Fast-paced changes in legal domain and the need for India’s education system to keep pace was in focus as the inaugural edition of ‘Indian Legal Education Conclave’ concluded in New Delhi recently. Organized by Careers360, the one-day conclave saw top academics and practitioners from across the country brainstorming on the theme -- ‘From Volume to Value Creation – Challenges and Opportunities’. Maheshwar Peri, Founder and Chairman, Careers360 welcomed the gathering while Mahesh Sarma, Editor introduced the theme of the conclave.
Dr. R Venkata Rao, Vice Chancellor of NLSIU Bangalore, in his key note address set the tone for the conclave by wondering whether the Bar Council of India (BCI), the regulator of legal education in the country, had limited the perspectives of legal education to mere litigation. “Has the Bar Council of India prepared the curriculum of legal education only from the perspective of litigation and litigating lawyers? Has the time now come for us to have a re-look at the curriculum because about 40 years ago the only career that was there for the law graduates could have been litigation. But today much water has flown under all the bridges,” he said. “The objective with which NLU was established was to provide quality inputs to litigation. Today you have 21 NLU schools trying to re-invent legal education in ones’ own way,” Dr. Rao said, highlighting the role of NLUs in India’s legal education system.
Problems in legal education
A host of VCs from top national and top private law colleges, reputed law firms and corporates, key policy-makers, and legal practitioners voiced their concerns on legal education that was not in sync with changing expectations. Quality of teaching, inculcating values and skills among students to create quality lawyers and research were dwelt upon in detail by the participants. “The quality of teaching is an important first objective. Quality research and publication, how to encourage public service among the students and how law schools can engage students in firms, advocacy and policy formation inside India and outside and finally the industry-academia leadership remain issues of concern,” said Dr. Srikrishna Deva Rao, VC of NLU Odisha, flagging off some of the issues plaguing India’s legal education.
Dr. Poonam Saxena, VC, NLU Jodhpur emphasized that quality of lawyers was dependent on quality of teaching. “If you want good quality lawyers; who is going to produce them? Where are we going to get good teachers that should be the focus also. Academicians cannot take a backseat. They are the ones with whom a potential lawyer or potential judge have the first ever interaction and it is an everlasting interaction. If you have a good teacher in class half of the thing is done,” she said.
Pointing out that research was an important function of law colleges, Dr. M Gandhi, Dean, VIT Law School lamented that the curriculum did not give much importance to legal research. The nature of current demands on the profession and the concomitant demand on professionals was highlighted by Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal, Director, Institute of Law, Nirma University.
With almost 60,000 law students graduating every year, there is a dire need for academia to train students in a way that they understand the industry and turn their theoretical knowledge into practice. Corporate lawyers pointed out that practical exposure was imperative to understand real world problems. “The industry has changed and now it puts more emphasis on your understanding of your client industry than your understanding of law. There is fundamental shift not just for legal practitioners but for any practitioner. A lot more collaboration is needed in this domain. I would suggest there should be more emphasis on skills especially the softer skills important in the real world,” said Rajiv Maheswari, CEO, Anand & Anand.
Amiya Ranjan Nayak, Partner, Kaden Boriss Partners emphasized that legal education in India should be more synchronized with the demands of the market and change is needed in the syllabus of legal education. Bar Council of India should involve all the stakeholders in framing a new syllabus, he added.
The conclave culminated with the panel emphasizing on specialization and practical exposure. Dr. Rose Varghese, VC of NUALS Kochi said that there was an urgent need to move into specialization in order to improve the education system.
Anand Prakash Mishra, Deputy Director, Jindal Global Law School supported the view that specialization is an important area and specialist professors are essential.
Dr. N K Chakrabarti, Director of KIIT Law School pointed out that another area that needed attention was to inculcate professional ethics among students. The conclave concluded with the participants expressing hope that legal curriculum, which is in dire need of an overhaul would get the attention that it deserves.
With inputs from Harshita Das
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