New Vision for Legal Education in the Emerging Global Scenario


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Introduction and Background

The National Law School has successfully completed the first phase of its development, i.e., the establishment of a new model of undergraduate legal education in India based on professional excellence, social relevance and innovation. The best evidence of this success is the emulation of this model in other parts of India - four other "National Law School type" institutions (a law school as a stand alone university) have already been established. The National Law School has now set the vision, goals and strategy of the next phase of its development. These are summarized in this document.

The strategic vision of the National Law School of India for the future was developed through a highly participatory process that commenced in December 2000 and involved Law School students and faculty as well as external experts. It is set out in the document "The National Law School's New Vision for Legal Education in the Emerging Global Scenario", adopted by the University's Academic and Executive Councils in May, 2001.

The development of the strategic vision carefully took into account the broader policy context in which the Law School delivers legal education.

First, it was clearly recognized that the sustainability of the National Law School's success is closely tied in the long term to the fate of legal education in general in India. A few islands of excellence such as the National Law School cannot indefinitely survive in an ocean of poor quality and indifference. The current state of ill health of legal education is not a result of indifference to legal education reform-as a matter of fact, as is well known, there has been a nearly half century of sustained and dedicated effort to improve the general quality of legal education of India. But this effort has largely failed. In developing our strategic vision, we carefully studied the history and experience of legal education reform in India (see Annexure I) and analyzed the reasons for its successes and failures. We concluded that one reason - not always recognized -is of special importance in determining the success and failure of legal education reform.

It is our contention that failures of legal education are inextricably tied to systemic failures of the legal system. There is, admittedly, a "chicken and egg" issue here - some would argue that poor legal education is the underlying cause for the failures of the legal system; others would contend that legal education is unable to improve because of the manner in which the legal profession is structured. In either case, it is clear that the two - legal education and the larger legal system - are closely interdependent. It is clear from global experience that legal education cannot flourish while the legal system languishes. So long as the legal system is as inefficient as it is; and so long as opportunities in the legal profession are too often determined, in large measure, by who you know rather that what you know, your professional skills and capacity, we will be unable to attract the best talent to law schools and adequately inspire students across the country to work hard and learn seriously. A high quality, merit-based legal profession and a high quality, efficient and well functioning legal system are the best guarantors of quality in legal education.

For this reason, our strategy makes a path-breaking link between legal education and legal reform. It recognizes that reforms of legal education and of the legal system itself are inextricably intertwined. The strategy therefore moves beyond education as an end in itself. It sets a higher policy goal - catalysis of legal and judicial reform. This can be achieved by a University only through the power of its ideas - disseminated through its graduates as well as through policy analysis and publications.

Second, the work on strategy development was based on a close evaluation of three developments that have gained crucial importance after the 1987 establishment of the Law School - the acceleration of globalization following the end of the cold war in 1989; the economic reform and liberalization program initiated in India in 1991; and the emergence of a "new" technology and knowledge driven economy (see Annexure 2). It was recognized that legal education should seek to equip students with knowledge and skills necessary to be effective in the rapidly changing global and national scenarios. It is also our responsibility to civil society and Government to provide them with necessary legal policy analysis and research and to generate new legal ideas useful for India to address issues of social and economic justice, economic growth, national unity and integrity and international leadership.

The New Vision

The central theme of the New Vision is thus "legal education for legal reform in the context of globalization".

Four elements of the New Vision merit emphasise. First, the New Vision mainstreams the concept of socially engaged legal education, involving direct engagement with social challenges and legal reform as the overarching goal of legal education and research. Second, legal education and research - as well as direct engagement with social challenges - are placed within a normative framework - our core Constitutional values. Third, the New Vision adopts legal reform as the central mission for legal education. Fourth, the New Vision has selected the legal dimensions of globalisation as a focal theme for priority attention.

The New Vision mission statement focuses on two themes - developing the Law School into a centre of global excellence in legal education; and legal reform to improve the functioning of the legal system for common people. To this end, a number of specific proposals have been developed. These are discussed below.

I. The Academic Vision

(1) Strengthening and Enhancing the BA/LL.B. Curriculum :

Strengthening the Core Curriculum; Expanding Electives : The curriculum should be revised to respond to the demand for new skills and the new challenges facing law and legal education in the emerging global scenario. The emphasis on legal reform implies that the Law School needs to produce agents of change whose ideas and work will bring about fundamental change in the legal system. This requires strengthening the "core" curriculum to ensure a strong all round education for our students. It also calls for deepening and broadening the variety of knowledge and skills taught at the Law School through an expanded range of electives.

The requirement for electives will be met through satisfying stipulated credit requirements in place of the current requirement that students take eight elective seminars. Flexibility will be introduced in the duration in which electives are taught, based on the number of credits (e.g., a one credit seminar on a specialized subject could be taught in 15 hours spread over one week). As a result, there will be a significant expansion of our capacity to offer elective courses/seminars. Our students will be able to receive as diverse and specialized an education as that offered by the best global law schools.

Taking advantage of the intensive, trimester system followed by the National Law School, the curriculum is being rationalized so that students will complete most of their mandatory law and non-law subjects in their first three years. The last two years will largely consist of subjects involving elective choices so that students may have an opportunity to specialize in their areas of preference. All this will be done within-and consistent with-the mandatory syllabus set by the Bar Council of India.

Introducing New Inter-Disciplinary Law and Policy Courses : Four new mandatory "foundation" courses are being introduced as innovative, multi-disciplinary offerings to expose students to latest policy challenges facing law: (i) the legal dimensions of globalization; (ii) law and society; (iii) law, science and technology; and (iv) law, economy, commerce and management. A separate non-credit, trimester long seminar will be introduced for incoming students on "orientation to law, legal education and the mission of the National Law School". In addition, a number of policy oriented and inter-disciplinary elective courses will be introduced giving students the opportunity to learn about current issues and challenges at the global and national levels.

Teaching Law Students New Skills (including leadership and communications): For the first time in India, courses on "strategic communication" and leadership are being introduced for law students. This recognizes the importance of communication and leadership skills for lawyers in the emerging scenario.

