Legal education

This article is written by Vanya Verma from Alliance University, Bengaluru. This article covers the mismanagement of legal education in India by highlighting its weaknesses and challenges and brings forth suggestions to improve the structure of legal education in India.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Education is crucial in bringing social change. It allows the best in the body, mind, and spirit of child and man to be drawn forth as a potential instrument and a powerful medium for creating changes in society. It gives a person the ability to comprehend and reflect on knowledge and processes, as well as to behave appropriately. The goal of education is to eradicate ignorance by imparting knowledge. Ignorance is the root of all evil and unhappiness that we observe. Education is a powerful tool for overcoming such adversity. People’s misfortunes can be alleviated by proper education. Higher education serves a variety of goals. It helps in a student’s growth and development, knowledge, discovery, refinement, and community social impacts.

Without specialists, today’s complicated legal system would collapse. A lawyer is a person who has mastered the study of law and has practical experience with its application. Lawyers are Court officers who assist judges in the administration of justice in India. Effective and free legal assistance is not only a precondition for proper equity organisation, but it is also a key fixer and underwriter of the manager of law.

The rise of the new economy, globalisation, privatisation, and deregulation has posed new difficulties to legal education around the world. The legal system must evolve in response to the dramatic changes in information and communication technology. Globalization and the state’s retreat from its traditional role have produced new legal questions about how to safeguard the poor and marginalised from deeper poverty. The whole nature of law, as well as legal institutions, is undergoing a paradigm shift.

Objectives of legal education

Legal education may serve a variety of purposes in a growing democratic society like India. They have been listed as follows:

Socialization objectives

The use of education is to improve perceptions and awareness of the environment, both local and global; to grasp the challenges of one’s society; and to impact values and attitudes.

Manpower objectives

The utilisation of the entire educational system to develop the types of skills and knowledge required for societal duties.

Opportunity objectives

Education is used to widen opportunity and mobility in society, particularly among those who have been historically disadvantaged or oppressed.

Research objectives

The use of educational facilities to create research that is beneficial to education and society.

Administrative objectives

 These include the use of planning in institutional governance, as well as more sophisticated procedures for budgeting, managing, and assessing programmes.

Constitutional provisions

The Constitution of India essentially entrusted the responsibility of providing education to the states by placing education in List II of the Seventh Schedule. However, it is currently part of the process of giving the union and the states concurrent legislative authority. List III includes the legal profession, as well as the medical and other professions.

Even though there is no particular Article in Schedule VII of the Indian Constitution dealing with legal education. As a result, the more generic elements referring to higher education and eligibility to practise before courts are used to regulate legal education requirements.

Entry 66 of List I of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India deals with the coordination and determination of standards in higher education institutions. List III entry 25 is likewise about education and reads as follows:

Subject to the rules of List I Entries 63, 64, 65, and 66, education, including technical education, medical education, and universities; vocational and technical training of labour.

List I entries 77 and 78 relate, among other things, the right of people to practise before the Supreme Court and the High Courts. The following are the entries:

  • Entry 77- The Supreme Court’s constitution, organisation, jurisdiction, and powers (including contempt of court) as well as the fees charged therein; people qualified to practise before the Supreme Court.
  • Entry 78- High Courts’ constitution, organisation (including vacations), and those entitled to practise before them, except for officers and servants of the High Courts.

Weakness of the Indian legal education

The universities determine the course content for these courses based on guidelines from the Bar Council of India. These courses, among other things, have the function of promoting legal education and laying down standards of such education in consultation with universities in India that provide such education. The Bar Council of India’s Rules specifies which subjects are compulsory and which are optional in the LL.B programme. Part 1 (obligatory) is divided into six subjects, as listed in Rule (9) (1), Part 11 has 21 subjects listed in Rule 9 (2) (compulsory). Rule 9(3) offers 15 (optional) subjects from which three must be chosen.

