Go to law school, pass the bar, become a lawyer, and retire at 65 with a huge mansion? For decades, this was one of the clearest professional pathways students could pursue, but that about to take a little halt due to the current prevalent times that all of us are forced in. The necessity for legal education reforms at the state level is confirmed by such factors as outdated training programs and lack of access to education. Paradoxically, despite an excessive number of students in law departments, many citizens, cannot afford classical legal education because of the high cost and the global distance between the universities and the places where people live or students who want to pursue a global education cannot even think of one looking at the current global scenario. The quality of knowledge provided by the universities to their students is also questioned at the moment.
Over the last twenty years, the practice of law in India has changed more rapidly and comprehensively than in any comparable period in history. Technological advancements and globalization have changed what it means to be a successful lawyer at all times irrespective of the circumstances. While law school graduates out-earn those with just a high school or bachelor’s degree on average, the legal profession is not immune to the same technological trends that have touched essentially every industry. Advances in technology such as artificial intelligence allow modern software to scan legal documents, streamline communications, and find relevant casework for lawyers.
Today, clients expect attorneys to be tech-savvy, specialized, and prompt. They also require lawyers to be more geographically diverse, with either the ability to work on matters across state and national borders or the professional contacts to get the job done. In these times of change, Indian law schools and legal educators face an uphill battle to instill in graduates the skills and acumen needed to succeed in this dynamic environment. Colleges and universities have responded to this challenge by implementing a whole host of measures, some familiar and others novel, to complement traditional forms of classroom teaching. They are planning to introduce technology and blend it well with the traditional learning format. With the current demand in the field of law and the need to inculcate the knowledge of tech has broadened the ways of imparting education.
Several law colleges now prescribe client counseling, mediation and conciliation courses for final year law students. These clinical courses expose students to real-world scenarios and, through simulated exercises, help them hone their skills in client handling, relationship building, and dispute resolution. With Company Law 2013, trying to decriminalize its provisions; law students need to brush up their skills in terms of settlement strategies and other dispute resolution strategies. With the changes that have happened across the world with respect to business diversity or new ways and approaches in the world of business, corporate lawyers are expected to be at par with the global trends.
Not just with approaches, many colleges have tried to inculcate the culture of internships so that practical knowledge blends in well with theoretical knowledge. This gives students a wide outlook to look at things in a broad manner. Colleges want their students to complete internships during semester breaks. Some, for instance, mandate five to eight internships during the five-year law course. These internships give students a chance to learn the nuances of legal research and drafting in a practical setting, while simultaneously preparing them for the rigors of professional life. During these internships, students interact with prospective employers and their clients, and may also have the opportunity of attending court hearings and arbitration proceedings.
Educators and students are increasingly aware of the inevitable clash of technology with traditional legal practice. With this awareness grows the demand for a more technology-immersive law school experience. Universities have met this demand by introducing specialized and technology focussed subjects to the curriculum.
With global education being on pause for the moment, Indian law colleges and universities are trying to collaborate with foreign institutions and helping a cultural diversity in order to promote technology and global interaction. Colleges are introducing new courses and syllabus which will adapt to the trending needs of the world. These courses allow colleges to collaborate with each other as well as with foreign institutions to offer students a diverse array of technical courses and materials. Colleges are also integrating technology into the everyday lives of students, requiring them to use proprietary software to collect reading material, submit assignments, undertake research, and even record attendance. They are also launching tech-focussed research centres, clinics, and programs, with the aim of encouraging curiosity and multi-disciplinary study in these fields. With respect to UGC guidelines and the new education policy 2020, colleges are trying to implement their new session with respect to the new approaches that have been defined as per new policy.
What are Law Colleges focusing on:
- Сreation of multicultural academic groups. This would help students get a lot of software skills inside the university environment.
- Project-based learning. Active learning where students independently control their own learning in groups, asking the professor for help only when necessary.
- Сollaborations with law schools, legal clinics, laboratories, incubators, and accelerators from around the world where law students can learn from entrepreneurs and become entrepreneurs themselves. This is one of the unique ways to promote entrepreneurship in the current situation.
- Strategic partnerships with non-law schools in the fields of political science, economics, philosophy, anthropology, and STEM. Law students can interact with students from other universities in basic courses to develop the ability to work productively and collectively on multidisciplinary projects.
- Cooperation with law firms, IT companies, and the state, as this will ensure the continuing relevance of the curriculum.
Law schools are today at an inflection point, where they can either choose to embrace the transformation that is taking over the legal profession or continue with traditional modes and practices that no longer fit the shifting needs of the Indian market. By making the right choice, these institutions can open a world of possibilities for their students.