Maintaining Quality and Flexibility through an ongoing Curriculum Committee: The course content of each proposed new course/seminar will be reviewed and monitored by a proposed "committee for the development of the curriculum" which will include senior legal experts as well as experts from others fields - national and international. To provide needed flexibility, the Executive and Academic Councils have delegated authority to the Director, with the prior approval and recommendation of the Committee and the Faculty, to make necessary changes to the curriculum as needed from time to time to achieve the goals set out in the New Vision document.

Introducing Specialized Career Streams: The need to train future lawyers could be better served by providing students the opportunity to specialize in thematic career streams of their choice. Students may take subjects in one stream, or mix and match streams. Each stream will also include relevant practice training components. The streams, which would correspond to the proposed new academic clusters and crosscutting themes, would be Law and society (covering public law issues including human rights); law, science & technology (covering science and technology, IPR, and health law and ethics); law, economy, commerce and management; (including corporate, business and financial law, management and public administration); and environment and natural resources.

The revised curriculum will be applicable to the incoming first year batch (2001-2002). All current students will continue under the existing curriculum. This will ensure a gradual and smooth transition to the new curriculum.

(2) Introducing New Degree Programs :

The current National Law School program provides for a five-year "BA/LL.B." program, integrating law with liberal arts subjects. The National Law School will, in a phased manner, over a period of time, introduce new programs corresponding to the four clusters proposed under the New Vision, along the following lines :

  • A "Bachelor of Social Work/Bachelor of Laws" (BSW/LL.B.) Program that will emphasize the practice of law in fields in which social movements (civil society/NGO) are active (to be led by the Law and Society Cluster);

  • A "Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Laws" (B.Sc/LL.B.) program that will emphasize science and technology education as the inter-disciplinary context for legal education. This program will be led by the Law, Science and Technology Cluster;

  • A "Bachelor of Environmental Sciences/Bachelor of Laws" (BSc (Environment)/LL.B.) degree that will emphasize environmental and natural resources issues along with law (to be led by CEERA); and

  • A "Bachelor of Management/Bachelor of Laws" (BBM/LL.B.) degree that will train future lawyers in management-related issues (to be led by the Law, Economics, Commerce and Management Cluster).

The above proposal will involve gradually increasing Law School intake from the current 80 to at least about 200, with some 50 students enrolled in each program. This expansion will need to be implemented carefully, over a period of time, commensurate with our ability to develop infrastructure and faculty/academic resources.

(3) Strengthening the Postgraduate program: Introducing a
      New International SJM program:

The postgraduate program (LL.M., M. Phil, Ph.D., SJD and LL.D.) has a central role in the new vision. It will be a key engine for legal research and for training new law teachers oriented towards research and legal reform. The inter-disciplinary Ph.D. program is currently limited to social science subjects. This has now been expanded to cover all disciplines, including science, to foster broader inter-disciplinary research.

The Law School will establish a new nine-month masters program called "MASTER OF JURIDICAL SCIENCE" (SJM) (LAW AND DEVELOPMENT), targeted mainly to foreign students. Efforts will be made to implement this program jointly with a leading foreign university as a strategic partner. The program will be administered by the proposed "International Centre for Law and Development" (see below).

(4) Establishing a New Masters' Degree Program in Law Teaching
      (Master of Legal Education) :

The shortage of law teachers is one of the most serious challenges faced by legal academic institutions in India. Yet, there is no degree program for training law teachers. The National Law School will move quickly to fill this gap by introducing in the next year a Masters' Program in Legal Education. This program will provide students an intensive program in law teaching, covering pedagogy (including latest multi-media techniques), communications as well as knowledge and skills in leading edge areas of law. It is proposed that this program be developed and delivered through a National Academy for Legal Education to be established by NLSIU subject to necessary approvals. An expert committee is being set up to guide the development of this program.

(5) Establishing a new agenda for research, policy analysis and knowledge
      generation through original research and publications :

A Research and P-G Education Cluster (with faculty, research staff, students and external experts) will be established, headed by a Coordinator for Research (see below, Organizational Structure). The Cluster will develop a pro-active annual strategy and action plan for research and publications, and monitor its implementation. The focus of research and policy analysis and advice will be promoting legal and judicial reform necessary to foster a well functioning legal system in our country.

(6) Strengthening Legal Reform/Policy Advisory Roles :

To operationalize our commitment to "make a difference" to improve the effectiveness of the legal system, special emphasis will be given to the policy advisory role of teachers and researchers. Leadership for policy advice will be provided by the academic clusters and crosscutting themes (see below).

(7) Strengthening and Expanding Distance Education :

The current scope of distance education will be significantly expanded. Delivery of distance education through the Internet will be taken up. A proposed "distance education, partnerships and external relations" cluster will take overall responsibility for coordination of development and delivery of distance education programs. This cluster will also coordinate and oversee the Law School's external relations and partnerships with other law schools, the legal profession, civil society, donors and other constituencies important to the Law School.

(8) Enhancing Teaching Methods, Standards and Accountability :

Mainstreaming "Experiential Learning" as a new Teaching Methods: To facilitate the goal of "direct engagement" with social challenges, the National Law School will synthesize and mainstream the 'experiential learning' methods that have evolved in the Law School over the last few years. The experiential learning method requires, in essence, that learning be based on "direct experience and critical inquiry". Learning should involve the active participation of students and their direct experience of the problems under discussion. Teaching should not be seen as the passive transmission of information from teacher to the taught - rather, the teacher should be seen as a constructive facilitator of a process of learning through active and direct student experience.

Course Evaluation by Students: Mandatory, centralized course evaluation has been introduced in the second trimester of the last (2000-2001) academic year. Detailed evaluation forms, prepared centrally, are distributed to each student with respect to each instructor. Completed forms are delivered to the Director's office. Feedback is converted to electronic form and then shared on a confidential basis with the concerned instructor.

Bell Curve: To maintain consistency of grading standards (especially as elective seminars increase in number), grading has now begun to be monitored against a "bell curve" -- based on stipulated guidelines for normal distribution of grades. The National Law School will also establish a system of international benchmarking - by leading scholars - of the quality of course goals/content/teaching plan/evaluation plan. The system of criteria-based evaluation will be fully implemented.

(9) Academic and Career Support to Students :

The National Law School academic model is based upon continuing and close interaction between teachers and students. Academic support programs will be strengthened, particularly for students with special needs for assistance.