In 2000, the UGC formed a new Curriculum Development Committee, which created a new UGC Model Curriculum that was distributed to individual universities for revision of their law curricula. Despite steps and recommendations aimed at better equipping Indian law graduates with professional skills, the threat posed by foreign and cross-national institutions is impending. The following are some of the major flaws in our legal education system:

Outdated syllabus and curriculum

The necessity of changing the curriculum has arisen. The current law school curriculum has been chastised for failing to include issues that are critical in today’s legal environment. Law schools are dealing with a bewildering array of opposing requests for curriculum reform. The programme is still in its development stage, with students being taught an outdated syllabus. Many private law schools provide no or few alternatives or elective studies in addition to a core curriculum. Added to that, law schools still encounter the problem of introducing new and contemporary subjects at the cost of focusing on vital subjects.

Furthermore, the curriculum being followed incorporates a three-year course syllabus, even though most institutions and law schools have switched to a five-year degree. New and emerging law schools (particularly private institutions) limit their focus to teaching and research on issues relating to Indian law.

Given the huge frequency of participation in international moot court competitions, law student’s thirst for knowing international and comparative law has grown tremendously during the past years. Students must be trained with a balanced curriculum that shapes them into better lawyers by providing them with information and training in Indian law, while also preparing them to face difficulties in the outside world with both international and foreign legal systems.

A search for excellence

Another important issue that must be addressed is the quality of education provided by law schools. Admission to the college, the curriculum, the manner of examination, and the qualifications of the faculty members at the college all contribute to the quality of legal education. Quality is not a virtue in and of itself. The quality of education provided by National Law Universities and other law schools varies vastly. The majority of private law schools are average, and settling for a few outstanding colleges would be a grave error. Such law schools alone will not be able to transform educational standards.

Other legal schools are unable to provide additional optional subjects while still meeting the minimum requirements. It is past time for this issue to be taken into account and rectified as soon as possible. 

Assessment of examination

The true value of any curriculum can only be realised if the knowledge is put to the test in a controlled environment. Law school examinations must be rigorous to eliminate misconduct. The nature of the questions must be analytical, requiring students to develop the law in the form of application rather than the duplication of law and cases found in textbooks. This phase would ensure that students use their critical thinking skills to respond to the questions.

Research and learning

The law school for research and learning plays a critical role in the creation and dissemination of knowledge. Faculty members should encourage students to conduct research and write persuasive memos on projects allocated to them, and they should place an embargo on plagiarised projects. Plagiarism has an impact on academic writing quality. Due to the teacher’s lackadaisical approach toward reviewing the projects, the majority of the projects submitted by students are plagiarised. Professors frequently award top grades to all students, regardless of whether or not the student finished the project assigned to him. This has given the students who study hard and deliver their projects on time a negative perception.

No practical approach towards law 

The majority of the college curriculum is built on theory, which students find uninteresting. Most private universities teach primarily theoretical subjects including the Indian Penal Code, 1860 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and the Constitution of India, 1950. Students cannot be expected to excel in later stages if they have been taught in a way that only piques their curiosity. Furthermore, professors’ internal assessments (which account for a large portion of the overall percentage) are based on the theory supplied to the subject professor.

Medium of instruction 

Several private institutions govern education in regional languages. As a result, several candidates in particular states get admitted to universities despite their inability to communicate effectively in English. The majority of statutes, cases, law texts and other legal materials are written in English. To address these issues, there aren’t enough textbooks available in regional languages. Finally, the students not only lack adequate knowledge of the subject but also lack the requisite communication skills to adequately practise the job.

Exorbitant differences among law schools 

Even though India has several reputable National Law Universities, several private law colleges readily provide degrees to students without even having to provide sufficient education. This, in turn, has an impact on students graduating from various law schools, with the quality of students graduating from different institutions vastly different when compared to students graduating from other private institutions due to the vast differences in the scope and type of education they receive.

As variations across educational institutions have grown, a large divide has emerged between “elite” education groups and the rest of the institutions. In terms of student learning outcomes as well as behavioural growth of passed out candidates, the culture and teaching-learning process of various law schools varied greatly.

