Legal Education System In India
This article give insights of legal education system in India by locating it within a wider context of form and ways of legal education in country and analysing that ‘Is law school a good investment?’ and what opportunities we have in this field. The article makes some observations about history, present and scope of legal education in India and explores the aims and objectives of legal education in India. The article then turns to method of teaching and examinations and qualifications required at each level in this field. Then it looks in the gap between study and practice and the possible changes required to be made in the existing curriculum in order to improve the legal education system and to make it more relevant and meaningful in this globalised world. The article then considers the role of the Bar Council of India in the field of legal education as with the changing needs of the society the task of the lawyers is highly technical and there is an imperative need to have competent lawyers who would be trained in the right culture of legal education. The article concludes with some reflection on the career opportunities and the challenges which the legal system faces and the possible reforms in the Indian legal education system.
Legal education means acquiring knowledge and skills of the subjects of law to become legal professionals. It means teaching law as one of the academic disciplines for the practice of law and to become member of the profession. Law includes both professional and liberal education i.e. acquiring professional skills as well as aiming at value-oriented, socio-cultural education. A lawyer is the product of such education, who is boon for the society as he works for the benefit and welfare of the society by claiming justice on behalf of his client in the court of law. Legal education works not only as an instrument of social control but also as instrument of social change which is imperative to create cultured law abiding citizens, who are inculcated with the concept of human rights and values which is the essential medium of the change.
Legal education and its importance to establish rule of law in society to impart justice does not receive serious priority though one can easily study history of modern times which shows that lawyers are social engineers who gave leadership to nations. For example most of our freedom fighters such as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Rajaji, etc were lawyers and were not doctors, engineers and not people from other fields. It is due to the reason that they interact with society at large and have knowledge of law that how one should find loopholes in law and apply it to do good for society by safeguarding their rights from arbitral powers. It is due to the continuous efforts of lawyers only that we enjoy our basic fundamental rights which cannot be abridge by government or any other authority and these are the basic rights a person must receive in order to have freedom in his life and any law or rule which infringes the fundamental rights is made ultra virus as to secure justice. Legal education not only provide justice but create awareness among individuals of their rights, duties, values, ethics and morals i.e. it create consciousness through law and religion among society that what is right and wrong and in which direction a person needs to head by following rule of law.
Today in India there are 12 National Law Universities and other includes private and state universities imparting legal education under the supervision of BCI and Every work in the field of legal education is done in consonance with the provisions of BCI with its approval and BCI is responsible to lay down rules and to promote legal education in India. All the universities imparting legal education are affiliated from BCI and students seeking enrollment as advocates require to qualify All India Bar Examination conducted by BCI which is a compulsory exam to enroll as advocates in our country.
History of Legal Education
Legal historians record instances of legal practitioners indigenously known as ‘Pleaders’ or ‘Niyogis’ representing parties in litigation at least from the time of Manu Smriti, a person well versed in Dharma Shastra and procedure of law could be appointed as the representative.
In ancient India law was understood as a branch of Dharma. The Vedas were the original sources of law, and the Smritis announced the message of Vedas and Smritikars were great jurists. Although there is no record of formal training in law, the dispensation of justice was to be done by the king on the basis of a self-acquired training. Justice was also administered by the King through his appointees who in turn were persons of known integrity and reputation of being fair and impartial. The guiding force for the King or his appointee was the upholding of the Dharma.
Formal legal education in India came into existence in 1855 and its aim was to equip law students so that they could help the lower courts and High courts by enrolling themselves as Vakils or becoming judicial officers. There is no tradition of legal research and academic legal training and system of teaching compulsory subjects under straight lecture method were continued for almost a century.
