E-mail this
Print Article

Legal Education : Toward New Horizons
by Jaipal Singh*

Cite as : (1971) 1 SCC (Jour) 42

There is a law school in India that is successfully challenging Charles Lamb's dour pronouncement on the law: "the dry drudgery of the desk's dead wood". In 1966 Dean P.K. Tripathi of the Delhi University Faculty of Law began a process of curricula and teaching method changes that have completely altered the scope, meaning and concept of legal education in the country. Reports indicate that in 1971 the Delhi Law Faculty is a place devoid of stuffiness, devoted to constructive change; an arena where young minds brazenly court intellectual excitement.

Legal education has long been a secure hostage to outmoded concepts, and the darling of theorists who hold that educational nirvana is best achieved through remembered rules. Redeeming the hostage will require time, patience, courage and dedication. That legal education stands in need of substantial modification, few will deny. The process of change is predicated upon careful evaluation of diverse educational needs, successful marshalling of faculty and administrative skills, provision of viable channels of communication between faculty and students, provision of requisite research and consultative facilities, and co-operation between the three important constituent units of a law school : administration, faculty and students. Importantly, change must bear a sophisticated relationship to the localized requirements of individual law schools and the clientele they serve. Legal education in the seventies will stand or fall on its capacity to meet these rigorous criteria. The legal profession—at the bar and the blackboard—possesses both the resources and the talent to provide manpower and skills to fulfil its professional educational obligations.

Readers interested in a meaningful review of legal education are referred to Dean Tripathi's article: In the Quest for Better Legal Education in the Journal of the Indian Law Institute ((1968) Vol. 10: 469). I am moved to make a few observations on the subject.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Associate Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, remarked, "The law is a jealous mistress." I corroborate Holmes' testimony, and offer an irreverent elaboration: The mistress deserves careful and loving scrutiny in the company of your friends. Indian legal education, for historically understandable reasons, is a closed shop—jealously mindful of the encroachment of other disciplines. The phenomenal growth of the social sciences—Psychiatry, Psychology, Economics, Anthropology, Sociology, Social History—demand a substantial revision of our guild-charter approach. A rapidly urbanizing society, steeped in the mythology of planning, committed in writing to the realization of social policy goals, subject to the demands and strains of chaotic modernization, mass-in-migration movement, and immediate organizational and inter-governmental growth; is a society flirting with tremendous legal problems. Problems in societal organization, provision of immense welfare state services, urban planning and crime regulation. The accelerating problems will find their way into legal brief cases. Solutions will be worked out, not at the lonely midnight desk wrapped in cigarette smoke, burdened labour and the romantic legal fallacies of yester-decade, but at the conference table shared with related social scientists. The complexity of the problems is clear warrant for inter-disciplinary effort. The insolationist era in Indian law is at the end. A complex society cannot be governed by laws passed in default of adequate knowledge, in defiance of empirical research, or in deference to political shibboleths.

I am pleading for an inter-disciplinary approach to the study of law. Law school curricula must encourage students to take courses in other departments of the university—courses related to their subject interests. Absent this elastic provision, legal education is subject to the indictment of parochialism, and an unwillingness to fulfil the information needs of its students. In Court room practice, advisory opinion, and governmental activity a lawyer is frequently called upon to make major policy decisions spanning a variety of disciplines. It is the duty of the law school to provide the future lawyer with exposure to related disciplines in order to enable him to discharge his functions effectively.

Expanded support for extra-curricular activity is urgently required. In this regard, the possibility of forming legislative forums deserves consideration. A faculty-student forum discussing, evaluating and formulating proposals for legislative action, would be both an educational and professional benefit. There are vast areas of the law that stand to benefit from such systematic evaluation. Parliamentary and State legislative committee deliberations should be monitored. Where feasible, forums should provide expert testimony and file proposals before relevant committees. The possibility of establishing a meaningful relationship between the press and the law school must not be overlooked. Such a liaison is a potent means of influencing public opinion. Where concrete proposals are framed the press conference must be utilized to assure broadcast to the lay public.

I suggest opening the gates of academe to the practising lawyer. The rigid distinction between the practising and the academic is untenable and mischievous. The law student obviously stands to gain from enhanced contact with the practitioner. Law school administration face the delicate responsibility of seducing professionals into both classroom and seminar hall. The seminar is a meeting ground for forging a link between practical knowledge and academic research. Law schools—especially those situated in metropolitan areas—have been derelict in pressing the professional into the service of education. In order to anticipate the easy sophistry the professional lawyer will not co-operate. I must adduce countervailing personal experience, as well as the marked self interest of both sides involved in the dialogue.

