Legal Education: Are we ready for radical reforms?

The first thing we do,“ said the character in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, is “kill all the lawyers.” Lawyers eventually become judges and the Supreme Court did observe that “something is rotten in Allahabad High Court.“ If our lawyers are not committed to justice and morality and our judges do not uphold high constitutional values, legal education is to be blamed and law teachers must be held accountable.

Justice has become a counter-cultural value in the legal profession. It is `justice’ and the goal of attaining a just society which differentiates legal science from other social and human sciences. It is heartening to note that the new HRD Minister has included reforms in legal education in her agenda. India has the largest number of legal professionals in the world (1.3 million). The corporate legal market in India is worth a billion dollars, half of which is shared by foreign law firms. The top 100 Indian companies have spent approximately 600 million dollars last year by way of legal fees. Our legal market is growing fast and we urgently need competent law graduates.

The establishment of national law universities in India has changed the face of legal education in the country. Today, these universities attract the best brains in the country. In fact, law has again become a much sought after course. Students of these law schools have done very well in international moot court competitions. Our students every year defeat students from leading law schools of the world. `We indeed have a few islands of excellence in the sea of mediocrity’, observed former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Unless reforms are brought in 985 other law colleges, things are not going to change. A handful of national law schools or islands of excellence cannot bring about a radical change. But then, what is the reality of these elitist law schools?

“The first thing I lost in law school was the reason that I came.“ What a simple and powerful indictment of our national law schools. It is also a caution to those of us who want to practice ethical and justice lawyering. Enthusiastic and bright youngsters come to law school because they want in some way to render help to underprivileged. But the elitist national law schools often dilute the commitment to ethical and social justice lawyering. The undue emphasis on the subtleties of substantive law and many layers of procedure, mostly discussed today through examples from business, does grind down the idealism with which idealist youngsters of 18 years of age first arrived.

The legal profession today pays just lip service to justice, in fact quite eloquent lip service. Money not justice is the essence of our profession. Decades ago, Upendra Baxi Committee raised one of the most basic issues underlying legal education: “In what ways can legal education and knowledge contribute to conditions in which emergence of a just society and state may be assisted? In other words, does legal science and education have any role to play in the task of nation building towards a “just” society?” Human resource in law is not to be perceived just in terms of production of efficient lawyers. We need lawyers who are willing to participate in struggles of rights and justice.

We need to ensure that our law schools are not hijacked by the corporates.

National Law Schools are institutions of excellence like IITs and IIMs. We must ensure the fullest autonomy to them and put a uniform governance structure in place. Just like IITs, their funding should come directly from MHRD. Academicians and not lawyers and judges should take academic decisions. Law school curricula are too stressful and accordingly, the suicide rate is high on these campuses. Efforts need to be made to make it less stressful. Moreover, one uniform curriculum given by the Bar Council of India is not a great idea. Why should a student who wants to practice law in a small town be asked to take courses in International Cyber Law or Mergers & Acquisition Law or Corporate Governance etc. and not given courses in Agricultural Law, Agriculture Finance Law, Forest Law, Tribal law etc? We certainly need an alternative curriculum. N R Madhava Menon did come up with such an alternative curriculum which must be given serious thought.“Legal educators blindly follow the Bar Council-prescribed court-centric curriculum, producing law graduates unfit to serve the justice needs of the tribal and rural communities“, observed Prof Menon.

In fact, we need to go beyond this. Five-year degree should be allowed to be completed even in four years under a flexible choice-based system credit policy and instead of B A LLB, should be given the nomenclature of simply LLB.National law schools have closed their portals for the people who want to pursue legal education after graduation.All the great judges or eminent lawyers of our country came from a three-year course only. A three-year state of the art LLB course must be introduced to bring real diversity in law schools. We need to open the closed doors of our best law schools for the engineering, medical and other graduates. The creation of a new breed of lawyers depends on the creation of a new teacher. Acute paucity of good teachers is the problem of all law schools. Since best students are in the undergraduate program, LLB should become the eligibility for recruitment as Asst Professor and LLM should be done in service. No teacher should, however, be confirmed without completing LLM.

The author of this article is Professor Faizan Mustafa. He is the Vice-Chancellor of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad.

Sumber: Times of India

Leave a Comment