Legal education should aim at promoting 'Justice' rather than just resolve disputes and improve relationship. The study of law in order to be meaningful has to be context of social realities. Law professionals are characterized as “Social Engineers”. Law as a profession and legal education as a discipline was not a popular choice of the students in India prior to the introduction of five year law course.
Most of the students who performed well in their Intermediate Education aspired to study medicine, engineering, computers, business management and accounting. Unlike India, the situation prevalent in England, America and in many other developed countries is convincingly different. The admissions to law schools in these parts of the world are highly competitive.
Law degrees in India are granted and conferred in terms of the Advocates Act, 1961, which is a law passed by the Parliament both on the aspect of legal education and also regulation of conduct of legal profession. Under the Act, the Bar Council of India is the supreme regulatory body to regulate the legal profession in India and also to ensure the compliance of the laws and maintenance of professional standards.
In India, legal education has been traditionally offered as a three years graduate degree. The dichotomy between the two courses - 3 year LLB course after graduation and the 5 year integrated course after 10+2, based on various factors such as professional legal education, mental faculties of students, multi-disciplinary and clinical legal approach to legal education still continues.
The five-year law course was introduced to attract brilliant students into the stream of legal studies. Bar Council of India, with the support of Government of Karnataka, started the National Law School of India University, at Bangalore in 1987 as center of excellence. The idea of Bar Council of India was to make the study of law as prestigious and attractive as technological and management studies in the IITs and IIMs, which are India's premier institutes.
The call was responded by the setting up of law universities on the Bangalore model in NALSAR at Hyderabad (1996), NLIU at Bhopal (1997), WBNUJS at Kolkata (1999) and NLU at Jodhpur (2000) HNLU at Raipur (2003), GNLU at Gandhinagar (2004).
In the era of specialization it is fruitful to concentrate on a career right after twelfth standard and the five-year course provides ample time to build a sound background in the subject and develop professionalism. The period of five year is sufficient for a law school to equip their students with professional-skills as per the market (social) demands.
In a democratic country like India, where rule of law is the driving force of the Government, legal education assumes great significance. The legal education in India is regulated by multiple agencies including University Grants Commission (UGC), Bar Council of India (BCI), The Government and the respective University authorities.
However, for promoting legal education and for laying down standards of legal education, the Universities and State Bar Councils must be effectively consulted. The University Grants Commission has in the course of time evinced interest in improving legal education and has taken various steps towards that end, through adequate funding, creation of senior posts and other means.
The quality and standard of legal education acquired at the law school is reflected through the standard of Bar and Bench and consequently affects the legal system. The primary focus of law schools should be to identify the various skills that define a lawyer and then train and equip its students with requirements of the fast growing field of law.
It is pivotal duty of everyone to know the law. Ignorance of law is not innocence but a sin which cannot be excused. Thus, legal education is imperative not only to produce good lawyers but also to create cultured law abiding citizens, who are inculcated with concepts of human values, legal ethics and human rights.
Imparting of legal education has always been considered as one to the noblest profession. Today, legal education derives its impetus from the economic, social and political set up of the society. Legal profession is objectively in the position of producing Statesmen. This is due to two reasons
(1) Lawyers belong to an independent profession. They are not subordinate to the government or to anyone else, and
(2) They are directly in contact with society in its entirety as they have to deal with all kinds of problems of people from all sections of society, unlike say, doctors who are confined to technical problems.
Lawyers, solicitors, legal executives all need good intellectual ability, the ability to assimilate and analyze facts quickly. Law students hence need to develop their ability to distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant, screen the evidence, and apply the law to the situation under scrutiny.
The law students are further required to enhance the ability to argue, explain and convince points of law. They need to maintain their complete integrity of character and need mental and physical stamina in order to cope with the long hours of work, travelling and stress.
Despite the fact that our National Language is Hindi, the common practice of language in Indian Judiciary is English. English as a subject may help the students to increase their analytical skills as well as their vocabulary too. Likewise as students of law, it is quite important to be familiar with History of Courts, the evolution of Courts from the ancient period, later development in the medieval period and the status in vogue.
Law schools and universities should be able to provide e-courses on the shelves. The teachers should put course materials on the Web, conduct on-line tests/ assignments and grade students. Web-sites can lead learners to virtual class-rooms. Teachers and students should be oriented to look at the Web as an information provider.
Recapitulation of Legal education is a good investment which if wisely made will produce most beneficial results for the nation and catalyze the speed of development. Of late the role of a lawyer in a common law system is more than a skilled legal mechanic; he acts as a social engineer, social reformer, harmonizer and a reconciler. The legal education provided at the law schools must be transformed to the conventional and contemporary needs of the legal profession and society.
The conventional role of a lawyer is to step in after the event to resolve disputes and dispense justice to the aggrieved party. In the changed scenario, the additional roles envisaged are that of policy planner, business advisor, negotiator among interest groups, expert in articulation and communication of ideas, mediator, lobbyist, law reformer, etc.
These roles demand specialized knowledge and skills not ordinarily available in the existing profession. The five-year integrated programme of legal education is a modest response to these challenges as perceived in the 1980s, well before the end of Cold War and advent of market-oriented globalization.
Role of a lawyer in a social welfare liberal democratic state is not an easy task for him, nor his profession. A profession, which obligates him a sense of social responsibility and expects from him to work towards social development not only filling his own purse or coffees but shouldering a joint or collective obligation to do justice in a society.
Legal education is the basic, which only would create such responsible and responsive social lawyering. The legal education and the profession have to care for the “invisible man”. The Advocate has to become socially more relevant and technically very sound if he has to survive and serve the needs of the society in the 21st Century.
Contributed by Mr. B. Abraham – Law Student from Siddharth College of Law, Mumbai
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