This article has been written by Namrata K.T, student of 3rd-year BALLB from Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
It is from the period of 1960 that Clinical Legal education has proved to be a substantial part of legal education. It was in United Kingdom in 1970, where the very first clinical legal education started. Further, it is known to have been started in Australia in 1990. Another important aspect which we need to draw our attention to is that there always exists a gap between theory and the practical and in bridging the gap between the two, clinical legal education plays an important role. Now, it becomes important for one to understand what exactly a Clinical Legal Education is all about. A Clinical legal Education can be defined in the following ways- “An ideal learning environment, whereby students are required to identify, research and apply knowledge in a particular setting, which almost resembles the actual world where it is practised. The proper channelling of the legal education clinics will actually help the students in gaining better knowledge”
The actual meaning of the term ‘Clinical’- is the analogy of trainee doctors who come in terms with the actual patients in their respective medical clinics, which help them gain knowledge and experience in the initial stage of their career. Hence, it can be said that Clinical Legal Education is the only way in which both theory and practical can be brought together.
Evolution and development of Clinical Legal Education in India
Dragging our attention towards the formation of roots of Clinical Legal Education(CLA) in India, it can be stated that, the CLA has derived its origin from both in Legal Aid and Legal Education Reform Movements. It was in 1855 when the Formal Legal Education started in India. Following this, a number of committees and commissions were set up in India for the sake of development of Clinical Legal Education in the Indian sub-continent. There have been numerous stages of development which the Clinical Legal Education has gone through in the years and some of the important ones have been discussed in this article
The recommendation put forth by various committees
The Bombay Legal Education Committee which concluded in 1949 recommended the following aspects
- Practical courses are to be made compulsory for the students who indent to take up law as a profession.
- It is important for the teaching method to include various aspects under its ambit like that of Group Discussions, Seminars and Moot Court Competitions.
The 14th report of law commission of India
It came up to recognize the importance of professional training, and further added that this aspect plays an important role in creating a balance of both academic and vocational training. It recommended the following aspects
- University training must be followed by a professional course which would concentrate on practical knowledge.
- Professional Course should be made compulsory for only those aspirants who seek to practice law in courts.
- It dragged the attention of people towards institutionalizing and improving the overall standards of legal education which would, in turn, benefit a number of people on a larger scale.
- With regard to the above-mentioned point, the report also discussed various teaching techniques like that of Seminars, Mock Trials and Simulation Exercises and the importance of the introduction of the same.
Although this commission’s report didn’t directly deal with the improvement of skills, it did so indirectly which was by supporting the use of certain teaching methods that would prove to be more helpful in terms of the development of various required skills.
Introduction of the 5 year Course
It was finally in the year 1970 when a link between legal aid and legal education reform was published in a report by an expert committee of legal aid by the Ministry of Law and Justice. In 1977, National Seminar on Legal Education at Bombay, the Bar Council of India (BCI) unanimously agreed to introduce the five-year course against the three-year course, putting an end to the long-standing debate of 5 years. It was in July 1978 that the new five-year course was introduced and it was open to students of 10+2. In addition to this, the BCI also came up with the recommendation of practical training in the curriculum.
Opportunities offered by National Law School India
In order to achieve the objectives of the clinical program, there was a wide variety of opportunities offered by the NLSIU. In 1997, the Bar Council of India issued a curricular, and this was done by the BCI by using its authority under the Advocate’s Act. There was a direction given to the universities and law schools across the country to revise their curriculums. In addition to all this, there was an introduction of 21 compulsory courses and 2 optional courses. Eventually, law schools were required to introduce 4 practical papers since 1998-99 and this was seen as a significant step towards inducting Clinical Legal Education in the legal curriculum.
The 2nd UGC Report
The second UGC report was prepared by the Curriculum Development Committee, which was for the particular interest in Clinical Legal Education. They were later asked to upgrade the LL.B syllabi. In addition to all this, the NLSIU offers compulsory as well as optional courses in Clinical legal Education to the students. Currently, the compulsory courses to be studied by students are- Clinical interviewing, Counseling, Clinical integration, special clinic integrated with Special Placements of two months from 3rd year to 5th year of 5-year LL.B course.
