Balancing global and local, bringing diversity on campus, use of tech in legal education and more: NLSIU alumni discuss in E-Symposium

National Law School of India University

The Alumni Association of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) organized an E-symposium on Saturday featuring a panel of academicians, lawyers and entrepreneurs to discuss the future of legal education at NLS .

The programme was divided into three sessions, with a total of 11 speakers from diverse legal backgrounds.

The first session for the evening was dealing with the issues of infrastructure and investment, moderated by Murali Neelakantan.

Starting off the session, Umakanth Varottil spoke on the different challenges that NLS was facing currently. Firstly, NLS will have to balance between globalization and localization as there was a general perception that the University was only catering to the “elite”, he observed.

The second challenge, according to him was the impact of technology in legal education. He opined that technology was not being employed properly in terms of legal education, which opened up a wide range of issues. Lastly, Varottil pointed out that the whole area of legal services was having “a blurring of boundaries.” Students will now have to learn law and “something else“, rather than just law, he said.

Registrar of NLSIU, Prof (Dr) Sarasu E Thomas opined thatthat raising finance was an issue, which affected NLSIU’s outreach programs.

On a similar viewpoint, Varottil mooted that the Alumni could help out by giving out their talent, time and treasure. While talent and time was provided in plenty, the treasure was undermined, he said. As increasing the fees of students was out of the question, the Alumni Body could help out in terms of finance, he suggested.

However, in order to conceptualize this, there needs to a more systematic and sustained arrangement with the Alumni, Virottil said.

Thomas further stressed on the need for making legal courses and subjects more meaningful for the students. Highlighting this view, she said,

We need to focus on making courses more meaningful for students… We need to make law more open, which will allow students from other disciplines to study law. We are even considering opening a 3 year LLB course…

Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee said that the Law School should cater to larger sections of students and not just 70-80 people. He further went on to agree with the notion that Law school was more or less, accommodating the needs of the “privileged”.

Where does Law School discuss local issues or needs?… We are only catering to elite Indian, not the traditional Indian“, Banerjee said.

The second session was on the issues of inclusion and diversity inside and outside classrooms. This session was moderated by Sachin Malhan. This session saw the participation of panelists such as Amba Salelkar, Prof (Dr) Sumit Baudh, Swati Agrawal;and Advocate Vivek Divan.

All the panellists collectively agreed that caste, class, sexual orientation, mental health, difficulty to speak English, may be a few of the issues on which students faced discrimination inside and outside classrooms.

Swati Agrawal touched upon certain entry barriers.Relying on the IDIA diversity report, 2018-2019, she opined that lack of information on the legal profession, law schools, socio-cultural exclusion, interaction on campus were certain entry barriers for potential students.

Agrawal further opined that all kinds of discriminatory practices have to be punished.

Another interesting take on the subject came from Divan who urged the NLS Faculty and administration to be more inclusive. He added,

“Backgrounds of students have to be researched and this exercise can be done by Faculty/administration.”

Prof Dev Gangjee moderated the third and final session, which explored the issues related to the impact of Technology in Legal Education.

Pramod Rao, the first speaker in the session began by citing the example of Byju’s learning app and how the brand grew over the years. “It’s because they have harnessed technology“, Rao said.

He added that this time had to be utilized effectively by students in the form of virtual internships and moots. Contrary to the popular opinion, Rao said these transformations needed innovation and not finance.

Ashok Kamath indicated that “Creative use of assets in creative methods might help reduce the digital divide“.

Rahul Matthan spoke on how technology can be made very useful in the legal area. One of the biggest changes right now is the switch in litigation to e-courts, he observed.

Recalling a personal experience, he said that during his time at NLSIU, students had to refer to commentaries, owing to which the research was very limited. Right now, with technology in the picture, things have changed remarkably, Matthan said.

However, raising concerns over the current system of online classes, he said,

Can we think out of the box with respect to online legal classes now?... Even though students and teachers are not in the same place, whatever was being done in a classroom, is continuing now.”

Others speakers for the E-symposium included Poojitha Rao, Vignesh R, and Savitha K Jadadeesan.

Published by Sneha Vishwakarma

Advocate, Bombay High court.

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