(10) Financial Assistance/Low Income Protection Program

Student loans from commercial banks will be facilitated where students are unable to afford fees. In addition, where students take up jobs with low incomes (such as with NGOs pr the government; or enter litigation), the University will work with commercial banks and donors to offer them "bridge" financial assistance so that the low income will not deter them from socially useful employment.

II. Establishing a New Organizational Architecture and Strengthening Management Systems

(1) Establishing Clusters

A new organizational structure will be established responsive to the strategic vision that we propose. We are organizing the University into six organizational groupings. These groupings -- which may be called "faculties" or "schools" in conventional Universities -- are being termed "clusters" in order to emphasize their non-bureaucratic and porous nature. The clusters, headed by a "Cluster Coordinator" in each case, will also help coordinate the activities of some 23 research centres and programs that are now functioning in the Law School. The clusters are as follows:

Thematic Clusters :
  • Law and Society;
  • Law, Science & Technology; and
  • Law, Economics, Commerce and Management

Program-Based Clusters :
  • Undergraduate and Professional Studies
  • Research and Postgraduate Studies
  • Distance Education, Partnerships and External Relations

The clusters will be made up of research centres in their respective areas and these centres will be responsible to manage the cluster, coordinated by a Cluster Coordinator. The clusters are not intended to be bureaucratic layers, or administrative bodies - they are meant only to provide strategic coordination of the research and policy analysis work of the centres and to integrate research/policy analysis outputs into undergraduate and postgraduate teaching.

(2) Establishing Crosscutting Themes

In addition to the clusters, six priority cross-cutting themes will function independently under the supervision of the University authorities; Environmental Law/CEERA; Globalization; Systemic Legal and Judicial Reform; Combating Corruption; Indian Jurisprudence; and International and Comparative Law.

(3) Establishing two new Schools as Organizational Focal points for
      Research and International Work : the School of Advanced Legal Studies
      and International Centre for Law and Development

School of Advanced Legal Studies: The three academic clusters and crosscutting themes will constitute a "virtual" "Indian School of Advanced Legal Studies (ISALS)". They will share their experience internationally through the proposed International Centre for Law and Development.

The ISALS will be the central focal point for sharing knowledge generated through postgraduate teaching and research. To avoid duplication and overlap, it will operate under the leadership of the Research and Post-Graduate Studies Cluster. ISALS's only activities will be to organize conferences, seminars, workshops and publications on crosscutting issues and themes.

International Centre for Law and Development: The proposed International Centre for Law and Development will seek to share the results of the research carried out in the National Law School, of relevance from a development perspective, with the international community, with special emphasis on SAARC. It will also establish partnerships between the National Law School and the international development community. The ICLD will also develop training programs on law and development targeted to lawyers from developing countries and industrial countries. It will also organize conferences, seminars and publications on international themes.

(4) Creating New Administration Functions

A post of Chief Financial and Administrative Officer is proposed to be created, reporting to the Registrar, to coordinate day-to-day administration of the University, with responsibility to oversee all administration, finance and accounting matters. A "chief warden" position has also been established, reporting to the Registrar. The chief warden will be the head of hostel administration for men and women (UG and PG) and will be assisted by wardens and assistant wardens.

(5) Creating a Management Team

The Director, the six cluster heads and the Registrar will together form an eight-person management team (MT) of the University. Under the supervision of the Director, the MT will coordinate implementation of the policies and programs of the University. The MT will meet on a weekly basis. Generally, major issues will be considered by the MT before being placed before the concerned authorities. The management philosophy will be to develop a strong, rule-based institutional structure for governance that will decentralize and devolve administrative responsibilities wherever possible.

(6) Enhancing Transparency of the Regulatory Framework: Publishing an
      Administrative Manual :

An administrative manual is being prepared which will set out all the rules governing the University in a single publication (drawn from the Act, the Regulations as well as EC decisions). This will enable greater transparency in administration and also ensure that administration is carried out in accordance with applicable rules.

(7) Improving logistical support :

Logistical support available to faculty will be strengthened through the establishment of a "Documentation and Academic Logistics" Centre. This centre will also function as a distribution centre for course material.

III. Strengthening Campus Infrastructure

(1) Towards a Green Campus :

We will develop a detailed strategy for developing our campus into a green campus, so as to reduce consumption of power and water, minimize and manage waste and enhance recycling.

(2) Towards an E-Law School :

Our vision of a "global law school" requires that students and faculty be connected to the global legal community through the Internet. We are also in the process of operationalizing a video-conferencing facility. This should allow us to initiate classes jointly with schools in other parts of India and in other parts of the world -actualizing the concept of a "global class room".

Being an E-Law School will also mean expanding the use of technology for sharing our knowledge and experience with communities outside the campus. Our Distance Education programs will be expanded significantly and delivered through the Internet. We have initiated discussions with "education portal" companies for this purpose. We will also expand the use of electronic technology in the academic program, including for accessing and sharing academic information. We will also use technology for administrative purposes.

(3) Building the New Law Library :

With support from Infosys and UGC we are ready to construct a new law library. Bangalore University has kindly agreed to provide additional land to the Law School to facilitate this. We have to complete the new library buildings before the end of the 2001-2002 academic year. The new library will facilitate electronic research. It will combine the most modern features of IT with an architecture that will be open and welcoming to all our people.

(4) Hostels : Quality of Life; Administration :

The hostel facilities are in urgent need of physical rehabilitation and upgradation. We will also need new hostel space to accommodate expansion plans. We will develop a proposal for this purpose and seek resources for it. We will also develop a new hostel administrative structure that responds to the more complex challenges of hostel administration that we face today. To this end, we created a position of "Chief Warden". The designated Chief Warden will develop, for faculty consideration, a more detailed administrative structure for hostel administration.

(5) Classrooms :

Our classrooms need urgent quality improvement in two respects - acoustics and the quality of seats. The classrooms need to be made technologically compatible so that video and audio equipment as well as computers may be used for presentations.

(6) Sports Facilities :

At this point, the National Law School has modest facilities - a multi-purpose soccer field, one tennis court, a volleyball court and one basketball court. A gym has been added in March 2001. We will seek to expand these facilities as well as upgrade existing facilities.

