cLinical legal education in india, iSSUES AND SUGGESTION. (part 2)

INTRODUCTION

Clinical Legal Education involves “Creating a learning environment where students identify, research and apply knowledge in a setting which replicates, at least in part, the world where it is practiced. It almost inevitably means that the student takes on some aspect of a case and conducts this as it would be conducted in the real world.[1]”.

The Clinical Legal Education is a term which encompasses learning which is focused on enabling students to understand how the law works in action. The use of the word ‘clinic’ prompts the analogy of trainee doctors meeting real patients in their medical clinics. Clinical Legal Education is one way in which theory and practice can be brought together.

IMPLEMENTATION ISSUES

There are a few pertinent implementation issues which are faced by law schools across the country when it comes to promoting clinical legal education. The primary issues faced are as follows:

1. Paucity of Funds: Law Schools, especially the ones run by the government are in dire need of funds. The fees charged by certain law schools is very low, for example the ILS law college and Fergusson Law college charge in the thousands per year for imparting legal education. Limited fees force the administration to focus on the main law subjects and as a result clinical legal education is often overlooked. The government either has to increase the allocation of funds or has to allow such schools to increase their fees.

2. Lack of Experienced Lawyers delivering Lectures: The Advocates Act, prohibits full time faculty from representing clients in the various judicial fora. As a result, advocates who have years of experience and could provide valuable insights to students do not become full time faculty. Many advocates who are on the verge of retiring and would like a reduced legal workload have the potential to become great professors, however, The Advocates Act prohibits them from becoming full time faculty if they wish to have any form of a legal practice. This provision needs an amendment at the earliest basis.

3. Lack of Support: A recent UNDP report surveying 39 law schools in India with legal aid cells found that although 82% of those schools had faculty designated to supervise legal aid cells, 63% of those schools did not give academic credit to students[1]. The study further pointed out that there is no workload reduction given to faculty who are designated to supervise legal aid cells and sometimes communities are not even aware that the law schools provide free legal services. Thus, it is clear that more administrative support is needed to improve the clinical legal education.

4. Extensive Academic Workload: Law Schools have set a challenge yet strenuous amount of work load for their students, particularly those enrolled in the (Hons) programmes. Students need to balance challenging academic subjects, extracurricular activities, co-curricular activities and internships, thus even though students would like to participate in clinical legal education, they lack the time and ability to commit the extra effort. 

SUGGESTIONS

The following suggestions came to mind while researching for this paper: 

1. Improving Fund Allocation: Law colleges relying on the government for funding need an improved allocation of funds, such colleges seldom have the requisite infrastructure to provide basic legal education and providing clinical legal education is a distant dream for them at this point. As these institutions have a cap on the fees they can charge, they primarily rely on the government for financial support. Establishing legal aid clinics will not encounter massive infrastructure and there has to be a push by students to get the government to fund clinical legal education.

2. Amending The Advocates Act & Rules: Full time faculty must be allowed to practice law if they so desire. As mentioned, law students shall greatly benefit by learning from professors who are practicing as advocates. Such advocates cannot become full time faculty due to provisions of The Advocates Act. There is need to amend the act and allow lawyers to both practice and become faculty. Lawyers shall be provided the opportunity to share their experiences and even the university shall benefit from having a stellar faculty.

3. Greater Administrative Support: Both faculty and students involved in the clinical legal education process should be given incentives such as extension in the submission of assignments, relaxed attendance requirements and recognition by the university for their efforts in fostering clinical legal education. Faculty could be given a reduced teaching work load and recognition to motivate them to assist in such endeavours. Such basic steps shall go a long way in fostering clinical education.

4. Greater Awareness: A majority of the students are not well versed with the benefits and advantages of participating in clinical legal education activities. Going for moot courts helps the student improve his research, drafting and oratory skills while building his network. Interning helps a student gauge the diverse requirements which clients expect from a lawyer and he can accordingly improve on such skills. SLS has to be given credit for its endeavours to promote clinical education. Assignments like the one at hand help students understand the shortcomings and make students think as to how such issues can be resorted.


[1] United Nations Development Programme India, Access to Justice for Marginalised People: A Study of Law School Based Legal Service Clinics, 2011 

[1] Richard Lewis, “ Clinical Legal Education Revisited”, Page 5

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