Degradation of the word ‘Hons.’ (Honors)

Many universities that provide a five-year legal curriculum with a ‘honours’ degree, such as B.B.A. LLB (Hons.), B.Com LLB (Hons.), and so on, do not allow students to take on a substantive subject of their choice or write a dissertation during their last year of study. This inhibits individuals from pursuing higher education since they are unable to identify their area of interest.

International programs and experience 

Indian law schools and universities must think outside the box and give students the best international programmes available. Most law schools do not send their students to summer or semester abroad programmes that might improve their skillset and assist them in the future. Law schools must provide the necessary facilities to enable students to participate in such international programmes as those offered by numerous foreign colleges.

Easy access to legal education

Legal education has recently developed as a potential business activity for law institutions, which are primarily owned and operated by builders and industrialists. The key issue is the inspection team of the Bar Council and the university, which is in charge of inspecting colleges that want to establish legal studies.

Teaching facilities and techniques

Law schools are still accustomed to the traditional style of lecturing in a classroom. These proposals and recommendations given by the committees tasked with improving education are ignored.

The faulty examination system

The classic examination pattern is used in law schools. Covering only a portion of the necessary syllabus and the illusion of memorising the selected questions reign supreme. Students’ grades are based on their ability to memorise a few topics rather than their analytical and practical abilities.

A syllabus that isn’t relevant

Even though the UGC Committee and the Bar Council of India requested that the syllabus of law courses be upgraded, there is still a lack of uniformity in the law curriculum among universities. Furthermore, the overabundance of disciplines in the curriculum has muddled the concept of teaching abilities and research direction. The law school must become more relevant to the professions and their concerns.

A scarcity of skilled teachers

In general, law schools struggle to attract talented law professionals to teach at their institutions. The obligation to requite NET qualified applicants as lecturers have usually decreased the number of good professors who can be appointed. Also, screening committees at various colleges are limited in their ability to make independent assessments of instructor quality.

Placement issues

Typically, students finish their placement with a lawyer, a non-profit organisation, or a corporation. Law students are supposed to learn how to read and maintain case files, conduct legal research, create legal documents, and conduct client interviews and counselling. Students must keep a diary of their visits to lawyer’s chambers and courts, detailing the tasks they completed and the proceedings they witnessed. Their learning from placement is reflected in their journals and preparation for mock trial and moot court. Legal and clinic training, class-based lectures and simulations, and external placement are some of the approaches used at law schools to provide practical training.

Challenges before legal education in India

The rise of the new economy, globalisation, privatisation, and deregulation has posed new difficulties to legal education around the world. The legal system must evolve in response to the dramatic changes in information and communication technology. Globalization and the state’s retreat from its traditional role have produced new legal questions about how to safeguard the poor and marginalised from deeper poverty. The whole nature of law, as well as legal institutions, is undergoing a paradigm shift.

To meet the country’s and people’s expectations from law and legal services in the next few years, the state must devise the best approach for strengthening professional legal education while also promoting law as a liberal academic discipline. This necessitates a suitable model for establishing a supervisory and control system to ensure that professional law schools maintain high standards of teaching, research, and extension activities. Unmet legal needs of various segments of society, delays and costs in obtaining justice, the impact of globalisation on equality and human rights, vast technological changes, particularly in information and communication, the state’s relative incapacity due to market dominance, and the role of professions in justice, peace, and development law and attorneys have a critical role in facilitating, moderating, and controlling all of these changes.

The nature of institutions and procedures, as well as access to them, make justice feasible. Lawyers will have to assist communities, interest groups, and governments in designing institutions and procedures, particularly during times of transition, while keeping equity, justice, and fairness in mind. The following are some of the issues that legal education faces:

Physical infrastructure and financial resources

India’s law schools must understand the importance of constructing strong physical infrastructure and research projects, as well as taking steps to encourage faculty members. Though the infrastructure of national law schools is superior to that of traditional university legal departments, improvements should be made across the board, including in universities. Law graduates should be motivated and educated so that they can engage in critical thinking about the issues that face society. Universities can only guarantee academic freedom to think and contribute if they have the requisite physical infrastructure and financial resources.

