Evolution and scope of law education in new normal

Dr. Meenu Chopra

William Jennings Bryan, Former United States Secretary of State rightly said: “ Next to the ministry, I know of no more noble a profession than the law. Its principles ennoble and its practice elevates. ”

It is a well-established fact that the legal profession is steeped in rich tradition and a long history, which only adds to its allure and charisma. It is ideal for those seeking a career that provides fulfillment and the option to make an impact. After all, which other career offers the opportunity to be an active participant in the justice delivery system?

It is no wonder that law students enter the profession, with a certain idealism and a desire to serve people. However, is the legal education truly benefitting aspiring lawyers and equipping them with the skills required to thrive in their chosen field?

In law schools until recently, education was being imparted in the most theoretical manner. This wasn’t serving the purpose for which it was meant to be. However, that has changed. In fact, legal education now provides a more pragmatic and experiential teaching methodology which comprises competency based learning and a practice-orientated focus.

The nature of crimes and civil disputes which are reported has also changed. Accordingly, the courses associated with Information Technology, Machine learning, Biotechnology and other science subjects need to be incorporated in the curriculum to understand the issues of present society.

The purpose of law is to ensure appropriate remedy for the dispute and in today’s scenario more focus must be on the alternative methods of dispute resolution instead of routine court proceedings.

Another set of courses such as soft skills, mediation, arbitration need to be focused and must be practiced in classrooms accordingly. Present age is not only the age where the natural wedlock of arts and law would make the best combination, but it is an era of science and technology new opportunities, challenges need to be explored. However, including such courses shall be incomplete if these are not taught in the practical sense.

Presently the future prospects of legal education are not just limited to becoming a practicing lawyer in the court or being a judicial member. There are ample opportunities that are now available for law students. These are only for those who are capable of molding themselves as per the current need of the Industry. All law students aspire to get a job in a reputed Law firm with a good salary. But as per the changing needs of society and more specifically after the intervention of COVID in our lives the demand for highly skilled technical people has increased in market.

Normally LLB course (three years) is chosen by legal aspirants after completion of their graduation in any stream.

But understanding the interdisciplinary studies and in order to attract bright students BCI has authorized integrated five years courses as well.

Presently, majority of the Legal Education Institutions are offering five-year integrated courses such as BA LLB, BBA LLB, BCOM LLB and a few of the Institutions are also offering courses like BSc. LLB and BTech LLB as well.

Students can seek admission in integrated courses after passing 10 + 2.

The regulatory body prescribes certain compulsory law subjects to be included but now it is high time to think of the Industry skills required to be included in the curriculum.

These days the classes are virtual classes and more focus is on blended learning techniques. The legal education also needs experimentation to ensure effective participation of students in the learning process by making it an activity- based participation process.

Earlier the presence of a teacher and deliberation on legal issues were considered sufficient in class but in the changed situations and circumstances the modern tools of ICT have to be incorporated in the learning process.

Even for the purposes of legal research various databases are being used such as SCC Online and Manupatra. It helps the researchers and advocates to find cases which can further be cited in the courts.

Students need to get exposure of these databases during their studies and must make effective use of it while preparing their assignments. This practice can help them a lot while working in the court.

The curriculum must also include the MOOC courses and such courses must also be recognized by the regulatory body (as is being acknowledged in various technical courses). The law courses can be taught by the legal faculty but the blended learning process with the help of MOOCs can add value to the teaching learning process. Even the evaluation process can be experimented and can include the application-based testing to improve sincerity of students in classrooms.

Additional practical knowledge can be imparted through compulsory internships. Internships can be done in physical manner and in virtual manner also. In current scenario many institutions are offering online internships which may give insights of practical application of legal concepts. It shall give an edge to the students who are actually willing to understand the nuances of legal professional at an early stage.

It shall help the students intending to establish their own practice and also to the students who are seeking placement in corporate sector. Generally, the employer expects that the law student should be well versed with substantive and procedural laws along with certain experience in the said field. Initially the student may get an internship opportunity in the organization and later on it can be converted to placement on its successful completion. Initially the stipend of Rs. 10,000- 20,000 per month may be offered to the final year students for a training period and the salary package may be offered from Rs. 5 lakh -10 lakh depending upon the norms of the organization.

Presently, the manner of working of courts has also changed and is working through the virtual platforms. Physical appearance of Advocates and litigants is restricted due to COVID. In a country like India already there has been a greater burden of pending cases on Judiciary and these days only urgent matters are being taken up for discussion and remaining matters are adjourned. Advocates and litigants can check the status of the case through E Courts app where by all the necessary information from the adjournment date to orders in a specific manner is available on this portal. Even before COVID, the Supreme Court has deliberately started the practice of providing information through the online mediums. As an alternative to physical presence virtual platforms like Webex, Google meet and Microsoft teams etc. are proving to be a great support which is actually cost effective and time saving.

In the light of this the future generation of lawyers are expected to be well versed with the tools of Information and Communication Technology. Not only this, but manner of doing the business has also changed and accordingly the nature of disputes has changed. Understanding of business from the perspective of a businessman, consumer and legal expert is very much essential. The traditional legal education shall not be sufficient for the students and they are expected to undergo industry-oriented courses which can bridge the gap between theory and practice.

In the era of cut throat competition the survival of the fittest is what counts. The students who are willing to improve their learning and who adopt the latest systems shall survive. Definitely they will have a much better earning potential.

The writer is Associate Professor, School of law, Lovely Professional University

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