Reforms in legal education


Himalayan News Service

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Once US author and comedian Demetri Martin had said, “I went to law school. I found it interesting for the first three weeks.” Martin’s quotation reflects how tedious legal education is. Boring things are discussed in classes every day. There are discussions on cases like divorce, property, business transaction, rights and duties and law and order but no excitement for students. Despite being monotonous, legal education has high importance in society. In this complex modern world, the importance of legal education has increased very rapidly. Many issues emerge in every step and we have to step ahead solving them with the help of legal experts, lawyers and legal institutions. Ultimately, the country’s rule of law, constitutionalism and just society are based on proper legal education. On one hand, we feel the necessity of law in each and every step of life due to complex human behavior and changing nature of time but on the other hand, there are varieties of problems which are hindering development of the legal sector. 

These days law colleges are mushrooming but are lacking in quality and practical education, well-organized management, well-equipped library, moot court hall, research mechanism, basic infrastructure required for students and internship opportunities. Moreover, in some cases colleges are established by those people who do not have even the legal background and sufficient knowledge of this sector. Due to the very reason they never understand the necessity and requirement of students. They are just focused on theoretical knowledge but not given the practical education according to the need. As a result, when students pass their specific standard and step in the practical field, they possess no knowledge about the existing practice. 

The development of the legal sector in Nepal is not enhanced up to that standard that when students come out from their colleges, they can go in court and proceed and litigate the cases. The new lawyers spend their valuable time carrying bags of the senior advocates hoping to share with them some opportunities. This is all due to lack of practical education and confidence according to the demand of the times.

Every year we produce hundreds of lawyers but most of them remain unemployed carrying their graduation certificate in hand. This trend has seriously reduced the attractions towards legal education. Additionally, it depends on the social, political and economic development in the country. Nepal is not achieving the desired result for such a large investment in education.Though a bill on setting up a Lawyers’ Academy was prepared by the Ministry of Law and Justice a few years ago, there was no progress in translating the plan into reality which is the demand of the whole legal circles. 

While talking about the existing problems of legal education, we should also concentrate on seeking solutions to these sorts of problems. Before granting permission (license) to set up law colleges, universities can check whether the license holders possess eligibility to open such colleges or not, whether they have legal background and sufficient knowledge and infrastructure to run those institutions. 

This can be the most effective mechanism to solve the existing problems seen in legal education. Likewise, research-based and practical education should be enhanced by providing adequate opportunities for legal research, case law studies, seminar and conference, several confident-building processes like moot court, trial process, educational tours and many more so that future lawyers can develop their confidence to the full extent due to which they become able to handle legal issues. Discussion on the verdict of the Supreme Court in Ambar Raut vs GoN in 2010 is significant in this regard. The apex court had directed the government and the parliament to arrange to provide legal education to case-deciding authorities (judges) in various quasi-judicial bodies who handle one-third of the total workload, but they do not have a legal education background. The CDOs, the Land Reform Authorities, the District Forest Officers and the Conservation Officers have been deciding cases like arms and ammunition, state offence cases, land reforms cases, land revenue cases, deforestation and wild life and national parks issues and have been exercising the right to award maximum quantum of 20-year life sentence in some cases. 

Currently, based on the verdict, the National Judicial Academy began providing training for Chief District Officers, who work as judges in some cases. This is a good beginning. Since law colleges are handling legal education they themselves are not sufficient to make policies in legal education but the Supreme Court, Nepal Bar Council, Nepal Bar Association and other legal institutions are not found serious about making it more practical. In conclusion, legal education is necessary to protect the rights of people, maintain the rule of law and ultimately create a just society. Henceforth, joint efforts by the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Law and Justice, Nepal Bar Council, Nepal Bar Association are required to create a suitable environment for legal education.

Source; The Himalayan TImes, published on March 22, 2013, written by Namrata Dhungana