Legal education

This article is written by Disha Mazumdar from HNLU, Raipur. The article deals with the scenario of legal education in India and what are the challenges it is facing in the era of technology and globalization.

Introduction 

Legal Education in India is no less than participating in a triathlon. It requires a lot of dedication, practice, and focus to ace law school and be ready for the industry. Movies and shows based on legal background cover a meagre part of the reality and the competitiveness which one faces during law school. Moot courts, paper presentations, client counseling, internships, debating and multiple co-curricular amalgamated with reading hefty bare acts, commentaries, and judgments is a daily routine imbibed in the brain of every law student. Although legal education reformed from its three-year LLB course to five years integrated LLB courses, many challenges evolved with the development in technology and the process of globalization. The pandemic also gave a serious challenge for legal education where traditional classrooms were replaced with online classroom meetings. The article would analyze the importance of legal education, the challenges faced by the universities and discusses how the present technology gives a red flag to the traditional methods of teaching and how it can be amended through structural change.

Significance of legal education in India 

Law schools offer huge diversity and help every individual to explore and understand their interest areas like Constitutional law, Criminal Law, Corporate Law, Technology law, etc. But one can question; what is the need for such a rigorous and adventurous experience when a less meticulous path can act as an alternative. The answer is very simple, law forms the backbone of a society. This structure has to be maintained by the people who pursue this noble profession who work at multiple layers to uphold the rule of law. There can be several reasons which make legal education important, some of which could be:

  1. Law students are the future advocates, judges, civil servants, bureaucrats, social workers and it is important to establish a strong sense of individualism, truthfulness, and responsibility towards the society at large. Five long years of education helps the majority to understand the importance of law and how one can contribute back to society at large by upholding the rule of law. 
  2. The plethora of co-curricular activities is encouraged in the law schools which makes a student be an all-rounder to manage their grades along with their co-curricular activities. Activities like moot court competitions, client counseling, paper presentations help to develop critical thinking skills and come up with out-of-the-box ideas. It also helps to build strong communication skills and team spirit among the participants.
  3. Law schools do not restrict themselves to only classroom exposure but encourage students to go for internships during their semesters. This helps the student to adapt to different atmospheres of a courtroom, law firms, NGOs, think tanks, research institutions, etc., and further helps to learn the skills of researching and drafting which are not taught in a detailed manner in law school. Internship exposures pave the path for future career options. 
  4. Students work for various voluntary projects and help NGOs or State Legal Aid clinics to help those who do not have the access to legal information. They make people aware of their rights and duties and also organize campaigns to spread the branches of legal education. It helps to develop a sense of empathy towards the people and stand up for those who are afraid to speak.
  5. Law graduates cannot apply the law unless they have a strong elementary base. Professors in law schools make it a point to explain how a law is interpreted and how the bare acts should be read. The tips and tricks of professors in reading judgments and commentaries are of huge help when a graduate starts their real-life journey. A strong base makes a strong foundation and the professors help the student to build a strong conceptual background.

Shortfalls of the current system

The history of legal education changed due to the existing diversity in the curriculum structure and building a better mechanism for society. The Indian Advocates Act, 1961 enacted by the Parliament tried to bridge the gap in legal education through three-year LLB courses, better course work, and introduction of apprenticeship with advocates. This changed the image of legal education and many started opting for the same. Another major change came with the introduction of five years of integrated LLB courses to make the students familiar with legal education just after school. But legal education in India did not follow a well-rounded approach which leads to many concerns like: 

