THE NLU V/S NON-NLU DEBATE
Written by: Abhishek Kurian, student, National Law University, Odisha
Legal education in India has undergone a revolutionary change after the institution of specialized law universities called the National Law Universities (hereinafter referred to as Nlus). They are also referred to as the IITs and IIMs of law because of the similarity in their system and the parallel breakthrough that they have made in the legal educational field. These Nlus are among the most sought after colleges for law aspirants, as students They are known to set the benchmark for law colleges.
Despite all of its glory, Nlus are not very generous with their seats and provide only a total of 2175 seats, whereas the total number of law students graduating each year is almost 80000. If the hype around Nlus is true, these statistics imply that around 78000 law students do not receive high-quality legal education. This article would analyse the extent of truth in this statement.
I. Why is there a Debate between NLUs and Non-NLUs?
The debate between NLU and Non-NLUs was started ever since the NLUs started dominating in National and International rankings. Moreover, it was the impact that was created by the students in these NLUs which ignited such a debate between many people who are practicing in the legal field.
A. Placements and Dominance in the Corporate Sector
Students from National Law Universities have been creating record breaking statistics in terms of placements bagged by the major law firms, MNCs and other big companies. Not only this, but a few of them eventually go on to lead the key divisions of these firms and becoming partners as well. This level of success creates a big name in the industry and results in the brilliance of the Nlus.
B. LLM Scholarships
Students from Nlus have been creating a steady impression in the eyes of the public by attaining scholarships from prestigious foreign universities which include Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, Columbia, Yale and many more of these.....thereby establishing their presence abroad as well. Although there are many non-Nlu students that have made a mark in this field in the past, the recent trend would show that majority of the students being rewarded with these scholarships are Nlu graduates.
C. Mooting and Extra-Curricular Achievements
Most National and International moots are dominated by the students at Nlus. There was a time where 90% of the moots were won by NLUs and it was not until recent times that non-Nlu students started performing at comparable levels at these moots. In addition to this, they also perform at a high level in various Alternative Dispute Resolution Competitions. The citations that the students in these Nlus achieve, creates a lasting impression on the judges who are usually top lawyers from diverse fields. This results in an immediate comparison between law students from Nlus and non-Nlus in the legal industry regarding their quality and potential. showcase
All the reasons discussed above are what usually strike the debate, as they expose a very noticeable difference between students from Nlus and those of Non-Nlus.
II. What are the major reasons that give the NLUs an Edge ?
Now that we understand the reasons that ignited this debate between NLUs and non-NLUs, let's look at the real reasons that make the students from these NLUs actually stand apart.
A. Common Law Admission Test(CLAT)- The first game changer
Since the journey of most law students starts with the desire to crack this mandatory entrance, and a qualifying rank in this examination happens to be the ticket to an NLU, it is fitting that we start the debate with this topic. All the NLUs, with the exception of NLU-D (which accepts AILET) mandate CLAT as a prerequisite . This implies that all the students from NLUs have cleared this entrance.
Over the years, CLAT has become a very competitive exam, not just in terms of the number of test takers per year but also the increasing range of questions asked in the paper. This forces the law aspirants to work hard right from the start by attending coaching, writing mocks, buying a lot of books.
Now, when a student puts in this kind of hard work and dedication towards a seat, he/she is naturally going to be more driven towards achieving much greater things once they are in law school. By sacrificing their weekends for attending CLAT coaching, they learn to set priorities and also giving up a few unimportant things for greater returns. By managing their board exams and law entrances simultaneously, they imbibe the discipline and commitment required to face similar situations in the future.
When it comes to students who drop a year (or in some case even two years) to clear this examination, it is but natural that they would show an amplified willingness to make it big in the legal profession, as opposed to someone who chooses law as a fall back career and lands in an average law school.
B. Culture at National Law Universities
While, the culture at every NLU might be different, there are certain similarities that become a major factor for their growth.
i. Inter-Batch Relations
Inter-batch relations in most NLUs are emphasised on, by the seniors, right from the very start of law school and rightly so. Seniors can play an important role in guiding first years and in almost all NLUs, seniors actively make efforts to set the juniors on the right path.
