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Report No. 14

Legal Education

I do not agree that there has been a fall in the standard of efficiency in the Bar or in the law students, and I claim to speak on the subject with considerable experience in this matter. 1 have been practising in the Calcutta High Court and the Subordinate Courts with occasional visits outside for over 50 years. I definitely disagree with the statement made that the recent recruit to the profession is inferior in legal equipment, less painstaking and in a hurry to find work. Speaking of the Calcutta High Court, I came here when some of the men who are called eminent bright stars of the profession were practising here. I may say with confidence that the new recruits of the Bar at present are definitely not inferior to the Bar of those days. On the contrary, I have found that by and large they are better recruits and more efficient.

The course of studies of the Law Graduates of 50 years ago were much inferior in extent or depth to that of the present Law Graduates and, what is more, they actually have to study the books prescribed in the regular classes. A Law Graduate in my days was not required to study at all. The Law Graduates of those days had only to attend a certain number of lectures in each subject and that was done in off time for a few hours which were simply wasted. For enrolment in the High Court the Law students of those days had to be articled to a Vakil.

That was a purely formal matter and excepting in some exceptional cases, neither the master nor his pupil took the work seriously. Things are much changed now. Willy-nilly a student has now to learn a great deal for passing the three examinations in Law and also to make notes of cases before he can be admitted as an Advocate. I have found that the new recruits are generally better equipped in law than men of my time. The master took little or no interest in them in those days and if the pupil picked up anything, it was by his own efforts.

It has been said that the Law Schools attract only men of mediocre ability and indifferent merit. I had been a teacher of Law in the Calcutta University and later as a Professor and Dean of Faculty of Law of the Dacca University and I may say that I took a great deal of interest in teaching of laws, principally in the Dacca University. Before that I worked as a teacher in the Arts Faculty. I have not found much difference in the calibre of students or even that there is more indifference amongst the law students than amongst the Arts students. There is a certain amount of want of enthusiasm amongst the students of Law for reasons some of which have been referred to in the Draft Report, principally because both the Government and the public look upon the legal profession with more or less step-motherly love.

The complaints now made about the causes of inefficiency of lawyers could be made and were made equally when I began teaching law about 1913-14. The Calcutta University Commission had introduced a greater interest in the students and greater facilities for studying law. It would be a surprise to most young men today to know that in the beginning of this century one could go through a whole course of law and even get a first class degree in the end without ever handling a Law Report or any text book of law by simply mugging up a few note books.

The things were changed by the reforms inaugurated, at the instance principally of Sir Ashuotosh Mukherji and the new regulations by which the students were compelled to read selected cases of Law Reports and larger range of text books and they were also given some training in the moot courts. So far as the Calcutta and the Dacca Universities are concerned, I can say with confidence that the teaching of Law has now become more efficient and the average graduates turned out are certainly not less efficient than those of the past days who had given a great halo to the legal profession by reason of the successes achieved by more or less exceptional men amongst the lawyers.

In point of fact when we look at the range of shinning names amongst successful lawyers of the past, we find that it is not from the teaching in schools that the lawyers acquired the knowledge which fitted them for eminence, but it is by the student's own effort after he has graduated and come into contact with the Court,-to get more education in Law by attending the Court after becoming a lawyer and knowing something of law. That is at any rate how I learnt law and I obtained an interest in dealing with books which were made available in the High Court Bar Association Library.

Proficiency in Law is obtained by a willing practitioner or student by practice and not from text books only. When the new entrant gets a case as a Junior Lawyer, he has to prepare it. In doing so, he has to find out the law from the books. It is this search for law that gets him into the touch of actual law which, in a really brilliant young man develops a real brilliancy of the practitioner in law. It is possible to conceive of a more complete education for the legal profession so that a graduate turned out will at once become an effective lawyer.

Such education was given in Germany. So far as I am aware, before the First World War, there a lawyer had not only to be a graduate in the course of his education but also to write a thesis and thereafter to do practical work in the Courts including virtually doing the work of Bench Clerks as well as making drafts of judgments. I do not know of any such attempt being made elsewhere. I have given an extract in one of my previous Notes on an article on "The Legal Education in Germany" at that time.

I am of opinion that legal education will not improve by providing a better schooling or giving practical work to be done at a time when the candidates has not yet learnt the elements of Law. The real education comes when he has got an elementary knowledge of Law and its practical work as a lawyer, either by trying to pick up the practice or working in the Chamber of a Senior Lawyer not as a dilettante but as a serious lawyer. Success in the profession is not assured to the good scholar.

That depends on many factors. In any case it depends upon the personal effort in the enterprise of the new practitioner. Altogether it seems to me that too much importance is given in discussions of these matters upon the schooling of the lawyers, either in the School or by a formal enrolment or engagement as an articled clerk or a Junior. It is the enterprise of the new entrant called forth by his being admitted to actual practical work.

The early Vakils now represented by Advocates at the Bar as well as on the Bench and whose names are handed down from generations as models never received legal education at all. At first men were appointed Vakils by the Judges. No course of legal training was necessary. Later a very elementary course of training in Law was given. The products of the earliest legal education who have been regarded to be pleaders, as distinguished from Vakils-some of whom distinguished.themselves at the Bar and some of them also on the Bench, were not law graduates at all. Justice Dwarka Nath Mitra, Justice Chandra Madhab Ghosh, Sreenath Das, Kali Mohan Das in Calcutta, similarly Judges of the High Court of Madras like Muthuswami Iyer were not law graduates at all. But the judgments of some of these Judges were sometimes pitted against the judgments of distinguished Barrister Judges.

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