Legal Education in India: India needs good law teachers, says Dr K. Parameswaran, GNLU professor
Shiphony Pavithran Suri, 10 Jan 2017, #GNLU
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Careers360 interviews Dr K. Parameswaran, Research Professor of Law & Former Dean (Academics) at Gujarat National Law University (GNLU), Gandhinagar. In the interview, Dr. Parameswaran speaks on GNLU’s specialised courses, their teaching methodology and course curriculum. The former academics dean of GNLU also talks about the law colleges internal exam and changes needed in the pattern.

Read this interview to know the GNLU professor’s take on hefty fees charged by National Law Universities (NLUs) and issue of accreditation in law education.

 

Careers360: Any interesting feature of your law school in terms of new course/ specialization/ curriculum/ teaching methodology?
Dr K. Parameswaran: There are many. They have stabilized and secured GNLU’s foundation.

  1. RbTU (Research based Teaching University), a 10-point formula is appended to course outline of every subject on how a subject is to be taught by faculty. This makes curriculum and teaching fresh for faculties and students, bringing useful learning-outcomes through case-laws, expert-opinions, industry references, developmental issues and class-interactions to secure core fundamentals. Through this, students discover new legal thinking. In addition to BCI Recommendations on curriculum, our newness comes from variety of Optional and Seminar courses we offer every semester that cover contemporary and interdisciplinary topics. We offer 5 streams in UG and 4 specializations in PG.

  2. GNLU is one of the few universities like IITs and IIMs to have a dedicated Research Council and Cadre with research centers, Chair Professors/Fellowships, Faculty-publications, journals, scholarships, awards and also student-researchers on regular basis.

  3. We are proud of GNLU Litigation Assistance and Support Scholarship (GLASS) and Legal Incubation center that financially incentivizes legal practices and start-ups, Scholar-in-Residences for research outcomes, Internships for students to delve into depths of legal reports. Also Academic Support Program (ASP) to make student-learning process continuous through students-teach-students initiatives, Legal History Museum etc., are our quiet and laudable achievements.

  4. Visiting Foreign Professors, Student Exchange, Scholarship, Critique, Debate, Capacity Building and Cultural programs, 2 internationally recognized Moot Court Competitions, Justice League Annual National Sports etc., show GNLU’s contribution in every positive way. As envisioned by our Vice-Chancellor Professor Dr Bimal N Patel, GNLU has become a place for; ‘Come, Communicate, Connect, Collaborate, Create and Contribute’. Our dynamic website presents these facts.

Careers360: What’s your take on pattern of law exam? Why schools follow the same old model of cases for study? How can we make studying law dynamic to suit the current requirement? How should law schools assess a child through exams?
Dr K. Parameswaran: Current examination pattern is a good combination of intense writing for exams, research for project submissions, GD for advocacy skills besides other methods. In my view, all kinds of examinations are good if they are used as a tool to develop intellect and memory-building which is a must for development of legal thinking and knowledge. Not just intellect but memory too must be nurtured positively without condemning it as memory is an invisible neurological-cognitive thread to produce visible outcomes like understanding and knowledge. Memory is equal to crystal-clear understanding that reflects knowledge. Scientific understanding says, memory is cause for perception, planning and problem-solving, which are essential for successful application of legal knowledge. And for law as a discipline, memory is indispensable as legal knowledge is all about provisions, case-laws, interpretations, amendments, pending Bills, doctrines, arguments and simultaneous views of socio-economic-cultural rights on every issue that calls for development with justice and order through legal regulations.

 

You know, good lawyers, brilliant judges, keen drafters, passionate law-faculties, serious legal researchers and all kinds of spirited legal counsels have amazing intellect and memory better than high speed info-highways and digital computers. Memory is a natural chip inside us with unlimited capacity to upload and download information, to intellectualize every issue that is fundamental for construction of legal value and understanding. With good memory and intellect, legal research and contributions to society becomes fast and easy more than any IPads and Androids! A student giving a good examination is like a new service-pack of a software, fresh and robust, armed with legal knowledge, legal IQ, legal empathy and GK that intuitively converge issues from one legal point to another. A forgetful mind on the contrary is unproductive and inefficient wasting time and energy.