Promotion of philanthropic efforts in the field of legal education

Philanthropy in legal education is uncommon, and it is almost always a state-sponsored project or a mediocre commercial venture with low academic standards. To promote quality in legal education and research in the country, initiatives to stimulate philanthropy are essential. Philanthropic contributions as a percentage of total higher education spending have decreased in recent decades. All parties, including law schools, the bar, the bench, law firms, and companies, should make efforts to promote charitable projects in legal teaching and research.

Qualified professors and research aptitude 

To encourage students and impart better legal education, particularly clinical legal education, good teachers and researchers in law schools are also essential. However, due to insufficient incentives, fresh talent does not desire to pursue a career in teaching, and those who do are migrating to more profitable sectors.

Establishing a legal aid centre

The 2009 Bar Council resolution requires all law schools to establish a legal aid centre to give low-cost, high-quality legal help to needy sections of society has generally been ignored.

Commercialization of legal education

The privatisation of legal education has resulted in a proliferation of law colleges, tarnishing India’s international reputation for legal education. It hasn’t helped to raise academic standards, either in terms of staff and student quality or the encouragement of research within institutions that have devolved into subpar commercial endeavours.

The emergence of foreign universities and legal professionals in India

The emergence of foreign universities and legal professionals in India has posed a serious problem for legal education. The question arises as to why a student would study in Indian law schools when foreign degrees can be obtained for the same cost. Similarly, international experts would be able to access legal professionals in India. Our goal should be to generate lawyers who will be in high demand when they travel to other nations. When international corporations set up shop in India, they will need lawyers with the same level of expertise as the best in the world.

Furthermore, unique themes dealing with the corporate, taxation, and bankruptcy laws of other countries should be taught in law schools around the country. The curriculum should be designed to prepare students to deal with issues that span multiple legal systems. Language skills and cultural familiarity should be combined with intensive and direct legal training for the pupils. The advancement of internet technology, along with globalisation, poses a greater threat to territorial sovereignty than ever before. Even communicators, much alone the authorities of the countries from which and to which the communication is aimed, find it impossible to know whether their communications are genuinely crossing national borders in the world of cyberspace.

Cyber torts, cyber racism, and cybercrime not only jeopardise our understanding of the territorial state as the ultimate final authority within its borders, but they also create a slew of concerns relating to offender prevention, investigation, and trial. As a result, there is a need for reformulation in legal education in India in these conditions. Legal education in India was in poor shape before independence, and it continued to deteriorate after independence. However, changes have occurred as a result of the government’s and academicians’ ongoing and consistent efforts.

Quality legal education was aided by debates over teaching techniques, the introduction of clinical legal education, and a focus on ongoing education, as well as infrastructure improvements. However, removing a sense of comfort from society’s thought process regarding the law as a career rather than a last resort has aided in securing a high pedestal for legal education in India. Similar to the emergence of doors for legal experts in numerous fields, the demand for the subject has grown. Globalization and the shifting aspects of India’s economy and politics have posed new governance issues.

Ways to Improve the structure of legal education in India

Giving greater emphasis on practicality

The law is supreme, and it must be confronted with boldness, certainty, and no hesitation. It necessitates exceptional reading, thinking, and speaking abilities. These elements could be incorporated into the course through regular debates and discussions. Moot court (mock practice) develops competency and exhibits the manner of argumentation, which is an important quality for a lawyer to possess.

Increase professional exposure

The emphasis in legal classes should be on practical learning rather than on theoretical study. Professionalism is attained by increasing one’s knowledge of the law and legal processes. Knowing how much law one understands from books isn’t as important as knowing how that law is applied. It is critical to place a greater emphasis on professional experience through internships and engaging in the law student’s learning throughout his or her internships.

Collaboration with foreign law universities

Knowledge has no bounds. Law is a subject that necessitates an ever-increasing amount of learning. Collaboration with international law schools to gain access to their law reports, case laws, research papers, and other materials can help to improve this proficiency. Law schools such as NLSIU Bangalore, NALSAR Hyderabad, and NLU Delhi, among others, have collaborated on teaching, research, and offering world-class legal education, and the results have been positive.