  1. From entrance exams to classroom teaching, law schools prefer only English as a mode of communication. Students from traditional educational institutions find it difficult to prepare for the entrance exams like CLAT, AILET and many more and even after toiling with the preparation entering law colleges is another battle. 
  2. All legislations are not similar nor do they have similar characteristics. Legislations that are procedural in nature have to be understood with practical examples and practical exposures. Subjects like the Code of Civil Procedure,1908, Code of Criminal Procedure,1973, Indian Evidence Act,1872 need additional guidance which the law schools often neglect.
  3. Participating in multiple activities along with managing the course curriculum is not easy. One has to be a jack of all trades and a master of many to make a mark. Law schools do not focus on teaching how to manage pressure and work effortlessly under pressure. Although some do cope up with the high pressure, such a competitive environment affects mental health and makes one claustrophobic.
  4. Legal education is a costly investment for five years and people from all backgrounds cannot afford it. National Law Universities along with many Private Universities charge heavy amounts for legal education and students from unprivileged backgrounds without any financial aid cannot afford it.
  5. Law cannot be studied in isolation because it is related to society. This makes practical exposure very important and one or two-month internship in a year cannot be termed very fruitful. Similarly, Professors with practical experience with law firms, courtrooms, research institutions should be preferred over someone with no experience at all. This helps to improve the quality of legal education and impart curiosity among the students.

Challenges to legal education in the era of information

Legal education has gone through a sea change with the development in technology where everything is available just by doing a google search. From explaining topics to downloading notes before the examination students can manage everything. This changed the relationship between the teacher and the student and challenged the traditional methods of learning which were limited to classroom notebooks and examinations. Students cannot be motivated anymore to attend classes because: 

  1. Professors in many universities are not familiar with using technology while taking their lectures. This lacuna was witnessed by many during the Covid pandemic where the classrooms were shifted to an online mode. The use of technology to make PowerPoint presentations, animations, use videos, and short films to teach can make the students more interested in education. Professors need to get accustomed to the latest technology and participate in the era of digitization.
  2. Law is not a stagnant field of study as many legislations, judgments, and rules are enacted and implemented. The college curriculum needs to be proactive to include materials that deal with the present-day situation rather than completely relying upon old historic judgments and laws. Technology Law, Company Law, Arbitration, Criminal Law, and many other subjects need updating.
  3. Some National Law Universities have adopted the case study method of teaching but universities across the country are not very comfortable switching to it. Case studies help students to understand the topic from three different sides and develop critical thinking which is an essential quality. Apart from skills development it also makes the process easier and more student-friendly.
  4.  Laws have their jurisdiction and countries do not have exact similar laws. Although the crux can be the same, its implementation is different. Law schools should encourage and involve more international exposure during the five-year LL.B courses as diversity helps students to learn and compare between the legal systems. Such involvement can lead to participating in international research projects, securing fellowships, and pursuing advanced education in a foreign land.

Recommendations 

Legal education has to buckle up with the fast pace technology and be more accessible. There have been a large number of institutions that opened to provide legal education in the past decade but providing education in quantity is not the goal, the universities should be concerned about their quality of legal education. There can be some ways how legal education can evolve in India:

  • Universities should include technology in legal education to make the students and the Professors both tech-savvy and reduce barriers. Classrooms should not be limited to the library but rather should use online methods of teaching where students are happy to participate. The pandemic made us realize the importance of technology to connect and hence use of technology can make the education process smooth.
  • Evolving the course structure along with proper training for those who are not fluent in English. Course curriculum which includes research, drafting, and problem-solving skills should be encouraged and a healthy balance should be maintained between classroom studies and co-curriculum to avoid burnout or depression in students. Training in the English language can help many students from traditional backgrounds to show their full potential.
  • Internships should not be limited to a specific month; rather interested students should be allowed to visit chambers, law firms, and other organizations from their 2nd year of legal education. This not only helps to have a more dynamic approach towards legal education but also makes the student aware of the practical realities outside the classroom.

Conclusion 

The structure of legal education has changed over time and gained huge popularity with the establishment of National Law Universities and other private institutions across the country. The earlier pattern of three-year LLB courses evolved into five-year integrated courses of B.A LL.B, B.B.A LL.B, B.Com LL.B, or BSc LLB making it more student-friendly. Law is not stagnant and develops with society. Hence educational institutions must think about a holistic plan to educate the coming generation who are more tech-savvy by training professors and administrative staff on the usage of technology. Problems like language barrier, educational cost, and trained teaching professionals should be the priority for every institution. The landscape of legal education would change due to the introduction of artificial intelligence in the domain of education and hence the schools should be prepared to make themselves and their students tackle the challenges which are not limited to the classroom corridors. 

References 


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