In Conversation With Dr. Ms. Shashikala Gurpur, Director, Symbiosis Law School, Pune

In a candid conversation with BW Legal World, Dr. Ms. Shashikala Gurpur talks about her journey in legal academics, challenges for legal professionals and much more

Ma’am, what motivated you to pursue academics in law? How has your journey been?

Necessity is the mother of invention, was the reality. 

Women could not be fairly and decently treated in our town, in legal profession. My entry in law from Science was because of the necessity to ease the litigation of our ancestral and other property with arrested wealth and fortune. 

So, I had to take the lead for the family sacrificing my ace career in science, with options of admission in Indian institute of science, JNU, MBA etc. 

Once I completed the degree in law, I realised that the profession was not easy to navigate and the scholarship will die. Hence I came to teach, alongside preparing for civil services.l made it to mains and interview once, but gave up due to family emergency with one parent. 

The journey is filled with many first times. I am the first woman PhD of Mysore University, First woman to hold Jean Monet Chair in Law, one of the few women law deans, First woman and first generation achiever in our family lineage.Leadership in legal education has been sacred, fulfilling, innovative in the footsteps of great mentors like Dr Madhva Menon, Dr S B Mujumdar, Dr Veerappa Moily and many spiritual people. Our law school maintained consistent top position across India not only as topmost private law school  but also replicated itself in 3 other places, increased admission demand, expanded with quality footprints in internationalisation, profound student care, community legal service and corporate connect among others. Remarkably, we kept competing with Law universities of the public sector. With my personal linkage tied to Europe, our work built an internationally competent team, while I earned the title’pioneer of European Legal Studies in India’. My core feminist approach, humanist communitarian spirit of  my parents and the public service motto of our profession - all found new definition and inspiration here.

What are your views on the advent of Artificial Intelligence in legal academia? How do you plan to utilise Artificial Intelligence in Symbiosis Law School?

We are an educational institute where the core is empathy and divine values which AI can not substitute. As an academic matter, AI is part of our IT Law Course, we research, we evaluate its justice dimensions. In our 21st century skills curriculum, we examine its relevance. We do not plan to utilize it as of now, because, India’s tradition as a guru is about soul-level engagement with students and not just an entity regurgitating information. We have affective learning, contemplative learning, which can never be replaced. Hence we are distinct and different from Harvard as we value human experience in a spontaneous overflow to impact consciousness where the link is of that eternal wisdom’s umbilical cord as Lamas speak of their guru.

Is ChatGPT a threat to academic writing and integrity? What are your observations? 

It is a challenge as it has aggregated knowledge. Students tend to be approaching such shortcut. However, we have introduced strict plagiarism tests which detect these too. Students lose marks

At least 20 to 30 per cent content of ChatGPT is disjointed, repetitive and mandates human intervention for a perfect synthesis and paraphrasing. I find it useful to gather ideas but not to replace own work.

What reforms are required in legal education to make students future ready?

Legal education has to revive itself in the light of latest industrial, social, economic and other developments in India and the globe. Current alumni experience must feed  into curriculum reform and redesigning. Democratising and standardising legal education, like the medical education is a must. Lot of court and community experience must flow into legal study through systematic research as in case of ICMR in medicine. Profession readiness and capacity to meet challenges of the future will make the legal education more dynamic and emancipatory. For example, the curriculum must have avenues of skills education with life skills, soft skills, team skills, ethics, values, yoga, sports as mandatory component. Technology is mandatory. Managerial and leadership traits must be introduced. Aside from cognitive and metacognitive capability, interdiscplinary osmosis, these skills with digital quotient will make them future ready. 

Share one piece of advice for law students which would help them in their careers?

Expertise, hard work and good networking are the three pillars of success and master these in your chosen career avenue. All the best.

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Dr. Shashikala Gurpur Symbiosis Law School Pune

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