Issues that arise while implementing it
Considering the current scenario, it can be said that legal education in India is going through a transformation phase. With the advent of the 21st century, the law as a career is going potential, but at the same time, Indian legal education has grown pace with globalization. In terms of the ratio of lawyers to the population of the country, there is still much left to be achieved. It can be said that legal education has changed significantly in the last quarter year especially because of the globalization of trade and business. Here it can be concluded that globalization has changed the entire dynamism of polity and society. A number of challenges faced by the Clinical Legal Education in India are discussed under:
- There arises a problem with regard to expertise and ability of BCI in terms of addressing the demands and the changing terms of Clinical Legal Education, as the present world requires them to be in sync with information technology and biological and scientific development.
- Lack of Funding in significant areas like that of Clinical legal Education acts as a disadvantage. Further, infrastructure, payment of an adequate payment to faculties and lastly technical requirement of a legal education pose as a challenge and act as a back foot in the long run.
- There exist loopholes in inspection and recognition of colleges by BCI, and this acts as a bigger challenge to the smooth functioning of Clinical legal Education in India.
- Implementation of separate accreditation or rating system for legal education in India, makes it fall back in terms of competition on an overall scale, this in acts as an escape mechanism of the overall competition that should actually exist in terms of education system across country.
The role played by of Jurists, Lawyers and Students
Laws for the regulation of professional legal education in India are made by the parliament of India with reference to entry 66, 67 & 78 of List I (Constitution of India), which includes two regulatory bodies:
The Bar Council of India (BCI) as a height body regulating the standards of the legal profession (U.P. vs. State of U.P., [1973]), and;
The University Grants Commission as an umbrella organization for all institutions of higher education. All the issue relating to admissions, practice, ethics & standards are addressed by BCI in consonance with state bar councils. The powers of BCI are also envisaged under the Advocates Act, 1961 under Section 7.
Over the period of time, it has been observed that it is the clinical legal education which actually encourages lawyers and law professionals to start showing interest in human rights issues, and it also further encourages them to street law and to take up more of pro-bono cases. This leads to the understanding of professional skills in the law field. Also, holding conferences and meetings and paying visits to internal and external legal clinics acts as a great advantage in the law career.
The best way for a legal professional to become familiar with the new issues is by interacting with the law students and professionals. It was seen that, by the way of performance of various programs in legal clinics, the professionals become more interested in dealing with different spheres of law and this also helps in fighting more of pro bono cases.
Legal clinics improve the knowledge of professional groups such as school teachers, employers and judges concerning human rights issues based on their needs and talents. Therefore, each group requires its special instruments of human rights education. Our research shows that it would be successful to teach the rights of each class to the opposite class such as educating employee’s rights to employers and children rights to teachers and the rights of accused to judges.
Significant contributions made by Students
Students are considered to be one of the main elements of Clinical human Rights Education. The reason for this is that, they are first trained as a trainee, then they step up and learn legal skills and at the same time work as educators in the law field. Some of the important contributions can be listed as- First, the focus of this method is rather on students learning it rather than teachers teaching it, hence amble amount of work is put into it by the students itself. Second, when it comes to theoretical norms, they are usually tested and operated upon by the students and teachers and even here it reflecting the working of both teachers and students for the purpose of attaining a common goal.
This particular method gives attention to the resolution of disputes the same kind of attention which is given to the content of the rules. Fourth, the clinical method gives complete freedom to the students to use creativity, helps them to come up with self-determined solutions to the problems faced by them and this acts in contrary to the formal structure which imposes strict rules.
Suggestions to Improve the Current Scenario
The major loopholes which exist in these circumstances are that even most of the law schools in India have not addressed this issue to the fullest and hence, the students end up not having practical experience. Therefore, various other methods to be undertaken in order to ensure the proper functioning of the Clinical Legal Education in a more precise way and bring into effect and make it work in the advantage of various people. Following are the few developments listed which if implemented in the right way would work as an advantage.
