What’s wrong with law education?

Published On: September 27, 2020 01:13 PM NPT By: Rajendra Bahadur Singh

Pedagogy of law has not been changed to suit the changed context. We still use the obsolete teaching-learning methods.

Law graduates are supposed to be equipped with basic skills and knowledge on the procedures of judicial administration and legal drafting, but most of them, in Nepal, are found to have superficial theoretical knowledge on the legal studies with scant competencies required for the practice. They acquire those skills only after they join law firms. Thus they have to rely on the law firms to gain the basic skills and competencies before they start law practice on their own. Many of them join law training firms after graduation from the university. This has become a common problem among the law graduates in the country.

It has reinforced the belief that a law graduate can only be a stable law practitioner when s/he works at a law firm. Why is this happening despite the fact that universities provide courses related to moot-court, lawyering skills, legal drafting, procedural law, interpretation of statutes and so on? Why do law graduates have to wait for many years to become practitioners? Why cannot the graduates acquire minimum competencies while in the universities? Why does this happen when the objective of law curriculum is to ‘produce the human resources equipped with legal skills, competencies, and attitude to prepare legal scholars, jurists and academicians for the professions of law teaching, legal research, judicial and government services, and consultations for public and private enterprises’?

There may be many reasons but the way through which law students are exposed to the teaching-learning environments at the universities is responsible. Conventional teaching-learning methods are in use hindering development of skills and competencies. They are not facilitated to cope up with the changed context of the legal studies. 

The concept of law and function of law has drastically changed. In the past, the function of law was to dispense justice and the job of the lawyers was to represent the plaintiffs into the courts of law. Most of the law graduates used to join the government services. The remaining ones used to work as litigant lawyers in the private law firms.

This has changed now. Law is seen as a tool for social transformation, equality and sustainable development. Scope of lawyers has also expanded. A lawyer has multiple roles to perform in different spheres. They have plenty of career options. But pedagogy has not been changed to suit the changed context. We still use the obsolete teaching-learning methods.

Law is a vocational course. Thus different skills have to be imparted to law students. But this cannot be done without changing the teaching methods. Lecture method is widely dominant in law teaching. Law students also need to be familiar with information communication technologies (ICTs). But ICTs and modern innovations have rarely become the part of law teaching.

There is not any mandatory provision of having the pedagogical knowledge or training requirement to teach law students. The seminars, workshops and refresher trainings focus on the domain of knowledge in the legal studies. The pedagogical parts are rarely included in. Neither there is formal institution to provide the training on teaching law from where law teachers can gain teaching skills.

The law students are taught what the lawyers should do but the skills which are associated with legal professions are often overlooked. The formal teaching overlooks skills, competencies and attitudes required for legal professions. Theoretical aspects are focused.

We do not have the institutional mechanism to ensure whether the law teachers are appropriately and adequately trained. The law teachers participate in advanced research and orientation programs. These programs heavily focus on the substantive elements of law rather than teaching methods. Contents such as philosophical foundation of teaching, learning theories and andragogy remain absent.

There is not any formal institution from where law teachers can acquire teaching skills. There is no way of testing whether they possess the skills of designing curriculum and how well they can deliver the lesson. We test them only on the basis of their substantive knowledge of law.

By and large, we still follow the pattern which was developed centuries ago in Europe.

Nepal is a member of various international organizations and, as such, our engagement with the rest of the world is getting wider. Thus we will have to deal with many more international issues and concerns. To defend our interests and to present our cases strongly, we need the best legal professionals and diplomats. This won’t be possible if we do not enhance our law education to an international standard—in terms of teaching as well as in imparting the students all necessary skills and competencies.

The author is an advocate.



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