Legal education in India
Legal education in the India generally refers to the education of lawyers before entry into practice. Legal education in India is offered at different levels by the traditional universities and the specialised law universities and schools only after completion of an undergraduate degree or as an integrated degree.
During the shift from Mughal legal system, the advocates under that regimen, “vakils”, too followed suit, though they mostly continued their earlier role as client representatives. The doors of the newly created Supreme Courts were barred to Indian practitioners as right of audience was limited to members of English, Irish and Scottish professional bodies. Subsequent rules and statutes culminating in the Legal Practitioners Act of 1846 which opened up the profession regardless of nationality or religion.
In India, legal education has been traditionally offered as a three years graduate degree. However the structure has been changed since 1987. Law degrees in India are granted and conferred in terms of the Advocates Act, 1961, which is a law passed by the Parliament both on the aspect of legal education and also regulation of conduct of legal profession. Under the Act, the Bar Council of India is the supreme regulatory body to regulate the legal profession in India and also to ensure the compliance of the laws and maintenance of professional standards by the legal profession in the country.
To this regard, the Bar Council of India prescribes the minimum curriculum required to be taught in order for an institution to be eligible for the grant of a law degree. The Bar Council also carries on a period supervision of the institutions conferring the degree and evaluates their teaching methodology and curriculum and having determined that the institution meets the required standards, recognizes the institution and the degree conferred by it.
Traditionally the degrees that were conferred carried the title of LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws) or B.L. (Bachelor of Law). The eligibility requirement for these degrees was that the applicant already have a Bachelor's degree in any subject from a recognized institution. Thereafter the LL.B. / B.L. course was for three years, upon the successful completion of which the applicant was granted either degree.
However upon the suggestion by the Law Commission of India and also given the prevailing cry for reform the Bar Council of India instituted upon an experiment in terms of establishing specialized law universities solely devoted to legal education and thus to raise the academic standards of legal profession in India. This decision was taken somewhere in 1985 and thereafter the first law University in India was set up in Bangalore which was named as the National Law School of India University (popularly 'NLS'). These law universities were meant to offer a multi-disciplinary and integrated approach to legal education. It was therefore for the first time that a law degree other than LL.B. or B.L. was granted in India. NLS offered a five years law course upon the successful completion of which an integrated degree with the title of "B.A.,LL.B. (Honours)" would be granted.
Thereafter other law universities were set up, all offering five years integrated law degree with different nomenclature. The next in line was National Law Institute University set up in Bhopal in 1997. It was followed by NALSAR university of law set up in 1998. The National Law University, Jodhpur offered for the first time in 2001 the integrated law degree of "B.B.A, LL.B. (Honours)" which was preceded by the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences offering the "B.Sc., LL.B. (Honours)" degree. KIIT Law School, Bhubaneswar became the first law school in India in 2007 to start integrated law in three different streams and honours specialisation; i.e. BA/BBA/B.Sc. LLB (Honours).
However despite these specialized law universities, the traditional three year degree continues to be offered in India by other institutions and are equally recognized as eligible qualifications for practicing law in India. Another essential difference that remains is that while the eligibility qualification for the three year law degree is that the applicant must already be a holder of a Bachelor's degree, for being eligible for the five years integrated law degree, the applicant must have successfully completed Class XII from a recognized Boards of Education in India.
Both the holders of the three year degree and of the five year integrated degree are eligible for enrollment with the Bar Council of India upon the fulfillment of eligibility conditions and upon enrollment, may appear before any court in India.
The University Grants Commission approved one-year LLM courses in India on 6 September 2012 and the guideline for the same was notified in January, 2013.“We have an immense problem with the faculty, especially with more than 900 plus law schools all over the country, we suffer for want of faculty. The curriculum needs to be regulated and we will have to gradually upscale and upgrade,” confessed erstwhile law minister, Veerappa Moily.
In India, a student can pursue a legal course only after completing an undergraduate course in any discipline. However, following the national law school model, one can study law as an integrated course of five years after passing the senior secondary examination.
- Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) - The LL.B. is the most common law degree offered and conferred by Indian universities which has a duration of three years. Almost all law universities follow a standard LL.B. curriculum, wherein students are exposed to the required bar subjects.
- Integrated undergraduate degrees - B.A. LL.B., B.Sc. LL.B., BBA. LLB., B.Com. LL.B. These degrees are mostly offered in the autonomous law schools having a duration of five years.
- Master of Laws (LL.M.) - The LL.M. is most common postgraduate law degree which has a duration of one/two years.
- Master of Business Law
- Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
- Integrated MBL-LLM/ MBA-LLM. -Generally a three years double degree integrated course with specialisation in business law.
As of 2012, admission to LLB and LLM in most of the autonomous law schools in India is based on performance in Common Law Admission Test (CLAT). However, the National Law University, Delhi and the private autonomous law schools conduct their own admission tests. Admission to Jindal Global Law School is done through the LSAT examination conducted by Law School Admission Council, USA conducted by Pearson VUE, through its affiliate in India.
In most of the traditional universities, the admission is done on the basis of an admission test to the constituent law college or a common admission test for its affiliated colleges (Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University). Some traditional universities and affiliated colleges also admits student on the basis of merit in the preceding examination.
- "Brief History of law in India". Bar Council of India. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
- "Advocates Act, 1961". Bar Council of India. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
- "UGC releases guidelines and course structure for One Year LL.M degree; May be introduced from academic year 2013-14". Bar and Bench. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
- "Conversation with Veerappa Moily Minister of Law and Justice". Conversation with Veerappa Moily Minister of Law and Justice.