This article is written by Dhruv Dikshit , a 1st Year Student of Faculty of Law, University of Delhi.
In a profession which requires constant learning, unlearning and relearning throughout, one cannot emphasize the critical importance of education. Keeping the said statement in mind, if we look at the unpleasant and troubled state of affairs of lawyers in India, it provides a picture which screams of a crisis in the sphere of legal education. A Few days ago, at Lawyers Meet 2015, held by Bar Council of India in Chennai, BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra said that “30% of all lawyers in India are fake, holding fraudulent law degrees”. Such an instance calls for an overhaul of the various levels that are together responsible for imparting legal education in India. The major factors that are associated in the manifestation of a successful lawyer are namely the teaching faculty in law schools; responsible for being the principle contributors, the curriculum; designed by the BCI but tweaked and implemented by the various universities in their own manner. Further, the various universities and law schools that crop up by the dozen every year are not even remotely close to the desired level of infrastructure, the employment of faculty and the facilities offered. Even if one of these aforementioned levels is not maintained properly, it can impede in a disastrous manner and distort educational foundation for future lawyers.
Teachers and educators are held at the upmost stature in the minds of students as they are the ones who are responsible for disseminating knowledge and guiding the flummoxed mind of a student. If teachers are not taken care of or they are unable to successfully educate, the entire structure becomes flawed from the very beginning. According to Prof. Mrs. Srividhya Jayakumar In charge Principal, VPM’s TMC Law College, there is a problem at both the planks i.e. neither the teachers are taken care of and incentivized properly nor are they able to perform the task of educating the students. For a person to be eligible to become a teacher they have to take either the National Eligibility Test(NET) or the State Eligibility Test(SET) depending upon the choice of law school that the person wants to join but at no point does the exam successfully train the people to become good teachers. It is just happens to be one of the inconsequential exams that one has to take in order to become a teacher. On the other hand, it is the teacher’s responsibility to create an environment conducive for students to learn. Mrs. Jayakumar argues that “at no point does the person gain the necessary passion and communication skills” pertinent for teaching via the exam. A direct consequence of this flaw is that even if the teacher has an immense reservoir of information and knowledge, he or she will be unable to provide it to the class. Further, as a consequence of a dull and a monotonous lecture even the most enthusiastic student will lose interest and will think twice before attending another lecture so as not to waste time and as a result, it is an involuntary loss of the student. Mrs. Jayakumar argues that “Law teachers need training” so that not only the teachers are able to create an engaging and an interactive environment, but the students can further compliment it as it is only through engagement between the teacher the class can there be a synthesis of all perspectives. At the same time there needs to be constant evaluation of the existing faculty. In a note on the reforms of legal education, BCI “intends to establish a national level advanced training institute for training teachers” so that newer and refined methods of implementation of legal education can be formulated and a minimum standard can be set for all the teachers to follow.
On the other hand the teachers argue that the university and law schools do not provide the necessary incentives and remuneration and distinctions that a law teacher deserves. For instance the most basic of all facts is that if a person wants to teach in a subject other than law, the person needs a bachelors and a masters degree in that particular discipline and he or she can very well pursue it but for a law teacher there is an additional three years before LLB or two years in case of an integrated BA LLB. If we try to quantify the educational standard of a teacher solely by the years spent into becoming one, then law teachers have an additional two or three years worth of experience and regardless of that distinction, they are held at the same stature as other teaching faculty which has an implication that suggests that those extra years are worth nothing and they are all the same when it comes to teaching. This particular attitude adopted by the universities disincentivises the teachers. Further, one can argue that there is ‘teacher crisis’ that is in play as the number of people who would want to become an academician in future is becoming fewer and fewer primarily because the remuneration offered to a law teacher on an average is not at all satisfactory.
Moving on to the issue of curriculum, there exists a problem in terms of the curriculum formulated by BCI and not being implemented properly at the level of universities. BCI has listed 21 compulsory papers and a hoard of optional papers, but the formulation of the syllabus is left to the universities which inevitably results in different and varied syllabi in the country but the law that is being practiced in the country is the same. As a consequence of that, there isn’t a minimum reliable standard of lawyers being produced in the country which creates a lopsided development of the law in India. Students graduating from top law schools are able to cope up with the legal system and provide a good quality of legal service but the ones who are graduating from a school which has not framed its curriculum rigorously fail to provide proper legal services as the knowledge that a lawyer requires has not been inculcated by him or her systematically thereby degrading the overall standard of lawyers in India.
Moreover, even if the curriculum is rigorous and interactive, the exams are not up to that level thereby leaving a loophole for students to exploit by not studying throughout the semester but studying via guides towards the end of the semester to clear the exam, contributing to the lopsided understanding of the law. The exam should ideally be designed to test the basic and the advanced concepts in a balanced proportion and should ideally be creative to test the entire mental faculty of the student, but what ends up happening is that the exam is quite basic and straightforward which eventually stagnates the standard of students’ comprehension and the ability to critically solve problems of the subject to only a superficial and a basic level.