The Bar Council of India was established under section 4 of Advocates Act, 1961 which is a statutory body to regulate legal education and profession. In the year 1985 the first law university was established in India in Bangalore named as “National Law School of India University”. It was the time when LLB degree was started in India. The method of teaching was also started supplemented by tutorials, seminars, moot courts and case methods. And thereafter the education of law in India has been offered by the various universities and in various academic levels. With the enactment of Advocates Act, 1961 new regulations were framed for imparting legal education in India, method of teaching also needed change which were purely lecture method with marginal provision for training for students, manner of conferring degree etc. In modern times the system has completely changed and requires more dynamic education structure to compete in global word with innovative ideas and research in legal field.
Aims of Legal Education
Legal profession has always been considered as a noble profession as lawyers are the centre pillars of the society who help the common man to know his rights and claim them legally.
We need legal education to fulfil the needs of the society and country as well because lawyers are the persons who interpret the law and deals directly with the entire society.
Modern legal education in India was started by the British and its principal aim was to acquaint Indians with rules of law which would help them in the administration of the country.
Even after the independence the state of legal education remained unsatisfactory for years and there were no changes in the age old syllabus of courses according to the changed needs of the country. While the Radhakrishnan Committee (University Education Commission 1948-49), the Bombay Legal Education Committee (1949) and the Setalvad Committee (1954) showed their disillusionment and dissatisfaction with legal education in their respective reports and drew attention to its defects and deficiencies, it was the Gajendragadkar Committee (1970) which could be credited for articulating the objectives and aims of legal education in India. The aim of legal education,’ said the Gajendragadkar Committee, ‘would be to make the students of law good lawyers who have absorbed and mastered the theory of law, its philosophy, its functions and its role in a democratic society.’
Thus legal education has diversified aims:
Its primary aim is to make the student familiar with the legal concepts such as process of making laws, settling disputes and court room manners etc. and to provide justice-oriented education and produce competent legal professionals.
Since law is a multidisciplinary subject hence understanding it in various social, economic, political and scientific way to fulfil diverse legal needs at home and abroad is it’s another aim.
Its aim is to give knowledge of basic subjects of law with its use in practical terms i.e. it require study in terms of both theory and practical part to produce lawyers who are equipped for law practice in the global legal environment and who can serve the interests of Indian citizens, business, government and NGOs and provide transnational legal services in a highly competitive interdependent and interconnected globalized world.
Its aim is to improve teaching by providing emphasis on research and publications in legal field so that students can combat any legal problems which come their way and to create new legal knowledge and ideas to meet new challenges facing the society.
Lastly it aims at providing reforms in legal field as there is inadequate quality of legal education and infrastructure and lack of relevant skills training to meet the ever-changing demands of the modern world and there is need of creating clear quality standards for legal education.
Legal Education System In India
Study of law is referred as legal education and law is considered as a multi-disciplinary subject which involves basic knowledge of science, philosophy, business modes, arts, general knowledge, history etc. and include everything which concerns the welfare and intercourse of men in society i.e. a lawyer need to have understanding of all these to regulate the relation between individuals in society and although to produce lawyers of such qualities is certainly not possible for our law schools but all efforts need to be made to achieve this goal of legal education in our country.
Today India produces the largest number of law graduates and around more than fifty institutions produces more than 5000 graduates per year. The number has increased over the years and there is wide range of professional opportunities available for students creating the future direction of legal education immense in India. The legal world has changed with change in legal education system and now it is completely different from what was it 10 years ago. Now the opportunities or career options are vast for trained lawyers and the method of teaching is also significantly improved from the past years making it a promising career option then earlier when it was used to be the last resort.
