Monday, April 20, 2009

Krishnaswamy on the National Law Universities

This op-ed by Sudhir Krishnaswamy (now a professor at NUJS) appeared in the Indian Express this weekend discussing the recent student strike at HNLU - a topic of a recent post on this blog. The article raised two points (among others) which from my vantage point I think bare reemphasizing -

(1) Get the bar councils out of the business of regulating legal education. The mandates bar councils impose in some states seem absurd, or at least poorly thought out. When LUMS in Lahore set up their law school (which I think may be the best run I've seen in South Asia) one of the first things they pushed for was to get the bar council to judge their students on a bar exam. This way the school had much more control over classes, how they monitored attendance, graded, etc. It wasn't there was no accountability or no input from the bar, but there wasn't such dominating influence in how a legal education had to be structured.

(2) It's the quality of the students who have made the National Law Universities and given them their reputation more than anything else. It's not the faculty that really draws students to these institutions now, but rather the promise they will be around other bright students and so a good reputation will attach with the degree when they graduate. As Sudhir hints in his piece this may mean Indian legal education is in for some instability the next few years. If other competitors move in like Jindal Global Law School that promise a higher level of faculty you can see top students moving to that institution or those like it. This sort of movement is likely healthy, but also creates confusion. Prospective students will start second-guessing what the "it" school is - what's on its way down, what's a passing fad, what will be considered the top tier schools in five years when they enter the job market, etc. This is not new to Indian legal education, but is likely to be amplified given current circumstances making it more difficult for prospective students to be confident in their choices.
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