(7) Health facilities :

We have taken several steps to improve the medical facilities. A new health centre was built as a part of the new international training centre. This is now operational. We are also building a system of referrals and establishing an arrangement with an ambulance service for emergency help. We will be upgrading these facilities by providing in-patient beds at the health centre as well as establishing a sick room in each hostel. We have appointed a full time resident nurse to supplement the services of the doctor who visits the School for one hour on a daily basis. A counselor has also been appointed and is visiting the University regularly.

(8) Family support and community life on Campus :

In addition to the students, several faculty and administrative staff live on campus. These families are a central part of our community. We propose to enhance the quality of life for them and also facilitate their mutual interaction. We have decided to establish a playground for children. A committee led by children on campus has been established for this purpose.

We have also begun to use the kitchen and dining facility of the training centre as an eating place for the community, when it is not in use for training programs. We are also arranging for daily charter bus service to and from the city for the campus residents. Finally, we plan to establish a crèche for the benefit of working parents - those resident on campus and others.

The work program at the Law School is very intense and quite relentless. This culture of hard work is one of the unique features of the School. We recognize the need to balance this with extra curricular and spiritual activities. We propose to arrange for occasional movie shows for the community. We will arrange for yoga and similar programs to be offered on campus. We will also establish a "spiritual space" (secular and non-denominational) to facilitate prayer, meditation and reflection.

Two types of additional facilities are urgently needed on campus. We need a post office. We also need a full time bank branch on campus, with an ATM facility.

IV. Building a Team for the Future : Human Resource Issues

(1) Improving Remuneration of Law Teachers

One of the biggest challenges faced by law schools in India is attracting and maintaining the best legal talent. Law teaching is neither remunerative nor, as a general matter perceived as intellectually exciting. If the best talent is to be recruited to law schools, there will have to be a significant increase in the remuneration of law teachers, carefully linked to output and quality. Equally, law teaching must be made an intellectually challenging field. The proposed new focus on law reform will provide a sound basis for this. A new organizational culture will also be needed, that will encourage leadership opportunity for younger faculty and more clearly tie reward to performance.

(2) Strengthening Faculty Resources to Teach Core/Basic Areas

A key priority is to further strengthen faculty resources in core/basic areas such as criminal law, family law, property, trusts and land law. Steps must be taken to maintain the strength of the National Law School in public law teaching. Additional resources will be developed in commercial /business law areas as well.

(3) Attracting the best LL.B. graduates to Law Teaching: Establishing the
      Gandhi Fellowships

A scheme will be introduced to attract the best LL.B. graduates to teaching straight after they complete the LL.B. program. The proposal is that 5 LL.B. graduates from across the country will be selected each year through a highly rigorous national selection, as Gandhi Fellows. The selected fellows will be recruited into the National Law School faculty as "assistant lecturers" and simultaneously admitted to the LL.M. program of the National Law School. Upon successful completion of the LL.M. program and NLSIU and the NET requirements, they will be promoted as "lecturers in law" at the National Law School or recruited to another Law School in India. They will also be supported, to the extent possible, to obtain international exposure and training.

Formal teacher training - research and pedagogical methods - will be carried out on a routine basis to share experiences and discuss about the challenges of teaching law. A "teacher code of conduct" will be developed which will set down clear ethical and professional guidelines for teachers.

(4) Work-Family Balance :

A workload norm for teachers is being established (subject to availability of resources) of 2 full courses per year plus at least one seminar (preferably two seminars), (or an equivalent workload involving research or administration). To the extent possible, one trimester will be made available without any teaching responsibility against a commitment to produce a specific research/publication output. These norms will be implemented once the faculty is at full strength.

(5) Professional Growth; Rewards/Recognition :

There is an urgent need to establish formal systems to align reward to output/performance, and to align work to institutional/strategic goals. To this end, we have decided to establish an annual performance evaluation system for faculty and administrative staff. Performance evaluation would be based on annual work programs to be established for each faculty/staff member, with specific deliverables including publications. Annual performance reviews will be carried out against annual work programs. A system of merit increases will be established to reward outstanding performance. Criteria will be established and provided to the students for each aspect. Promotions will be based on performance within this framework - not merely on the basis of seniority derived from length of tenure or date of appointment. To the extent possible, promotions will be based on open competition coordinated by "search committees" so that the best talent may be made available for each position.

(6) Formalize the framework for undertaking external work :

External work offers faculty members important opportunities for professional growth and can provide valuable inputs for teaching and research. Given the full time nature of employment of faculty, all such work must be complementary to the mission of the University and without prejudice to the concerned faculty member's responsibilities in the University. The external work should comprise a minor portion of the time of a full time faculty member and should be without prejudice to his/her responsibilities in the University. Additional work done for the University should remunerated to faculty and staff by the University at a standard rate, regardless of the donor. The Faculty is developing new guidelines in this regard. These will be presented to the Executive Council after Faculty endorsement.

(7) Implement a Diversity Program :

The diversity of the faculty, administrative staff and student body should be reflective of the country - in regional, religious, caste, disability and other respects. The number of women on the faculty is currently very inadequate. There is need for a proactive effort to increase the number of women on the faculty. However, the Law School community is not in favour of extending any reservation scheme beyond the current provisions for SC/ST students.

(8) Disciplinary Action :

A permanent disciplinary matters advisory, review and investigation committee (DARIC) had been established. DARIC has developed procedures under which disciplinary proceedings will be carried out. These procedures will be submitted to the EC for approval.

(9) Grievance Mechanism :

There is need to establish a grievance procedure to respond to personnel issues. The mechanism will be advisory in nature and will assist the MT and the Director in reaching a final decision. The Faculty will develop and submit a detailed proposal to the EC on this in due course.

V. Partnerships and External Relations

The National Law School has always seen itself as a member of a larger community, committed to sharing knowledge and experience with other members of the legal and social justice communities.

(1) Exchange Programs

We will establish formal exchange programs - including the possibilities of dual degrees - with leading international law schools. We will establish partnerships with non-law institutions that have a key role to play in areas of emphasis under the new vision such as globalisation. We will also seek to help build networks of interested stakeholders around key themes of importance to us (such as child labour; and human rights where, for example, NIHR could take up a focal theme to bring together NGO's). We will also seek to establish new relationships with grass roots movements/groups.

(2) Faculty Placement

To facilitate the mainstreaming of experiential learning and "direct engagement" with social challenges, we will also initiate a program of placement for faculty.

