Challenges of Legal Education in the 21st Century
[Legal Education is a technique, arena and platform for the rational, orderly and non-violent settlement of disputes and handling of conflicts.] Introduction Education – is the manifestation of perfection already in man – Swami Vivekananda. Law governs the world and its people and is the ultimate instrument of change. It has the potential to reform society and guarantees… Read More »
[Legal Education is a technique, arena and platform for the rational, orderly and non-violent settlement of disputes and handling of conflicts.]
Education – is the manifestation of perfection already in man – Swami Vivekananda.
Law governs the world and its people and is the ultimate instrument of change. It has the potential to reform society and guarantees justice to its people. Principally, it is the basic element and facilitator of justice. It serves as an important instrument for achieving socio-economic development in society. The primary function of law is to maintain peace and order in society while protecting individual rights and freedom and is, therefore, a basic element of society.
The welfare of the society depends on the democratic nature of the country, which is further dependent on the law. The law gives structure to the nation. The Law Commission of India defines legal education as a science that imparts to students knowledge of certain principles and provisions of law to enable them to enter the legal profession. Legal Education is a technique, arena and platform for the rational, orderly and non-violent settlement of disputes and handling of conflicts.
The provision of high-quality legal education is a prerequisite to high-quality legal practitioners, judges and Government law officers. The need for such education is felt not only in the developing and underdeveloped countries but also in the developed nations who have deemed it necessary to assess and revise curricula and methodologies of law courses with an objective to update them for meeting new challenges and needs of their societies.
Such a need is much greater in India not only due to its developing status but also because of its rapid economic growth. In this paper, the author, therefore, focuses on the area of legal education, its origins, the agencies regulating the same, while analysing the lacunae in the system as prevalent today and finally suggesting certain reforms which can be brought about to enhance standards of education.
Objectives of Legal Education
For a developing democratic country like India, the objectives of Legal Education may be multi-fold. Across the world, they have been enumerated as follows,
- Socialization Objectives: the use of education to develop perceptions and understanding of the environment, local and global; to understand the problems of one’s society; to influence values and attitudes.
- Manpower of Objectives: the use of the total educational system to generate the kinds of skills and knowledge needed for tasks in society.
- Opportunity objectives: the use of education to broaden opportunity and mobility in society- notably among groups who may have been historically deprived or repressed.
- Research Objectives: The use of educational facilities to develop research of value to education and society.
- Administrative objectives: the use of planning in the governance of institutions; the use of more sophisticated methods in budgeting, managing and evaluating programs.
The Constitution of India basically laid down the duty of imparting education on the States by putting the matter pertaining to education in List II of the Seventh Schedule. But it now forms part of giving concurrent legislative powers to the Union and States. The legal profession along with the medical and other professions also falls under List III.
Though there is no specific entry in Schedule VII to the Constitution of India that deals with legal education. The regulation of standards of legal education, therefore, is through the more generic entries pertaining to higher education and entitlement to practice before courts.
Coordination and determination of standards in institutions for higher education… is the subject matter of Entry 66 of List I of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. Entry 25 of List III also pertains to education, and reads as follows:
25. Education, including technical education, medical education and universities, subject to the provisions of Entries 63, 64, 65 and 66 of List I; vocational and technical training of labour.
Entries 77 and 78 of List I, are concerned, inter alia, with the entitlement of persons to practice before the Supreme Court and the High Courts. The Entries read as follows:
77. Constitution, organization, jurisdiction and powers of the Supreme Court (including the contempt of such court) and the fees taken therein; persons entitled to practice before the Supreme Court.
78. Constitution, organization (including vacations) of the High Courts except provisions as to officers and servants of High Courts; persons entitled to practice before the High Courts.
Role of Legal Education in Changing Society
Change is a natural and continuous process. However, a change may not always be in the right direction; there may be changes that are undesirable and negative. The way law and state are organised says that both are supplementary and complementary to each other. The law attempts to control the process of change to give it a desirable direction. Legal institutions and the state are at the core of all social disciplines. In theory the sovereign power, the ultimate, legal authority in a policy can legislate on any matter and can exercise control over any change process within the state.
Legal education focuses on developing good lawyers who are educated in human values and human rights, besides the law itself. After all, the law functions within a society and not in a vacuum, and society is often value-based which makes cold hard logic difficult to apply in all situations. In many instances, it may lead to an irregular and unjust result.
According to the changes in development and the cultural milieu, new laws are framed. The government lays down new policies and laws for certain issues like Gender quality, Women Empowerment, Equal wage for equal work etc., in sync with the forever evolving consciousness of the society. This is particularly difficult in India due to the inhabitants belonging to different cultures and faiths.
