In the month of June, a delegation of Members of the Bar Council of India headed by me, went to Australia to be able to interact with different constituents of the legal profession and to build partnership of enduring significance. We landed in Australia on 11th June 2010 and departed for Canberra on 14th June 2010. On 14th June, our gracious host Her Excellency Sujata Singh, Indian High Commissioner to Australia invited us to dinner, at which dinner were present a large number of leading professors, lawyers and judges. On the following day, we began a serious discussion on legal education and training including the challenges of the 21st century. We were deeply impressed by Prof. William Ford, Dean of Law, The University of Western Australia and Chair, Council of Australian Law Deans. In a remarkably clear presentation, he formulated the question:-
“What intellectual equipment does a good lawyer need?”
There is no doubt that a lawyer needs both substantive and technical skills. The substantive skills consist of the knowledge of legal rules, the technical skills and the ability to analyse and categorise difficult fact situations according to rules. But more importantly, there is, as Prof. Ford pointed out rightly, the need to work independently; to communicate fluently and clearly; to appreciate the social, political, economic and commercial contexts in which legal rules operate; understand and apply the ethical responsibilities of legal practitioners and above all, most significantly, that a lawyer must have the skill of life long learning. In my view, the Australian law programmes are strong because they have accounting, finance, marketing, international business and information systems in a combined degree programme. We too at the Bar Council are hopefully coming out with different options with effect from 2011-2012. The double degree requirement is to seek a major formation in the mind of the student but also to have a strong base for vocational preparedness. In my view, it would be a good idea to have a major plus a Juris Doctor. I found that the Australian Universities have a wonderful curriculum, which insists upon understanding globalization as well as high quality clinical education and research training. Although the Australian Universities are drawn on British tradition, but they have taken note of new processes and have adopted them and particularly, have shown increasing creativeness in the range of offerings and activities. Prof. Ford summed it up very well in his paper:-
“A high quality contemporary legal education has to aim to produce both the professional with a good sense of the role and function of law, and the scholar with a good sense of the practicalities of the law in action; it is also to produce experts in the legal rules who retain their idealism and optimism about improving those rules. Finally it has to produce lawyers who understand the imperatives for a legal system to achieve constancy whilst at the same facilitating change….”.
More importantly is the line:-
“A first rate legal education should focus not just on training lawyers to have profitable and satisfying individual careers, but also on inspiring them to use their knowledge and skills to give something back to the society in which we live….”.
I was also deeply impressed by the number of publications which have come out on legal education in Australia.
In Australia, the States have to adopt uniform admission requirements. The first is, minimum academic content for the law degree which satisfies academic requirements for admission as a lawyer. Thereafter the admitting authorities in each of Australian States have adopted a set of uniform admission rules. The rules set out 11 areas of knowledge that must be included in an accredited degree. The 11 areas are –
- Criminal Law and Procedure
- Equity (including Trusts)
- Property, both real property (interest in land) and personal property
- Administrative Law
- Federal and State Constitutional Law
- Civil Procedure
- Company Law
- Professional Conduct
On the evening of 15th June, we were hosted to a Reception by Hon’ble The Chief Justice of Australia, Mr. Justice Robert French and his colleagues. We were delighted to meet the Judges and exchange very useful insights into our common legal systems. We also had the opportunity to meet Robert McClelland, Attorney General of Australia, at the Parliament. We were also overwhelmed by the dignity and warmth of the Law Council of Australia and in particular Glenn Ferguson who was most interested in discovering a spirit of cooperation between the two Bars. On the 16th morning, we entered into a Memorandum of Understanding between the Bar Council of India and the Law Council of Australia to strengthen legal exchange and friendly cooperation which was a historic first. On the 16th June, we split into two groups while some of us headed to Hobart to visit the University of Tasmania while others visited the University of Adelaide as well as Flinders Law School. At Hobart, which is a cold place, and which is lot like a New Zealand town, we were received by Prof. Margaret Otlowski who is the Dean and Head of School. She is an outstanding academic in her own right and is ably supported by Prof. Dianne Nicol as well as Paul Barnett. Their library was wonderful. One of the teachers who taught us trademarks at the Delhi University, Dr. K.K. Puri, had done his doctoral work from this University. The University of Tasmania is indeed a stress-free place where obviously students have a good time and also have an opportunity to interact with a wide section of people. While leaving for the airport, we met His Excellency Mr. Peter Underwood, formerly Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, who is now the Governor of Tasmania, at the Government House. The Government House overlooks the bay and is brilliantly located.
My colleagues who went to the University of Adelaide as well as Flinders had a great opportunity meeting many of the wonderful academics there including Prof. John Williams.