The Bar Council of India is the present regulatory body who makes rules and regulation for the promotion of legal education in India. Law degrees are given and conferred in terms of Advocates Act, 1961 under which BCI is formed as a statutory body and given regulating power to conduct for both legal education and profession. Universities are also need to be affiliated from BCI, it also prescribes rules and standards of courses of study, infrastructure requirements, eligibility for admission and is responsible for the promotion of legal studies in India. According to BCI rules part IV section 4 of chapter II there are two study systems operating simultaneously. Traditionally legal education was imparted as a three years graduate degree(unitary) after completion of Bachelor’s degree which is introduced by BCI in 1961 and other is a integrated five-year law course(double degree) introduced by BCI in 1982 which is provided after 12th standard as an alternative to three year course so that law aspirants can directly enroll in universities to avail B.A. LL.B, B.Com LL.B, B.B.A. LL.B, B.Sc. LL.B. It is an integrated course means Bachelor’s degree is given with the law degree in which student studies subjects of both the degrees simultaneously at the college and at the end one degree is given which is combination of both bachelor’s and law degree.
Whereas in three year course only after completion of bachelor’s degree a student is eligible to enroll for law degree, in this only law subjects are taught to the students for 3 years and then the degree is granted. Both the courses are conducted in semester system which shall not be less than 15 weeks for unitary degree and 18 weeks for double degree. Further there is also provision for moot courts, seminars and tutorial classes per week for the students. It also states that each student shall accomplish his internship at legal aid office or a lawyer’s office or at any place where legal work is given to him.
Apart from studying law as a discipline there are various courses which include study of law subjects, that means by legal education we not only refer to study of basic law subjects but also study of applied law programs for other courses such as business law, taxation law, company law etc. By this we can assume that legal education is also scattered in some or the other way in form of study of law subjects in other courses as well, for example-
There are various diploma and certificate courses provided in various subjects like cyber law, taxation law, banking law, human rights and legal literacy etc. we also study commercial and taxation law in commerce and accountancy at undergraduate or postgraduate level. Similarly Intellectual Property laws are taught at undergraduate engineering level, subjects like securities law, company law etc. are taught in company secretary course and business law at business school. Hence legal education not only includes basic LL.B degree but also study of various other law subjects in different courses at each level which students study in various form to gain knowledge of law to be applied at different scenario.
Apart from this legal education also includes vocational courses such as CA, CS, ICWA, etc., higher academic degrees and doctorates for more advanced study. We also have continuous legal education system where judges and senior advocates are provided with opportunity to enhance their present knowledge and skills.
Study And Practice
Legal education is both a theory and includes practice as well because there is a big difference in the education we receive and the practice we dream to do in real life. Textbooks only provide us with basic knowledge or crux of the law or case we study but in reality what facts are followed become issue which can only be understood by practicing it in real life and the cases which we study only includes the substantial part of the law but in reality a case involves questions and issues from various branches of law. Therefore it is essential to have practical knowledge of law to understand that in what sense and how a law or rule is applied in a given circumstance.
Chief Justice Burger in his address to the American College of Trial Lawyers in Columbia observed: “In some jurisdictions, up to half of the lawyers who appear in court are so poorly trained in that they are not properly performing their job and that their manners, their professional performance and their professional ethics offend a great many people. They are engaging in on the job training at the expense of their clients’ interest and the public.” Chief Justice Burger’s comment would hold equally good in the context of legal profession and its education in India. It is very general knowledge that a large part of the two lakh graduates being added every year to the existing ten lakh advocates in the country, are absentee law students who pass out from about 500 law colleges/schools. Such advocates ultimately learn, if at all, at the cost of the poor clients and court time.
To avoid such problems Bar Council has made it mandatory to do internships during legal studies to gain practical knowledge of subject. A student must do minimum 12 weeks of internship for three year course and 20 weeks in case of five year integrated course under any authority or body corporate where law is practiced. Thus a law school needs to produce graduates who not only receives formal education but those who are trained to postulate new social, economic and political issues requiring legal attention. Training is an integral part of legal education which prepares students to contend any issue which comes in his career in which even he receives no formal education.
President Pranab Mukherjee also said that “Our educational institutions imparting law education have to bridge the gap between theoretical concepts and practical application. They have to ignite inquiry and encourage curiosity," as the study of legal system could not be pursued in isolation from the wider socio-economic realities, he observed.
