Are National Law Schools in India a failure?

Prof. Leelakrishnan was heading the panel conducting course viva for the final year students of NUALS. He was very friendly and was asking me during the viva about my law school life and future plans. Casually I mentioned few things and in between I also said, I had worked for IDIA and explained to him about what IDIA was all about. Then he asked me a question, Have National Law Schools in India served their purpose? I answered it ‘No’. This is the inspiration behind writing this piece.

Section 4 of the National Law School of India Act, 1986 states the object of establishing the institute as follows:

"The Objects of the School shall be to advance and disseminate learning and knowledge of law and legal processes and their role in national development, to develop in the student and research scholar a sense of responsibility to serve society in the field of law by developing skills in regard to advocacy, legal services, legislation, law reforms and the like, to organise lectures, seminars, symposia and conferences to promote legal knowledge and to make law and legal processes efficient instruments of social development, to hold examinations and confer degrees and other academic distinctions and to do all such things as are incidental, necessary or conducive to the attainment of all or any of the objects of the School."

The following objectives need to be emphasised:

1. To advance and disseminate learning and knowledge of law and legal processes and their role in national development.

2. To develop in the student and research scholar a sense of responsibility to serve society in the field of law by developing skills in regard to advocacy, legal services, legislation, law reforms and the like.

3. To organise lectures, seminars, symposia and conferences to promote legal knowledge and to make law and legal processes efficient instruments of social development.

Whether the National Law Schools established in India have been able to serve the purposes highlighted above is worth contemplating at this juncture. How many National Law Schools or its graduates have become catalysts in national development? Have these law schools been able to instil in students the sense of responsibility to serve society as has been envisaged in the objects? Is there any national law school which has consistently endeavoured to make legal process an efficient instrument of social development? There are exceptions but the numbers are a staggering low considering the years that passed by.

Every top law school boasts of the annual placements and tie ups with foreign universities. But object of social purpose which was a driving force behind the birth of these law schools have long disappeared into the oblivion. The psyche of even a first semester student is to secure a corporate internship and participate in reputed moot court competitions. The mindset of a law student to diversify and lengthen one's curriculum vitae with the object of making to a law firm or a corporate company at the end of five years is the norm in a national law school.

The students alone cannot be held responsible for this. The system warrants the same. Vice- Chancellors and the administrative bodies are the brand ambassadors of these law schools at the law firms and corporate companies. Thus, it is not surprising that there is a mass flow of these graduates to corporate sectors.

The already slender percentage of students taking up law practice is thinning further and this is not a welcome trend. The Bar as well as the Bench have also contributed to this phenomenon. The meagre amount that a young law graduate gets while practising with a lawyer naturally drives him to better avenues. The Judiciary has failed to imbibe into itself the best of the national law school graduates. Poor human resource management in the judiciary has been a reason for the long pendency of cases. Had there been a direct recruitment of national law school graduates into the bench there would have been changes towards positive.

A single entity cannot be blamed for the failure of the national law schools. Everyone has contributed their bit. So a comprehensive plan is needed to reform the legal education mechanism in India. Some solid suggestions on this regard would be:

  •  National judicial academy and other state judicial academies should recruit from national law schools directly to take the best of these law schools directly into the judiciary.
  •  Even though the new generation law schools have attracted more students to law field, most of the law graduates end up choosing jobs in corporate sectors and law firms as they are more lucrative. The problem is that opting for practicing in a court does not fetch money. So, like every other profession, a method should be evolved so as to pay a fixed salary to practicing lawyers too so that it becomes a preferable field. Due to financial constraints, even those law graduates interested in social work prefer corporate sector solely due to the fact that the former is less lucrative.
  • Senior law students should be allowed to appear in Courts and argue cases.

I do very well acknowledge the fact that these suggestions are not comprehensive and my attempt here is only to start a good debate and invite more suggestions on this regard. I would highly appreciate any kind of constructive criticism on this regard. Please do post your comments so that we can come up with more meaningful and comprehensive suggestions. Views expressed in this write up are purely personal.

In the second part of this write up, i will be including various peoples opinion on this and also all the suggestions will be compiled.

8 comments: (+add yours?)

bhupendra said...

way to go bro!!! totally agree with you. plus there ought to be stress given on other vistas of law such as research, teaching, public participation et al. that is totally missing from law school curriculum. teachers make the mindset of the students towards placement since the very beginning as you rightly pointed out.
it is for the parents as well as teachers to make students aware of other options than placement and research work is one of them. and that is going to take a lot of courage and broad mindedness.

Raghul Sudheesh said...

@ Bhupi: Thanks & Well said bro.

Raghul Sudheesh said...

One of my readers send me his views on Facebook. I am copying it below.

"The title of the article is very ambitious, but the body does not do justice to it. You know very well that the article needs to look into not just the numbers of graduates who have joined the Bar, but the effect that the few that have joined the Bar have managed to make. Secondly, what is the effect that the graduates who have been placed in firms and companies manage to make on the Bar through raised expectations from the Bar? Also, the preliminary point of the purpose of legal education is also important - no matter what a statute says, what is the purpose of an institute of higher education - to make you think, or to equip you for professional life? Are they reconcilable objectives? Also, how can you call it a failure of an educational institution when you're measure of success is dependent on the career choice of students.
On a related point, you should work on essay that can examine workable business models for graduates at the Bar. Is there a way for a few graduates to pool resources (library, office space, marketing costs) so that their reliance on senior lawyers is reduced.

I also believe that its not just the money that deters potential entrants to the Bar. The Bar is light years away from the kind of professionalism they experience in corporate careers. A smart graduate may also feel that he is wasting his time and considerable skills at the Bar if the justice system is better known for its inefficiency than for providing relief."

Sarthi Sawhney said...

We all are aware of this( but only in our head), i think this blog is among the very few which has published it. The ideology needs to gather more support and more exposure (i.e to the non-law fraternity).
Waiting for thee next post! :)

goutamjay said...

Yes and No, would be my answer. Had not been for the law schools, we wouldn't had a meager but nevertheless a continuing corporate law practice.
No, because it hasn't raised the level of law practice or the attitude of students towards law subjects. Drawing an analogy with the IIT's and NIT's baring a few exceptions, national law schools have failed to evoke a curiosity to experiment in law or what we would say the development in R&D of law.
For me the immediate targets of NLS's should be to bring a change in usual culture of college going or get-over with-five years attitude with some bold and indigenous moves suited to Indian conditions.
Anyway great job, Raghul. Waiting for your next post.

Raghul Sudheesh said...

@Sarthi and Goutam: Thanks guys! Next post will come soon.

vikesh said...

Its a big opportunity to become a lawyer from top law schools of India as these National law schools makes you a respected person in the society.

Saanvi singh said...

Thank you for sharing such great information. It has help me in finding out more detail about cbse schools in sector 57 gurgaon

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