Being good at proving your point or having a good convincing power is not the only quality required to become a lawyer. Experts tell Gauri Rane about the skill gap in the profession.
Most of us would remember Anil Kapoor as defense lawyer Arun Verma who consumes evidence to prove his client not guilty in the movie Meri Jung. This scene may not ring a bell, but the confidence and hunger to win, which Verma displays will forever be etched in memory.
A doctor’s son becomes a doctor; a lawyer’s a lawyer, this old saying continues to hold true even today. However there are many who do not have a lineage in the profession but nevertheless a desire to don the black cloak. The legal profession has seen a tremendous increase in the number of aspirants over the years. Senior Advocate at Bombay High Court, Shirish Gupte says that there is almost 75 per cent increase in the number of fresh graduates stepping into the legal arena every year. “We didn’t have much of a choice during our time. One could either become a doctor or a lawyer. Today, students make informed decisions to enter the profession,” he reminisces.
However, this increase in numbers is not necessarily a shine on the profession. Experts in the industry are unanimous when they say that graduates coming from various law schools in the country do not have the required skill set. There is a huge skill gap they say. “There is a huge disconnect between what students learn in a law school and the real world,” says Somasekhar Sundaresan, head Securities Law, J Sagar Associates. He lists the various gaps in the teaching methodology. “The course curriculum is not fact oriented. Students do not have practical knowledge, the application of facts which only practice can teach is missing.”
Sundaresan adds another reason for lack of quality in fresh graduates. “Students do not have access to lawyers who practice and hence do not understand the application of theory to real time,” he explains. Cyber expert Vijay Mukhi agrees with Sundaresan. “Our best lawyers do not spend enough time with law students, leaving the aspirants raw and with little knowledge about how to deal with litigation/ non litigation matters.”
The reasons are not far to seek. Law as career is lucrative only if one stands in the courtroom but, the remunerations are very low when it comes to academics. “If our teachers were compensated well, then this would not be the case. While our bright minds earn big bucks for a day’s appearance in the court, they get close to nothing for giving a lecture at a law school,” says Mukhi.
Sundaresan has another point to make. He says, “Corporate firms offer a good pay package attracting quality lawyers. There are few who love the profession and want to mentor newcomers.”
While industry experts continue to debate on the visible skill gap, Sundaresan offers advice. “There needs to be a continuous industry academia exchange. Law schools need to stress on practical orientation of the course,” he says. Aspirants need to take up intensive internships in order to understand if he/ she is made for litigation/ non litigation career. Gupte explains, “For a career in litigation one needs to be a good orator, have command over language and most importantly be able to put his/ her point of view convincingly. Whereas for those pursuing non-litigation, a research oriented approach is important.”
Law is not an easy profession; one must be up to date with not just the laws, amendments and various acts, but also keep a close eye on judgments that are passed. This means prospective lawyers need to be able to do continuous research and should have a good grasping power. Success solely depends on how many cases one has won. With a proper balance of theory, practical experience and continuous industry academia interactions the law aspirants might as well have a strong case.
A fresher earns up to Rs 50,000 p.m. in a law firm.
EXAMS IN LAW
Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) are two entrance exams that student have to appear for getting into a law school. While CLAT scores are accepted by 14 national universities across India, students aspiring to study law in universities in US, Canada and Australia have to appear for LSAT. Law aspirants can find out more about the exams on www.clat.ac.in and www.lsac.org
Whether graduates from law colleges across India are industry ready? Do they have the required skill sets? The answer to these questions I am afraid is negative. I am of the view that the current status of legal education in India is of concern. The current crop of students has little or no experience of dealing with real time cases. Yes now-a-days there are various moot court competitions etc. held to give the students feel of the real scenarios. But that is not enough. There should be a fine blend between theory and practical. If the academia ever ponders over this, I am sure we will come up with relevant solutions. It shall be a worthy beginning leading to culmination of rule of law in India.
-- Ravi Gorane, dean, School of Law, SVKM’s NMIMS
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