Factors Influencing Legal Education
Legal Education is influenced by a multitude of factors like –
- Governmental Policy
- Affiliating Universities
- Private Governing Body of Law Colleges
- National Litigation Policy
- Developments in Legal Profession
- Developments in the Legal System
- The kind of students who enroll
- The Caliber and Commitment of the faculty
- The Infrastructure available
- Technological advancements
- The Developments in other fields of Education
- The Changes in the Society
Issues and Challenges Surrounding Legal Education
Infrastructure And Ease of Entry
The number of colleges imparting legal education has increased dramatically. Statistics show that in 1955-56 there were a total of 7 University departments of law and 36 law colleges under 25 universities with 20159 students on their rolls. However, in 1982-83 there were 302 law colleges with over 2,50,000 students on their rolls. What is unfortunate is that this rapid increase was not a result of careful planning and growth.
During the 1960s and 70s legal education increasingly came to be perceived as a business, rather than an abode of scholarship. The private Bar made full use of the heightened demand for legal services to start new colleges without any proper infrastructure, staff or books or even the permission of the Bar Council of India. As a result, law colleges became appendages of Arts colleges and students who had not satisfactorily completed the required formal course of teaching in a college were also eligible for the entrance examinations.
Thus, legal education has fast come to be perceived as a strictly entrepreneurial activity, with the entry of a large number of colleges in order to extract maximum profits out of the market, rather than to contribute to the improvement of legal education. During this period the Bar Council of India also had no authoritative control over the colleges. Thus, Universities perceived law colleges as a lucrative source of income to finance other activities of theirs which were unconnected to the law college or the profession itself.
Good Faculty And Teaching Techniques
With the prestige of the profession suffering a downfall and measly pay packages, it is no wonder that most institutions have been unable to attract good full-time faculty. In addition, since a number of colleges have been set up solely with a profit motive, they obviously do not expend much on their faculty. Therefore, most of the teachers at such colleges are unqualified and part-time and engage with the class only in the evenings in a very slipshod manner.
The Advocates Act was amended in 1979 in order to permit full-time teachers to practice, thereby resulting in a profusion of part-time teachers. Thus, such teachers were unable to pay adequate attention to teaching and the functions associated with it. Legal education requires a certain amount of dedication from the teacher as well and the amount a student imbibes depends on the availability of the teacher for doubt clearing and guidance. This is impossible if the teacher is part-time.
These colleges do not have adequate selection criteria for the appointment of faculty but teaching at such colleges would count as years of experience once the teacher applies elsewhere. Since some of them are government aided, they appoint minimal faculty so that their expenses are lower and they can obtain maximum profits out of the situation. Despite a number of recommendations and suggestions, the lecture method remains the method of teaching in most law colleges.
The motivation of Students and the Entrance Examination
When there was no system of an entrance examination, the intake of a number of colleges mostly comprised young people who had been unable to procure employment elsewhere and undertook the course as an interim measure till they found other employment. Not only this, the dropout rate from these colleges is exceedingly high.
In Delhi, the dropout percentage was found to be over 50%, which is quite alarming. Therefore, the move to have an integrated course that admits students after their XII Boards is seen to have a better effect on standards because it is perceived as attracting candidates actually interested in the field rather than those who have not managed to procure seats in higher studies in any other field or those who have no other avenues of employment.
Nevertheless, the present entrance examination system does not test the aptitude of the examinee in a manner that reflects his ability to be a good lawyer. It is true that the skills required for a good advocate have to be inculcated. However, they now do not even reflect the general aptitude of the candidate because they follow a set pattern. Moreover, part of lack of motivation on the part of students stems from the teaching method and quality.
The students find such classes uninteresting and only attend classes to fulfil the minimum attendance requirement of 66% which has been set by the Bar Council. Unless interest is generated in students, they will lose any incentive to learn the subject, thereby defeating the purpose of legal education.
Outdated Curricula and Syllabi
The UGC and the Bar Council have repeatedly requested Universities to revise their syllabi but to no avail. Furthermore, there is always a tussle between the introduction of new and contemporary subjects at the cost of focusing on traditionally important and basic subjects. The curriculum does not reflect the changing role of law and teaching does not take into account the social engineering skills which are imperative in a practicing lawyer today.
The new scheme which the Bar Council seeks to propose tackles this issue by providing for a pre-law school study period of two years in a number of law-related social science subjects. The number of optional courses has been increased to include some policy-oriented multi-disciplinary courses. Finally, a practical training session for 6 months has been prescribed.
