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Legal Education System in India: In Dire Straits

Admission into a professional course is not an achievement but an opportunity to hone one's professional skills and one must not let it pass by.

What is Legal Education and why is it important:

Legal education in India has historically been offered as a three-year diploma. The structure has changed since 1987. Law degrees in India are awarded and conferred in terms of the Advocates Act 1961[1], which is a statute enacted by Parliament on both the subject of legal education and the regulation on conduct of legal profession. Law Commission of India describes legal education as a science that provides students with awareness of certain concepts and laws to allow them to pursue the legal profession.

Bar Council of India lays down the minimum curriculum required for an institution to qualify for a law degree. The Bar Council also monitors the graduating institutions and reviews their teaching methods and curriculum and decides whether the institution meets the appropriate requirements or not.[2]

India today has 1170 law schools and still numerous lawyers are not able to do justice to their profession and others are busy filling their pockets, the most noble profession in early days has now reached the worst condition, according to Madras HC judge, Justice N Kirubakaran, while hearing a writ petition from advocates Bhaskar Maduram and Lenin Kumar opposing the latest rules adopted by Tamil Nadu and Puducherry's Bar Council for contesting elections to the Board, said:
The noble and honourable métier of lawyers has fallen into the grave and alarming situation and at the present stage the sole aim of lawyers is to fill their pockets rather than being a support in making the judicial system efficient, he added, An individual who did not even pass the eighth grade earned an MA degree from an open university and became an advocate and also formed an organisation, observed the judge. [3]

The error is in the whole legal education system and its practice of focusing on quantity rather than quality education. High quality Legal Education is not only an essential element of India because of developing nature of State, but because of rapid economic growth also. Law at the current social stage in society, is used not only as an agent of social discipline but also as a means of social reform.

As a liberal education, legal education can serve society by imparting general and cultural education to law students that makes them good law-abiding citizens so that they can make crucial and society affecting decisions with ease and with in-depth knowledge of the root issues growing in the social structure. This education should instill the importance of democratic culture into the students. Changes in the nature, substance and appearance of legal education is now seen as a significant social imperative. In recent years there has been a great deal of agitation in the area of legal education. Hence, legal education system is in need of a solution and a change with nature.

Problems in Legal Education System:

Bar Council of India has power under Section 49 of Advocates Act, 1961,that Legal education standards to be adhered to by universities in India and university inspections for that purpose to be held by the Bar Council of India from time to time[4]. S.L Gowda, former vice-chairperson of Bar Council of India(BCI) clarified that the process by which every law school is allowed to act actually requires approval from the BCI at the final level. New law schools contact the Bar Council of India having already received the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the government and, in the event that the BCI fails to give them permission to work looking at the bare infrastructure on papers.

The infrastructure is on papers only, and at times infrastructure is still very low on papers too. The exact information is received at the time of inspection only, S.L Gowda added, and failure of meeting the requirements for a proper well-equipped law school, they usually end up lodging a complaint against the BCI, with the NOC taking power.

Few Law schools in cities do not have the proper facilities and educational programs for students on par with law students from national law schools and prominent private law schools. The new law schools that have come up, according to Bar Council of India member said that, the land of the new law schools were on rented premises and were even lacking the bare minimum infrastructure[5].

Gowda said there are presently around 1,170 law schools in India and 21 representatives of the BCI to audit them --Other law schools in Taluka and the headquarters of the district are in a rather poor spot. Often the government has just initiated those colleges and those colleges have not been provided any facilities by the government itself, Therefore, even without adequate facilities and qualified faculty, law schools without proper moot courts and technologies get up admitting students giving limited knowledge and thereby keeping their promising future at stake.

Legal education has rapidly arisen as a purely commercial practice, with the introduction of a vast number of colleges with the goal of gaining full income from the market, rather than leading to quality legal education. The contrast change in the fees charged by private law institutions than Government-aided law schools, the privatization of legal education has not taken into consideration availability and affordability as a factor and has thus potentially restricted fair access to opportunities for a large segment of society.

Though the quality of education is high sometimes in comparison to Government-aided law schools but how reasonable is it? when only rich folks could afford excluding a large section of population. It is more of a money making business rather than quality education delivery. This is the reason why there is drastic difference between various institutions due to a larger difference in form and scope of education delivery.

The second issue that legal education is facing in 21st Century is, untrained, unskilled or lack of faculty in law schools. With the ever increasing growth of law schools without infrastructure and necessities, as these colleges are set up on a purely profit-making basis, they obviously do not spend much on their faculties. Therefore most teachers are unqualified, untrained and incompetent at these law schools. Teachers are under-paid or not adequately paid without any job protection.

