By: Anjali Tripathi
The legal profession in India is pursued by a large number of individuals. There are several reasons behind this. Firstly, law is the conventional profession which has been the apple of the eye of parents since forever.
Secondly, the perception is that lawyers are highly paid. Thirdly, legal studies give a wide range of options to students once they graduate from law school.
Due to these factors, law has remained a popular subject among undergraduate students. However, will the legal profession remain the same in the next 20 years or so?
Being a law student, I think it would change drastically. In India, the standard of legal education is declining at a rapid pace. This may translate into a substantive brain-drain from India to other countries.
Let us read why I think that legal education and profession in India is sinking.
The intervention of the Bar Council of India (BCI)
The Bar Council of India is the national association for lawyers. The association is maintained by a legal professional and has been established by an act of Parliament.
The power of the council may be portrayed by the fact that any lawyer practising in India should have a license issued by the BCI. If not, such a person won’t be allowed to take up cases and appear before the court.
Over the years, the BCI has played a pivotal role in enhancing the quality of legal education in India. It has been successful in bringing about a positive change in the quality of education imparted to future legal professionals.
However, some decisions made recently by the council have invited widespread backlash from the members of the fraternity, especially students. Two important decisions include:-
1. Abolition of 1-year LLM- Earlier, the master’s degree in law could be pursued from an Indian university within a year. However, according to new guidelines, the LLM would be of a duration of 2-years.
2. Minimum Criteria for Appearing for State Judiciary Exams- The PCS-J exam held for selecting members of the lower judiciary was earlier open to even fresh graduates.
However, the BCI has requested the Supreme Court to change the criteria to make sure that every candidate appearing for the exam shall be enrolled in the bar council for at least 3 years.
These changes have stirred controversy and students and several legal professionals aren’t in favour of these. This is because LLM in a foreign university can be pursued within a year, which would create issues if the person wants to come back and practice in India.
This would further motivate them to settle abroad. Also, 3 years is a good enough time for anyone to prepare for IAS. If this bar is imposed, students would be hampered from pursuing judiciary as a career.
Law Schools In India
Law schools in India have strived to provide top-notch education to the enrolled students in the past decade. However, with increased suits against premier law schools and NLSIU, India’s topmost law school, having its fair share of disagreements with CLAT consortium, the future of legal education is uncertain.
Additionally, over the past few years, several mediocre law colleges have also emerged that have been unable to provide quality legal education. This isn’t a good trend and wouldn’t benefit the realm of legal education.
If I would quote futurist Richard Susskind, lawyers who would merely learn law will become irrelevant in the future. Similar predictions have also been made by other reputed legal professionals.
This is because technological advancements become an integral part of the legal profession. From e-filing to online tax return filing, everything is becoming technologically updated.
Online dispute resolution and smart contracts based on blockchain technology are gaining importance and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that artificial intelligence would start assisting lawyers in the next 30 years.
Despite all these facts, the majority of Indian law schools have failed to make their students aware of these technological advancements.
The law students need to be prepared for the future as such technologically challenged students will not be able to survive amidst the cut-throat competition.
These trends, apart from several other reasons, will eventually become the nemesis of legal education in India. Sharp and intelligent Indian minds would be forced to find options outside India, which would hamper the national growth. Something concrete needs to be done at the earliest to tackle these issues.
Originally published at https://edtimes.in on January 8, 2021.