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Cyril Amarchand starts GNLU chair for ethics, vows to expand it across other universities if successful

The investment into wider legal education may be the first comparable one by a law firm in India

Cyril Shroff: Teaching legal ethics should be as important in law school curriculums as jurisprudence
Cyril Shroff: Teaching legal ethics should be as important in law school curriculums as jurisprudence

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas has fully funded a chair in “everyday ethics for the legal profession” at GNLU Gandhinagar for at least the next three years, which, if it succeeds, would become a template for the law firm contributing financially to other universities’ courses.

“We want to run the pilot course first, and we though GNLU was probably a good place to start,” said Cyril Amarchand managing partner Cyril Shroff. “If this model works... we want to replicate it across campuses. We will invest time, money and resources to mainstream the conversation around ethics.

“This is the first of many.”

The funding for the chair at GNLU will cover the costs of one professor, with GNLU creating some infrastructure around the course, said Shroff. Furthemore, Cyril Amarchand would also be “involved in selecting the faculty and shaping the curriculum”, and providing other human resources from the firm, including around one partner per term on a “more episodic” basis to assist.

When and how much?

The programme will kick off in the next academic term for students, having been announced before the law minister at GNLU’s convocation on 18 March. A GNLU press release stated around that time stated:

Director informed the establishments of two chairs - Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas & Co Chair on Ethics in Everyday Legal Profession and Navinchandra Desai Law Foundation Chair to promote research and provide assistance to litigation-opting students. He thanked Trustees and Mr Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas & Co for their generous grant.

Shroff said he preferred not to discuss the financial costs of the programme.

We reached out to GNLU for comment via several emails since 23 March, requesting more information on the chair, including the amount of funding received by Cyril Amarchand.

We received a response from GNLU on 27 March, stating: “We are working on the details of the chair, hence, we will shortly publish a separate press note for more information.” A follow-up request for further details until then from GNLU and director Bimal Patel elicited a similar response: “We will share a separate press note.”

Why plough money into legal education?

When asked Shroff whether there were any tangible benefits for the firm in this, in terms of recruitment or branding, he agreed that it would create a “bit of a halo” in general terms for the firm, but said that this wasn’t the primary driver by far.

“This was one of the most thoughtful ways we could think of to mark the centenary [of erstwhile Amarchand Mangaldas] as a lasting legacy,” he explained.

“This will be the CAM legacy to the future of our noble profession.”

Why ethics?

According to Shroff, an ethics course should have the same level of importance in legal education as jurisprudence.

“The problem which we face today, is that ethics is a mandatory last-minute thing in the syllabus,” he noted. “I think that is a great disservice to our students and profession. We thought about this idea, of everyday ethics for the legal profession, which helps lawyers transition from student to professional.”

“Ethical lawyering is the future of the profession. Making everyday ethics a core curriculum subject will equip our next generation to be prepared, to be relevant and to deliver.”

“As professionals, we encounter situations which require good decision-making in split seconds. Though one cannot predict every situation, but we can equip professionals with tools which enable them to make decisions which are aligned with ethical values. To be mindful about System 1 and System 2 [see below] thinking,” he added.

What is ethics?

The aims of the course, according to an internal Cyril Amarchand note, includes the following:

a. explore higher and deeper understanding of the concept of “everyday ethics” – not just the obvious ethical dilemmas (like animal rights) but the more subtle everyday tradeoffs;

b. multifaceted approach - philosophical, psychological, spiritual and sociological aspects underlying ethical decision making;

c. recognize and highlight the limitations of the binary of moral and immoral people in making ethical and value-decisions;

d. deal with the human aspect involved in ethical and value-decision making;

e. involve the study of biases, and cognitive, social and moral psychology;

f. involve the study of the effect and role of heuristics, the impact of Daniel Kahneman’s system 1 and system 2 thinking, dual-process, conscious and unconscious thinking;

g. deal with how to evaluate ethical claims in professional life and engage with reality of retrospective rationalism, intuitive and integral understanding; and h. understand the difference between illegal and unethical, and “rules of law” versus “rules of morality”.

Editor’s note: As far as we are aware, to date unlike in the US where this is quite common, no Indian law firm has funded professorial chairs at law schools, though individual partners and advocates must have set up scholarships or the like in the past. Please let us know in the comments, if you know of any).

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