Such colleges do not have appropriate selection requirements for faculty recruitment. As some of them are funded by the State, they select minimum staff so that their costs are less and from the situation they can avail maximum profits[6]. The lecture form remains the teaching approach, despite various guidelines and suggestions that have been issued to deal with the issue at hand.

Moreover, the medium of language opted is sometimes the regional language lacking even the basic fluency in English language, this can be a merit when one wants to restrict themselves to Trial Courts or High Courts, but can be a great demerit as eminent persons usually opt for English as a medium of communication as not all are polyglots.

Most of the articles of legislation, cases, journals and other content are in English. Regional languages do not have adequate resources to solve these setbacks. Overall, not only do the students fail to have sufficient knowledge about the subject, but they also fail to develop the communication skills required to adequately practice the profession.

The outdated curriculum and syllabus is becoming a major hinderance, The current curriculum in law schools has been excoriated for failing to incorporate topics that are important for lawyers in the present sense. Law schools face a perplexing array of competing demands for curriculum reform. The curriculum is only at an embryonic stage in which the outmoded syllabus is presented to the learners.

The course to be practiced includes a three-year course syllabus where other colleges and law colleges have switched to a five-year system. New and emerging law schools are limiting their emphasis to teaching and study on Indian law matters, restricting to a broader approach for international laws. This affects those students who wish to apply to international moot court competitions.

The moot court oppurtunites are not granted to all students. Participation gaps at moot courts put certain individuals too far off the curve. Many colleges have no guided system for mentoring their teams on moot court. So they limit membership just to those who are sufficiently sharp, rather than to everyone. Moot court is taught only in first year of law degree being such an essential element of legal education it should be kept on an equal footing with internships. While considering internships, a student who is not trained well enough in law schools will not be well-recruited.

Although several lawyers wish to contribute to the community by educating and training potential lawyers, most are not willing to recruit interns. It is because most students lack basic competencies in formatting, analysis , and presentation. An intern lacking sufficient technical skills and knowledge of the subject would be a strain on legal practitioner. This is why curriculum should change to a practical approach rather than the questionnaire rote learning based approach so that once law students steps out, they are well-versed and thorough with concepts and deep roots of law.

Constitutional reform involves any reformation, rectification or adoption of current legal systems. If the government enacts a code of rules or a set of standards or a specific principle is imposed by the judge, they are often inadequate for society or unsuccessful in regulating the social problem on which these laws are being enforced. In these cases Legal Research, Legal Survey, etc. allows to examine proposed legislation on some specific topic or to amend existing laws that are not appropriate for proper enforcement. Much like every other unit, from the point of view of law reform, experience of legal study and legal survey is really relevant and helps in abundance.

But when legal education is not fulfilling its basic objective, of inculcating research analysis techniques in students during their law school years, it later hampers their position in society and in turn affects the whole judicial system due to lack of qualified researches. The organization of law and the state means that both are supplementary and complementary to each other. The statute seeks to regulate the transition mechanism so as to give it a favorable course.

Realistic Alternatives or Possible Solutions:

Bar Council of India, has limited the number of law schools in one district, so that only well-functioning law schools with qualified and skilled faculties and sufficient facilities will develop to allow aspiring lawyers to acquire quality education and experience.

Supreme Court in State of Maharashtra v. Manbhai Pragaji Vashi Case [7], held that it is important to provide well-trained lawyers in the country in order to have free legal assistance, and that is only possible if there are adequate numbers of law schools with the requisite facilities and good teachers and staff. One of the most significant change is to improve the level of quality in the legal profession. For that there should be more colleges of law establishments focusing towards quality education rather than surplus profit-making business market.

There is a need for progress of legal education to preserve the quality of legal education. It is the government's responsibility to create a budget and grant-in-aid of duly approved private law colleges as other faculty colleges. There should be specific budget requirements concerning legal education to be prepared by the law ministry. State Governments' law ministry should be fairly in touch with every law university to ensure proper functioning of law colleges and to organize frequent workshops and seminars by eminent jurists and experienced professionals for budding law students to give a boost to their knowledge and curiosity.

The BCI has sought to rectify the learning mode in regional language by ensuring that the training language is English, but if it is not, it must follow the law degree requirement to apply as an advocate for enrolment. This can help a student only if he wants to limit his area of expertise to Trial Courts or High Courts. Another one being, from a lecture mode of teaching approach it should be shifted to assessment based approach with real life situations and scenarios.

Usage of the formative assessment process to develop law students' meta-cognitive abilities so that they can apply their thinking to the current and challenging circumstances they encounter in the field of law [8]. The purpose of the formative evaluation should be to expand each student's approach to evaluate a situation with a multi-dimensional approach.

Law schools should ensure that students are trained with a decent mix of courses that, by supplying students with expertise and experience in Indian law, developing them into stronger lawyers, while at the same time preparing them for international and foreign legal structures to address problems in the outside world. The essence of the questions must be logical in such a manner that it allows the students to interpret the law rather than to reproduce the law and cases that are already in the textbooks.