- The BCI has to amend rules to allow law professors to practice in the course of teaching a clinical class and encourage law schools to dedicate faculty to teaching clinics and offer students credits for participating in clinics.
- Vice-Chancellors and other law school administrators have to devote resources to hiring clinical faculty and offering clinical courses with low student-teacher ratios.
- Law professors should develop sustainable clinics and work with law school administrations to implement them.
- Non-governmental organizations have to collaborate with law schools to work with communities and advance the social justice mission of education.
Despite considerable efforts to educate human rights around the world and declaring the years 1995-2004 as the decade of education, the teachings of human rights still have not been completely and correctly entered into societies. One of the most important problems is the use of ineffective methods for human rights education. It is of great importance to find an active, effective, collaborative, comprehensive and sustained educational method for human rights. Based on our research, legal clinics have an effectual role in creating these features for human rights education as far as clinical human rights education can be introduced and recommended as a premier method to increase human rights knowledge in the community.
National law school model established post-independent Indian legal education has done a great job in the development of legal education in India with a strong commitment to improving existing legal infrastructure. Certainly, with this spirit, these schools have also phased critical changes in syllabus and structure to cater to the new generation of lawyers.
- Abhay Rai, The future of law teaching institutions, The Hindu (JULY 30, 2002) https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-educationplus/the-future-of-law-teaching-institutions/article28469058.ece…………………………………………………………………………………….. 6
- Anam Ahmad, Clinical law semester, Academica (10/30/2016) https://www.academia.edu/RegisterToDownload#RelatedPapers………………………………………… 3
- Jon-Paul Knight, Paralegals: the importance of gaining as much experience as you can’ by Amanda Hamilton, Open Justice (July 18, 2019) http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/openjustice/?author=8….. 4
- Malveka Nautiyal, Legal Education in India Vis-à-vis other Asian Nations, Ipleaders (October 12, 2018) https://blog.ipleaders.in/legal-education-in-india/……………………………………………………………… 3
- Archana K, Practicability of Clinical Legal Education in India- An Overview, Journal of education and practice (July 26, 2013) file:///C:/Users/Admin/Downloads/9866-12075-1-PB.pdf……………….. 8
- Shweta Tiwari, Clinical Legal Education As A Means To Advance Access To Justice In India Live Law(3 July 2017)………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 5
- Indu Bhan, Legal Eagles: Stories of the Top Seven Indian Lawyers, Random House India, 31-Aug-2015 – Law – 256 pages…………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 5
- Richard Susskind, Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future, Oxford University Press, 2017 – LAW – 241 pages…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 4
Malveka Nautiyal, Legal Education in India Vis-à-vis other Asian Nations, Ipleaders (October 12, 2018) https://blog.ipleaders.in/legal-education-in-india/.
Anam Ahmad, Clinical law semester, Academica (10/30/2016) https://www.academia.edu/RegisterToDownload#RelatedPapers.
 Jon-Paul Knight, Paralegals: the importance of gaining as much experience as you can’ by Amanda Hamilton, Open Justice (July 18, 2019) http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/openjustice/?author=8.
 Richard Susskind, Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future, Oxford University Press, 2017 – LAW – 241 pages.
 Indu Bhan, Legal Eagles: Stories of the Top Seven Indian Lawyers, Random House India, 31-Aug-2015 – Law – 256 pages.
 Shweta Tiwari, Clinical Legal Education As A Means To Advance Access To Justice In India Live Law(3 July 2017)
Abhay Rai, The future of law teaching institutions, The Hindu (JULY 30, 2002) https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-educationplus/the-future-of-law-teaching-institutions/article28469058.ece.
 U.P. vs. State of U.P AIR 453 1978.
Mrs. Archana K, Practicability of Clinical Legal Education in India- An Overview, Journal of education and practice (July 26, 2013) file:///C:/Users/Admin/Downloads/9866-12075-1-PB.pdf.
Students of Lawsikho courses regularly produce writing assignments and work on practical exercises as a part of their coursework and develop themselves in real-life practical skill.