The usual academic system followed by law colleges in India is based upon semester or yearly terms. Very few institutions offer a trimester system. The programme starts in July (odd semester) after the new admissions. It is followed by an even semester in December/ January each year. Accordingly, the college calendar shows a summer break for the students in May and June. There is then a small winter vacation around Christmas or new year.
Bar Council regulations and the ongoing practice expect the students to attend internships during the term breaks. Unfortunately, the guidelines, opportunities and a systematic approach for internships has not been explained in the regulations. It hardly needs an elaboration that internship could relate to litigating counsels at various levels of courts and tribunals, corporate law practitioners, in-house counsels, law commissioners, quasi-judicial bodies, prisons, statutory authorities, regulatory bodies, banks foreign embassies, NGO’s publishing houses, media, political parties and countless other forums. Who is to guide the students in this regard? Where should they go? And when? Do what?
The scheme for internship hardly allows any deviation. The students lose out the studies and attendance if they’re not present when the classes recommence in July. The insistence upon rigid adherence to attendance norms limit the utility of internships for which the policy and the faculty are both generally ignorant. Added difficulty for meaningful internship is its restricted scope during summer months. This is due to closure of courts on vacations. There is non-availability of judges, court officials and experienced advocates who usually proceed outstations. Thus the main difficulty for a meaningful internship is its restricted scope during summer months .
In this backdrop of denuded scope for internships, a substantial number of students enroll for summer schools abroad. These programs are available mostly in Europe, US and other countries. Ironically, there is no expertise to guide the students in an organized and objective manner. The students who can afford to travel beyond India are often lured by either attractive locations (e.g : London , Geneva , Italy etc.) or the name of prestigious institutions like L.S.E. or King’s Colleges etc. In absence of proper guidance, they do not derive benefit from summer programs. Some of the student’s land up attending courses which they are yet to be taught in their law colleges in India. Some others find themselves saddled with subjects in which they have little interest. Majority of them go to summer schools without any prior study and preparation. Those who cannot afford to go abroad find total lack of opportunities in India to attend summer schools.
It is for consideration that suitable help and counseling be planned and organized for law students in this regard. What course to apply for, at which law college and with what prior preparation. This information would give the best value for the amount spent. Perhaps if the students explore the feasibility to form a group, the expenses of travel, boarding and lodging may come down.
Courses at foreign institutions, considering the number of applicants from India, could be specially tailor made so that these are held in May – June every year. The courses maybe designed based upon the need of the profession. To illustrate, curriculum may cover the comparative study of environmental, IPR or energy law topics; legal writing research; and skill development. Some of the courses may relate to transnational practice or skills required for due diligence work. Such a diverse variety will make law studies more meaningful. This policy would also hopefully facilitate the identification of suitable careers for law students.
A connected issue is to set up such law schools within India. It may be appreciated that Infrastructure and manpower resources including the faculty available at the existing law colleges in India remain unutilized during summer recess. The added feature is the availability of renowned guest faculty. They would be relatively at ease and available to be engaged as subject matter experts. Innovative and relevant topics can be included that would help the students in career placements.
Some of the eminent judges serving and retired, senior in house counsels and jurists may be invited to be associated with such ventures. The regular faculty in different law colleges would acquire valuable experience from the proposed recommendations. The faculty who is willing to be thus utilized would benefit by earning extra remuneration for his services.
It is suggested that bodies like National Law Schools, Universal Institute of Legal Studies apart from other progressive law colleges can take a lead in this regard.
What should be the approach as regards choices to be offered to the students? Those could take up for instance, one, career options and counseling, two, explanation of latest case law and three, skill development. Courses may be planned to prepare for judicial service exams or for entry to JAG department of armed forces or banking services etc.
Where possible the law colleges could also arrange visits to courts, correctional facilities, arbitration forums, and corporate law chambers, offices of in-house counsels, legislative bodies and human right agencies.