There is an age-old proverb in law circles that my mentor and partner always reminds me of – “law is a jealous mistress”. One must be ready to practise the law with patience and diligence to become a successful practitioner. Although the introduction of e-research and online journals have aided the industry, it is truly the practise of law, and experience, that continue to mould lawyers.
Sadly, the legal education system in India have failed to incorporate this vision while framing their curricula and academic schedules. There is a misplaced focus on attendance and classroom teaching, and there is no emphasis on practical learning, where law students “practise” the law. Internships are the sole place where students get an exposure into the professional practices and industry knowledge, without which they will be left only with theoretical knowledge that is obsolete and not relevant due to the fast-paced dynamism within the legal industry.
Barring a few top national law universities and government law colleges in metropolitan areas, most of the law schools in our country frame an academic schedule that results in law students spending almost the entire part of the year attending lectures, which they attend solely to comply with the attendance requirements mandated by the Bar Council of India and the respective university. With a mere three to four weeks as vacation time after each semester, students find it difficult to secure internships at offices, be it law firms or litigation chambers, as law offices can only entrust work with an intern who will be committed for a reasonable duration, thus resulting in a loss of valuable professional experience to law students.
The result of all this is the reluctance of the legal industry to recruit fresh law graduates from universities, apart from top universities, due to the lack of employability skills, professional knowledge and industry practices. At present there is a huge vacuum in the legal practice industry due to the lack of practical knowledge among law graduates.
The way forward is to introduce a curriculum and academic schedule that is accommodative of internships. Rather than cramming students with subjects that are irrelevant to them in their professional pursuit, a list of fundamental and important subjects that form the base for law practice must alone be made compulsory so that the course finishes well before the fourth year, and a period of at least 1.5 to two years is available to pursue a full-time internship, which will be part of the course curriculum for evaluation. This approach has already been a success for other professional courses such as chartered accountancy and corporate secretaryship.
The industry is thirsty for skilled law graduates, and so are the law students for the opportunity to learn the law. The question is, when will the policymakers take a step to quench this thirst?
Advocate at King & Partridge
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