The Future of Legal Education

Raj-KumarThere are no shortcuts to the establishment of a good law school. C. Raj Kumar, Founding Vice Chancellor, Jindal Global Law University, Sonepat lays out a workable blue print for the sector. Careers360 brings to you the reforms required for legal education in India.

 

The future of legal education will be shaped by our ability to understand and appreciate the larger context of the role of law in establishing a society based on the rule of law in India. Notwithstanding the fact that we have institutionalized democracy in India, the fact remains that we are not a society that accords the full protection of the rule of law and ensures access to justice. I believe the first and most important reform that we need to undertake for establishing a society based on the rule of law and that ensures access to justice is a radical reform of legal education. Legal education is not only about training and capacity building for becoming lawyers and judges. While this may be one of the important outcomes of legal education, the foundations of legal education should help us establish the bulwark of democratic governance and develop a liberal constitutional order. The future of legal education ought to be based on the following five reforms:

 

1. Immediately curbing the proliferation of law schools

Having reached the milestone of 1500 law schools in India, we have unfortunately promoted a mediocre form of legal education in most of our law schools. This has created a situation in which quality and excellence simply cannot be maintained. There is an urgent need for the Bar Council of India (BCI) to take a bold decision to stop the establishment of any more new law schools in India. We need to stop this proliferation immediately. In fact, the BCI will have to work towards closing many existing law schools.

 

2. Strengthening the three-year LL.B.

While I support the rationale for launching the 5-year integrated LL.B. programme that has resulted in attracting some of the brightest students to the study of law, there is a need to revisit the future of the three-year LL.B. programme. Law is a discipline which seeks higher level of understanding of the complex nature of the problems in society. While the five-year LL.B. programme will attract interested school-leavers to join law school, there is a need to reinvent the programme. The diversity of the legal profession can be promoted if we are able to attract people who have trained in the study of sciences, humanities, social sciences, engineering and I dare say, medicine, to study law, and to consider becoming lawyers. The future challenges of law will emerge out of issues in technology, artificial intelligence, human cloning, stem cell research and many such complex issues – all of which require a broader understanding of other disciplines. There is a need for developing strong and reputed three-year LL.B. programmes across law schools in India that will enable the graduates of other disciplines to consider the study of law after their undergraduate degree programme.

 

3. Eliminating mediocrity in law schools

There is no room for tolerating any form of mediocrity in law schools. We need to focus on faculty recruitment and faculty development initiatives through training and capacity building programmes. For far too long, our law schools have been relying upon part-time teaching by lawyers and occasional guest lectures by serving and retired judges. While all this might help and support the larger vision and imagination of providing practical inputs from the legal profession, law schools cannot depend upon part-time and visiting faculty to implement its core mission and pedagogical approach to legal education. The core faculty members in law schools ought to be academics who are willing to devote their life’s learning and experiences to legal education. There cannot be any short cut for this, as law schools, just as universities, have a larger role to play in shaping the future of a society. Faculty members who are trained in the various disciplines of law and who are willing to read, write, and reflect on the issues of law and justice are ideally suited to educate, inspire and empower young minds in the pursuit of law.

 

4. Promoting research and knowledge creation

Law schools ought to be research institutions. There is a need for promoting research in law schools through the work of the faculty members engaging in publishing on issues of legal significance. At present, even the best of our law schools are, at best, teaching institutions. Radical reforms are needed to deal with this crisis. While financial incentives could be one way by which we can slightly change the situation, the bulk of reforms is about developing world-class law schools that can inspire law graduates to consider legal academia as a coveted career option. Law graduates should develop a sense of aspiration and keenness to contribute to legal academia that gives them the opportunity to teach and research. At present, corporate careers and legal profession are more attractive for law graduates as a career option and that needs to change.

 

5. Building strong partnerships

There is a need for all the actors and stakeholders of the legal professions, particularly lawyers and judges, to become active participants in the legal education project. At present, corporate law firms and the broader corporate legal sector have a very limited vision and view law schools purely as recruiting grounds. Lawyers and judges, with all due respect to them, have a very limited engagement with law schools, seeing them as fertile venues for recruiting lawyers and law clerks, or at best giving occasional lectures to educate and inspire students. While all these aspects of engagement are important and do have a positive impact, I believe that lawyers and judges should build a stronger and substantive collaboration with law schools. We cannot build a legal profession that is expected to adhere to high standards without having this partnership.

 

The future of legal education in India can be bright, if we are able to accept these challenges and work towards addressing them. Never before in the history of India have we seen a situation where the most outstanding students across Indian schools and colleges are aspiring to study law. These aspiring law students are seeking excellence in legal education - they deserve world-class law schools and the time has come in India to promote world-class legal education. This was, at some point of time in history, our past and can indeed be our future.

 

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