(3) Role of Alumni :

The alumni have provided useful input into the New Vision process. Their commitment to the School and desire to contribute are valuable resources for the School. We will seek the greater involvement of alumni in our work - strategic planning as well as regarding our academic work. The alumni could help us also in raising resources. Some Alumni have asked for formal representation in the EC/AC/GC. The Faculty would welcome such a move and would recommend it to the EC/AC. However, it would be first necessary for the alumni to establish a clear mechanism for their representation, acceptable to the entire body of alumni.

(4) Annual Legal and Judicial Reform Lecture

We plan to establish annual lectures on issues such as legal and judicial reform and the legal dimensions of globalization as high profile events that would communicate our priority concerns. We will also establish a monthly newsletter, and take a more pro-active policy towards the media.

(5) Establishing a Collegium of Indian Law Universities

To facilitate the broader development of legal education in this country, we will explore the possibility of organizing a "legal education fair". We are also initiating the formation of a Collegium of Indian Law Universities (CILU).

(6) Strategic Relationship with a local law college :

We are also entering into an informal strategic relationship with a Bangalore-based Law College with a view to assisting it to strengthen its capacities. We will mainstream and spread this initiative to other law colleges, learning from this experience.

(7) Legal Aid

We will develop an action plan to strengthen and enhance legal assistance to the poor through legal aid. We are also exploring the possibility of launching a pilot program involving rural youth to facilitate more effective use of the legal system by the rural poor.

(8) Adopting Karnataka as a Focal State for Special Assistance

The Law School enjoys close partnership with Karnataka. Adopting it as a focal state for special assistance, the Law School is exploring the possibility of developing a comprehensive legal and judicial reform strategy for Karnataka for consideration by the Government.

(9) Distance Education

We will make distance education a central part of our work. We will identify key constituencies to whom we can deliver education and training. We will strengthen the infrastructure and administrative capabilities of the School to deal with distance education and training on a larger scale.

(10) International Partnerships

The establishment of the International Centre for Law and Development (see above) will provide us a window to build new relationships with lawyers and law teachers in developing countries.

VI. Costs and Resource Needs

Implementing the new vision plan will require incremental resources. A detailed business and financial plan for implementing the new vision is being developed in the next few weeks. A preliminary estimate is that a minimum of Rs. 21 crores will be required over the next 3-5 years to implement the new vision. This does not include the resources required for introducing new degree programs for which an additional Rs. 10 crores would be required. A summary of the resources required over the next five years or so to achieve the goals of the new vision is as follows (details are available separately).

Academic resources (amounts required to establish one-time endowments)

Core Legal Knowledge :

5 New Chairs (Indian Jurisprudence, one chair covering property/land law/trusts, Criminal Law, Family Law, International Law) (Rs 2.5 crores endowment)

Non-Law Subjects:

3 New Chairs: Law and Politics, Law and Sociology, Law and History (Rs. 1.5 crores)

Clusters :

One chair professor to head each cluster (6) (Rs. 3 crores)

One chair professor on Environmental Law (Rs. 50 lakhs)

Junior Faculty :

7 new teachers at associate professor level : Rs 2.5 crores for 4 clusters

8 new teachers at lecturer/assistant professor level: Rs. 1 crore

10 assistant lecturers : Rs. 1 crore

Programs/guest faculty:

Short seminars : Rs. 1 crore

Adjunct professors : Rs. 1 crore

Total : Rs. 14 crores

Administrative Resources :

Three new positions : Rs. 1 crore (endowment)


Upgrading hostels : Rs. 1 crore

Computer Connectivity : Rs. 1 crore

Sports facilities : Rs. 1 crore

Class rooms upgrading: Rs. 1 crore

Library :

Books/electronic resources : Rs. 1 crore

Clinical Programs/Legal Aid : Rs. 1 crore

Grand Total : Rs. 21 crores

The Law School will seek to finance as much of the resource needs as possible through tuition/fees (keeping in mind affordability/access considerations) and debt. Corpus funds will also be sought from the private sector and the government in a manner that does not compromise the independence of the Law School.

Annexure 1

Indian Legal Education Reform : A Background Note1

The serious challenges faced by some 400-500 law colleges/law departments in the country was summarized as follows in 1998 by Justice A.S. Anand, Chief Justice of India and Visitor, NLSIU :

There are about 500 law colleges/schools in the country. Some of these law schools are housed in small dingy buildings without any library worth the name and a teaching staff hardly qualified to teach law. To the existing number of lawyers who are about 10 lakhs, we are, it is stated adding roughly 2 lakhs every year ...It is therefore not surprising that both judges and responsible members of the Bar became increasingly concerned about, the falling standards in the quality of legal education and lamented about the lack of attention being paid to this stream in professional courses. This discontent has become more articulate in recent times.2

The symptoms afflicting legal education in our country are clear and well recognized. They include, in particular, poverty of academic resources, dearth of professional excellence and a drought of meaningful research. Our law teachers -- in whose hands rest the awesome responsibility of moulding and teaching every future lawyer and every future judge in our country -- today stand largely marginalized, demoralized, unrecognized and unrewarded. If this situation is not urgently rectified, it should not be surprising if the future leadership of the bench and the bar in our country is not adequately equipped to provide our country the type of legal and judicial system required for India to meet domestic and international challenges of the emerging global order.

What are the reasons for this situation? Is the problem one of lack of financial resources and poor physical and academic infrastructure? Or is it the problem that law teaching is simply incapable of attracting brilliant young minds to the teaching profession because, in large part, of the substantial -- and unbridgeable -- financial gap between leaders of the Bar and the legal profession which ensures that the best young minds are attracted -- like bees to honey -- to the bar? While these factors are all, undeniably, of crucial importance in understanding the poor state of legal education in India today, the main challenge facing Indian legal education today is the absence of an inspiring mission.

The current crisis facing the Indian legal system needs to be placed against the history of legal education reform. This is briefly summarized below.

