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Changing nature of legal profession discussed at launch of Ideas from the Law School (proceeds go to IDIA)
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Changing nature of legal profession discussed at launch of Ideas from the Law School (proceeds go to IDIA)

Bar & Bench

Rintu Mariam Biju

The Bangalore International Center (BIC) organized a panel discussion on the topic The Legal Profession in Flux on October 22, 2019. The event was organized in collaboration with the launch of the book An Idea of a Law School: Ideas from the Law School published by Eastern Book Company.

The book is a collection of over 30 essays written on topics ranging from legal education, to the evolution of the legal profession, to the Judiciary. The authors include Prof NR Madhava Menon, former Chief Justice of India Rajendra Babu, and Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya. The proceeds from the book will go to non-profit organization IDIA, which was founded by the late Prof Shamnad Basheer. 

The speakers for the event were Murali Neelakantan, Laila Ollapally and newly appointed Vice-Chancellor of National School of India University (NLSIU) Prof Sudhir Krishnaswamy. Alok Prasanna Kumar moderated the panel discussion. 

Murali Neelakantan, a principal at Amicus and the former Global General Counsel at Glenmark Pharmaceuticals shared his views on the current standing of the legal profession in India.  Neelakantan said, 

Back in the 1990’s, opportunities were few. Law graduates had the option to join the Bar, the public sector or appear for the civil services.

He also remarked that joining the Bar would amount to “unpaid slavery”. Twenty-five years later, he said, there are more opportunities for law graduates. In fact, an Indian lawyer can aspire what “a lawyer in the west could aspire to be”. He also said that Indian lawyers are spread over various countries and making a difference, positively affecting millions of lives. 

He also recalled that the reason why NLSIU became a success in the 1990s was that the students believed that they could achieve goals beyond their means. 

The second speaker was Laila Ollapally, a full-time mediator and founder of the Centre of Advanced Mediation Practice (CAMP). Ollapally explained that the notion of a lawyer playing an adversarial role in the justice delivery system needs to be altered. She also acknowledged that no training is being given to law students for the development of soft skills such as effective problem solving. She said, 

The greatest failure of the Indian Legal system is the domination of the adversarial system. The adversarial system should be the last option and not the first for resolving disputes”. 

She additionally commented that while India is beginning to use mediation as an effective tool for dispute resolution, a number of lawyers are still not familiar with the non-adjudicatory methods. 

The third speaker was Prof Sudhir Krishnaswamy, the new NLSIU VC, and, co-founder of Centre for Law & Policy Research (CLPR). On the role of legal education, he said, 

Legal education must educate people for expert norm based problem solving. It must give a broad conception of what a lawyer must be Institutions must of vehicles of ideas. 

On being asked about the various problems faced by National Law Universities (NLUs) currently, he remarked that they have no state funding, and that most of the them are self-financed and bootstrapping. He explained that even if an institution envisions grand ideas, such ideas may not materialize due to lack of funds and other resources. He particularly remarked that these are problems of the older NLUs and that newer NLUs might not be facing such difficulties. 

On being asked about the dissatisfaction of students at the premier law school in the country, he noted that earlier, the students of NLSIU did not expect much from the teachers, the infrastructure or from the institution as a whole. On the other hand, currently, an average student expects much more from the University and this in turn gives rise to dissatisfaction from the students, he said.

During the panel discussion, Alok Prasanna Kumar opined that barriers in the litigation field should be eliminated to attract brilliant minds to the profession.

The session concluded with an interaction between the panelists and the audience, followed by a vote of thanks. 

Image Credit: EBC