•  •  Dark Mode

Your Interests & Preferences

I am a...

law firm lawyer
in-house company lawyer
litigation lawyer
law student
aspiring student

Website Look & Feel

 •  •  Dark Mode
Blog Layout

Save preferences

NLS VC Sudhir: V proud of 9 (young) fac hires • Push to ‘pioneer’ online legal education • To set up tech law centre • Feudalism in academia • + Rajiv Luthra

Sudhir K on Zoom call interview
Sudhir K on Zoom call interview

Thanks to a dear reader, who has pointed out some interesting titbits in a recent online video interview of NLSIU Bangalore vice-chancellor (VC) Prof Sudhir Krishnaswamy, talking (a little bit) about the recent blockbuster faculty recruitments, a criticism of wider Indian legal academia and plans for NLS to become a pioneer in online legal education.

The interview, which was held on Sunday and is available on YouTube (see below), was hosted by legal event management company Idex Legal and legal market consultancy The Grey Matter.

We have (roughly) transcribed some of those passages below since some of them may be of wider reader interest.

NLS faculty recruitments

At around 24 minutes, Krishnaswamy confirmed that NLSIU had made nine offers to faculty, as we had reported last week.

However, the university has so far declined to confirm those offers or names.

In respect of those names, he talked about the value of recruiting young academics, and urged other law schools to do that too over the next five years.

I mean, since I’m a young person as a VC, I shouldn’t be the one giving advice but here’s my take.

I’ll just tell you what I’m doing and maybe some of this is worth trying to emulate.

I think the key is to make a bet on young people and think about institutional pathways looking 10, 20 years out.

So we have gone through, in the last seven, eight months, a robust round of recruitment and I am very proud of the nine people we made offers to and all of them are very good and accomplished in their fields, very well educated.

... I must say I found support of my stakeholders to do this, is to make sure that every one of them has come in on a solid contract and also paid well, paid well relative to the public scales and today under the seventh Pay Commission scales.

It’s not bad at all - it’s not what it was in 2000 - and so my sense is that I think that all institutions have got to make this kind of a wager right.

We’ve got to make a bet on young talented people who are who are self-motivated in academia for the right reasons, but who simply have delivered and have accomplished something and one doesn’t it doesn’t really matter where they come from beyond that you know as long as they’ve got they’ve got good educational background, they read and write well, they’re interested and motivated into teaching.

We should bet on these these young people and so that’s what I’m trying to do and I suppose if institutions across India did that for the next five years, Indian legal education will take a very sharp up turn

Online education

At around 34 minutes, in response to a question about making “workforce-ready lawyers”, the VC went into some detail about his plans for online education, which seem to form a core part of NLS future strategy (though clearly all these plans are only on the drawing board so far).

That said, some of them might not require regulatory approval, he said, and the administration was working on the plans “intensely”, possibly even to be launched by 2021.

It should be noted that NLS wouldn’t be the first NLU to aim to offer online legal education to the masses: several other national law schools are offering distance education and other online courses, though usually via private service providers.

We have not been able to confirm whether NLS hopes to homebrew its online legal education programme or to work with the private sector.

If the former, it will be quite ambitious getting it right.

If the latter, the question would be how it will look different from what others have done before and are currently doing (though the NLS brand name would certainly help in marketing it).

Krishnaswamy said:

There are two ways this can happen. This can happen by all of the law colleges upgrading, and you knobw, just running a better better classroom learning experience.

Another would be that - and this is something that at NLS we are working quite hard at and have not made any public announcement about - is to take the online education part very seriously.

So, I think that one one important way for us to meet our mission in the National Law School set up, is to be a pioneer in public legal education and and to respond to that mission and scale.

I mean we run hyper selective programs, so very few people are going to get into these programs even if we expand these programs.

But maybe the way we can do that scale is to offer online education or hybrid education in more, stronger ways and this is something we’re working at intensely at the moment and hopefully even in the year 2021 we’ll see some of those results.

But I would say, in the medium term, we should have a relatively large offering on online education.

I think that part of online / hybrid education will take care of some part of this.

If we don’t do it like that, we’ll have to do it by all of these law schools really reforming themselves and ... making a more sophisticated offering, and the kind of institutional incentive game that needs to be resolved by the time say 30-40 percent of the law schools reform the way we work, is quite daunting even to imagine and conceptualize.

... So today let’s say that our young law graduate in some part of rural Uttar Pradesh who wants to to know what it means to to effectively draft a non-disclosure agreement.

Where would they go to learn this? Obviously, they could have learnt it in their law school maybe their law school has taught them this, maybe it hasn’t.

What if we were able to offer them at relatively low prices online, and I’m really saying - I don’t want to talk numbers - but I talk about relatively low prices. Simple modules, where people can work with documents, learn what these documents mean, actually practice drafting them in real time and, you know, improve careers.

