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The year 2015 has been a mixed bag in terms of developments at India’s law schools. While things are looking up for budding corporate lawyers, aspiring law students witnessed a new low with the manner in which the Common Law Admission Test was conducted.
So what have been the discernible trends this past year? What have law schools done to improve legal education and enhance their worth as institutions of research? What were the major controversies seen this year?
As we look back on 2015, here are our top ten stories from law school campuses across the country.
1. Mo’ money, mo’ jobs
As of April 2015 year, one hundred and sixty-nine future lawyers from 6 law schools landed jobs across eight law firms. And not a single one of these one hundred and sixty-nine will actually start work in 2015; they will all graduate in 2016.
The total estimated expenditure in 2016-17 for fresh recruits from 6 law schools will be more than 240 million rupees. This, of course, is on the presumption that all associates are paid the same salary scale across different offices.
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas had hiked their starting salary to 15 lakh per annum. This means the starting pay has been increased by 4.2 lakh, compared to what the old Amarchand paid for recruits from the 2015 batches. Other firms have followed suit, offering hikes and attractive bonus packages.
Suffice to say, the future is bright for young, aspiring corporate lawyers.
(Read the full report here).
CLAT 2015, organised by RMLNLU, was not the smoothest of operation of the year.
The troubles began with the decision to fix an upper age limit for candidates; a decision that was ultimately annulled by the Allahabad High Court. The Supreme Court would later uphold the High Court’s decision and dismiss RMLNLU’s appeal.
Then came the errors in the question paper and in the answer key, which prompted a slew a litigation in courts across the country. Consequently, not one, but two Expert Committees were set up to examine the errors. Astonishingly, both Committees denied all but two errors out of the fifteen alleged. There was also confusion regarding the allotment of seats to students.
Then, in August, Shamnad Basheer filed a petition in the Supreme Court demanding the constitution of a permanent body to oversee the conduct of the exam. The petition is slated to come up for hearing again sometime in January. What the apex court mandates in this matter might significantly influence how the 2016 exam is held.
3. An IDIA-l World
The organisation created to increase access to legal education is certainly making waves. And things are looking up for IDIA in 2015.
Amidst the chaos that was CLAT 2015, IDIA Scholar Yamuna Menon defied all odds to secure a rank of 30 in the exam, effectively securing admission at NLSIU, Bangalore. Four other students also secured admission at various NLUs.
Then in April, Arindam Bhattacharjee became the first IDIA Scholar to be placed in a law firm during campus recruitments. The NLIU Bhopal student was picked up by Khaitan & Co.
(Read his inspiring story here).
4…And Education for All
In July, NLSIU launched a new Scholarship Policy in a bid to promote inclusive legal education and to prevent finances from coming in the way of a quality education in law. NLSIU had also waived the fees of the two IDIA Scholars who secured admission through CLAT.
Though Vice-Chancellors of other NLUs have claimed to have initiatives providing financial aid, NLSIU is the first law school to come out with a formal policy.
5. Learning to Fly
The trend of new NLUs coming up in different parts of the country continued this year. With most state governments hellbent on opening these so-called ‘IITs of law’ on their home turf, the institutions invariably have starting trouble.
The story of Tamil Nadu National Law School (TNNLS), for example, is a cautionary tale. Issues of maladministration had nearly driven the latest CLAT entrant to stasis.
Despite having all the physical infrastructure in place, there was no faculty to speak of and classes were few and far between. NLISU grad and IAS Officer V Arun Roy was then appointed Vice-Chancellor to repair the damage done by the previous administration. TNNLS has since stabilized.
6. Being Civil
Like in the years past, 2015 saw a number of law graduates opting to join the Civil Services. As many as 21 graduates from various law universities around the country cleared the UPSC exam.
Saketa Musinipally from NLSIU Bangalore was the highest ranked law graduate, at Rank 14. Four other NLSIU graduates also made the list. The list also contained students from NLU Delhi, NALSAR, NLIU Bhopal, NUJS, GNLU, HNLU, Symbiosis and the Department of Laws at Panjab University, among others.
(Read the interviews with the successful candidates here.)
7. A GLASS apart
Over the years, a lot has been said about the reluctance of NLU graduates to become litigating lawyers.
In an attempt to incentivise students to take up litigation as a career, the Gujarat National Law University launched its GNLU Litigation Assistance and Support Scholarship (GLASS) in September.
The programme will provide a monthly stipend to a select number of GNLU graduates who have opted for a career in litigation. This should prove to be particularly useful for lawyers who work for seniors that don’t pay (or don’t pay enough).
It remains to be seen whether other NLUs will follow suit.
8. Going to Break My Rusty Cage
The Pinjra Tod movement, launched by students of Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University, Lucknow, gained a fair bit of traction in November.
After a number of student protests, RMLNLU’s Vice Chancellor, Prof Gurdip Singh, directed a change in hostel timings for girl students, and assured students that any gender-based discrimination in campus rules would be done away with.
9. Fighting for a Better Home
While on the topic of student revolutions, NUJS’ Student Juridical Association released its Performance Report in June.
The changes brought about on the campus are quite extensive in nature, ranging from renovating the hostel toilets to an online faculty review system, to facilitating the weekly visits of a psychiatrist.
10. Stand Up and be Hounded
NLU Delhi’s cultural fest, Kairos 2015, was hit by controversy when comedian Abish Matthew was heckled off stage by a group of protesting students.
The protesting students had taken offense to the comedian’s sexist jokes.
And like any debate, there were two sides to the story with the protestors garnering criticism and support.
(Photo credit: Vivek Verma)