This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, LawSikho.
Universities and colleges are supposed to prepare us for our life. But do they?
Let’s take a look at law schools. I am talking about traditional law colleges as well as fancy ones which call themselves law schools a la Americana and dole out fancy GPAs.
Do they teach you practical skills that you need to survive in the world of law practice?
Very little if at all. By the time you graduate, you probably do not know how to draft basic commercial contracts. They make you read tons of case laws, memorize notes for the exam and perhaps even make you read the statutes to an extent as well.
But you still know nothing about how to do client work.
But that is not the worst thing really.
It would have been nice if colleges taught practical skills like contract drafting, due diligence, compliances, negotiation, how to handle court registries, strategize litigation, how to draft various kinds of applications before different forums or even how to write a memo advising your clients.
They don’t. Law graduates, therefore, try to learn all these things from reluctant seniors over many years. It’s not a nice experience. Especially if you have paid through your nose and given the prime of your youth to these glorified law schools.
But I am saying that is not the worst thing law schools are doing. There is another disgusting thing they have done that has ruined the quality of the entire legal profession. It is stinking. There is no point in saying this nicely.
Law schools have ended up setting completely wrong standards. They are building bad habits amongst law students which they suffer from later in their professional life.
Most law colleges require students to submit projects and articles. That’s great. But do you know what they do then?
They accept horrible copy pasted plagiarised submissions and do nothing about it.
Law colleges around the country have normalised academic and professional dishonesty. They give good marks to the poor students for these terrible and copy-pasted worthless projects, completely screwing up what they should expect from the professional life.
Even before the young students begin to build work ethics, the colleges destroy it. Naturally, when the students join the workforce, they still look for such shortcuts out of habit.
While I am pontificating, I was also guilty of this. At NUJS it was easy to trick the teachers and submit non-original submissions. Out of the 50 projects I submitted at least 10 were managed through one short cut or the other. There were some teachers who were lenient. We knew we would get away with such nonsense and be awarded good marks anyway.
Today I wish the university and my teachers were more demanding on me.
It is also a trend that students must be given good marks. The justification is that this helps the students to get jobs and find LLM seats in foreign universities easily.
This phenomenon has grown and spread so much now it has become a joke. Foreign universities take grades given by Indian universities with a pinch of salt.
You can get an E or A+ in company law by mugging up some notes which cover maybe 10% of the act. Then you falsely think you are really good at it.
What do you think the interviewers feel when they ask basic concepts of company law to a candidate who has scored the highest possible grade in his Company Law paper but completely fails to give any satisfactory answer?
The industry knows what is going on.
The law schools are running dishonest rackets of selling marksheets and graduating undeserving people as lawyers.
What a tragedy. Instead of telling the truth about where a student really stands in the learning process, the universities and teachers are trying to misguide the future recruiters, rest of the academia, definitely the parents of those students and ultimately creating an illusion of great academic performance of students.
Naturally, these students do not put in the effort they would have otherwise in their 3 or 5 years.
What students learn from this whole travesty of academic exercise is that it’s a good idea to pretend, to show off, to give lip service.
You can “gas” or “faff” in viva and get 5 out of 10 even if you didn’t know jackshit. Wow. Now you think this is such an amazing skill.
You will later try it on your employers. Certainly on unsuspecting clients.
Please share this email with a couple of your teachers today. And request them to play a part in reversing this nonsense. Some teachers are aware of it and try to stand against the tide, but it’s hard on them.
The legal academia is today in the dumpster and nobody has the guts to speak the truth about it. People are busy being nice and attending conferences. And the students and the industry are suffering and will continue to suffer in the near future. Is this sustainable?
LawSikho exists simply because the legal academia has failed to train the students. It fails to give any meaningful continuing education, despite big grants and big talks, and hence a small company like ours have been bagging contract after contract from major companies who want us to train their lawyers and other executives.
And hundreds of students and lawyers enroll in our courses every month because colleges have such horrible standards of education.
And you know what we grapple with the most?
Trying to make them unlearn the terrible habits they have picked up with respect to learning from the traditional academia.
Reading to only pass the exams. What will you do when you will have to represent your clients? How will you decide how much is enough learning then?
Not preparing for a class. Will you go for your client meetings unprepared? Most Indian lawyers do that. And that’s why most Indian lawyers also crib about not being able to build a sustainable practice.
Are you going to bluff in the viva? Then you will do it in the courts and in negotiations also. You will even win once or twice with bluffs, and then your career will take a nosedive because everyone will figure out what a Bluffmaster you are and stop trusting you. And then, you will have to live with that reputation.
What is the value of a course if it does not teach you academic honesty, integrity and value of original work? An education that teaches you shortcuts and faffing will be responsible for your ultimate failure.
As a private company, we are free to set our own standards. And here is what we do.
We first give you weekly exercises and carefully curated study material to solve those exercises. After you are done with submission, then we give you specific feedback in writing on your output, to every individual personally.
For example, if you had to draft an agreement for your assignment, then you will get feedback on which clauses you have drafted well, which clauses you did not draft well and how to improve next time you draft them.
This is followed by a live classroom exercise led by an experienced lawyer and instructor. The students do not merely passively listen to a lecture, but having done all these exercises and received feedback, they are ready to participate as equals in the class.
Have you ever had your college follow this kind of methodology?
We have such an advanced system for submission of assignments, that it automatically rejects any submission that has more than 30% plagiarism or unoriginal content. We don’t accept academic cheating.
Then we demand that our students must write assignments that are of publishable quality. We give them weekly training even so that they can publish their articles. They are expected to publish at least one article every month. And they do with help of our instructors.
If we can do it, why can’t universities that charge in lacs to the students do it?
It is because most of the students and their parents are not asking for such high standards. They are just asking for marks and illusive placement. One they are getting truckloads and the other they are usually not getting. They are a little confused at the end of it all. Is the student to be blamed?
That’s what the college does. We did everything right. Maybe you didn’t do something so you didn’t get placement. The poor student thinks that there is something wrong with them and gets on with their life. What is the point in blaming the college? It at least gave him a glowing marksheet.
When will they begin to demand a higher standard of education from their colleges?
While the systemic change does not look anywhere close, at LawSikho we are offering some pathbreaking courses. I promise that our courses will challenge you intellectually and force you to grow. And in the end, you will love it.
It is not only that we will hold you too high standards, even we want you to hold us to very high standards. Let’s set new standards in legal education together.
Because you and I, both of us together, have the power to change the world.
Here are the upcoming courses you can opt for.
- Diploma in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution
- Diploma in M&A, Institutional Finance and Investment Laws (PE and VC transactions)
- Diploma in Entrepreneurship, Administration and Business Laws
Executive Certificate Courses
- Certificate course in Advanced Corporate Taxation
- Certificate course in Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code