Aug 3, 2019

A 3-D approach to reform of legal education

Good governance and rule of law cannot be established unless we produce ‘ready for market’ law graduates, who, in the long run, have to perform a role as legal practitioners, judges, and parliamentarians. Since the inception of Pakistan, the legal education sector has been rather inadequate. It is not surprising therefore that justice and rule of law are not in a good shape. The law schools have not been able to produce the kind of graduates who can resolve the problems in the dispensation of justice in Pakistan.

There have been a number of efforts recently on the part of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan and the Pakistan Bar Council to raise the standards of legal education in the country. The Supreme Court of Pakistan too has nudged the legal education sector but the approach has been 2-D and the main stakeholders – universities – have not been heard at all.

A 3-D approach involving universities and introducing reforms in the legal education sector would be very fruitful. The HEC would do a big favour to future generations by increasing funding for law schools. Law school teachers must focus on adopting the latest teaching methodologies. Using technology tools for teaching law, mooting and above all law clinics to produce ready-for-market advocates are the need of the times in Pakistan. Centralized training for law professors could be a good intervention. The HEC can play the role of a facilitator. The country does not have a culture of legal research. There is not a single law journal registered with the HEC. The HEC must treat law as a separate discipline.

Law students should go for house jobs i.e. placement in chambers with senior lawyers in collaboration with universities or the HEC

The PBC needs to be clear about how it can contribute to the production of qualified practitioners. The body should raise the standards of the bar examinations for a licence. Also, there should be a policy to accommodate young lawyers. There should be a monthly remuneration for them for the first five years of their practice. Such reforms will ensure that only well-qualified law graduates enter the profession. The remuneration will attract competent candidates.

In short, if the government wishes to solve the problems of legal education, a 3-dimensional approach is needed. It must involve the bar, the bench and the academia. Leaving law schools out is not an option.

The abolition of the three-years LLB is not a great idea. The benefits of attending law school for five years cannot compare with those of a hands-on approach to learning.

Law students should go for house jobs i.e. placement in chambers with senior lawyers in collaboration with universities or the HEC. During the associateship, the fresh graduates should not specialise in criminal, civil or corporate law. The two-year house job should prepare them for law practice. The degree should be called LLB-Professional Track. Students interested in research and teaching of law should continue with an LLM. A five-year LLB would be all theory. Another five years will then be required to learn the ropes.

The law schools should come forward and start a dialogue with the HEC and the PBC. Fortunately, a step in this direction has been taken when recently an international conference titled Legal Education in Pakistan: Challenges and Opportunities was held at the Sharia’h and Law Department of the International Islamic University, Islamabad. Dr Hafiz Aziz Ur Rehman, the Department of Law chairman, effectively presented the case of law schools. Dr Mushtaq Ahmad, the Sharia’h Academy director general, stated that thinking of improving the standards of legal education in the country without listening to those who actually teach is impractical. The authorities should also listen to young lawyers.

— Neelofer Anwar