 

Case-law model is old. But cases are new every day from every court. Though, Harvard Law School popularized case-study method, but I always say case-study is an Indian method of learning under ‘guru-shishya parampara’ where teacher tells pupil to find out and understand by experimenting and experiencing. In both these methods, knowledge is learnt from real incidents which give concrete practical experiences. Knowledge dawns between a teacher and student in university which is a sample of social environment; a participative learning now appreciated in pedagogy, which psychology supports for effective learning. Case-study of court cases show how citizens reacted to and interpreted legal provisions from Acts and Statutes. Case-study model in legal academics is a good mix of doctrinal and empirical approach. If values of natural schools of law are complemented in case-studies, true knowledge blossoms. It facilitates action-research on current policies required for Legislature and aids top-down and bottom-up model of law and social transformation to Executive. This also gives analytical, problem-solving and practical skills for complex and diverse situations through thematic and dramatic methods for experiential learning. Law students feel a real situation in a legal scene while studying case laws on Human Rights or IP Drug innovation, public policy in contract or refugees, crime or divorce, etc. Students involuntarily empathize those case laws in mind and emotion, which when combined with legal provisions create legal knowledge and legal values. These legal values gradually sink into their psyche impacting their thoughts and deeds in society. When legal education protects all disciplines of knowledge, one can see how sound legal education is a sin quo non for an orderly society towards peace, progress and prosperity.

Assessment of students through examination is a tough call on standards of teaching, learning and evaluations. Bottom line is; what we want from students is dependent on what we give and what and whether students took and showed it appropriately at a given time of assessment. A good assessment is dependent on three factors. One, quality curriculum and teaching, two, quality examination pattern with a mixture of theoretical, practical, national and international perspectives, and three, evaluations based on critical and creative thinking, quality writing and rational arguments. But assessment is productive only when students increase their receptivity, self-motivation and systematic studies.

 

Careers360: What kind of role you expect from Bar Council of India or State bar council for the legal education?  How can Bar Council ensure that professional ethics should be implemented in a more meaningful manner?
Dr K. Parameswaran: BCI shows a mandate to regulate legal practice and legal education. State Bar Council supports. Currently, close to 20 NLUs, 1000 law schools and, 100s and thousands of advocates from every state form our national legal landscape. Naturally this Himalayan range needs cross-cutting layers of ideas and actions and more contribution from BCI especially at a juncture when CLAT exam has hit close to 45000 applicants last year. This necessitates BCI to form a committee of academic experts in every NLU and universities where legal education is conducted. Exchange of healthy debates should take place periodically in this committee with faculty-members who can give expert opinions on academics as they deal with teaching of laws, guidance on research, evaluation of 100s of students on a day-to-day basis. Leading think-tanks and industry leaders who understand legal academics can also form part of committee. Opinions of faculty-members should be given priority as their knowledge comes from daily experiences in bridging theory and practice of law and research guidance to students on numerous issues. Legal education creates law graduates who are future custodians of justice and beacons of law directing society towards accomplishing goals of Constitutional Preamble. Hence, role of teaching community in BCI is indispensable.

 

An independent Ombudsman comprising of legal think-tanks and action luminaries from all sectors to monitor functions and investigate alleged complaints of unethical practices is a sure way for maintaining integrity of legal profession.

 

Creation of a new task force and body of experts is long due to steer quality legal education and services and to cater aspirations of youth whose trend now is legal studies. Else a golden opportunity is at stake.

 

Careers360: How can it be ensured that every student of legal education gets appropriate on the job training?
Dr K. Parameswaran: Job training has two aspects. One, skills arising out of knowledge and two, spaces like employment places where those skills are tested. In relation to job training of law students, universities cater more to the former by preparing students for 5 full years which is a lot in NLU-student’s life. In this 5-year integrated model of NLU system, students study more than 50 law subjects in addition to other allied subjects. Campus life is a fertile period for law students to get groomed in terms of intellectual development, associative thinking and problem-solving essential for law. Every semester a student can intern for 2 months. This practically means 4 months every year or 20 months or close to 2 years in 5 years of graduation-time is spent in internships. Students choose internship in judiciary, NGOs, PSUs, Law-firms, Senior and independent counsels, international and developmental organizations, judicial clerkships, freelance etc. Ongoing internationalization has opened treasures for students that were unknown say 2 decades back.