In my first month of law school seniors took three sessions for the first years, teaching the efficient use of legal databases. This is something that even 2nd years of many other colleges are not fully aware of and I, as a first year had the experience of learning this from the best of seniors. One of them, who had already bagged a PPO in a major law firm and another who was an experienced international mooter. Our seniors also mailed the entire batch question papers, class notes and softcopies or links for textbooks.
These are the things which make a huge difference in the long run as seniors strive to eliminate all the pitfalls we as juniors could fall into by sharing their experiences and also by providing us with the necessary know-how to tackle different problems.
This kind of relation is weak, if not totally absent in most of the other law schools. The students are much more individualistic in nature and hence the overall culture of the college remains to be estranged unlike NLUs where the sense of unity is heightened and seniors are always willing to help. This results in a very conducive environment to learn and grow at a very fast pace.
ii. Residential Colleges
Residential colleges have many advantages and all NLUs have mandated hostel stay. This is one of the best things that could happen to a student. Every student has the access to the library and study rooms for a minimum of 8 hours more than students at other colleges. Not to forget, nearly 24/7 access to seniors who are there in the campus as mentors and are more than happy to help the juniors in any way possible. The night before my first exam in law school, I was very nervous and one of the seniors sat for an hour clearing my doubts and guiding me on the ways to write a law paper and this was a few hours before his exam too.
The residential campus also allows for long, continuous and united hours of preparation for competitions like moots, ADR and debates that would not be possible if it were not for such culture.
C. Extensive focus on Committees
NLUs generally have more than 25 committees which include centers for research, organising bodies like mooting, ADR and debating societies and even cultural and sports committees. This creates a very wholesome environment in the college which allows overall growth in a law student as it does not restrict one to merely academics.
The centers for research in these colleges take up wide-spread research projects which in some cases could even act as a secondary resource for legal practitioners. Other than the educational benefits, working in such committees also gives the students, the experience of a professional work-environment at a very early stage in their career.
The committees for recreational activities also work passionately to arrange for entertaining events and competitions during festivals and few weekends keeping the students engaged, thereby making them comfortable with the college.
D. Ample Exposure to Legal Luminaries
This is something that students from NLUs would certainly boast about as the kind of exposure they receive is rare or even unheard of in many law colleges. The Chancellor of an NLU is the Chief Justice of the state High Court and the Advocate General of the State is more often than not closely associated to the college. In addition to this, the annual convocation hosts many of the esteemed Justices from the Supreme Court.
NLUs also organise a lot of events and conferences, inviting distinguished legal practitioners, which gives immense opportunity to the students for interacting with them and gaining practical insights into the legal career.
As mentioned above, such exposure is a rarity in other colleges, which results in the students missing out on valuable interactions and learning experiences.
E. Superior Infrastructure
Most NLUs have sprawling campuses with auditoriums, halls, cafeterias or canteens, even a well-equipped sports complex. Apart from this, one of the most important assets of a law college is its library. Despite online databases, a library remains to be for a law student what a lab is to a chemist. It is the source of important legal material like books, bare acts and journals for the students and almost all NLUs possess a vast collection of such material in their enormous libraries. These libraries are usually open for long durations which give the students ample time to utilise such facilities.
Most careers in law are largely based on practical work experience as opposed to theoretical knowledge. Law colleges have very little or nothing to offer in terms of such practical experiences. In fact, most law colleges only focus on academics and a few extra-curricular activities. The only means of attaining such practical experience is by focusing on relevant internships.
NLUs are the ones to start the practice of legal internships which gives the students first-hand experiences in the legal field even before graduating. Almost all NLUs give a period of two months to its students for interning. This gives the students exposure to many different fields, which helps them in deciding the field they are most suited for. Such a decision also helps them to hone their skills in that particular field gaining experience and valuable insights at a very young age.
The students start asking one another regarding their choice of internship during the start of the semester itself and many apply for these internships 6-10 months before their internship leave. This kind of attention to internships definitely helps the student to grow as a lawyer, build their network and also increase their future prospects in the industry.
It is evident that NLUs certainly have an edge over Non-NLUs and they have shown immense potential and growth in a very short span of time. Also, the rate of growth in these NLUs is not stagnant unlike many prestigious Non-NLUs which means the future of legal education would soon be comparable to international standards.