By Tanuj Kalia
Here you go:
1. A focus on the ‘first principles’ of law
Many law schools and hence, law students, focus on the seemingly ‘cool’ and ‘new’ areas of law: sports law, maritime law, cyber law and the like. When I interviewed some senior legal people for my book ‘Law as a Career’, most of them strongly vouched for a focus on the ‘basics’.
The basics include the ‘boring’ areas of law: contracts, torts, CPC, CrPC, IPC, property law, jurisprudence. However, the logic for this is strong: you cannot build a high-rise building without a strong base; you cannot excel in intellectual property law without knowing your property law basics well.
This focus on the ‘first principles’ of law has to come from multiple things: how the courses are designed (at least two semesters for each of these subject areas and making courses like ‘cyber law’ only optional), the seminars and conferences we organize, etc..
To be clear, I am not against the ‘cool’ subjects. Students can and should pursue them as ‘interests’ but not at the expense of the ‘core’.
2. Bring back the lawyers
The old generation of law graduates feels ‘grateful’ for the fact that they were taught by practicing lawyers in their evening classes.
With the revolution of legal education in the 1990s it was thought that ‘law’ should have ‘faculty’ like any other courses, which was not wrong, but the practicing lawyers should not have been ousted from the academic space.
Subjects like CPC, CrPC and even contracts and property law can enliven when understood in a practical context. There’s no reason why a proactive college administration cannot build stronger ties with the district bar associations to make this happen.
3. A continuous program on English writing
You cannot become a good lawyer in any arena if your writing has any grammatical mistakes.
If the essays students submit on Lawctopus or some of the internship applications we get are anything to go by, a majority of law students cannot write correct, grammatical English. Which means, they are unemployable.
This is easily resolvable. Have ‘peers’ who can write well tutor those who cannot. This should be done in the first two years of law school.
4. Internships for the entire 5th year or 10th semester of a 5-year course and 6th semester of a 3-year course
Provided you can write correct English (point 3), provided your basics are strong (point 1) and provided you know the practical niceties of law (point 2); there’s nothing preventing a hard-working student from getting a job.
Internships are the best way to get this done! The recruiter gets to know you, you get to know the recruiter. While a good law student is expected to intern once or twice every year,
I’d propose that the entire 5th year of a 10 year course (or maybe just the 10th semester) and the 6th semester of a 3 year course be only devoted to doing internships. This is easily doable and the ‘compulsory’ subjects mandated by the BCI can be covered by the end of the 4th year.
Some private law colleges are already doing this.
5. A module on ‘setting up your own practice’
While entrepreneurship has become fancy among law students (they want to start the next Vakilsearch or Manupatra or surprise, surprise, Lawctopus), a lot of them forget that the practice of law (BCI is seething here) is in itself extremely entrepreneurial.
The nitty-gritty of setting up your own set-up is hardly taught in any law school. Such a module would include teaching students the skills to get some basic lawyerly tasks done (hint: property law cases) and even teaching simple things like invoicing and accounts.
6. Younger VCs and registrars
Many of the protests in many a law school stem largely from a generation gap: parents cannot understand the values of their children and VCs cannot understand their students.
“We want to wear shorts to the classroom!”
There are many bright 35-45-year-olds in the academic circles who’d understand this generation of students better.
These younger heads of law schools would probably also want a more meaningful student representation and participation in the affairs of the law school.
This is not to discount the immense value a senior professional brings in nearly all types of work-settings, but I’d propose handing over the reins to someone younger.
Interested to implement some of this in your law school? Contact Tanuj at email@example.com
Got any other suggestions? Put in a comment below?