students, they get to work in a collegial environment, they can enjoy significant autonomy and flexibility in the working hours as compared to working in a firm. However, the main reason to choose this career should be purely based on your interest in teaching law to the students. You should be prepared to-
- Address the unanswered questions in a classroom.
- Find solutions to difficult problems and cases.
- Read the different views of your learners.
- Learn some new things about law and career from your students.
- Develop a habit of research and writing.
- Discuss and defend your ideas in front of everybody.
- Invest your time and energy in teaching, assessing and shaping the young minds of the aspiring lawyers.
- Bring creativity in teaching law by combining the theories with a practical approach.
A Few Challenges
- Even though you will gain control over your schedule and the content of your work, the overall working hours might not reduce as you will have to manage both academic work and your own research.
- The market for law academicians is highly competitive. Even after having strong credentials, there is no guarantee that you will receive offers from colleges that are ranked as the topmost or from the colleges that you preferred due to their location.
- The income will be reduced when compared to working in a firm however, this only happens in the initial stages. Hard work and excellent results of students will make you successful.
Skills required for legal academia
- Great communication and interactive skills so that the students take an interest in studying.
- Should be an active listener so that you can pay attention to all the doubts of the students.
- Come up with innovative learning strategies to make it easier for your students to interpret the legal subject.
- Giving necessary instructions and ensuring they are being followed.
- Writing and researching skills
- Critical thinking and using logic for explaining some theories as well as giving proper reasoning.
- Complex problem-solving skills to help in evaluations and review works of the students.
- Judgment and decision-making skills
- Social perceptiveness so that you are aware of others’ reactions.
- Having healthy debates and discussions on trendy legal topics.
- Time management.
Can one practice law along with this career
This is a debatable issue that is discussed several times however, there is no end result on this topic because eventually, it depends on the individual himself. It is not illegal or against the interests of the academicians to not practice law along with their teaching profession as long as they can manage both efficiently. Since an academician does have a law degree and approval from the Bar Council of India to practice law in the form of litigation or law firms, he has the liberty to work at both the places. Many of the institutions oppose this as they feel that practising law along with teaching will affect his responsibilities as a teacher will not be able to invest all his time and energy in teaching. They feel that working two jobs can get quite stressful for an individual and that he will not be able to concentrate on teaching which will affect the education of the students. Even if not practice, the academicians can open legal clinics to entertain jobs like advising and counselling. Unless the institute you are working in, prohibits your ability to work or practice law along with this profession, you are free to take up two jobs for yourself.
Today we need good lawyers, judges and legal advisors to ensure that the law and order is maintained in the country and people can live peacefully without any major disputes taking place. To make a good lawyer, we need quality education and good teachers to enhance the legal education system of the country and to help the aspiring lawyers choose the right path towards success. A career as a law academician brings about a change in the society by giving us some of the best lawyers and widening the scope of the law in Indian education system.
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