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Happy Birthday LI, Part 2: The best of law students, mooters and schools


First birthday muffin
First birthday muffin
The second part of Legally India's first anniversary round-up focuses on what has happened in a year of legal education and incredible mooting performances across the board. Plus, we pick India's best law school in India. Well, almost.

Legal education and law schools

A little less than one year ago the Bar Council of India (BCI), then under a different leadership, told Legally India that it wanted to shut down "mushrooming" law schools that were not imparting legal education of a high enough quality. Throughout the year the BCI has had to defend itself from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) that has tried to encroach on the BCI's regulatory domain over legal education.

A year on, the BCI has shifted gears and announced its all-India bar exam, with new BCI chairman and solicitor general Gopal Subramanium setting out an ambitious and laudable vision for what he wanted to achieve.

Once it gets going the bar exam could push many of those past debates on the sidelines: if it becomes credible enough, it would surely weed out students from many of the colleges that mushroomed over the past years that allegedly require students to do little more than fill in a form and pay a cheque to graduate. It could give rise to a new private industry in cracking the bar exams, much as in the Common Law Admissions Test (CLAT), irrespective of which course you studied. In any case, as reported in the past few weeks on Legally India, rapid progress of the exam is currently far from assured considering the number of stakeholder interests involved.

What is obvious, however, is that the bar exam will be at least just a tad easier than the Bombay Incorporated Law Society's solicitors examinations: the last batch had a pass rate of only 6 per cent.

From old, to new the potentially revolutionary but expensive Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) has definitely managed to get the attention of the legal education sector in only its first year of operation, if nothing else. Apart from managed to launch its LLM program, it also sparked plenty of debate in the process, with students from national law schools defending their institutions' pre-eminence particularly vigorously.

GLC Mumbai, which still feeds every level of the Mumbai legal industry more than any other law school, has had a few problems to fight through this year but a new principal could be just the ticket to sort it all out.

At HNLU Raipur student activism and four years of on-and-off hunger strikes, police arrests and more reaped some rewards, securing a brand-new campus for the students. But according to sources some questions still remain of whether the concessions by the college authorities have been merely cosmetic so far.

At NUJS Kolkata students also fought a battle against an increase in college fees, winning a minor victory.

NUJS has been highly visible on several other fronts too, particularly in starting a program to improve access to top law schools for those from poorer socio-economic backgrounds, as well as one student starting up a social network for those same prospective students to "hack the CLAT".

It has also dedicated a special issue in its journal to gay rights and the landmark section 377 victory by the Lawyers' Collective.

Plus, it was the first to voice final-year students' apprehensions about the BCI's bar exam (with almost instant results).

And a fourth-year NUJS student found the time to start and manage a legal process outsourcing (LPO) company.

Hundreds of law students also found jobs this year at law firms, companies, LPOs advocates and others as recruiters descended in droves on campus.

Heading the other way, come next year two students from NLSIU and Nalsar will be amongst the dreaming spires under a Rhodes Scholarship.

Finally, NLSIU founder and legend of legal education Professor Madhava Menon touched a raw nerve when he criticised the quality of Indian LLM degrees. Albeit he made some convincing arguments the message and call for improvement was not welcomed by some readers.

Mooting Premier League (MPL) sponsored by Clifford Chance: the biggest wins

It has been an incredible year for Indian law students' mooting prowess all around, kicking off with NLSIU Bangalore's amazing victory of the Manfred Lachs Space Moot.

It was a sign of things to come and Nalsar Hyderabad and NLSIU started an exciting battle for the top spot for four months, NLSIU winning it back in February but Nalsar going back to number one several days later, where it has been almost unassailable for the rest of the season.

A fantastic rivalry also formed for second spot between NLSIU and NLU Jodhpur, with NLSIU ultimately prevailing.

Internationally, SOEL Chennai advanced to the semi-finals of the International Red Cross Moot in Hong Kong, NLU Jodhpur made it to the quarter finals in Stetsons International Moot and Nalsar made it to the semi-finals of Philip C Jessup International Moot.

NLSIU almost had the chance of repeating its success at Manfred Lachs, only narrowly losing in the finals the Asia-Pacific selection rounds.

Finally, NUJS topped off India's international mooting glory last week with its outright win at the ELSA WTO moot in the Dominican Republic.

The winner, runner-ups and final analysis of the MPL will be formally announced as soon as possible after confirming the final set of results.

Mooting Premier League sponsor Clifford Chance has very kindly provided a generous prize fund of Rs 1.5 lakhs for the top eight colleges.

And finally, the best law school in India (almost)

So, after all this exciting year of developments in Indian legal education and after literally thousands of comments and forum posts on the subject, which is really the best law school in India?

Sorry, we don't know and could not really say at this point. We have met students and practising lawyers from many walks of life and from many top and traditionally not-so-top law schools in the last year.

And honestly, individually there is little to tell one apart from the other in terms of quality or intelligence, particularly after a few years in the profession.

So for those who can not make up their mind about which of the top-10 or so law schools to join, it really does not matter too much – success should not be down to a label and ambitious and intelligent students will make it wherever they come from. Although admittedly, they might have it slightly easier in some places than others but that is just the way it goes.

However, now for the final word from Legally India this year as far as our take on institutions as a whole go (in no particular order):

And the best of the best? Well, maybe next year.

Finally, if you are from a law school that we have not managed to cover much or at all in the last year, apologies – we will try to get to know you better in our second year.

In the meantime we do invite you to take the initiative and get in touch with us and let us know what is happening on your campus. And if you happen to be in Mumbai any time, email us – we would be more than happy to meet with you for a chat and learn more about you and your institution.

Read the first part of the first-year round-up on foreign law firms, best friends and start-ups.

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