Curriculum And Teaching
Curriculum is a necessary instrument for achieving aims and objectives of legal education and its continuous development must be carried for making legal education more relevant and meaningful for its aspirants. A reliable curriculum not only reflect the vision of legal education and demands of legal profession but must be in consonance with the requirements, learning needs of the students, adequate infrastructure, competent faculty and other social needs. Curriculum is an organized academic framework to facilitate the teaching - learning process but syllabus is not framed by BCI. Syllabus is left to the universities and this accounts for the various different syllabuses for the same subject throughout India. Curriculum shall be made in a way which not only includes formal legal education but help in the growth of the students to enable them to opt for career in any legal field or outside legal profession having studied the subjects of law.
According to schedule II of Bar Council Of India rules on legal education the academic standards and courses to be studied are: for both the unitary and double degree course students have to take not less than 28 subjects which includes 18 compulsory subjects, 4 clinical subjects, 6 optional papers and includes any additional paper as prescribed by the university. For honours students one has to take up at least 30 papers and university can choose accordingly from the list of subjects that which paper it would include as a honours paper i.e. there is freedom to universities to restrict subjects in group for offering options based on the availability of faculty and other facilities. Bar Council of India provides the wider outline that which basic subjects, clinical subjects, optional subjects shall be included in curriculum to make it effective and meaningful to students. There is a complete list of basic subjects given by BCI to be taught to students like constitutional law, contract act, law of torts, civil law, criminal law, etc. and clinical subjects like drafting, pleading, conveyance, alternative dispute resolution etc. with other honours subjects including foreign language as mandatory subject to be taught in every law school.
Apart from this moot court exercise and internships form important part of curriculum because it is the only way of giving practical training to students in their academic life. BCI has provided norms for this as well which says that each registered student shall have completed minimum 12 weeks internship for three year course and 20 weeks for five year course during the entire period of studies under NGO, Trial and Appellate Advocates, Judiciary, Legal Regulatory authorities, Legislatures and Parliament, Other Legal Functionaries, Market Institutions, Law Firms, Companies, Local Self Government and other such bodies as the University shall stipulate, where law is practiced either in action or in dispute resolution or in management.
Method of legal education has been constantly changing but value of syllabus lies in the manner in which students are exposed to the contents of the course and not merely in the contents itself thus skilled and qualified teachers need to be retained by the universities to impart good level of education. Though there is substantial changes are made in the teaching method from the past but still there is a room for improvement to enhance the level of teaching and to use innovative methods for training purpose as well. The lecture method plays an important role and is still in practice as a mode of instruction because teachers are medium for transferring not only book based knowledge but newly created knowledge combined with practical experience, reasoning, their own thought process and perspective on the subject to students.
Now a days teaching method has been changed from teacher- centred to learner centred method which includes participation by students in topic discussed, seminars and guest lectures method to teach by eminent persons in their respective field as to provide them knowledge of specific subjects from their perspective and experience which help students to have better understanding of subject concerned. As in curriculum training and legal aid program form integral part to prepare students for practice and gain experience of work of lawyers in different subject matters so as to learn professional skills and sound understanding of legal profession it is required that apart from whole time law teachers they should be taught by faculty members or learned persons of field having academic knowledge, experience and professional proficiency which lacks in full time teacher of universities or law schools to benefit students from all sides.
According to the provisions of BCI medium of instruction must be English and full time faculty members shall be holders of Master’s degree and other visiting, part time faculty may be appointed from the retired judicial officers, a person practicing in court of law or having professional experience in the field. In present scenario 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. Therefore universities are required to hire good academic professionals having proper knowledge of their subject and one who are top researchers in law field imbued with sound teaching methods and those who emphasise on research and publication to create an intellectually vibrant environment.
Qualification And Examination
The process of entering into the legal profession differs at each level and continues afterward in the form of professional entrance requirements i.e. at each stage qualification requirements differ. For seeking admission into legal education or a minimum of the 45% of the total marks is necessary for getting admitted into any recognized university for law programme including any other institutional criteria required by institution to get admitted.