Secondly, the curriculum should not be restricted to a theoretical platform. Internships under lawyers and law firms and various other organizations provide a whole different understanding of the profession. What a student ends up learning during internships cannot be learned in classrooms. It is also important from the perspective of finally being in a job after graduation. Lawyers and law firms essentially gamble by hiring students fresh out of law schools and to improve and substantiate their gamble, the student can and should accumulate skills via internships so that he or she can understand the nuances of the legal system and how it works on the ground level and not just in textbooks. Legal Internships should be incorporated as an essential part of academia because they help one gain practical knowledge and experience required to excel in their respective fields. Internships not only provide with a grounded reality, but also introduce the students to the various different aspects of law so that he or she can make an informed choice via filtering their interests and how those interests are employed in the industry. Students are often confused between litigation and the corporate sphere and it is best resolved by doing internships in both the areas to get a finer understanding of their decision vis-à-vis their potential.
Moving on to the infrastructural aspect of law schools, apart from a few of over 900 law schools in the country, the underdeveloped infrastructure is what hinders in a significant way. Access to online databases and journals and a fully functioning library with all the key books and more are few of the facilities that are absolutely critical for a holistic legal education. More than half of the law schools in the country do not have the said infrastructural facilities and more than that, proper classrooms in properly constructed buildings forms yet another facet that is often ignored by the law schools which is contradictory to the high tuition fee that the authorities charge. Due to lack of these facilities the students are mostly dissuaded and are unable to compete with the students who have such facilities in their college and as a result of that the primary level of learning is hampered to a great extent.
A more serious problem other than the infrastructure is the number of law schools that are cropping up by the dozen every year and the accreditation of such law schools. According to Legally India, “The Bar Council of India (BCI) affiliated 92 new law colleges in nine months last year, according to the law ministry’s 2014-2015 annual report, that number is nearly double the number of new colleges admitted in the entire 2012-13 year”. The absolute commercialization of legal education, where profit motive is the guiding factor, has detrimental effects on the legal community as a whole. The number of graduates that get employed as soon as they graduate is insignificant as compared to the total number of students who graduate. The bar exam results get worse every year. Legally India reports that “37% of those who took the All India Bar Examination in January 2012 failed it, and over 70% of retakers failed” and this number is getting worse every year despite the fact that the exam is an open book exam. This paints quite a scary picture of the legal community and all of this can be traced back to accreditation of the colleges and irregular inspections to keep a check on them.
Accreditation ensures a basic standard level of quality in the education one receives from an institution and it also ensures that degrees will be recognized for what they claim. Ideally all law colleges must be accredited as this would make possible consistent inspections of the quality of the academia, infrastructural facilities and the treatment and conduct of students vis-à-vis the college. Along with periodical inspections, it is the job of an accreditation organization to suggest guidelines for improvement of the existing infrastructure and faculty. University Grants Commission (UGC) and National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) together analyze and accredit various colleges and universities in India. It has been made compulsory by the government to get accredited by NAAC. The downside is no action is taken if an institution does not comply with the said rule. Therefore, this basically implies that institutions can get away with whatever they want to do or omit. National Knowledge Commission (NKC) in its report has argued that law institutions are far from desired standards. It has argues for a system that classifies colleges on the basis of facilities, courses, subjects, faculty, infrastructure etc. and for termination of law schools with below average standards. BCI has, in the 2008 rules on legal education, provided for an accreditation system/performance rating system by its Legal Education Committee on a voluntary basis. The accreditation will be valid for 5 years. BCI may conduct it on its own or assign it to NAAC. The classification system will supplement the process and make the colleges and institutions law abiding and accountable. Improvement of legal education is quite intricately associated with BCI and its efforts.
Hence, it can be concluded that the entire system encapsulating legal education needs an overhaul and a systematic transformation of the teaching faculty, the curriculum, the infrastructure and the management of new law schools. To cope up with the future requirements in the legal community it is important to facilitate quality legal education and values so that the student is able to adapt and learn and give back to the community thereby maintaining and simultaneously raising the standards.
- Challenges Facing Legal Education – Some Concerns; Presented in the Conference on Legal Education organized by the University of Mumbai, Depart of Law on 31st Oct 2010 by Mrs. Srividhya Jayakumar In charge Principal, VPM’s TMC Law College; http://dspace.vpmthane.org:8080/jspui/bitstream/123456789/1643/1/Challanges_facing_LE.pdf
- BCI accredited one new law school every 3 days, as 92 new colleges mushroomed in 2014; reported by Legally India; http://www.legallyindia.com/Law-schools/bci-accredited-one-new-law-school-every-3-days-as-92-new-colleges-mushroomed-in-2014
- India’s Law School Bubble; http://lsatblog.blogspot.in/2012/05/indias-law-school-bubble.html
- Schools lack infrastructure to live upto Right to Education targets; reported by DNA India; http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-schools-lack-infrastructure-to-live-upto-right-to-education-targets-1367162
- Internships: effective work integrated learning for law students; by Judith McNamara; http://www.apjce.org/files/APJCE_10_3_229_240.pdf
- Reform of Legal Education in India; by BCI; http://www.barcouncilofindia.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/LegalEducationReformRecommendations.pdf
- The Legal Education & Professional Training and Proposals for Amendments to the Advocates Act, 1961 and the University Grants Commission Act, 1956; Law Commission 184th report; http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/184threport-parti.pdf