While preparing for law entrance exams, have you ever wondered – What is the purpose of Law school? The post is written by a senior academecian – Abhishek Sudhir, Dean, IFIM Law College
If you are planning to go to law school in the very near future, you really need to read this. If you are writing CLAT, AILET, SET or any other law exams this post is for you. If you are going to law school because you think it is a good alternative to medicine and engineering this post is for you. And, If you are going to law school because you want to bag a high-paying job and think you can land one by cracking CLAT, this post is definitely for you.
Job mandatory, Education optional
In the last month or so, I have travelled the length and breadth of this vast country to interact with CLAT aspirants. The first question I asked them was simply this: “How many of you will be disappointed if you do not have a job at the end of five years of law school?” An overwhelming majority of students answered in the affirmative. Read, Top 15 career options once you get out of NLUs.
The next question: “How many of you will blame the law school’s administration/management for failing to find employment?” Some said that the fault would lie with the law school, though a majority of students felt that the fault was theirs and theirs alone for failing to find a job. Read, degree in Law is a good career path for girls. They did however add that their parents would lay the blame squarely at the feet of the law school. “Why?” I asked. “Money Sir” they replied. “Our parents will expect a return on their investment, having paid our fees.” And therein lies the rub.
I then presented the students with the following hypothetical situation: It will cost you 40 lakhs to study at India’s most expensive law school and obtain a quality education. Your father gives you two choices. He says you can study at India’s best law school and spend the 40 lakhs; or, you can take the 40 lakhs and create a fixed deposit with the State Bank of India. What would you do? Which is the safer investment?
An overwhelming majority said that they would take the 40 lakhs and go to law school. “Why would you do that?” I said to them. Isn’t that risky? What if you don’t have a job at the end of five years? If you invest it with SBI, you are guaranteed a return on your investment. “Why squander 40 lakhs of your parents hard-earned money.” Pat came the reply: “Sir, if we are able to obtain a quality education, we can earn much more than 40 lakhs. It will help us throughout our lives.”
As I heard different versions of the same answer in city after city, it became clear to me that students in India understand something that their parents don’t: the purpose of going to law school is not to get a job or a degree, but to get a great education. It is far more important to be employable, rather than employed, when you graduate from law school.
Identifying the right law school
If the realization has dawned upon you that an education is far more important than simply getting a degree, and subsequently a job, then you need to identify the right law school for you. Read, get help on selecting a law school. The President of the United States Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama had some sound advice for their daughter Malia as she embarked upon her college application process: “Just because it’s not some name-brand, famous, fancy school doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get a great education there.”
Malia Obama chose Harvard, the university her parents went to; what this shows is that it will be extremely hard for you as a student to turn down some of the top NLU’s in the country like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jodhpur, Delhi and Kolkata. With only a privileged few making it to these top 5 NLU’s that still leaves 13 NLU’s that have been setup in the last decade. About 75 percent of the students I interacted with had no hesitation in saying that they would blindly go to any NLU: “The NLU-tag is important”.
So I asked them what they knew about India’s 18 NLU’s. As it turns out, not much; none of them could name a single faculty member, most of them did not even know the full name or the proper acronym for most of the NLU’s, they did not know what the placement figures were and nor did they care. They wanted the NLU-tag, something they believed would put them on the fast-track to a rich and successful life. This myth has been propagated by sectors of India’s legal education landscape that stand to benefit from such blind faith in the NLU brand.
The ground reality behind the purpose of Law school, dear students, is different.
Do your homework, Choose wisely
In 2012, students at a prestigious NLU in western India petitioned the State’s High Court against arbitrary marking by faculty members. In 2013, students at one of India’s oldest NLU’s, as well as faculty members,petitioned for changes in the running of the law school.In 2014, students at an NLU in Eastern India went on a hunger strike when their list of grievances, contained in a memorandum titled ‘A Saga of Grieved Souls’, was ignored.
In the south, students of NLU took to the streets as a decision was taken to shift the campus to the outskirts of the city. Back in the East, at the most expensive NLU, students boycotted an exam last month to protest the lack of competent faculty for that particular subject. What’s more students at this NLU have also protested against frequent power cuts, lack of cold water in the summers and inadequate infrastructure – both physical and in terms of manpower.
Some of you might be thinking that these problems are common at Universities across India. Some of you might also be thinking that there are no viable alternatives to the NLU’s and going to a private law school is no guarantee that these problems will not recur there. Let me ask you this: If you had the option of eating at a government-run canteen or a private restaurant, and money was not an issue, what would you choose? Every single student I have interacted with over the last month said that he would go to the private restaurant.
Education in India today is a business and that is a good thing. The laws of the free market apply and those private institutions that do not satisfy their customers i.e. the students, will certainly fail. But not so with a majority of the NLU’s, which are cashing in on the brand value built-up so laboriously by pioneers in the field like Dr. Madhava Menon. Private institutions want your custom and will go all out to ensure that they retain it.
That being said, it is not a given that every private law school will cater to your needs; The single most important question you need to ask the Director of Admissions at private law school is this: Who’s in charge? Once you are given the answer to this question, find out more about the person. What is his or her vision for the law school? What is his or her background and what is their track record? And most importantly, what role do they envision for you the law student in ensuring the growth of the law school?
Remember that things like an air-conditioned campus, fancy hostels, a food court with a wide variety of cuisines, smart classrooms with air conditioners are comforts, not necessities. Read, How is life at Law School? Never invest in things. Invest in people. Invest in the human beings running the law school. As one famous American political commentator remarked, “the whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” This process of transformation commences with your first day at law school. So choose wisely.
Hope you like the above post on the purpose of Law school written by by Abhishek Sudhir, Dean, IFIM Law College.
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