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Prof Menon explains problem with Indian LLMs

Last week a Legally India reader confessed heartbreak after reading Professor Madhava Menon's views on the quality of Indian LLM degrees.

Now, as the LLM forum discussion nears 50 posts, we have asked Menon for his response on how domestic master's degrees have not been up to scratch.

Menon replies:
It is good to see people responding to points raised particularly in respect of my observations on LL.M. Let me give my reactions to the open letter of one of the concerned students.

'Just Curious' in the open letter raised many concerns of an LL.M. student in India. I would like to give my comments on a key issue he had raised.

How do Indian corporates compare LL.M. (degree of a University in India) in comparison to the LL.B. degree of National Law Universities? If you have a good LL.B. education, is it unnecessary to go for an LL.M.?

It is my considered view that a good B.A., LL.B. (Hons) Degree from the National Law School is enough and more for all professional purposes.

It is also my assessment supported by some empirical evidence that LL.Bs from National Law Schools seldom seek admission to LL.M., even in National Law Schools.

Some of them, very few, seek admission to LL.M. in some prestigious foreign law schools when they are offered scholarships.

I was surprised when they reported to me that they found many of the LL.M. courses, honourable exceptions apart, not very different from what they already studied at the National Law School while doing their B.A., LL.B. (Hons) degree!

However, in those exceptional courses, they found the education helpful for comparative scholarship and of some degree of specialization. They also claimed that they could learn much more about legal research and writing during their one-year LL.M. at the foreign law school.

LL.M. in Indian Universities including in National Law Schools has not received the attention it deserved, with the result that it did not attract talented LL.Bs particularly those graduating from National Law Schools.

In many places what is on offer is the same old curriculum covering subjects in the LL.B. programme perhaps with some additions. LL.M. in India is primarily intended to prepare teachers / researchers (which is the minimum qualification for appointment as lecturers).

Excepting in few places, there is no opportunity for students to get specialisation in subjects outside the LL.B. subjects. Two more years spent pursuing LL.M. in a good law school might help the average and below average students to improve their deficiencies, if they work hard.

Others may find it not worth spending the time and money and may opt for LL.M. through part-time or correspondence study (some Universities in India offer the degree through a correspondence course) if they have inclination for a post-graduate degree in law.

In view of the above, I still hold the view that a good LL.B. degree is enough for success at the bar and the bench. It is wrong to interpret the word “unnecessary” to mean that it is not good or useless.

However, to become a teacher it is very necessary to have LL.M. because UGC demands it. I would even prefer to take a good, fresh LL.B. as a teaching assistant in preparation of being appointed as a lecturer as my experience with many LL.Ms has not been very encouraging.

This is not to minimise or belittle post-graduate studies in law from good law schools; it is only to highlight the plus points of the five-year integrated legal education from the National Law Schools.

If my views have hurt your chances of a career in law, it is totally unintended and I would ask employers not to make their selections on the number of degrees a candidate holds but the abilities of the person for the job on offer.

Finally, I must confess that I could not myself do much to improve the quality of LL.M. education in the few law schools I served. This is an agenda receiving the attention of my colleagues now.

There is a felt need for good teachers and good researchers in law and I hope people like you who work hard and develop legal scholarship will be able to fill the void in universities and colleges teaching law.

Wishing you all the best,
Prof. (Dr.) N.R. Madhava Menon

Read last week's full interview with Menon discussing the history and future of Indian law schools and lawyers.
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