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Law students must be familiar with the Kerala Law Academy (KLA) Moot Court Competition but this time around KLA is in the news for their multi-faceted Principal, Dr. Lekshmi Nair. Apart from performing her role as the Principal of KLA, she is also a celebrity culinary expert with shows like “Magic Oven” and “Flavours of India” on a popular Malayalam television channel and is also a member of the Kerala State Film Censor Board.
Dr. Nair started as a news reader with Doordarshan (Malayalam channel) from 1986 to 1988 and is a literary critic and writer. Juggling multiple roles is something that comes to her naturally. She lives her passion of travelling and cooking through her shows but gives utmost importance to the college by taking up her extra-curricular activities only during the vacations. She reiterates that one gets the energy to work efficiently only when one gets to do things that one enjoys doing.
Associate Editor, Raghul Sudheesh spoke to Dr. Lekshmi Nair on varied range of topics including her views on the present legal education system, litigation as a career, high cost of legal education in India, involvement with the censor board, the ideas behind the cookery shows and future plans for her college
Raghul Sudheesh: What prompted you to choose law as a career?
Dr. Lekshmi Nair: Actually my whole family is connected with law. My father is the Director of the Kerala Law Academy and my mother also is a law graduate. Since law runs in the family, it basically came as a choice.
Raghul Sudheesh: How do you manage to juggle your time in between the academic and extra-curricular activities undertaken by you, since being a Principal comes with a whole lot of responsibilities and commitments?
Dr. Lekshmi Nair: I do not travel during college days. It is only during long vacations or short vacations like Onam that I undertake my other activities so that everything runs smoothly.
Raghul Sudheesh: How did you get involved in cooking and what inspires you in that?
Dr. Lekshmi Nair: Cooking is my passion. Though I am a lawyer by profession, I believe that one does not need to leave out one’s passion because of one’s profession. If you are capable then both can be managed. Time management is the essence of it all. Every day work is going to affect one’s health; there should be a balance between extra-curricular and academic activities. One must do what he/she likes as a hobby or a passion, like I do and that helps me carry forward the energy to the college and transmit it to the students which in turn will increase their efficiency level.
Raghul Sudheesh: When did you first come up with the idea of your cookery shows, “Magic Oven” & “Flavours of India”?
Dr. Lekshmi Nair: Magic Oven has already completed seven years. Flavours of India practically became possible only in the past two years though I have had the idea in my mind for about seven years. I love travelling and cooking so a combination of both is good; it is a whole new experience. And this even adds more to one’s knowledge than just reading about it.
Raghul Sudheesh: How did you become a member of the Kerala State Film Censor Board and how did you find your work there?
Dr. Lekshmi Nair: It’s a political appointment by the Central Government and because I am involved in social work they have selected me. There are a lot of members in the Board so it is not a full time work. Once in a while when we have the time we attend to it.
Raghul Sudheesh: Your research has been on the topic of “Legal Dimensions of Secularism” which is a highly debated topic, especially when it comes within the ambit of constitutional law. Which dimension have you tried to cover and what is your personal opinion regarding the same as a scholar of the subject?
Dr. Lekshmi Nair: It basically studies the legal dimension in the sense of implementation and interpretation of the idea of secularism which is theoretically present in the Constitution of India. I have done my LL.M. in Administrative Law as well so that perspective has also been covered side by side.
Raghul Sudheesh: What are the changes you propose to bring or have already brought to the system of functioning in your college, as a Principal?
Dr. Lekshmi Nair: There was a problem with the discipline in the college before I joined. Now I have made the system stricter by taking attendance at every hour and also by making 75% attendance compulsory for the students to appear for examinations. The students are given two chances to write the exam, as the teachers are asked to make students write answers once before the exams and if they are not performing well they can improve in the main exam. The ones who go by the professors obtain the maximum marks. This system has made the students more serious towards their studies and there has been a development in their academic perspective. We also host national level seminars and other events to keep the students engaged.
Raghul Sudheesh: How do you inculcate the research culture among the students?
Dr. Lekshmi Nair: We have a very good library and also a centre for research and development and also KLA Law review which is published on a yearly basis. We encourage students from the post-graduate as well as the graduate programmes to write articles, case comments, book reviews and if they are good we get them published.
Raghul Sudheesh: What is your opinion regarding the present legal education system, do you think it is sufficient to meet the needs of the changing times or there needs to be some modifications?
Dr. Lekshmi Nair: Legal education system is not that bad; it is pretty good. But if it is made more practical where court related work for the final year students is included, then it will benefit immensely. It should be made more profession oriented so that people opt for litigation and not for multinational corporations like most students do these days.
Raghul Sudheesh: Since litigation is uninviting more students opt for higher salaried jobs in law firms and corporate sector; what is your take on that?
Dr. Lekshmi Nair: Yes there is money but a lawyers’ profession is the best. There is no limit to what you get out of litigation but one needs the patience and perseverance to be in this field. Limitations are there but if it is possible litigation is the best field. Otherwise, to be a clerk in multinational corporations, you don’t need a law degree; you can get there with any other degree as well.
Raghul Sudheesh: Don’t you think the cost of legal education is very high in India, especially with national law schools’ fees coming up to Rs 8-9 lakhs for the course?
Dr. Lekshmi Nair: Yes. National law schools are definitely very expensive and it should be reduced but that is not so with our college. We charge around Rs 15,000-20,000 per year and give the same level of education so it is very cheap when you compare it with others.
Raghul Sudheesh: Do you think Indian law students are obsessed with moot courts?
Dr. Lekshmi Nair: It is there among the students but it is also good for their careers so there is no harm.
Raghul Sudheesh: KLA Moot Court and Client counselling are two events widely reputed over the years, how do you maintain the standards?
Dr. Lekshmi Nair: We follow the same procedures that have been followed since the earlier years. The students are involved in the organisation process and the senior students pass on their knowledge to the juniors and the tradition continues that way. And they are doing a very good job at it.
Raghul Sudheesh: What’s your opinion of extra-curricular activities? Do you emphasize upon extra -curricular activities to your students and how?
Dr. Lekshmi Nair: Yes, extra-curricular work is very important. Thus, all kind of activities like art, dancing, singing, sports are encouraged in the college and a balance is kept between studies and such activities.
Raghul Sudheesh: What are your plans for the future and of the college?
Dr. Lekshmi Nair: I do not plan my future as such. As for the college, it should come up more with activities and also we are introducing the integrated BBA-LL.B. course for the students.