Restructuring Of Legal Education
In this article, the writer will be sharing his academic point of view on the restructuring of legal education in Pakistan.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan has recently shown dissatisfaction over the prevailing standard of legal education in Pakistan and has constituted committees to recommend reforms in the decades-old system. It would not be out of place to mention that the whole academic system is stagnated and thus, it is difficult to reform a solitary and diluted system of legal education. Moreover, there are fundamental drawbacks in the existing standard of education in Pakistan and it may take a long time to counter them. Nonetheless, efforts could be made to restructure existing legal education. There are genuine concerns about the quality of the existing law universities and colleges. Therefore, to address these concerns, there should be a centralized standard of legal education to improve and enhance its quality to achieve academic and professional excellence.
There is no doubt that legal education in Pakistan is in crisis and universities and law colleges have contributed to it. The substandard academic structure – that includes academic curriculum, admission criteria, non-attendance, cheating in final examination and poor final evaluation, and approval of plagiarized dissertations as well as incompetent faculty – has worsened this crisis. The lack of interaction with international law schools and faculty is also a cause for serious concern. The existing admission criteria and requirements, including fake admissions, have also been a cause for concern, attracting non-meritorious and low-grade students to law colleges. The academic atmosphere – that includes faculty, staff and students, as well as the award of degrees to non-deserving students – has contributed much to this crisis. The present admission criteria needs to be revisited as there is a need to formulate a standard approach. A student scoring at least 60% marks may be eligible for admission along with other conditions.
Clinical education and moot courts should be added to the curriculum so that the gap between theory and practice is minimized. The lack of professional communication skills, manners and etiquettes has also contributed to these crises. The academia’s poor methods yield poor intellectual capabilities and analytical skills. Research-oriented methodologies need to be adopted at the undergraduate level as lawyering involves research and analysis even before the beginning of the profession. The curriculum textbooks written decades ago lack clarity and need to be revised by a panel of local experts as well as those from abroad. Therefore, a standardized approach towards the legal curriculum needs to be devised. The Islamic Law subjects in conventional law colleges need to be equitably increased as a major portion of rules has been Islamized. The only language that needs to be promoted is English and IELTS with minimum band six (o6) needs to be set as a prerequisite for admission.
A mockery of the state of legal education is that students have become accustomed to being awarded high grades without any potential and intellectual exertion. This dilemma can further be substantiated by the fact that in most written theses, neither the student nor the supervisor is aware of what is being written, in fact, even copying-and-pasting gets approved by the supervisor.
The apprenticeship programme also needs to be revised as a six-month apprenticeship with a lawyer is not enough to allow a fresh graduate to start practising law. There should be a proper, centralized examination known as the “Bar Examination” before the award of a licence to a fresh graduate. The main argument here is that a fresh graduate needs to be equipped with a range of lawyering skills before entering the legal profession. In the existing old-fashioned and stagnated approach, what more can be expected than instances of locking doors of lower courts to pressurize judges for achieving ulterior motives?
Students are normally being used for the achievement of political objectives by the academia. The university administration is keener in leg-pulling than academic excellence. The research-oriented approach is far from being achieved, rather the focus is on achieving political milestones. Political appointments have completely destroyed the academia’s research-oriented approach. Even special favours get granted based on nepotism and mere likes and dislikes, by changing the records and minutes of meetings and using them at whim. The academia has been badly affected by political and non-meritorious appointments. The lack of checks and balances is also a cause for concern as it yields into non-performance. A majority of the academia mercilessly violates rules and takes regulations for granted and such self-governing people get considered to be inherently right as a norm.
There have been instances where the doors of higher courts have been knocked to enforce checks and balances but those too have ended up in disappointment. This aspect also needs to be checked with due care and diligence. On the bright side, all pending cases regarding the academia in the High Courts, as well as Supreme Court, need to be disposed on a priority basis. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) may also take the initiative of directing the academia to sort out its pending inquiries in a months’ time. Justice requires that the HEC gets involved in such inquiries and re-examines whether they were made on merit or otherwise. Punitive directions in this regard may also be made towards the wrongdoers.
At the very least, there should be standard national law university with a standard library that could provide guidance to the rest of the law colleges. It should also have well-known legal experts and foreign-qualified academicians. Some standards need to be framed for the Law programmes at a national level and they need to be checked regularly by the Bar Council as well as the HEC in order to improve the overall standard of legal education in the country. The introduction of clinical education and moot court programmes, as mentioned earlier, at the undergrad level will enhance students’ lawyering capabilities. It will also provide an opportunity for learning practical legal issues, with a connection between theory and practice. Drafting skills should be taught properly, as this is the main area of concern, and the relevant core subjects need to be revised.
The role of Pakistan’s Justice and Law Commission also needs to be enhanced so that it can look into the worsening conditions of legal education and recommend improvements in the overall legal and judicial system of Pakistan. The Pakistan Bar Council also needs to amend its rules and reform the existing situation. Consequently, genuine concerns regarding the quality of legal education could be addressed and enhanced if an exhaustive effort is made in consultation with the HEC and Bar Council of Pakistan. And last, but not the least, the role of chancellors’ offices within the academia is also of utmost importance and needs to proactively focus on legal reforms instead of just attending events.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any organization with which he might be associated.