Faculty and guest lecturers

Teachers are critical in developing the finest lawyers from good students. Teaching law is a difficult task that necessitates a broad understanding of the legal realm in the country and around the world, and every law school must supply well-qualified professors as an infrastructural facility. Guest lectures by famous persons in the legal and related sectors should be included in the course curriculum since they assist students to understand the harsh realities of law and increase their motivation.

There is a severe issue with law teachers, or a lack thereof. Only by closing the significant financial disparity between bar leaders and teachers can law teaching attract new brains. Those under special remuneration schemes, in turn, must be bound by appropriate legal instruments to teach for a minimum period. A pilot programme must develop a new remuneration structure that includes more public-private collaborations, greater autonomy, and favourable financial terms.

Scope for extracurricular activities

A legal student is distinguished from a typical student by his or her involvement in extracurricular activities. Professional courses sometimes make the error of limiting students to exclusively academic-related tasks. Law, as an academic course of study, must expose its students to activities outside of the classroom. Furthermore, universities should include “call for papers” in the curriculum, which promotes legal writing on a variety of current or debated subjects, so that a student’s awareness of how recent issues connect to legal procedures and processes may be assessed.

Diversification

Our legal education programmes must become more diverse, creative, and adaptable. Reforms in the judicial system, clinical legal education, practitioner workshops, legal writing, and alternative conflict resolution must all be included in a national course module.

Development of law libraries

Law libraries are under-resourced and under-resourced. Each law school must be connected to the best global sources of knowledge using the most up-to-date technology research tools. For maximal ground impact in urban and rural India, a library cess levied only on senior attorneys across the country must be operationalized for law libraries.

Connecting internships and post-degree placements

Internships and post-degree placements must be stitched together into a national scheme – now, placements are haphazard, with no structure in place to match applicants and hosts. Some students, especially those with connections, have it easy, while others, who are more gifted but less prominent, fall by the wayside.

Classes by senior practitioners

A national programme must require senior practitioners with experience in specific areas to take a minimum number of classes at law schools with fewer resources. When the demand is for tight, continuous, coordinated alignment with legal education, the legal educational sector, the Bar, the Bench, the corporate legal sector, and law firms continue to operate in silos of solitary magnificence.

Participation of seasoned lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals

Even seasoned lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals must participate in periodic and ongoing legal education programmes. Judges and lawyers should both be prepared for such brief, structured continuing legal education sessions.

Key innovations

Our National Legal Schools thrived because of three key innovations: academic autonomy by establishing each as a separate institution; admittance via a strictly merit-based written test; and an integrated, professional five-year law curriculum with curricula innovation. This isn’t available, even in part, in other Indian law schools.

The negative impact of stratification of colleges has to be remedied

The detrimental effects of college stratification must be addressed. The legal faculty of central universities established by Parliament serves as the university’s law school. The majority of state institutions are affiliating universities with private law schools. Most of these connected colleges have institutionalised mediocrity and lowered academic standards. Many lack appropriate and qualified faculty, as well as law libraries with e-resources and a consistent schedule of lectures and exams.

Phasing out colleges that provide fake law degree

The phasing out of many current colleges must be finished as soon as possible. The Madras High Court ruled in 2017 that 85 percent of law schools must close, even though the number of law schools has increased from 800 in 2000 to 1,500 in 2019. The sale of fake law degrees would be reduced if at least 500 mediocre profit shops were closed.

Replication of unique aspect of legal education in the United States 

The unique characteristic of legal education in the US with its collaboration between law firms, corporations, non-governmental organisations, legal assistance centres, think tanks, government agencies, and intergovernmental organisations must be replicated in India.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, legal schools in the modern period have deteriorated. Legal education should be able to satisfy society’s changing needs and be prepared to deal with the complexities of various scenarios. Before it goes beyond the grasp of competent people, the area of deficiency should be identified and corrected. Student’s growth and development are hampered by these concerns, thus law schools should respond with some self-evaluation to these challenges. The current legal education system needs immediate overhaul. Aside from moot courts, it is past time for a practical approach to be incorporated into the curriculum.

References


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