The One-day National Conference on Re-defining Legal Education in India: From Classroom to Courtroom was organized by SVKM’s Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai, on 23rd March 2019.
The aim of the conference was to conceptualize and formulate a redefinition of legal education to make legal education in India ready for the demands of the future. Through detailed deliberations by eminent speakers and scholars, the aims of the conference were achieved successfully.
The conference was inaugurated by Shri M.A. Sayeed, the Acting Chairperson of Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission.
In his Inaugural Address, Shri Sayeed discussed the need to sensitize law students towards issues concerning social justice, reminding us all that the ultimate aim of law and hence, the law-makers, is the creation of a just society. Besides, he also argued that given the advent of technology and its permeation in the legal system, legal education in India needs to prepare the students for the challenges of the future. Most importantly, Shri Sayeed stressed on the importance of instilling in the students unflinching respect for the profession and its practice.
The Keynote Speech was given by Dr. Birendra Saraf – Advocate, Bombay High Court and Honorary Secretary of Bombay Bar Association. He, through the illustration of the educational philosophy of the Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, brought to the fore, the pressing problems of the educational system today, especially, the issue of isolated classroom learning that is devoid of the realities outside the classroom.
Hence, Dr. Saraf recommended that the curriculum and classroom methodologies must incorporate the development of critical thinking skills in a manner that focusses on the resolution of the dispute, and not on the dispute itself. He concluded the speech on an inspiring note asking the students to stay true to their conscience.
The conference featured a highly constructive panel discussion amongst some of the most-renowned professionals in the legal fraternity of the nation.
Mr. Jamshed Mistry, Advocate, Supreme Court of India, Bombay High Court and Founder of International Legal Alliance, Mumbai, suggested, with illustrations, that the educational system today needs to train students to be open and flexible with the changing times. Mr. Mistry also called our attention to the significance of understanding different legal systems and the relevance of international legal collaborations.
In the same vein, Mr. Vivek Khemka, Advocate, Bombay High Court, elucidated the need to make law students acutely aware of court procedures for a career in litigation, and this, he suggested, should be central to legal education.
From the perspective of an experienced educator, Dr. Nilima Chandiramani, Principal, Nari Gursahani College, put forward that the curriculum is the key to re-defining legal education. She argued that curriculum developers need to ensure that the contents of the subjects must not lose the race of the advancements being made in the profession both in and outside the courtrooms.
Bringing in the methodology of learning court craft, through systematic and guided observation, Dr. Olav Albuquerque, Advocate, Bombay High Court, recommended that students need to follow cases and observe courtroom procedures; relating this methodology to the advantages of the erstwhile apprenticeship method and how it needs to be re-formulated today.
Ms. Ojasvita Srivastava, In-house Counsel and Founder of Project Abhimanyu, delineated the issues regarding continuous education of lawyers. She proposed that legal education needs to broaden the scope to create awareness about what awaits a law student after internships and beyond courtroom procedures. This idea was further supported by Ms. Samina Bahrainwala – Advocate, Bombay High Court and an art law expert, as she proposed that new emerging areas of law, such as art law, should be included in the studies.
The panel discussion was effectively moderated by Mr. Rafael Pereira, Alumnus, SVKM’s Pravin Gandhi College of Law and Board Member, Berkeley Law Society. Mr. Pereira’s inputs from a student’s perspective efficiently enveloped the discussion to ensure that all the suggestions should directly benefit the most important stakeholder in the system – the students.
Furthermore, Ms. Anuradha Maheshwari, Founder, Lex Mantis – Advocates & Legal Consultants and Trustee, Committed Communities Development Trust, in her Valedictory Address, rightly outlined the fact that today the system does need a re-definition to overcome its limitations. She made recommendations for the inclusion of a technologically-enabled framework of the curriculum – one that provides access to global educators to students, especially through webinars. She also suggested that we make the curriculum more practice-oriented through intensive internship programs.
The conference was a great success with over 25 paper presentations and nearly 100 participants. The paper presentations were effectively chaired by the Session Chairs- Mr. Shrikant Aithal, Ms. Srilakshmi Peddada, Dr Olav Albuquerque and Mr. Asim Vidyarthi. The deliberations, suggestions and recommendations would now serve as a strong groundwork for a re-defined legal education system – one that would blend the education in the classroom and the practices in the courtroom most effectively.
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