The Need To Introduce Reforms In Legal Education

By Trishna Das

In order to revolutionize legal education in India, the Bar Council of India begun the five-year integrated Course as the only BCI recognized law course in 1982. The need for Mr. Madhav Menon’s experimental National Law University[1] arose when the pedantic system of teaching law started failing.

Such a failure was visible in the quality of the professionals being churned out by the providers of legal education. Other factors which affected the reforms in legal education were involvement of India in international trade, advent of the corporate culture, involvement of law schools in human rights and experiential education owing to the public interest movement in the country and many more.[2] The National Law School was supposed act as a model to be emulated by the remaining institutions providing legal education. The experiment was successful in terms of the rising levels of competence of the students passing out from that institution. Eventually, its popularity grew to an extent that every state wanted a National Law School for itself. However, in the last decade, along with the serious attention that legal education has been receiving, a negative side of the current system has also come into the limelight. The quality of legal education has once again come under the radar as the paucity of qualified teachers in law schools has started influencing the output of these institutes.

Lack of Competent Teachers and the Consequences Thereof

The transformation in legal education in India has been remarkable although its success has been short lived. At the core of Mr. Menon’s vision was the assumption that the faculty in these universities would be of the highest caliber.[3] Soon after the economic reforms of 1990s, law graduates started receiving offers like never before. As they got sucked into the corporate structure, given greater perks and packages, the research side of law once again started losing the much required devotion and attention.[4] As research work in education did not provide ample incentives to the law graduates, it had to face the loss as bright minds opted for non-educational professions which gave higher incentives, which was a priority for coping with the high tuition fees of law schools.[5] The methodology of teaching introduced by National Law School required competent faculty to implement it successfully. Lack of eminent scholars as faculty in national law universities has once again led to the dearth in quality of legal education. Mr. Madhav Menon put this side of the legal education eloquently when he wrote the following:

“One must mention the paucity of competent teachers even in the best of law schools to guide the growing body of motivated students. Bright law graduates do not join post-graduate studies in Indian law schools nor are they attracted to teaching and research positions in them. Many of them migrate to U.S. and U.K. law schools for LL.M. education and either do not return to India or agree to take up teaching positions in India…. Everyone now realizes that unless the faculty position is improved, the future of legal education is bleak and students with financial capacities will migrate to other jurisdictions for their education.”[6]

If the quality of education being provided at the NLUs is to become a high priority, it would require a close consideration of the faculty composition, the contributions to curriculum and the governance structures of these institutions.[7] Law teachers in India are not explained the psychology and characteristics of adult learners and how to mould the teaching methods to reflect those characteristics.[8] Since there is no proper evaluation mechanism of a teacher’s performance, ultimately it is the students who have to suffer. In India, the minimal requirement to be able to teach law is to have an LLM degree.[9] No other evaluation system exists as of now. At NLUs, faculty members find themselves in a system that hardly rewards research output, innovative courses/teaching methods or quality publications and are instead left to negotiate a system that mainly rewards the number of years spent in the job with no appropriate mechanism for faculty evaluation.[10] Combined with dismal opportunities in the field of legal education, a substandard class of faculty is created that is either incompetent or that is forced to leave the field as they are left with no time to pursue their original job, thereby creating a perpetual privation of qualified teachers in law schools.

Credentialing the Teaching Profession

It is high time that the candidates desiring to pursue teaching are put under professional scrutiny and only those with an aptitude to teach law are recruited. Primary focus needs to be given on the following areas:

  • Provision of professional training of the scholars who want to take up teaching
  • Providing resources and perks for research to attract and retain bright minds in the field of education
  • Adequate acknowledgment of reputed scholars for their works

The Knowledge Commission established in 2005[11] had suggested for establishment of teacher’s training institutes and a committee that would determine the teaching hours along with their qualifications. In a note on proposed directions for reforming legal education, Bar Council of India suggested institutional reforms in which it talked about establishment of the National Academy for Law Teaching and Continuing Legal Education so that novel methods of pedagogy can be implemented and a minimum base level for teaching quality in legal education is established.[12]

The Knowledge Commission gave some practical methods[13] to retain talented faculty members in the Universities which were reiterated by the Bar Council of India in its report.[14] Some of the suggestions are:

  • Improve their remuneration and service conditions.
  • Leave sufficient time for research purposes.
  • Award reputed law teachers and researchers.
  • There has to be sufficient flexibility with law schools to appoint law teachers without having an LL.M degree if the individual has proven academic or professional credentials.
  • There is a need to reconsider the existing promotional schemes and avenues in order to promote meritorious faculty members.
  • Free faculty housing is another significant incentive that may be considered.

Adequate acknowledgement of the valuable contributions of already existing academicians will encourage them to improve themselves thereby benefitting the legal fraternity itself. An atmosphere of research amongst the teachers must be promoted so that they get an opportunity to indulge in influential writing as a means of contributing to the field of law along with teaching.

Conclusion

A competent class of faculty is the beginning of the improvement of legal professionals in the country. Without them the future of legal education is desolate. Teachers are an integral part of universities which provide a platform for developing legal academia. It is high time that we come up with mechanisms that allow aspiring teachers to become competent enough to teach law and at the same time create an environment where they can deliver to the best of their abilities.


Trishna Das is a fourth year student at HNLU


endnotes

[1] N. R. Madhav Menon is an Indian legal educator whose services were sought by the Bar Council of India when it decided to establish a new law school in early 1980s. He is known to have set up the Bangalore-based National Law School of India University with a US$ 150,000 government grant.

[2] N.R. Madhav Menon, Harvard Law School Programe on the Legal Profession, The Transformation of Indian Legal Education, A Blue Paper, (2012) https://clp.law.harvard.edu/assets/Menon_Blue_Paper.pdf

[3] Jayanth K. Krishnan, Professor Kingsfield Goes to Delhi: American Academics, the Ford Foundation, and the Development of Legal Education in India, (2004) http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1347&context=facpub

[4] Supra note 3

[5] ibid

[6] Supra note 2

[7]Anup Surendranath and Chinmayi Arun, Crisis of Teaching at Inidia’s Law Schools, Legally India, Legally India (2012), http://www.legallyindia.com/201204272775/Legal-opinions/opinion-crisis-of-teaching-at-indias-law-schools

[8]Prof. S. Shanthakumar, Need for Training Law Teachers on Training Skills- An Indian Perspective, (2015) http://www.ialsnet.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Shanthakumar.pdf

[9] The Bar Council of India, Education Rules 2008, http://www.barcouncilofindia.org/about/legal-education/education-rules-2008/

[10] Supra note 8

[11] The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) was constituted on 13th June 2005 with a time‐frame of three years, from 2nd October 2005 to 2nd October 2008.

[12]The Bar Council of India, Reform of Legal Education in India, Note on Proposed Directions for Reform, http://www.barcouncilofindia.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/LegalEducationReformRecommendations.pdf

[13]National Knowledge Commission, Report to the Nation 2007, http://www.dauniv.ac.in/downloads/NKC_Report07.pdf

[14] Supra note 13

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