LCI Learning

Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Share on LinkedIn

Share on Email

Share More

HISTORICALLY, LEGAL education was imparted in India in law departments of universities where courses were taught as three-year programmes after under-graduation resulting in the award of an LLB degree. Legal education and its importance to establish a rule of law society did not receive any serious priority or attention in these universities, although due to the sheer motivation of students themselves the departments were successful in producing many of the brightest lawyers and some of the best academics in the country. Over the years, there has been a considerable degeneration of academic standards within these law departments with little scope for innovation in the design of courses, development of appropriate teaching modules, formulation of research agenda including undertaking of research projects, and also the promotion of advocacy in lawyering. The departments also suffered from lack of independence and institutional autonomy as they were within the university system whose priorities did not always match. As a result, the ability to attract serious students with a passionate commitment to study law in all its ramifications dramatically reduced culminating in institutionalised mediocrity in law faculties across the country.

There is no doubt that the establishment of the national law schools starting with the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bangalore successfully challenged this institutionalised mediocrity and succeeded in attracting serious students to the study of law. In fact, the study of law has received better attention among high school leavers in the country with the introduction of five-year integrated programmes. This has brought up new issues relating to pedagogy and approach to undergraduate studies for imparting legal education for high school leavers. The national law schools that have been established in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bhopal, and Jodhpur have all contributed in their own ways toward promoting excellence in legal education and research, particularly by attracting some of the brightest students to consider law as a preferred career option. But where these schools face significant challenges is in attracting faculty members who are top researchers in the field of law and can combine sound teaching methods with established track records of research. The lack of researchers in law and absence of due emphasis on research and publications in the existing law schools have led to the absence of an intellectually vibrant environment.

Research can contribute significantly toward improvement in teaching and, more importantly, addressing numerous challenges relating to law and justice. If one were to look at the faculty profile of the world’s top law schools, one will find that there is great emphasis on research and publications among academics. Besides teaching, they contribute in significant ways by initiating and developing research projects in cutting edge areas, by professional contributions to international organisations, law firms and corporations, and by playing an important role in government policy formulation and promoting civil society activism. Law schools and academics in India need to go a long way in developing an institutional culture that promotes and encourages research that has the capacity to foster many positive changes in society at large.

Following are some of the challenges facing legal education in the country:

1) Physical infrastructure and financial resources:

The law schools in India have to recognise that there is a need for creating sound physical infrastructure. There should be more funds for this and for developing research projects and other initiatives to encourage faculty members. Generally, the infrastructure of the national law schools is better than what exists in the law departments of traditional universities. Improvement in infrastructure should be across the board, including in universities which still produce most of the law graduates. University campuses should be places that can inspire students and the faculty so that they are involved in reflecting upon the various problems that confront society. Academic freedom to think and contribute cannot be ensured if universities lack the necessary physical infrastructure and financial resources.

2) Need for developing philanthropic initiatives:

Philanthropy in legal education is rare. It by and large remains a state-sponsored endeavour or an unimpressive commercial enterprise devoid of high academic standards. There is an urgent need for encouraging philanthropic initiatives in promoting excellence in legal education and research in the country. Recently, the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) constituted by the Union Government in 2005 submitted its first annual report. Legal education was one of the focus areas; among the different issues considered as part of the NKC’s consultations with law academics and practitioners were “methods of attracting and retaining talented faculty” and “developing a serious research tradition that is globally competitive.” The NKC report noted the following with regard to philanthropic contributions: “It is clear that we have not exploited this potential. In fact the proportion of such contributions in total expenditure on higher education has declined from more than 12 per cent in the 1950s to less than three per cent in [the] 1990s…” Philanthropy in legal education is essential for its growth and development. Every effort ought to be made by all stakeholders, including the law schools, the bar, the bench, the law firms and corporations for promoting philanthropic initiatives in legal education and research.

3. Hiring good teachers and researchers:

There is a need to fundamentally re-examine the context of legal education in the country. The present system does not sufficiently recognise the key problem with regard to legal education — lack of faculty members who are good teachers as well as sound researchers. There is need to identify talent among young lawyers so that they can be encouraged to consider academia as a career option. There is no doubt that poor financial incentives discourage many young and brilliant lawyers from considering a career in academia. It is important to address this issue as well. But there could be other factors where improvements and changes are feasible: such as career development opportunities within the law schools; development of research infrastructure including the resources to organise and participate in national and international conferences, and undertake serious research; a harmonious environment that fosters mutual respect; governance of the law schools in a transparent fashion; and, above all, faith in the leadership of the institution that excellence will not only be promoted as a general policy, but affirmative efforts will be taken to encourage and support excellence.

Globalisation and the changing dimensions of the Indian economy and polity have thrown up new challenges of governance. Rule of law in all its dimensions remains the single most important challenge the country is facing. The criminal and civil justice systems are under severe stress. The role of law schools in imparting legal education and developing lawyers who are rational thinkers and social engineers is central to the future of legal education and the development of a knowledge economy in India. This can be done only if the law schools are able to attract some of the best and the brightest lawyers to make a lifelong commitment to teaching, learning, and research so that they are able to inspire generations of students to work towards establishing a rule of law society in India.

"Loved reading this piece by Ms. Bobby Anand?
Join LAWyersClubIndia's network for daily News Updates, Judgment Summaries, Articles, Forum Threads, Online Law Courses, and MUCH MORE!!"

Tags :

Category Students, Other Articles by - Ms. Bobby Anand