Now we don’t have a continuing legal education credit system yet mandated in the legal profession, but I think these kinds of learning opportunities are learning opportunities that will pay themselves in the market. We don’t need regulatory permission we we probably will just get market recognition for doing these programs.

So the way I’m thinking about this challenge is that we respond to people who are already graduates of law and give them the opportunity to self learn along pathways that they create for themselves just responsive to where they are and maybe if they don’t need non-disclosure agreements maybe they need you know agricultural warehousing agreements and if we can ... work through what those kinds of pledge and collateral arrangements might be we would will be doing a huge service.

We can’t do this through an on-campus a program - like on-campus programs will always be limited in scale of these - but my sense is the the serious intervention the national law school can meet in professional learning is this way.

Rajiv Luthra makes guest appearance, VC hopes to work more closely with firms

Making a guest appearance, L&L Partners managing partner Rajiv Luthra asked an audience questions at around the 1 hour 35 mark about technology and law, prompting Krishnaswamy to note that NLSIU was “in the early stages” of setting up a new law and technology centre, dealing with cutting-edge issues such as 3D printing, the Internet of Things.

Luthra then added: “My firm normally gets about 40 to 50 students every year and there’s a lot of retraining we have to do, let me tell you that. But some basic, fundamental things, which I don’t see any law colleges, including the better ones like the school that you belong to, teach [is] things like emotional intelligence, things like stress management.

“You know these [are] a reality once you come out of law school, this is something you’re suddenly faced with and you don’t know what to do with it, so maybe we could think of some curricula which could help students hit the road running as it were.”

Krishnaswamy noted that the university was instituting “wellness programmes” to prepare students to deal with stress at college.

He also said that he was “very keen” to engage with law firms and would “offline reach out to you directly”

“I‘d be more than happy to help,” said Luthra.

Feudal academia

Going into more historical (and less newsy territory about what’s up at NLS), at around the 15 minute mark, Krishnaswamy talked about how academics in India are / were often “feudal” and often discouraged young faculty from succeeding:

I think that most universities and universities ... they [operate as] a sort of Society of Fellows way, they’re all peers, they don’t report each other in any formal sense.

Having said that, people have spent longer years and shorter years in the profession, so there are sort of natural professional hierarchies that might develop.

But the situation in India was quite different initially because far from professional and, you know, seniority-type hierarchy, hierarchies were deeply feudal structures.

Right, the universities in India are driven by very strong arrangements around teaching faculty so while in an ideal sense we should have flat fellowships of faculty, in a practical sense we have a quite sharp-edged feudal hierarchies of of, you know, both of honour and status and respect, that young people are expected to kowtow to in the early part of their careers and later too.

But so the Indian system, you know, it doesn’t help that we don’t have the institutional structures that pour a lot of resources and money behind the profession of teaching and then maybe have these kinds of your barriers in some sense.

Neither of this - it’s not a good cocktail and we would do well to illuminate both and put in better salaries and more nurturing environments at the same time and part of my interest in what I do is to try and do that

His early days returning to NLS

Around the 20 min 45 second mark, Krishnaswamy said that he didn’t have the best experience when he had returned to NLSIU as a lecturer, following his Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University:

I had no red carpet rolled out for me at the national law school. You might think and you mentioned the Rhodes Scholarship and Oxford and all the bells and whistles, and you might imagine that, you know, NLS would be very hospitable and what I can tell you is that at that point in time these were not the priorities for the institution, this is not what they were looking for.

And so getting into the formal public legal education system is not easy for starters, so once you get in, you’ve got to stay the path right and I suppose that, so let me put it like this, so I got in in with a very minor contract when I started off in NLS, not something that most peers would have even accepted.

I stayed it, I stayed through.

It was not like I had some elevator path, it’s not like because I did my job well or sincerely or whatever else, that somehow I got an accelerated path. That’s not the way legal education is structured right, so every part of the way was a certain small incremental progress.

And so I feel that the challenges that most people would face in the public system is that you have to find a way that that you can sustain yourself through this rather longish period.

And for that, I mean, it can’t be, I don’t think, that money can be the driver because I think one sort of makes up one’s mind that you’re not, you know, going to be, say, a top ten percentile, or know that that might be okay but you’ve got to get the rest of it to work for you: the teaching and the learning, the reading and the writing, publishing.

Maybe non-monetary recognitions of various sorts?

And we need to do better like that in legal education in India, but any young person thinking along these lines has got to brace for a good period of time where at least to the external world not much is happening

Click to show 73 comments
at your own risk
By reading the comments you agree that they are the (often anonymous) personal views and opinions of readers, which may be biased and unreliable, and for which Legally India therefore has no liability. If you believe a comment is inappropriate, please click 'Report to LI' below the comment and we will review it as soon as practicable.