 

One should understand that universities have a primary duty to concentrate on academics by developing core legal fundamentals and legal aptitude that prepare students inside-university. Students must go through this crucial pre-employment stage first, in order to be successful outside-university. If a full-fledged placement and internship committee of a university provides career counselling, mock interviews, GDs and industry-driven meets, it prepares students to bridge their legal knowledge with legal markets. If students strike a balance between the two; skills from knowledge through academics and job-related skills from hands-on experiences during internships, it helps on the job training.

 

Careers360: Typically, many graduates from National Law Schools by default join corporate firms than joining Bar due to burden of education loan owing to hefty fees of National Law Schools. What’s your take?
Dr K. Parameswaran: This is an important point to be addressed and there are two angles to this issue. First, student-loan is a major issue in higher education and especially of NLUs that is yet to be addressed by both State and Central Governments. NLUs do not get the funding they require in the way IITs, IIMs or Central and other universities are budgeted and granted from State’s exchequer. NLUs have self-funding methods often cash-crunched and drawn from diverse sources like tuition fees, are not sufficient to the magnitude of work that NLUs are expected to do for a country like India and its growing stature in international community. Unless Government-subsidy on legal education comes into picture, students cannot avoid to take loan to meet raising costs of living especially in campuses situated in metropolitan cities of India.

 

Second, because of this burden of loan, students naturally opt for attractive salaries of corporate firms by which they pay off loans and high interest rates. But this brings stress to employers, employees and their inter-relations as quick money in short time leads to high attrition rate, attractive escapades and hazards to mental and physical health. All these affect life-styles and well-being of youth as a community resulting in overall problems. It is high time a National Budget on NLU and Legal Education is specifically allocated by Central and State Governments to help aspiring youth. This will clear many confusions and imbalances and promote quality legal services to the nation leading ultimately to the rule-of-law bound social collectivity. We must face this now than facing it at a later stage when it will be more problematic to deal with.

 

Careers360: Is accreditation a major issue in law education? Many argue that BCI is not a competent body to do accreditation. What is your take on this?
Dr K. Parameswaran
: There are two factors to this. First, who and which body should do the accreditation and second, how it is to be done. In my opinion if the second factor is given serious consideration, first factor gets attended to. Now, the serious consideration of the second factor on ‘how it is to be done’ requires all NLUs to brainstorm what kind of orientation we need for legal education and NLUs in India by which accreditation takes place? Are we going to simply copy models of legal education from other countries? What works in other countries, can it work for India as well? Can we afford this copy and trial? In my understanding of education, academics must form part of one’s own intrinsic national nature with characteristics peculiar to human collectivity of that country and place. It is good to compare but not-so good always to copy except common, core and universal values. Indigenous and native methods of learning give academics pluralistic values, beauty of diverse patterns, serves national interest and finally upholds Constitutional goals specifically developed in that country according to their needs.

 

One-size fits-all has failed as evident from rash economic globalization cancelling other aspects of life last few decades. One must see through both universal vision and local action without being jingoistic or dogmatic and elitist in views. If this orientation is clear and goal-setting is made for Indian legal education, who executes it is only a matter of place, time, energy, resource and people. One-pointed goal and single-minded focus is need of the hour.

 

Careers360: Do you think India needs good law teachers? What you expect in good law teacher?
Dr K. Parameswaran
: Yes. It is a dire need for India now. Current India is a development-India where aspiration for growth in every walk of life has hit the psyche of every Indian. All Indians are now aware of their want for peace, progress and prosperity. This makes legal education indispensable as law regulates everything. Legal systems have to put everything in place to avoid unruly behavior and social disorder especially during developmental phase where greed and windfall profits will become social norm. If legal system has to contribute to this, how can that be done without legal education in place to be facilitated by teachers none other than good law teachers?