Aspirants can enter into field for five year integrated course after passing 12th standard and shall not be above the age of 20 years and after completing undergraduate degree for three year course on successful completion of which a student becomes lawyer . For judges there is separate criteria for examinations including preliminary, mains followed by interview and training on selection. Similarly different entrance requirements are there for each field which must be cleared to enter into the stream.
Coming to the modes of examination appropriate methods need to be devised to measure the ability of students in terms of critical analysis of law and its operation in society. According to examination rule guidelines of BCI examination must be held at the end of each semester and minimum 70% attendance is required in each subject to appear in examination. University is at liberty to hold exam on continuous basis and accordingly assess students based on moot court activities ,project works, assignments, internships, viva, written exams etc.
Careers In Legal Field
The end result of legal education is lawyer and with the pace of time career options has also increased. From the traditional practicing advocate in court now there are various scopes in legal field which includes Corporate Counselors with increasing number of corporate firms, civil and judicial services for those who want to serve the country, Paralegal services, Legal Analyst, Document Drafting Lawyer who specializes in drafting various documents, Legal Journalist who covers crime beats or legal and arbitral proceedings, Legal Advisor who offer consultancy to corporate firms and other services which demands knowledge of law as the main ingredient. Apart from this academic profession is also an option and there are various degrees at each level for knowledge and promotion of lawyers at large like after LL.B (Bachelor of law) there is LL.M (Master of Laws) which is postgraduate degree now of 1 year, Ph.D. (Doctor Of Philosophy), Master of Business laws etc.
Challenges And Opportunities
Law as a profession is kind of defamed one therefore foremost priority must be given to it that people should understand that lawyers are for the benefit of the society. Secondly there is need to reform the curriculum i.e. there is course has been made too vast to be taught in short span of time which at times does not provide students better understanding of subjects and also some modern day subjects of importance shall be added such as cyber law, investment law, taxation law, information technology and others which are need of the hour. Further reform is needed to ensure the quality of lawyers who enter the legal profession i.e. a far more practical training must be given in the form of case study, participating in Trail as to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in profession. Other challenges include physical infrastructure means there is need for sound and developed infrastructure, requirement of hiring good teachers and researchers who initiate research and encourage lawyers to opt academics as career option and inspiring students to work towards establishing rule of law in Indian society.
In present there are ample of opportunities as new area of work are increased in wake of globalization and governance such as international trade, foreign investments, mergers and takeovers etc .which require agreements between the countries and knowledge of law of country with whom agreement is made. Also with increased awareness among society there are civil and human rights movement worldwide which requires lawyers to provide justice and help to needy. To this end, legal education system need new ideas, thinking and innovations to make it more relevant, effective, trustworthy, authentic and focused on research and legal training to produce value based qualitative lawyers in the country.
Legal education has changed drastically from 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, introduction of law subjects at school level as to ensure basic knowledge of law to students of all stream etc. This will help in growth and development of legal education with increase in reputation of the profession to meet the challenges of the field and to grow and contribute by providing fullest opportunity to law aspirants for the progress of the country.
List of References
The Economic Times
The Hindustan Times
# Advocate T.M. Devdas, History of legal education in India, strippedlaw.blogspot.in, November 14,2010
# Nirmal B.C., Legal Education in India: Problems and Challenges,20 IIUM L.J.,147-48 (2012).
# Abhishek Aanand, Legal Education and its Challenges, www.legalservicesindia.com, july 25, 2014
# PTI, Law Schools should bridge gap between theory and practical: President Pranab Mukherjee ,The EconomicTimes, Hyderabad, August 2,2014
# C. Raj Kumar, Improving legal education in India, The Hindu, June 27,2007
Co-authored by - Shreeya Maheshwari and Yashu Chandak