The Reform of Indian Legal Education: A Brief Historical Overview

Law and legal education have been an important part of the Indian tradition. "The concept of legal education in India goes back to the Vedic age when it was essentially based on the concept of Dharma ... Training was self-acquired in matters connected with Dharma. Kings either used to dispense justice themselves or appoint judges and assessors to administer justice, not necessarily trained in law but who were known for their righteousness and justness and had the reputation of being fair and impartial."3

Formal legal education began with the advent of colonial rule. In 1857, Universities in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay introduced legal education as a subject for teaching for the first time. At that initial stage, there were hardly any standards for legal education.4 Students studied law as one of the subjects of instruction, along with others, rather than as a separate field of study.

The First Phase of Reform of Indian Legal Education: Introducing Professionalism and Indian Legal Content5

Up to independence, there were very few institutions that taught law in India. Until the 1940s, Indian "legal education remained functionally aimless, non-academic in content, poor as training in professional skills [and] socially indifferent".6 M.C. Setalvad, one of India's foremost lawyers described the situation at the turn of the 20th century as follows.

Taking the LL.B degree in those days [1904-1906] meant two years' study after graduation with an attendance at the Law College classes in the Elphinstone College building in the evenings. The professors were all part-time, drafted from the original and appellate side of the bar in Bombay. Naturally, excepting a few like Dinshaw Mulla or Ganpat Sadashiva Rao, their lectures were thinly attended. It was not unusual for students to distribute attendance at the college between themselves, one or two of them undertaking to mark or answer for several of them. I remember having in that manner reduced my attendance at the college to a minimum and answered for several friends during the lecture hour.7

At the dawn of independence, the Radhakrishnan Commission lamented, "our colleges of law do not hold a place of high esteem either at home or abroad, nor has the law become an area of profound scholarship and enlightened research...''8

The first phase of reform of Indian legal education began in the 1950s. In this phase, which lasted until about the mid 1960s, the emphasis was to introduce the concept of professionalism into law teaching and introduce Indian content of national relevance. Some full-time teachers were introduced, as was regular teaching. The process of Indianizing content began, for example by replacing Roman law with Indian constitutional law and principles of legislation.

However, the scale and quality of law teaching remained dismal after a decade of independence. In 1958, there were just 43 institutions preparing 20,159 students for the law examination.9 The 1958 Report of the Law Commission presided over by Shri M.C. Setalvad (14th Report, Reform of Judicial Administration) said,

In the period of ten years which has elapsed since the publication of the Radhakrishnan Commission, the position in regard to legal education in this country has, definitely, deteriorated... the portals of our law-teaching institutions -- manned by part-time teachers -- open even wider and are accessible to any graduate of mediocre ability and indifferent merits. It is not surprising that in this chaotic state of affairs in a number of institutions there is hardly pretence at teaching. This character is followed by law examinations held by the Universities many of which are mere tests of memory and poor ones at that, which the students manage to pass by cramming short summaries published by enterprising publishers. The result [is] a plethora of half-baked lawyers, who do not know even the elements of law and who are let loose upon society as drones and parasites in different parts of the country.10

The Second Phase of Reforms: Standard-Setting

The second phase, which lasted from the 1960s to the mid-70s, focused on curriculum development and upgrading the quality of teachers and teaching. The second phase began with the adoption of the Advocates Act, 1961 in response to the findings of the 14th Report of the Law Commission. Under the Act, the Bar Council of India was entrusted with the responsibility to "promote legal education and to lay down standards of such education in consultation with the Universities in India imparting such education and the Bar Councils of the States." The Bar Council was provided authority to make rules with respect to standards of legal education. A Legal Education Committee of the Bar Council was established to assist in the discharge of these functions. The University Grants' Commission, established a short while earlier in 1956, was also entrusted responsibility for improving standards in Indian Universities. These developments resulted in a sustained effort in this second phase of reforms to improve standards of legal education in India.

This phase was strongly influenced by the US experience. At a global level, it coincided in its latter period in which the law and society movement - and more socially and politically interventionist development agendas - were rising in the US. Prominent US legal academics were very active in India. Indian law teachers from across the country came together in a series of workshops and seminars which produced a rich harvest of intellectual debate on legal education - including a 1964 Kasauli seminar on legal education and a 1972 Pune seminar.

The Third Phase of Legal Reforms: Socially Relevant Legal Education

The third phase of reforms, from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s (ending with the establishment of the National Law School) was heavily influenced by the welfare state/socialist agendas that were politically dominant at that time. This phase - whose dominant theme was "social relevance" -- reflected increasing concern about the mounting problems of poverty, inequality and political conflict in the country. The third phase commenced with a series of four workshops on the Modernization of Legal Education organized under the auspices of the UGC between December 1975 and December 1976 (during the period when India was under a state of Emergency). The proceedings were published in 1979 in a report entitled Towards a Socially Relevant Legal Education. In 1981, The UGC issued a further report on The Status of Teaching and Research in the Discipline of Law.11 A 1978 workshop was also held in Dharwar. The idea of establishing the National Law School -- dedicated to promoting the use of law and legal processes as efficient instruments of social development -- was born in this phase. With the establishment of the National Law School, three important innovations were added to legal education -- (i) providing academic autonomy by making the Law School a stand alone University; (ii) entrance through a strictly merit-based admission system based on a written test; and (iii) an integrated, professional five year law program. In addition, innovative teaching methods were introduced along with a curriculum that reflected current policy challenges.

The National Law School's success in the area of undergraduate legal education is well accepted and well deserved. While there are many individual parts of the Law School's undergraduate program that may fall short of the highest standards that we aspire to, there is little doubt that, cumulatively, over five years, the National Law School's undergraduate program succeeds in transforming students and arming them with a breadth of skills and experience available to few others. This may be attributed to the School's academic rigour and discipline, combined with a demanding work schedule (including 4 research projects per student per trimester), committed teachers and a plethora of opportunities for leadership development. Equally important has been the strong commitment to implement the concept of "socially relevant" legal education through a number of specialized chairs and research centres. Although the number of optional courses is quite limited (about eight out of 60 courses), the Law School has developed a number of innovative policy oriented courses in which teaching has focused on current issues.

The curriculum and teaching methods of the National Law School and the other Law Universities set up emulating it, do not, however, break radically from the curricula that have been followed since the second phase of reforms. Nor have teaching methods radically evolved after the introduction of the case study method in India in the 1970s -- almost a century after its introduction at the Harvard Law School in the United States. Indeed, the curriculum of law colleges and law schools in India do not differ fundamentally from the curricula of law schools in Anglo-Saxon countries about fifty years ago. Meanwhile, of course, the curricula of law schools -- particularly in the United States -- have undergone radical change.