Experience in this activity (in Delhi and New Delhi) clearly indicates that the practising lawyer is particularly happy to accept invitations to participate in law school activities. The dialogue is beneficial to both audience and guest, and I cannot think of any reason why a professional lawyer would be anxious to abscond from academe. I suspect that both law schools and practitioners tend to be delinquent in assidous pursuit of each other. However, such mutual shyness can be easily overcome.

Legal institutions serve a barometric purpose in relation to a society's mediation needs. That judicial institutions should be accessible to citizens regardless of their financial standing is a truism. The dispute-resolving institutions of a society, when placed beyond the purview of the financially indigent, tend to become objects of distrustful attack and general disesteem. Although Indian judicial institutions enjoy the general esteem & confidence of the public; an erosion of that unqualified esteem is evident. To permit it to multiply would be an invitation to disaster. The poor must gain meaningful access to the judicial system, or else, the erosion may well be magnified into an avalanche. The alternative is clear: poverty law and legal aid schemes. Some states have made modest beginnings in that directions. Modesty magnified into munificence—both financially and manpower-wise—is capable of providing a meaningful direction to the legal aid movement in India. Law schools are particularly well placed to lend aid in the process. Voluntary legal aid programs that harness the creativity and idealism of youth can do a great deal in providing initial impetuous to the legal aid movement. Again, a commendable start has been made at the Delhi Law Faculty, under the direction of Dr. Lotika Sarkar, N. R. Madhava Menon and N. G. Mysore. Detailed reports of the experiment should provide valuable guidelines.

Felix Frankfurter was fond of quoting his mother's very wise remark: Paper is patient. As a lawyer crucially involved in the construction of the public regulatory mechanisms that the United States adopted in the 1940's, Justice Frankfurter would probably have been the first to admit that paper, confronted with pen, (turquoise) ink and ideas, is also very intractable. Also, that it pays a central part in the lawyer's professional life. A lawyer spends considerable amount of time in feverish struggles with paper. Hence, the necessity for providing opportunities for the law student to develop a clear, cogent, persuasive, rigorously balanced writing style. Law schools can help by instituting token instructorship for LL.M. and third year LL.B. students to instruct entering students in legal and legislative draftsmanship. More important: the law journal. The active development of law journals will stimulate interest in legal writing, and create avenues for publication of legal research findings. Legal journalism is an integral part of the law school program. It develops the disciplined skills that play an essential part in a lawyer's professional effectiveness: the ability to present a brief within the inexorable limits of time and space. I spent two years with Delhi Law Faculty's first legal wall-paper Revista Juridica—two years of expanded 18-hours working days spent in deserted libraries and harassing midnight vigils before a typewriter. In extension I spent another year at Columbia University in New York acquiring the rudiments of journalism. As a consequence I can testify that legal journalism, with all its rigorous demands, deserves particular attention in Indian law schools. It is imperative that law schools train and attract qualified faculty members capable of handling their instructional and publication activities.

Common-sense suggests that law schools educating students do not engage in such activity on the basis of any activity analogous to Walter Pater's art for 'art's sake'. Lawyers are a vigorously practical proposition. However, Indian law schools have no established channels for transforming degree-clutching lawyers into brief-arguing lawyers. To my knowledge, no law school maintains even a marginally effective placement bureau. What are graduating law students expected to do with themselves ? Disappear into the woodwork ? Hardly likely. However, law schools cannot take any steps in placing their graduates in the profession as long professionals are unwilling to co-operate in some measure. No profession can validly conduct its recruitment activities in alignment with the procedures of a medieval guild. The Indian legal profession assumes—erroneously—that it can. Medicine, Nursing, Architecture, Accountancy, Engineering have, with considerable benefit, adopted liberal recruitment techniques. And law must, perforce, follow suit. The present free apprenticeship system is discouraging disastrously short-sighted and wasteful of talent. While relevant details must obviously be worked out between law schools and professional institutions, bar associations and attorneys must assume the initial lead in developing a liason system. Meanwhile: I suggest as first-step: alumni associations. Such groups serve as channels for the involvement of attorneys in the activities of their law schools, and provide means of placement communication between alumni and graduating students.

* B. A. (Hons.), LL.B. (Delhi), M.S.J. (Columbia) Asst. Editor: Dateline International (New York). Return to Text

Search On Page:

Enter Search Word:

  Search Archives
  Search Case-Law
  Search Bookstore
  Search All

Archives of SCC Articles
  Subjectwise Listing of Articles
  Chronological Listing of Articles
  Articles Exclusively on the Internet
  More Articles...

Most Accessed Articles
Recent Articles