National Law Schools: A Failed Experiment?

August 12th, 20109:14 pm @    

In the post independence period the emphasis was laid on developing India in terms of economy and infrastructure. Later policy makers focused on education where technical and medical education was considered as a priority. This made legal education an ignored aspect and as a result, in early 1970s, we began to feel the dearth of proficient lawyers.

The need and intent behind the establishment

In the late 1970s, when the idea of creation of National Law schools was at nascent stage, the initiators had dreams of revolutionizing the legal education in India. They could see IITs springing up and creating an army of engineers to strengthen our country technologically; whereas institutes like AIIMs were pumping out excellent doctors. But quality lawyers were nowhere to be seen.

After years of efforts, in the year 1987, National Law School of India University was established at Bangalore in the stewardship of Prof. N R Madhava Menon, which offered a 5 year Law course immediately after completion of secondary education. Earlier Legum Baccalaureus (L.LB) could be pursued only after graduating in any discipline.  Initial years seemed to be rewarding. Finally we had something to look up to in the field of legal education. On the same pattern other law schools were established viz. NALSAR (Hyderabad), NLIU (Bhopal) etc and now they are 13 in number scattered across the country.

The intent behind establishment of National law schools was training students to become sensitized, knowledgeable and competent lawyers and to raise the standards of litigation in India. But now it is very obvious that things didn’t go the way they were supposed to. The major chunk of students passing out from these universities opts for serving corporate sector and fancy law firms instead of practicing in courts, defeating the very idea.

Factors responsible for this trend

There are many factors responsible for this trend. But first, it is pertinent to mention that National Law Schools charge a bomb in lieu of providing you the ‘National Law school’ tag. Some of them even go to the extent of charging a sum to the tune of One Lac seventy thousand rupees per year which is an amount beyond an average Indian parent’s capability to pay! After paying a whopping sum of around 7.5 Lac rupees on the graduate level why would a student opt for practicing in the courts where your career prospects are very uncertain? What will motivate them to choose a life full of struggle and sacrifice lucrative packages offered by multinationals? If they opt for court practice will they be able to repay the bank loan which was borrowed to fund their legal education?

These law schools flaunt their grand university campuses, Wi-Fi internet connectivity, outstanding sports and recreational facilities as a valid excuse to charge hefty fees. In this regard somebody needs to question these law schools that- ‘Yes, we accept that these luxuries make life of a student easier but do they ensure that quality lawyers shall practice in courts?’

A student belonging to the lower strata of the society can only dream of joining these institutions. It can be assumed that he/she will have a better understanding of the needs of the strata of society he has been part of. Do we not need lawyers who are sensitive enough and can work with passion for making justice accessible to the poor? Or will the law and legal education in our country be a patrimony of the high and the mighty as always?

Is there a way out?

A considerable reduce in the megabucks charged for Law education will be a good idea as for a start to promote young graduates to opt for practicing in the court of law. If parents have to pay a fairish amount for their child’s legal education, they might gear up to support him for few more years, when he strives to make a name in the world of litigation.

Another factor of failure of the concept could be the way students are trained in these law schools. Here, a statement of fact will explain best how these schools are themselves instrumental in prompting students, indirectly, not to opt for litigation. NLIU, Bhopal has prescribed Clinical Legal education (practical aspects of litigation- Client counseling, court visits etc.) in the fourth year; NALSAR, Hyderabad has it in the Fifth year. This is almost towards the completion of the 5-year course and students already have job offers from private sector in hand. Ideally speaking, a student should be introduced to law courts from the very first year of his professional education to cultivate his interest in litigation and to let him experience the charm of the noble profession.

Knock knock! Mr. Law Minister.. Wake up!

A few months ago Union Law minister Mr. Veerappa Moily had proposed some major changes in the realm of legal education in India. A bar exam is being introduced which will entitle a law graduate to practice in the court of law. It is obvious that the minister is taking such a reformative step to raise the quality of Litigation. He also wishes to introduce an inductive competitive exam for all Law schools on the pattern of ‘National Law schools’. It seems that the esteemed law minister has an intention to bring all the law institutes across India to the level of the ‘National Law schools’. Don’t you think it is high time now and somebody needs to knock his door and inform him about the true scenario in these over-rated institutions?

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Nikita is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of She is a lawyer/author residing in Delhi. She believes that increasing legal awareness is the key to ensure social justice and simplification of law is the means to achieve it. She writes articles on social and political issues for various platforms in English and Hindi.

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