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The (slightly wolfish) polar bear is lying on the footpath, an expression of great rejection on his face. That is what I find myself starting at: a wall painting of an emaciated polar bear. I am walking back from the campus of the KIIT Law School in Bhubaneshwar (KLS) and there are various murals painted on the walls of some adjoining colleges. The murals are meant to be anti-global warming but they are making me smile. And they are not the only reason I am smiling. KLS is the first private law school that I have visited on the Law School Darshan series and although it has been an extremely short visit, I walk away from the campus with a bunch of distinct, separate memories. Four, to be exact.
“We have quite a corporate set up over here. Efficient and to the point”, the professor tells me and I sort of understand what he is trying to say. At KLS, all class rooms are air conditioned, every teacher is provided with a separate chamber and the corridors in the academic building are spick and span. The hostel rooms are big and airy; the Boys Hostel Mess is spacious and seems to be efficiently run.
There is a fair bit of construction going in the academic building and I am told that this is for the new library, three floors dedicated for books. There are CCTV cameras at every corner of the academic building (something which I found a bit odd) and there is a distinct sense of money being pumped in to the infrastructure. Of course, the campus itself is not large but nonetheless KIIT University in general and KLS in particular certainly do not seem to be lacking in funds.
I have just finished my interview with Dr. NK Chakrabarti and I am once again reminded of how closely knit legal academia can be. It turns out that Dr. Chakrabarti came to KLS on the invitation of Dr. Mitra, the same Dr. Mitra who supervised Dr. Charkabarti’s PhD thesis. This is also the same Dr. Mitra who was Vice Chancellor of NLSIU (1997-2001) and founding Vice Chancellor of NLU Jodhpur. Even though Dr. Mitra is currently the Chancellor of KIIT University, I am quite certain that he has managed to attract both faculty members and students to this young institute. I am struck by the parallels between law firms and law schools. A departure from one firm to set up another firm, lateral hires of people you have worked with previously etc.
“Sir, why are our seniors not getting placed?” they ask me and for a moment, I simply did not know how to react. I am standing outside the hostel and speaking to a couple of students from the second year. They are anxious and they are worried and I really have no idea what to tell them. I try some spiel relating to “market conditions” and “economic downturn” but I leave with the distinct impression that they remained unconvinced. I realise that there are various methods to attract students but the perpetuation of “100% placements” is something which needs to be sorted out with some degree of urgency. If it is not, it might prove to be as dangerous for students as for the law school itself. You can’t enter law school with the complacency of assured placements (and I think this is what Raian Karanjawala refers to in his interview). Setting aside the disappointment of reality, it might lead to a lackadaisical approach, the feeling that no matter what you do, a job is guaranteed at the end of five years.
I am walking through the well maintained corridors and peeping into classes, trying to find a bunch of students to talk to. Every once in a while I will pass by a classroom and spot someone catching a quick nap on the last bench. Some things truly never change. When I finally do meet some students, I am both surprised and grateful at what they have to say. They throw at me a whole bunch of questions (ranging from the slightly playful “What do you think of Legally India?” and the painfully precise “So, what exactly do you do?”). It is a fun group of students, each quite assured of his or her individuality and unhesitant in sharing an opinion. If this is the kind of students KLS can attract, I think it will manage to do quite well for itself.
So what do I think about KLS?
The KIIT University is headed by Dr. Mitra, who is certainly no stranger to the world of law schools. Even though KLS is not the only institute that comes under his supervision, I can well imagine him using his network to attract good faculty. The faculty profile at KLS throws up some interesting names such as Prof. VD Sebastian and Prof. Sujit Kumar Nandy. Also, a large number of the younger faculty have completed their LLM’s from National Law Universities.
Another positive aspect of KLS is that it is located within, what can very well be described as, the “university town” of KIIT University. This should allow KLS students, and here I presume, to interact with students pursuing different streams of education. This also means that “student friendly” shops, eating joints etc are within walking distance from the campus.
As for the negatives, and this is true for all new law schools, KLS graduates will have to bear the consequences of a fledgling alumni network. KLS was established in 2007. Secondly, location-wise it is certainly at a disadvantage since firms might not be as eager to conduct campus interviews. Thirdly, KLS prefers students who take the KITT entrance examination, a less competitive and less popular exam as compared to CLAT.
Then there are the fees which are pegged at Rs. 1.9 lakhs a year. Furthermore, the KIIT University Prospectus 2011-2012 also mentions “Other Fees” under various heads as well as Accidental Insurance totalling to Rs. 80,000 making KLS one of the more expensive law schools in the country.
Having said that, KLS has managed to attract a fair amount of attention in a short span of time and the KIIT University brand name will undoubtedly work to the benefit of KLS. I also feel that the private nature of KLS will provide it with a certain degree of speed and flexibility in hiring faculty and executing projects. Whether this means that it can continue to attract quality faculty and students, develop a research-based culture and compete with other national law schools, is something only time will tell.
Oh and this is the emaciated polar bear I was talking about:
The abovementioned visit to the KIIT Law School took place in February 2012. The author would like to thank the KLS faculty and staff as well as the students for their time and cooperation.