The two groups re-gathered at Melbourne where we met Anitha Nayar, our Consul General. Thereafter, we were invited to a function by the President of the Law Institute of Victoria and later the Law Council of Victoria. I had the opportunity of meeting Michael Colbran, Q.C., who is the Chair of the Victorian Bar Association. On 19th June, we went to Monash University and met Adrian Evans who is Incharge of Drafting of Code of Ethics on behalf of the International Bar Association. We also met Prof. Bryan Horrigan as well as Prof. Stephen Barkoczy, who is the Acting Dean. Prof. Stephen Barkoczy has written a book on international taxation.
On 20th June, I had the great opportunity of meeting Michael Kirby and we spent a few hours together and it was truly an extraordinary and inspiring meeting. We later went to the University of Technology at Sydney where we met Prof. Peter Booth, the Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor. We also met Jill McKeough who is Incharge of UTS and we saw the superb arrangements including the classrooms with all modern facilities and also a fantastic electronic library.
We also inspected the University of Sydney where we met Michael Spence who was the former Vice Chancellor at Oxford who is now the Vice Chancellor of the University of Sydney and the Dean Gillian Triggs who took us around the Law School and we had a wonderful time exchanging notes with both Professors as well as students. Finally, we thought that the time had come when we must move into a more formal realm of legal cooperation and decided to enter into a broad partnership agreement in principle. It was great to meet the Hon’ble Chief Justice James Spigelman, A.C., who was officiating as Governor, when I last visited as a Member of the Indo-Australian Legal Forum and Justice Anabelle Benett (wife of David Benett, former Solicitor General of Australia). I had a great opportunity of meeting Stephen Gageler, my counterpart, the Solicitor General of Australia, along with his wonderful wife. We visited the High Court of Australia and witnessed the proceedings and were deeply impressed by the learned exchange which took place between the lawyers and the Bench. Our cooperation agreement, as fortune would have it, needed to acknowledge a debt of honour to Sir Laurence Street who was so enthusiastic about an Indo-Australian cooperation. He was deeply moved by the fact that we had entered into such an agreement and at this stage he was so extraordinarily humble, unassuming and with a magnificent disposition. We met Tim Bugg, Chairman, ILSAC and also Arjuna Nataraja, Director, ILSAC. We met Sunila Srivastava whom we badgered with all our problems and of course my friend David Naylor who was an asset all the way. Sunila’s brother teaches at the Delhi University and she has strong Indian connections but she was most helpful and we had a wonderful time. Our Bar Councillors did appreciate that in order to come on to the front page of any legal system, we would have to carry out an outcomes design model.
A law school must have the responsibility and capacity to design, develop and deliver a law course which meets certain standards. The Council of Australian Law Deans has prescribed the CALD standards for Australian Law Schools, some of which articles appear to be quite relevant. Hopefully, we too would be shortly putting up our intended standards for all the Universities and Law Schools in our country.
After getting back to Delhi, I found that there was considerable concern about the All India Bar Examination. As I have mentioned, the All India Bar Examination is being held pursuant to the recommendations of a three-Member Committee. The purpose of the examination is to give a sense of self-worth to all law students who wish to become legal practitioners. All over the world, the entrance exam, if properly conducted, is viewed as a welcome step in legal education and its reforms. I must say that I have been deeply impressed by the kind of responses which I have received from students studying in far-flung interiors of India. I do appreciate that there is some time delay in the holding of the examination because we have a large number of law colleges who have differing points of time when they declare results. As a result of this, we have had to push back the dates so that enrolment could be completed and since this is an open book exam, we wanted to see that the course material was available to the candidate at least for a period of 8 weeks. That is why the examination is being held in the first week of March 2011.
However, I am also engaging in continued dialogue with various students to be able to see each other’s point of view and I am sure that we would be able to come to a mutual arrangement. I must add that the student community has greatly supported the examination and we need to signal a change that Indian legal education will be the best in the world at least say from 2 years from now. In order to achieve that dream, we have to work towards it. It is necessary to ensure that India becomes a hub of internationalized legal education and you have students even from overseas who study in India. We must not forget that one day when goods services and resources will start waning, you will have to have a knowledge economy to be able to support you. Therefore, keeping a futuristic vision of India, Indian Universities/Law Schools have to be seriously invested in as centres of international quality legal education. It is also important that legal education must be able to enforce both a dimension of ethical conduct and particularly the protection of the powerful and the impoverished and also the commercially capable. This is the vision for a new lawyer. He must be able to access both hardware and software.
In my next newsletter, I hope to be addressing all of you upon the steps for the hardware and software management practices which can be introduced all over the Bar as standard practices. This would greatly enthuse the Bench and by a partnership we would be able to take great steps forward.
There is also a need to have public spending on the legal profession and I think while providing infrastructure for the judiciary, infrastructure for lawyers must equally be a concern for both the Central and the State Governments. If that were to be so, we are going to move forward in rapid strides.
Looking forward to write to you again,
Bar Council of India