An increasing number students and law professionals are recognising the need to learn law online. Sanchayan Bhattacharjee reports
Most industries and organisations have new graduates with a surplus of theory knowledge and lack of practical knowledge. Law firms are not an exception to this rule. In order to bridge this gap, a number of online platforms provide short and long term certificate courses to law students and professionals. “When we studied law, we did not have enough faculty members in our college at Raipur.
So to help the subsequent batches of students we decided to set up an online portal which offered different law courses,” says Aounkar Anand, co-founder of Rostrumlegal.com, which has more than 8000 registered users.
Similarly, myLaw.net is another such portal that has helped around 20,000 students thus far and also managed to secure industry recognition to an extent. “Seniors working in reputed law firms told me that new employees at the organisation were asked to complete a corporate law course from the portal. So I signed up for the course now, as it will help me during my internship,” says Mohith Gauri, a second year law student from Pune. “The target ultimately is to reach tier two or tier three colleges, where teaching is abysmal,” says Antony Alex, founder, myLaw.net.
According to Deepak Thakkar, lawyer, Mumbai, except for some places like Kolkata and Gujarat, law students are not equipped adequately for the professional world. “Even Maharashtra lags behind as compared to these places. Internships and online courses helps improve court knowledge through recent and relevant case studies,” he says.
Padmakar Tripathi, legal manager, HDFC Insurance agrees. “Most of my clients are based in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand where the working of the courts is far from efficient. Although I do not have formal legal education, a basic course in consumer law makes work life easier,” he says.
Similarly Devesh Namdeo, an engineer from Raipur explains how a simple course on the Consumer Protection Act proved to be helpful. “I purchased an iron from an online company. Despite delivering a faulty one, they were not ready to replace it. Then once I threatened legal action, the replacement was prompt,” he says.
Some of the students enrolled with myLaw are currently pursuing their masters in Intellectual Property Law or a post graduate diploma in Business Laws, both of which are carried out in collaboration with the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences respectively.
However, a University Grants Commission (UGC) notice which states that no university can offer its programmes through an agreement with private coaching institutions, even if it is for distance education has made it difficult to continue these programmes. “They haven’t enforced it just yet, but it can happen anytime,” says Alex.
When asked about the problem, UGC agreed that the notice guideline was not ideal. “There are fraudulent organisations which provide substandard learning, which cannot have the stamp of an official university. But there are some really good platforms too,” said Manoj Kumar, deputy secretary, western regional office, UGC.
These stipulations become important because despite the benefits of online learning, learners attach a lot of importance to certification. Karthikeyan Balasubramanian, who is currently taking such a course and runs a law firm, explains, “University certification is very important for fresh graduates since they are investing time and money.”
Balasubramanium, who is pursuing a course in corporate law as his forte for the last 15 years has been estate laws adds that he didn’t learn much from his full time master’s programme. “Online courses are convenient and allow me to cope with the new batch of professionals and increase my client base,” he asserts.
So while there is clearly a need for online platforms to fill the gaps in law education for students and professionals, a restriction from the UGC restricts the capability of these platforms. While there is definitely a need for regulation, a one size fits all approach may not necessarily be the best one.