 

In one way good law-teaching is one-stop solution to all social problems. It is law students who on becoming good law graduates strengthen legal systems to bring order and stability. It is they who as a judge, counsel or drafter alight law through rights and obligations. Good law teachers have a great role in this. Now, who is a good law teacher is more than a million-dollar question. A good law teacher is one who experiences the subject he or she teaches besides other qualities. What does this mean? When I teach, I must know both theory and practice of my subject and can integrate them. It is true that there are different levels and gradations of experience of this knowledge and its integration. A systematic research leads to this integrating knowledge of theory and practice. This knowledge between theory and practice moves like pendulum in the evolution of society with complex needs and competing claims of one and all. A good law teacher balances both while engaging a lecture on any legal topic. Good teaching connects individual and collective values, public policies with interdisciplinary knowledge and so on. Students understand this element of knowledge swinging from one end to other as they are from diverse interests and backgrounds. A harmonious balance among all these makes legal academics of teaching and research fulfilling. This in turn can gradually lead to creative legal ideas.

 

Careers360: What is your take on India reeling under crores of pending cases? What are the reasons of pendency? How much has India progressed solving the issue?  What is your expectation and how can Indian judiciary improve?
Dr K. Parameswaran: In my observation pendency of cases is peculiar to countries which are growing from historical problems of colonial mis-governance. A set of foreign ideas regulating socio-economic and political culture, attitudes and behavioral observances that are non-native to indigenous systems of life of the country that is colonized is bound to bring problems during colonial domination as well as liberation post-decolonization. This has made society litigious fighting for inherent rights leading to this docket explosion in courts. Our initial socialistic patterns controlling macro and micro economic developments immediately after independence, era of common welfare, human rights and liberties, phases of industrialization and liberalization leading to internationalization of trade and commerce and the current development paradigm and national interests-consolidation that we are in, pose challenges that are to be legally solved. Hence, the pendency of cases.

 

We are in a transition state of affairs. To me things are not as appalling as portrayed. Logically speaking I positively see a glorious future for India as august chairs of judiciary will be gradually occupied by law graduates. They have a commendable role in the years to come to serve nation. NJAC Bill and Amendment judgment that needs to be reworked are in progress. As widely discussed, democracy, demography and demand of India will unleash economic potential in the years to come. People will opt for ADR as it is easy, fast and cost-effective instead of following cumbersome legal processes. NLUs and legal education can be a game-changer on docket explosion as it has a potential for real-time national transformation.

 

Careers360: How do you overview the role of law schools in India, in terms of improving the pending cases and fill vacant appointments?
Dr K. Parameswaran: When more NLUs come, and give quality legal education, it impacts society at many levels. Good Bar and Bench, excellent ADR approaches, committed cliental services, Pro-Bono and PILs, fighting for good causes, reliable non-litigation services like drafting and documentation, LPO and legal assistance to all kinds of infrastructure services, maneuvering science, technology and IPR with human rights protection etc., aids in strengthening all elements of legal systems to quick and justiciable delivery of cases. To remove backlog of cases with efficiency and effectivity, Government and respective ministries must form a special task force or a body attached to all courts comprising of hardcore legal professionals specifically appointed for this purpose. This can also generate legal employment for law graduates in addition to rendering commendable national service.

 

Careers360: Do you think too much of laws create confusion? Why? How far India has achieved removing redundant laws?
Dr K. Parameswaran: It is true that there are several thousand laws in the form of Acts, Statutes and Regulations from pre-independent era till this date. Current Government’s initiative to analyse and weed out obsolete laws is revolutionary in the Independent India of seven decades. Law Commission of India has been given this task and our University’s Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Bimal N. Patel is working on this task as a member of this prestigious Law Commission. Good work is in progress, assisting the Government. Again as said, Government and respective ministries of all States must create a core body of legal professionals of law graduates attached to State Assemblies and courts of each state employing them to take up this enormous and significant work.

 

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