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JGLS preps for lucky 1 Sep fresher start, ropes in 10 senior counsel to pro bono teach 200 final years lit life courses

10 seniors volunteer to each teach 8-week Saturday courses to JGLS final years
10 seniors volunteer to each teach 8-week Saturday courses to JGLS final years

JGLS Sonepat has convinced 10 senior advocates to each teach 10 separate eight-week online credit courses about various facets of litigation for up to 200 final year law students, as it has scheduled to start its first years from 1 September (see below).

The 10 eight-week courses, each of which is taught by a separate senior counsel via online webinars to class sizes of up to 20 students each, will carry one credit.

According to JGLS’ press release from last week, the 10 senior counsel who will teach the courses (along with their qualifications) are:

  1. Gourab Banerji, M.A. (Cambridge), Barrister at Law; Course: Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards in India
  2. Sidharth Luthra, LL.B. (Delhi); MPhil. (Cambridge); Course: Policing to Prison--And the Gaps Within
  3. Gaurav Pachnanda, BCL (Oxford); LL.B. (Jammu); Course: Law and Practice of Commercial Litigation and Arbitration in India
  4. Mohan Parasaran, LL.B. (Delhi); LL.M. (Cambridge); Course: Equality - A Basic Feature Permeating throughout the Constitution
  5. Sajan Poovayya, B.A., LL.B. (NLSIU); LL.M. (LSE); Course: IT Law and Data Protection
  6. Ritin Rai, LL.B. (Delhi), BCL (Oxford); LL.M. (Harvard); Course: Commercial Dispute Practice in Specialized Tribunals: IBC—A Case Study
  7. Dr. Surat Singh, LL.B. & LL.M. (Delhi), BCL (Oxford), SJD (Harvard); Course: Lawyering in the Supreme Court
  8. Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, M.A., Ph.D. (Cambridge), PIL (Harvard); Course: Constitutional Jurisprudence in Supreme Court Litigation
  9. Parag Tripathi, LL.B. (Delhi); LL.M. (Harvard) with non-senior counsel advocate Neelima Tripathi; Course: Indian Supreme Court as a Constitutional Court: Law and Practice
  10. R. Venkataramani; Course: Supreme Court and Practice: Constitutional, Appellate & Other Jurisdictions

JGLS dean Prof Raj Kumar said that all of the seniors were undertaking this commitment without any remuneration: “It’s honorary... it’s their own commitment to the legal profession that they’re ready to do this [and a] commitment to legal education.”

It was also “an opportunity for them to be connected to academia” and young people about to enter the profession, he added.

Classes would be taught on every Saturdays for two hours from 5 September for eight weeks, with final year students being to apply via a competitive “bidding” process to get admission to one of the senior counsels’ courses, explained Kumar.

Out of those 10, while many had lectured at JGLS in the past, only one pairing of Parag and Neelima Tripathi had taught a full course at the university before, according to Kumar.

Some of the counsel even wanted to teach in person in Sonepat, said Kumar, though it was a prerequisite (and a sign of the times) that all courses would be held online.

Diversifying aspirations (for sound reasons)

The idea behind this course in particular was to tackle “one of the most neglected aspects of Indian legal education for last three decades”, said Kumar.

“It is a practitioner-oriented course. The vision of this entire [...] programme is to enable the next generation of litigating lawyers and judges,” he said.

Traditionally, students (and universities’) near “single-minded focus” had been on joining a law firm where “there’s a steady high income immediately after they graduate”, explained Kumar. “There’s nothing wrong in that but we are diversifying the career aspirations of students.”

In part, diversifying the aspirations beyond corporate would also likely to also be a function of JGLS producing more than 600 law graduates from its undergraduate law degree courses alone every year.

Even in non-Covid years there may barely be that many fresher jobs available at all corporate Indian law firms, and that is before accounting for stiff competition for those few that are available from national and all the other law schools.

Therefore, finding homes for more of them in the courts is an aim that is hard to argue with.

Counsel's academic workload

“I want to pay a lot of tribute to these people giving away time to an activity that is not remunerated or might have no direct relevance to their career,” said Kumar about the counsels who undertook the teaching programmes.

But while JGLS would be providing each of them with a teaching assistant and would handle all “administrative elements” for them (primarily the day-to-day communication with students, which can take up a lot of teacher time), counsel would also subject to quality control.

“They’ve all been very responsible about it,” said Kumar about whether their course proposals had been audited. “They’ve given course abstract, course outline, they’ll be preparing a course manual.”

Fortunate timetables

JGLS is starting its existing batches, including the final year batch eligible for the programme from 17 August, as many other law schools are.

JGLS was lucky / prescient enough to get its LSAT-India admissions test out of the way in early July via home-proctoring. So too has the Symbiosis Law Schools via their home-proctored SLAT exam, though the spectre of cheating certainly reared its head, Symbi’s proctoring artificial intelligence systems is understood to currently be in the process of investigating and disqualifying candidates.

In part those two were helped by having smaller numbers (just over 5,500 in LSAT’s case and 22,000 in the SLAT), resulting in less competitive pressure and also less cheating/gaming potential due to being early out of the gate.

By comparison, the national law universities’ (NLUs) Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) and All India Law Entrance Test (AILET) have not been so lucky, and have the added pressure in the former case of hosting a 77,000+ candidate national exam to taxpayer-funded institutions.

As such, JGLS is able to push ahead with first term for freshers of its five-year law degree from 1 September.

Complex fees calculus

Right now, the university had not yet decided whether those classes will be held offline or online. “We are following MHA restrictions and guidelines on how classes should happen,” said Kumar.

If classes would be held online, said Kumar, “we are not charging them food, accommodation and laundry fee” and not raising invoices for the periods until students move back onto campus.

Tuition fees would be charged as they were usually, he said.

Kumar noted that conceding fees was a “very difficult” issue for universities, since they all would still be incurring significant costs, such as salaries, electricity or service contracts, even if students were not physically on campus.

We understand from VC sources at NLUs that this has also been a topic of contention and hot debate at the CLAT consortium; so far, the VCs have not been able to agree on a uniform solution that could work across the board.

Due disclosure: JGLS is an advertiser on Legally India.

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