In an exclusive interview with Higher Education Review, Maj Gen PK Sharma (Retd), Professor & Director, Amity Law School and Dean Faculty of Law, Amity University Haryana,share his insights on the ever changing landscape of Indian legal education, the rising significance of interdisciplinary approach in the field of law, importance of research in legal education and more.
The current norm in many Indian law schools is making students learn the subject so that they can pass the exam instead of helping them understand the law, and where to apply it. In light of this, how do you view the Indian legal education landscape in India?
The traditional bookish system of imparting legal education is fast changing. Now, the focus is more on clinical legal education wherein the students instead of merely memorizing law for the purpose of passing exams are getting hands-on experience in providing legal services to the clients. Due to this, students are now better equipped with real-life practical knowledge before they leave the campus. I also believe that the future of Indian legal education is bright and it is rapidly shifting from pedagogical to andragogical methods.
The legal profession has changed drastically over the last few decades and now interdisciplinary approach plays an important role in the field of law as it allows for synthesis of ideas and characteristics from multiple disciplines. In your opinion, how can law colleges in the country offer interdisciplinary education to their students?
The ever-evolving nature of society, globalization and fast-changing technologies are greatly influencing the pace at which law evolves. In this regard, interdisciplinary approach will play an important role in the field of law as well. In fact, since the inception of five-year integrated law courses, Indian legal education has moved towards imparting interdisciplinary education. I believe that in addition to basic legal training, law schools must provide more technology-integrated courses and collaborate with legal clinics in order to offer better real-world exposure to the students. Now, law schools are also focusing on incorporating technology, blended learning and multi-disciplinary courses involving practical and experiential teaching methodologies into the curriculum. This has been reiterated in NEP 2020 which has increased the significance of interdisciplinary approach in legal education.
Offering hands-on training to the students is essential to make them prepared for the real world. How can moot courts, simulations and case studies help law colleges in the country to ensure the same? Also, what are some of the measures you are adopting to ensure hands-on training of your students?
Traditionally, law schools through activities like moot court competitions, mock parliamentary debates, field visits, internships and more have been encouraging the holistic growth of students. Moot courts and similar activities prepare students in the art of advocacy. It teaches them how to research, appreciate facts, apply law to given situations, and present the same effectively both in writing and in the form of their arguments orally. These are characteristics essential to become not only a good advocate but also an effective legal advisor.
Amity Law School has been organizing national level moot courts based on constitutional issues and we recently had our own national moot court competition in which many prestigious institutions participated. We very regularly take our students for court visits, giving them hands-on training there. Apart from that, internship is a mandatory requirement in all the odd semesters for our students. We also have regular guest lecture sessions from eminent lawyers, and jurists as part of our co-curricular activities.
Research is an often overlooked aspect in Indian legal education and this is hindering its growth. How can Indian law colleges address this issue, encourage law students to take up research projects relating to Indian law and nurture the culture of research in the campus?
Law is a set of rules that govern the society. As the needs of society keep changing, law should evolve with it. Because of this, research and innovation is now becoming an integral part of legal education. Students are now being asked to submit dissertations on contemporary legal issues both in undergraduate and postgraduate courses. This involves both doctrinal and non-doctrinal methods of research. This is gradually assisting in the formulation of new laws and policies for the betterment of society.
The Supreme Court of India had recently asked BCI to create a fair system for junior lawyers to find placement in the chambers. What is the best way to ensure the same and how will it help in the career development of junior advocates in the country?
A better system will certainly help the junior advocates to grow in their career. At the same time, there is a need to provide more hands-on training to the students. Regular internships are given top-priority and students undergoing this under serving judges, eminent lawyers, and law firms are greatly benefiting from the same. In a law school, we would certainly provide the basic academic knowledge but when students do these internships, they get hands-on training. Also, budding lawyers need to use emerging technologies to their advantage in their legal service delivery.
What are the major changes or innovations that you foresee happening in Indian legal education and how will it improve its quality?
The legal profession has changed a lot over the years. Todayï¿½s lawyers are required by their clients to not only be tech-savvy but also to be able to represent them in all jurisdictions and forums. Because of this, the emphasis in Indian legal education has to be on incorporating technology, blended learning, and multidisciplinary courses which involve practical and experiential teaching methodologies. Law schools and Indian legal education as a whole will have to make greater efforts to move away from traditional methodologies and incorporate practical learning based on live projects. Multidisciplinary collaborations to enhance the entrepreneurial capabilities of students is also an area that needs improvement. Apart from this, developing technology integrated law courses to keep students abreast with the latest technological advancements should be an area of top-priority.
Maj Gen P. K. Sharma (Retd), Professor & Director
Sharma is a stalwart law professional with more than 35 years of hand-on experience in serving law community.