The National Law School has developed a new role for Indian legal education in the realm of policy reform. Since the early days, the policy role has grown exponentially and the National Law School today has over 20 research centers that are focused on policy work in such areas as gender, child labour, law, ethics and medicine, intellectual property rights, environmental law, international trade law (including WTO), law and economics, law and media, refugee law, arbitration, alternate dispute resolution and clinical legal education.

Legal research in India is severely hampered by a number of constraints including lack of appropriate tools and methods to undertake empirical research and an ambivalent relationship with local legal traditions.

Since the establishment of the National Law School in 1986-87, two paradigms shifts have been initiated affecting legal education. First is the emergence of globalization after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Second, the initiation of India's economic reform program in 1991. The National Law School's main challenge, building on its unique past successes, is to develop and implement a clear vision for itself and for legal education in general.

The Situation Today : The Need for a Fourth Phase of Reforms

The three phases of reforms contributed ideas that are still of crucial importance to legal education in India -- 'professionalization' (first phase), 'setting and maintaining high academic standards' (second phase) and 'social relevance' (third phase) respectively. The introduction of the professional five-year program and admission tests have also been significant improvements. Regrettably, however, it cannot be said that the three phases of reform have borne fruit to the extent hoped or needed.

The key question that we need to consider today is: what is a way forward to build legal education into a sphere of excellence ?

It is clear that a new and radically different approach is needed. The previous phases of legal reform were largely inward looking, focusing on the academic content of law teaching and the organizational aspects of law teaching institutions. They did not question the functioning of the legal system itself. Further, they accepted the basic paradigm of the role of law in India as developed by colonial interests -- law as an instrument of social change, through which traditional social and political structures would be broken down and reconstructed along the lines of the Anglo-Saxon social and political systems. Indeed, "social engineering" was the preferred role for law graduates in the third phase of reforms.

Can legal education reform succeed in isolation from issues related to the functioning of the legal system itself? Can legal education reform succeed if the legal system continues to be dysfunctional? Can legal education reform be undertaken isolated from legal and judicial reform? If the basic paradigm of the role of law in India, described above, is flawed, can legal education ever succeed in India? To what extent are law and legal education integrally tied -- in sickness and in health?

Legal education is today an integral part of the legal and judicial system. Every lawyer and judge is trained through it. While he or she acquires experience at the bar or the bench, the basic knowledge, skills and methods they apply to their professional work is derived from their legal education. So long as the purpose of legal education is seen as vocational training of lawyers and judges -- as is now considered to be the case with respect to many law colleges in India -- legal education will need to be closely aligned to the working of the legal system and the skills and knowledge needed for that purpose. The next -- fourth -- phase of legal education reform should take a new and bold vision. It should develop a strategy that is anchored in the broader issue of reform of the legal and judicial system, and integrated with it. The next phase should also be prepared to question the fundamental paradigm of the role of law in India referred to earlier, and to develop a new vision for the role of law in which legal education would have a distinct role.

Annexure 2

The Impact of Globalization and Liberalization on Law, Legal Institutions and the Legal Profession: Some Preliminary Observations12

To a large extent, the concepts that underlie today's Anglo-Saxon legal systems are products of industrial technology. Many of these basic concepts also under gird our own legal system. The decline of the industrial economy and the rise of a "new" economy based on electronic technology cannot but be expected to have a significant impact on law. While there is little consensus about the precise meaning of the term "globalization", there is little doubt that globalization is having an important impact on the roles of law, legal institutions and the legal profession.

The processes associated with globalization raise new dangers for the underprivileged and marginalized sections of our society. They also bring new opportunities for growth and prosperity. A January 9, 2001 workshop organized by NLSIU in connection with the New Vision exercise highlighted a number of important trends of significance from a legal point of view. Some of these are summarized below.

The changing role of the state: As a result of globalization and liberalization, the role of the state is changing from a direct player in the economy to that of policy maker and regulator. Much of Indian litigation today is a direct result of the interventionist role of the state (the state is a litigant (either as complainant/appellant or respondent) in the majority of cases considered by courts. The changing role of the state will have an important impact on the type and extent of litigation. There is need to develop new legal norms to respond to the new role of the private sector and enhance their accountability, especially where public services are provided by the private sector. New types of injuries/harms are also being created in the new economy (e.g., in the area of cyber crimes). Whereas a number of the current remedies (e.g., the writ jurisdiction) are directed against the state, new remedies against private corporations will be required. As the private/public distinction gets blurred in terms of economic roles, these distinctions -- fundamental to the law -- will also come under challenge.

Expansion of the international dimension of economic transactions: A core feature of globalization is that the international dimension of economic transactions is on the increase as a result of the lowering of barriers to international trade, investment and finance. This will increasingly call on lawyers to have increasing knowledge and awareness of foreign, comparative and international law.

Rise of trans-national law and institutions: One of the results of globalization is an expansion in the scope and reach of international and trans-national law and legal institutions. The impact of the World Trade Organization as well as the Breton Woods institutions (the IMF and the World Bank) on domestic economic policy has received particular attention in this regard. International "soft law" - in the form of declarations of international institutions as well as non-governmental, civil society groups are also influencing domestic law. New trends in public international law are arguing for a diminution of national sovereignty -- a move that should be of special concern for developing countries. One of the consequences of this trend is the increasing importance of international and comparative law studies and the blurring of the "boundaries" between domestic and international law.

Changes to time/space dimensions : Today's legal system is based on certain assumptions on the time/space dimensions. Jurisdiction is typically territorial. Equally, certain key laws assume a lapse of time (e.g., offer and acceptance). However, rapid advances in communication, transportation and information technologies are collapsing time and space boundaries in a way that will require fundamental legal rethinking.