Medium of Instruction
A number of institutions administer education at the undergraduate level in regional languages. As a result, a number of candidates in certain States are admitted to colleges without even having some basic fluency in the English language. Admittedly, a mastery of the regional language is helpful and sometimes even necessary if one wants to practice in the Trial or High Courts in a particular State. However, it cannot be denied that the quality of education suffers significantly if the medium of instruction is regional. This is because the faculty has to be fluent in the language as well, which precludes the colleges from having good visiting faculty or guest lectures from eminent persons in the area.
Moreover, most of the statutes, cases, books and other material are all in English. There are not enough text books in regional languages to overcome these setbacks. The BCI has tried to rectify this by providing that the medium of instruction shall be English but if it is not then it must meet the law graduate standard in order to qualify for enrolment as an advocate. Additionally, two papers on General English and one on Legal Language have to be compulsorily administered under the new scheme.
Drastic Differences Among Law Colleges
Though India boasts of some reputed national law schools, there are also a number of institutions that call themselves law colleges and freely give degrees without bothering to give the students a proper education. Thus the quality of students from different institutions is vastly different because of the drastic disparity in the extent and kind of education they receive.
Making Law Students Expert Learners
The law colleges have failed to train students to be expert learners. In order to better prepare students for the practice of law, a more effective formative assessment in doctrinal courses, lawyering skills courses and clinics may be used. A law teacher can use the formative assessment process to improve the metacognitive skills of law students so they can transfer their learning to the new and novel situations they face in the practice of law. The goal of formative assessment should be to move legal education away from a focus on an end product to the underlying process of developing these products.
The Legal Research and Writing Instructions and Technology
The course called “Legal Method” is not introduced in 3 year law course in some of the universities. But in all the 5 year integrated law courses, this course is compulsorily taught. This course instruction needs to be improved. The changes in legal research methods and instruction will certainly come with the increasingly rapid acceleration in the amount and kinds of legal research materials being produced. Another reason to anticipate significant changes in the way legal research and writing will be taught is, of course, the development of computerized legal research such as LEXIS and WEST LAW.
Role of Regulatory Bodies in Legal Education
Legal education in India is regulated by central and state government, Universities Grant Commission, Bar Council Of India and respective universities. For various reasons, the quality and standard of legal education is not satisfactory. Several attempts were made to reform the curriculum of legal education by the BCI. On the guidelines of BCI, several national law schools have seen established, but the result is not up to mark.
A very significant development in the area of legal education took place when the bar council of India was set up under the Advocates Act 1981. Under the act, the bar council enjoy a very significant function in relation to legal education. Under Sec. 7 of the Advocates Act, one of the most important functions of the bar council of India is to promote legal education and to lay down standards of such education in consultation with the universities in India imparting such education and the state bar council.
The vision of legal education is to provide justice-oriented education essential to the realization of the various enshrined in the Constitution Of India. At the same time, it also prepares professionals equipped to meet the new challenges and dimensions of globalization. These goals will be achieved in reality by considering the following suggestions:
- As our nation is a member of WTO agreement it is bound by the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which will give birth to tough competition between our traditional and foreign lawyers. To tackle the situation and to compete, it is necessary to impart quality legal education as well as global legal education with the help of advances in information technology and telecommunication to our law students.
- Bar Council of India, constituted under sec. 4 of the Advocates Act, 1961 is the apex body for legal professionals in India. BCI had a limited role in promoting legal education and laid minimum standards for students who are entitled to practice. But it has neither the power under the Advocates Act 1961 nor the expertise to meet the new challenges both domestically and internationally. It is therefore, necessary to constitute a new regulatory body vested with the power to deal with all aspects of legal education having the sanction of the government.
- As the socio-economic conditions in India are different from other countries, global legal education will be affordable and digestive only by the richer few. The necessary steps should be taken in these fields as per the local conditions of our country to find out have it will be made digestive and adoptive to majority students of our country.
- There has been grossing demand in the various packets of the counter to provide lectures in vernacular language. Several universities permit law students to write their examination in vernacular languages and even provide a vernacular versions of the question papers.
These aspects are not taken notes of by the regulatory bodies of India, no view is found in this regard.
In State Of Maharashtra v. Mahubhai Pragmatic Vashi:
The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed: The need for convincing and well organized legal education is absolutely essential reckoning the new trend in the world order, to meet the ever grooving challenges. Legal education should be able to meet the ever growing demands of society and should be thoroughly equipped to cater to the complexities of different situations.
Measures Needed in the Field of Legal Education
- Law schools should demonstrate a commitment to preparing their students for bar examinations and for law practice.
- They should engage in a continuing dialogue with academics, practitioners, judges, licensing authorities, and the general public about how best to accomplish this goal.
