Panel of Leading Educationists Discuss the Future of Legal Education in India
Renowned names from the legal education space came together to discuss the need for changing the curriculum of legal education in the country, the role of technological knowledge going forward, changes in the education policy and much more.
Titled “Future of Legal Education in India—Where is it Headed? “The panel discussion was chaired by Dr Shashikala Gurpur, Director of Symbiosis Law School, Pune and Dean of the Faculty of Law, Symbiosis International University. Other imminent panellists from the arena of legal education included Dr Mohd. Salim, Director LLOYD Law College; Dr Tabrez Ahmad, Pro Vice-Chancellor, and Dean School of Law, GD Goenka University; Ms Anu Sura, Senior Associate, PSL Advocates; and Ms Seema Jhingan, Partner and Co-Founder, LexCounsel Law Offices.
Responding to the issue of developments in legal education during COVID 19 and changing education policy, Ms Seema Jhingan said, “I think one of the biggest issues that we have as an education system is that our workforce is completely unemployable whether they are law graduates or otherwise. The learning outcomes and quality of learning at law schools are very poor. Not in terms of the national law schools or other private schools but the thousands of the other colleges in the country.”
Speaking about recruiting graduates as an employer in her law firm, Seema said, “As an employer and an owner of a law firm the problem we face is that while the students have understood a certain law in a subject but there are no nuances to legal application. Our education system should do away from the court learning to more focus on research-based understanding which is both critical and analytical.
Hailing the changes brought into the new education policy, Ms Seema noted, “The new education policy is focusing on doing the learning in more research-based and technology integrated way that it will bring out the lawyers which the industry is looking out for. Also, there is the proposal to set up a research department so that the research can be funded and the proposal is not only to augment the quality of students but also augment the quality of teachers which could lead away from repetitive learning and bring more enhancement in the skills of the teacher. So, augmenting the quality of learning of the teachers is another important aspect of the new policy.”
“I really appreciate the other aspect of the education policy on introducing a multidisciplinary approach. Because why can't our students learn a variety of subjects together like digital marketing or aspects of media and sociology with law", she added.
Responding to the question on translating the changes in the education policy and filling the gaps in our education system and also how a legal curriculum should respond to the emerging areas of technology and media, Dr Mohd. Salim remarked, “I agree with Ms Seema, our current module of legal education drastically fails to produce lawyers which are ready for either legal practice or professional practice. Unlike the medical profession, where the students are ready for practice, the law graduates are not ready because, in our educational institutes, the students are kept away from real practice.”
“There are loopholes in the education institutes which are often filled with internships. While the top law schools have the infrastructure to bring the professionals to the classrooms during the legal education there are others which cannot. And I feel it is not the fault of the students but of the education system. So yes, it's very important to bring practising people from the industry to teach in the classrooms. So, a practising person will bring a different perspective into the classrooms. We have to accept that book is only the initial point of classroom learning and not the endpoint. Also, every law school should introduce practical aspects into its curriculum like 50% theory and 50% practical in every step,” he added.
Responding to the same question, Dr Tabrez Ahmad said, “I am a strong believer that we have to always customize and change the curriculum as per the changing market. There hardly have been changes in the curriculum in the past four to five years. Earlier the curriculum was based around export-import, the balance of payment, financial crisis. And now the way technology and Artificial Intelligence is taking over has to be covered. Now we have to filter out the content which is over or which is not required. We have to change with the changing market and incorporate the new things that are coming every day. So, the curriculum needs to be changed and also see how the new skills can be incorporated.”
“Skills required by the lawyer today have to be very holistic. An IPR lawyer today should not only know how to file an application but should understand the entire portfolio. So ultimately it means that we have to review the entire system and change the content to improve those portions which are future requirements. Also, multimedia learning should be introduced to engage the entire classroom,” he added.
Responding to the question of the need to review the curriculum and considering that a very low percentage of graduates are ready for practice, Ms Anu Sura said, “Barring a few national law colleges and renowned universities, I wouldn’t say that the students from the other colleges are not equipped with the right skill set, but as an employer what I would look whether they have the aptitude for research and problem solving, good communication skills but not all the students who come from other colleges are privileged so we must address the problem with a very systematic and inclusive approach. And yes, the method of imparting education must absolutely be very practical so that it gives the student an insight of both the lawyers and the judges mind.”
Answering the question on the suggestions for improving the curriculum of legal education to align with the future needs, Ms Seema remarked, “I think the most important aspect of the education system is that the colleges should be imparting diverse aspects into the curriculum. Another option would be imparting good communication skills and the development of critical and analytical skills.
Answering the same, Dr Mohd. Salim noted that there should be two sources of learning i.e. teaching-learning and working-learning and balancing both is crucial.
Closing the session, Dr Shashikala Gurpur said that the integration of new skills into legal education will make the human resource capable of nation-building. She also stressed that the curriculum must be enriched by incorporating digital quotient along with critical and evaluated thinking.
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