Such a move would ensure that students would use their critical reasoning to respond to them. Greater participation in moots should be promoted without biasness as participating in moots would help in developing fluency and clear enunciation, as well as providing an experience in the art of persuasion and briefly and intelligibly putting a case. Mooting not only offers techniques in legal cases but also helps build the aplomb any lawyer should have.

Internships are highly important as, it is an experiment with truth and will help in distinguishing what actually is the myth and what actually are facts, and in addition a broad variety of internships scattered judiciously through a law student's curriculum vitae would often give him the requisite advantage over others. Law schools should focus on overall growth of a law student outside the textbook world.

Technology competence is known as a strength for attorneys, they have a higher chance of getting employed by a respectable law firm. Traditional recruiting practices should be replaced gradually by certain legal students who are familiar with the technical instruments used in law enforcement. Use of technology should be promoted in law schools, cases, articles, journals and a lot more are available on websites like Manupatra, Hein online, and SCC online which helps in quick and accurate compilation of data.

Tech training would also support students applying for routine legal practice in courts by being able to offer quality services to their clients. Technology will also help cut costs. Understanding and communicating with technologies is one of the capabilities that lawyers need to learn, including negotiation, interaction and investigation of detailed facts.

Successful use of technology for lawyers means more customers, an improved work output and a more productive use of time; it means greater career opportunities for law graduates and an easier transition to practice. Technology usage will provide a better opportunity for growth. [9] Law schools can help students develop the qualities of successful and conscientious lawyers, including self-reflection and lifelong thinking abilities alongside logical and analytical abilities with core understanding of the law, professional skills and ethics. [10]

Conclusion and Analysis:
To conclude, the opportunities for talented law graduates are big and the young generation law schools have a noteworthy role to play in raising legal education transcendence in India. Legal Education should be able to accommodate the society's changing demands and be prepared to address the complexities of the various circumstances. The existing legal education system needs to be streamlined.

Besides the moot courts, it is high time the curriculum adopts practical approach for teaching. Problems of lack of infrastructure, raising fees issue, untrained faculty, superannuated curriculum and biased nature for participation for students in moot courts and internships, this should be dealt with and law subjects to be introduced at school level so that a student has basic knowledge of what law actually is. Lack of ambition and dedication, not lack of funding, is the main impediment to improving legal education.

I believe, in order to fill the skill gap required for advocates, there should be a one-year diploma program that should be passed by everyone seeking to become a lawyer. It is a censorious and noteworthy issue and lack of exposure to legal education is a Gordian knot confronted by the country's legal institutions. In consequence, this issue needs special and devoted attention for an efficient judicial working by eminent and competent well-shaped lawyers who think and do beyond the world of textbooks.

References:
  1. Chapter III, Admission And Enrolment Of Advocates, Advocates Act, 1961
  2. Section 7(h), Functions of Bar Council of India, Advocates Act, 1961
  3. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/lawyers-profession-reached-to-most-worst-condition-hc-judge/articleshow/62934809.cms, Dated PTI | Feb 15, 2018, 19:50 IST
  4. Section 49(d), General power of the Bar Council of India to make rules, Advocates Act, 1961
  5. Lakshminath, A. LEGAL EDUCATION, RESEARCH AND PEDAGOGY-IDEOLOGICAL PERCEPTIONS. Journal of the Indian Law Institute, vol. 50, no. 4, 2008, pp. 606–628. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43952180. Accessed 24 June 2020.
  6. Singh, G. (1999). REVAMPING PROFESSIONAL LEGAL EDUCATION: SOME OBSERVATIONS ON REVISED LL.B. CURRICULUM OF BAR COUNCIL OF INDIA. Journal of the Indian Law Institute, 41(2), 237-255. Retrieved June 26, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/43951716
  7. State of Maharashtra v. Manbhai Pragaji Vashi (1995) 5 SCC 730
  8. Mills, Robin K. LEGAL RESEARCH INSTRUCTION IN LAW SCHOOLS THE STATE OF THE ART or, WHY LAW SCHOOL GRADUATES DO NOT KNOW HOW TO FIND THE LAW. Journal of the Indian Law Institute, vol. 24, no. 2/3, 1982, pp. 381–390. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43952214. Accessed 24 June 2020.
  9. Sharma, Shradha. (2013). General Issues and Challenges to Legal Education and Social Change in India. SSRN Electronic Journal. 10.2139/ssrn.2311399.
  10. Ahmad, Tabrez & Professor, & Director, (2015). Legal Education Challenges & Reforms in 21st Century All India Seminar on Global Legal Education by Confederation of Indian Bar in Association with KIIT.
Written By: Shagun Mishra - BA.LLB (2019-2024)

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