In Conversation With Dr. Rashmi Salpekar, Dean, Vivekananda School Of Law And Legal Studies

In this conversation with BW Legal World, Dr. Rashmi Salpekar talks about her journey in academics, use of artificial intelligence and interdisciplinary approach in legal academics

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

Teaching is an honourable profession in Indian culture and tradition. I consider myself fortunate to be in this profession. I specialised in International Law, therefore, I am always motivated due to the international legal regime, its growing scope, and its challenges.  I started my career as a Research Officer in one of the State Human Rights Commissions and then became a doctoral fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research. I realised the necessity of academicians to groom the youth. This prompted me to join academics. I am pursuing my passion for teaching and researching international law.

My journey as an academician and the Dean at Vivekananda School of Law and Legal Studies, Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies is the quest to achieve perfection.  I am learning, unlearning, and re-learning every day. Under the guidance of Dr S C Vats, Chairman, VIPS-TC and the entire Management, the VIPS-TC is growing remarkably in all the programmes.

Grade A++ by NAAC is giving evidence of the robust work done by the VIPS-TC in the educational field.  In the law stream, we have BALLB, BBA LLB and LLM in Corporate Law and ADR, thus dealing with more than 1500 students. Moreover, in the journey of 23 years, VSLLS, VIPS-TC  has produced numerous judicial officers, gold medalists of GGSIPU- our parent University and entrepreneurs in the legal field. Thus, I am getting the opportunity to grow as an academician and to contribute positively as a Dean of the VSLLS. 

What are your views on the advent of Artificial Intelligence in legal academia? 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can improve the quality of the learning process. The students can gain immensely from the use of AI, as the learning experiences can become personalized for each learner instead of using a one-size-fits-all strategy. Specifically created AI systems can analyse past performance of students, provide us with feedback and can help spot learning gaps that could otherwise go unnoticed.

Students will get more time to concentrate on higher-level abilities such as in-depth analysis and creativity by leveraging AI capabilities in simulating ideas or organising content. With the help of AI, students interested in legal research can now analyse substantial amounts of data. AI can help cross the boundaries between students, teachers, and educational administrators through smart data collection, personalised tasks, and scheduling. Today, with the introduction and accessibility to AI-powered tools, we can overcome geographical and linguistic barriers and further contribute to the advancement of legal academia.

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

ChatGPT is an AI-based system capable of answering most of our questions using its databases. However, we must not stray from our values due to technological developments like ChatGPT. As such ChatGPT has not created the problem, it is the users who at times misuse it. Stopping the use or development of ChatGPT is not a solution to prevent misuse. We need to channel the use of ChatGPT as a tool to further simulate critical thinking and foster creativity.

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

Everyone is taking legal education seriously. Hence, there are a lot of expectations from the legal fraternity. The law needs to change with changing times thus legal education must also undergo transformation and adapt to the demands of society. At present, we need to make legal education capable of taking on the challenges of the 21st century. The quality of legal education needs to be enhanced consistently. The aim of legal education should not be restricted only to making them employable, but also to prepare them to profess a noble profession of law with a commitment to service. 

There is a necessity to strengthen and enhance an interdisciplinary approach. The interlinkages of different streams with Law must be understood in letter and spirit. The rationale of the law can only be understood through adopting an interdisciplinary approach. Legal education should promote discourses on legal doctrines and their practical applications. It should foster a student’s ability to critically think and apply their learnings. 

The curriculum should be able to prepare law students to serve society. We have established a Pro-bono club under the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice. Additionally, we have a Legal Aid Clinic which operates under the guidance Delhi State Legal Services Authority. Through these initiatives, we conducted various legal awareness programmes in villages. This provides the students with an opportunity to closely observe and understand the challenges and social problems affecting our society. 

We should promote clinical legal education as it provides the students of law with the opportunity to learn theory through practice. Activities like Moot courts, mock trials and activities of ADR are indeed helpful to make students future-ready.

Inclusion of and conducting empirical research and survey is a necessity of the present time. We have conducted empirical research/ field studies on various issues. I have seen how students’ perspective is getting wider and more mature. For example, we conducted empirical research with our students of VSLLS on the effectiveness of women police officials as we were organising a national seminar sponsored by National Commission for Women on Women Police Stations. Around 25 students from VSLLS, VIPS-TC visited numerous police stations. During this process, our students learnt a lot that they would not have learnt through a book. To give another example, recently, BW Legal World organised a Panel Discussion on the topic of legal education. A few of our students participated in that event and gave me feedback that they witnessed an expansive scope of the legal profession. I can give you numerous examples. Therefore, it is crucial to provide students with exposure through field studies or empirical research.

Above all, as per my observation, each student’s aspiration is different. Thus, rather than including everything in the curriculum, the educational institutions can also take creative initiatives in the interest of students as we do in VSLLS, VIPS-TC.

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

Explore India. Explore the World. Connect with people and learn about their problems. Law students should have the courage to stand up for others and to voice for others. Then only law students can help people through the legal profession.

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