- Law schools should clearly articulate their educational goals and share them with their students.
- Law schools should shift from content-focused programs of instruction to outcomes-focused programs of instruction that are concerned with what students will be able to do and how they will do it, as well as what they will know on their first day in law practice.
- The primary goal of legal education should be to develop competence, that is, the ability to resolve legal problems effectively and responsibly.
- Law schools should help students acquire: a.) the attributes of effective, responsible lawyers. b.) including self-reflection and lifelong learning skills, c. intellectual and analytical skills,
- core knowledge and understanding of the law,
- professional skills, and
Organizing the Program of Instruction
- Law schools should organize their curriculums to develop knowledge, skills, and values progressively;
- Integrate the teaching of theory, doctrine, and practice; and teach professionalism pervasively throughout all three/five years of law school.
- Law schools should use teaching methods that most effectively and efficiently achieve desired educational objectives, employ context-based instruction throughout the program of instruction, and employ best practices when using any instructional methodology.
- Law schools should create and maintain healthy teaching and learning environments.
- Law schools should enhance the quality of their programs of instruction with technology and by making appropriate use of practicing lawyers and judges.
- Law schools should have effective teacher development programs and establish learning centers.
Assessing Student Learning
Law schools should use best practices for assessing student learning, including criteria-referenced assessments, multiple formative and summative assessments, and various methods of assessment.
Evaluating the Success of the Program of Instruction
- Law schools should regularly evaluate their effectiveness and use best practices for conducting such evaluations.
- Many of the recommendations do not have cost or time implications and others have none beyond the initial effort involved in making the transition from current practices. It will require hard work and, perhaps, additional or reallocated resources to implement some of the recommendations. 3. We have no doubt, however, that the major impediment to reforming legal education is a lack of vision and commitment, not a lack of resources.
- Hopefully, this seminar provides some of the needed vision and will inspire more people to become committed to implementing positive changes in legal education.
- Every dispute should be looked at as a public interest dimension.
- 65 Skills that are fundamental to the success of a law profession are outside of the realm of Law. Therefore the students should also be engaged in the other interlinking areas.
- Due to the growing importance of mediation around 55% of cases are settled through the mediation process.
- For the demand for Social justice, we should no more only rely on an adversarial system.
- No system can survive without research & development. Therefore in-depth research is required to see the dimension of socio-economic context.
- To fill the gap of the skill set required for a lawyer there should be a one-year diploma program which everyone aspiring to become a lawyer should pass
- Continuing legal education should be given utmost importance to upgrade the standards of Law teachers, lawyers and Judges.
- A comprehensive re-look of the entire legal education is required due to globalization by a high power committee.
- Every state should have an academy of lawyers and emphasis should be given to improving the communication and research ability of the lawyers.
- A National level law teacher academy is required to be established to train and upgrade the teaching standards of law teachers. Special emphasis should be given to improve the skill of research, teaching and ethics.
- A diploma for law teachers should be started to fill the gap of required skills as a law teacher.
- We require a legal education Act passed by Parliament.
- We should establish a world-class legal education and legal professions to sustain the challenges posed by Globalization and convert the threat into an opportunity.
The law is the strength of our society and an essential medium of revolution. It is the only profession that deals with society as a whole and its problems. Doctors deal with medical problems, engineers deal with technical problems, teachers deals with academic matters etc., but it is lawyers who deal with the entire society and its problems. Legal education has changed drastically in the past 10 years but still, reforms are needed to make it effective and justice-oriented.
There are some issues which need to be looked into for repairing holes in our current legal system such as emphasis should be laid on research and publication activities, need to reform curriculum at the earnest, trained faculty, imparting training based education, the introduction of law subjects at school level as to ensure a basic knowledge of the law to students of all stream etc. This will help in the growth and development of legal education with an increase in the reputation of the profession to meet the challenges of the field and to grow and contribute by providing the fullest opportunity to law aspirants for the progress of the country.
Contributed By: L. Sanmiha
 Legal Education in a Changing World: Report of the committee on Legal Education in Developing countries , International Legal Centre New York
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 Robin K Mills, Legal Research Instruction In Law Schools the State of the Art, 2nd Edn, ILI, New Delhi, 2001, at p. 633.
 Anthony Niedwiecki, Teaching For Lifelong Learning: Improving The Metacognitive Skills Of Law Students Through More Effective Formative Assessment Techniques
 Dr. Tabrez Ahmad Professor & Director, Legal Education Challenges & Reforms in 21st Century All India Seminar on Global Legal Education by Confederation of Indian Bar In Association with KIIT