Prof. Ken Oliphant, Head of the School of Law at the University of Bristol, discusses with Amita Jain what’s in store for Indian law aspirants there…
Q. How can studying law outside one’s home country benefit students?
A. I think by studying law outside the home country, students get a better perspective and an added value of learning in a different country and culture. Moreover, Indian law as a course in common law emanates from the United Kingdom. It is now the law of the USA as well and British Commonwealth countries generally, thus becoming one of the major legal traditions of the world. A law degree from the UK gives students a passport around that common law world and more importantly International Commercial Law which is dominated by London, Washington and New York-based law firms operating internationally. So, with UK law degree, students are tapping into these kinds of resources.
Q. Could you tell us about the flagship law programmes offered at the University of Bristol?
A. We offer many three and four-year LLB programmes and a diverse range of LLM specializations in more than ten fields. LLM is a popular choice among international students who have completed their UG degree, may have practised for two to three years and want to broaden their horizons with different styles of legal cultures. Students without a law degree can also apply for two of our LLM programmes, i.e. International law and International Relations; and Health, Law and Society. For these, we are trying to have a mixed cohort of people with relevant experience.
Q. Could you tell us about the initiatives to incorporate practical elements in law studies, like Law Clinics?
A. An essential thing for any law studies is that it has to be practical in both content and spirit. For this, we have introduced Law Clinics. It is an actual legal practice within the law schools giving advice and, wherever appropriate, representing real clients in tribunals. In this, students are formed into different teams. They meet and interview the clients and try to identify the legal solutions to their problems. We have got two practising solicitors who supervise these cases.
We also have a similar human rights implementation clinic. We have also introduced a Corporate Law Simulation course, sometimes known as ‘Deals Course’. It is a hypothetical negotiation over Mergers & Acquisitions, in which real-time practitioners of local law firms come and teach students.
Q. International students often find it hard to get an internship. How do you bridge this gap?
A. I will have to admit that finding internships can be comparatively challenging for overseas students as firms here consider aspects like if the student will be staying after graduation, etc. However, students with excellent grades, wherever they come from, are interesting to law firms.
Nonetheless, to address the issue, we have created ‘International Internship Scholarship Scheme’. In this, students undergo an internship at law firms in their home country and write a reflective statement. It is then assessed and best of them are given scholarships. To support Indian students, we have also recently connected with stalwarts of Indian legal community of the likes of Cyril Amarchand.
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