Complexity and specialization : Although there is some degree of specialization that has emerged in the Indian legal profession -- especially in the recent past--hitherto, lawyers could afford to be "generalists", armed with a sound understanding of basic concepts and principles of law and legal institutions, and close familiarity with the working of courts in which they practised. A deeper understanding of underlying policy and technical issues was not necessary for the most part. However, with increasing complexity of economic and social transactions, the laws governing them have become considerably more numerous and more complex from a technical point of view. Equally, legal issues have become far come complex and increasingly call for an inter-disciplinary approach. This will require learning new areas of the law. It will also need the development of some areas of specialization. Inter-disciplinary approaches to the law must be strengthened so that lawyers are better equipped to identify social challenges and problems, and develop effective solutions and strategies. Law and legal education must focus on current social and economic problems instead of merely describing existing legal structures and laws. The need to integrate law with economics and management studies needs emphasis.

Role of Lawyers: The move towards a market economy is likely to result in changes similar to those that have occurred in industrial countries. The "dispute" centered nature of the lawyer's role will change. If the experience of industrial countries is indicative of future trends, litigation -- solving disputes through suits in courts -- could give way to structuring the legal framework for business transactions -- as the predominant role of lawyers. Litigation will still be important for protecting the rights of common people and for resolving large and complex social, political and economic disputes.

Innovation vs. Precedent: Wealth is generated in the industrial economy in part through scale -- the more vast the scale of production, the greater the ability to reduce costs and increase profits through volume. In the industrial economy, law helped the market--and/or the state -- to mobilize factors of production at a vast scale -- land, capital and labour. Given the scale of investments and operations, certainty and predictability were considered vital for economic growth. The doctrine of precedent serves a very useful role in this regard. While certainty and predictability will continue to be of great importance, in the new economy wealth will be generated increasingly through innovation, nimbleness and fast-paced change. How will the law adapt to this transformation?

New Risks for Marginalized Sections: De-industrialization and privatization have had a negative impact on employment and welfare of poor and marginalized people. Also, international controls are now sought to be enforced on the domestic use of traditional knowledge.

Skills/Content: Before the information technology revolution, knowledge of the content of law had value in and by itself. With the rapid spread of information, this value is fast disappearing. Mere possession of knowledge content will be of little value in the future. The key challenge will be to add value to the information through critical analysis. Development of skills necessary for such critical and innovative analysis is then a matter of priority for legal education.

Increased Importance of a Well Functioning Legal System: The effective functioning of legal systems is crucial to success in the new economy. In the industrial economy, law could take an "enclave" approach with large investors/corporates negotiating special arrangements to have their rights protected promptly and effectively even when local common people could not do so (e.g., through treaties such as the one establishing the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)). In the new economy, this will no longer be an option. The new economy is highly decentralized, and the legal system will play a crucial role at every level. However, for the legal system to function well, it must depend on voluntary observance of laws. For this, laws must reflect the aspirations of common people. Law making processes will need to be more participatory, and more sections of society will need to be consulted before crucial decisions are taken. In addition, there will be need to safeguard the interests of vulnerable sections, as wider sections of society are brought into the formal economy. To make lawyers more sensitive to these considerations, there is need for greater inculcation of gender sensitivity in the courses as well as an appreciation of the reality regarding caste in Indian society. Law can play an important role in promoting and safeguarding diversity and pluralism.

Western law firms are gearing up to respond to these challenges. Law Schools in the US are transforming their curricula to prepare their students for the changed world. A typical Indian law student may have about 9-10 optional subjects to choose from (at the National Law School, final year students can choose eight subjects from about 30-40 optional seminars). A student at a leading US law school will be able to choose from among 200-300 offerings. It is unlikely that the Indian legal profession can continue indefinitely to be protected by trade barriers from global competition. We need to prepare our students to face global competition effectively.

In sum, there is a dire need for legal educators and professionals to focus on the rapid changes occurring in all aspects of human societal relations in an effort to evaluate and respond to them. New skills are needed for tackling globalization. Law schools will have to concentrate on researching social problems in a far more extensive and thorough manner than has ever been attempted before. Law Schools will need to strengthen their postgraduate departments especially their PhD programmes. Law will need stronger links not only with social sciences but also with basic sciences. There will be an unprecedented demand for skills and resources. The Indian legal community needs to rise to the challenges discussed above.

(September, 2001)
Dr. G. Mohan Gopal
Prof. V.S. Mullar
Dr. A. Jayagovind
Dr. V. Vijayakumar
Prof. Babu Mathew
Hon'ble Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy
Prof. Udaya Raj Rai
Prof. Shankara Reddy
Prof. K.C. Gopalakrishna
Prof. G.V. Ajappa
Prof. Padmanabha Pillai
Dr.S.V. Joga Rao
Prof. M.K. Ramesh
Dr. V. Nagaraj
Dr. V.S. Elizabeth
Dr. S. Japhet
Dr. Sithraman Kakarala
Prof. Anil Kumar Rai
Prof. Cauvery Bopaiah (Visiting)
Mr. O.V. Nandimath
Ms. Sarasu Esther Thomas
Mr. Sudhir Krishnaswamy (Visiting)

1. This note is excerpted from remarks delivered/papers written by the Director, NLSIU. Return to Text

2. Dr. Justice A.S. Anand, Chief Justice of India and Visitor, NLSIU, H.L. Sarin Memorial Lecture, "Legal Education in India - Past, present and Future, January 31, 1998, Supreme Court Cases (1998) 3 SCC (J), at page 5. Return to Text

3. Dr. Justice A.S. Anand, Chief Justice of India and Visitor, NLSIU, H.L. Sarin Memorial Lecture, "Legal Education in India - Past, present and Future, January 31, 1998, Supreme Court Cases (1998) 3 SCC (J), at page 1. Return to Text

4. Id., at 2.Return to Text

5. The description of the phases of reform is drawn from the Report of the Curriculum Development Centre in Law (volume 1), UGC, 1992 at page 2 (Para 1.7). Return to Text

6. Status of Teaching and Research in the Discipline of Law (University Grants Commission, 1981) at page 5 (Para 1.7). Return to Text

7. Motilal C. Setalvad, My Life: Law and Other Things (Universal Law Publishing Company, 1970). Return to Text

8. Cited in Dr. Justice A.S. Anand, supra, note 1, at page 3. Return to Text

9. Id. at page 4. Return to Text

10. Cited in Id. at page 3. Return to Text

11. The description of the phases of reform is drawn from the Report of the Curriculum Development Centre in Law (volume 1), UGC, 1992 at page 2 (Para 1.7). Return to Text

12. This note is excerpted from remarks delivered papers written by the Director, NLSIU. Return to Text

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