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An estimated 7-minute read

Ethics in law school-How dead is the entire concept?

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a) This post has been written based upon situations seen and felt, and may not necessarily reflect law school culture in any particular law school specifically.

b) The situations mentioned herein are not meant to offend anyone. They are purely hypothetical.


‘What is ethical may not necessarily be unlawful, and what is lawful may not be necessarily ethical.’


Law school over the four years that I have seen witnessed and felt it has often brought about certain negation points or points where choices are made, decisions are taken and issues have been resolved in ways which bring about the question of the existence of ethics within law school.

Ethics can be a subjective concept, and therefore, may vary from person to person, however, through a series of instances given below which have been divided into specific headings under which an explanation has been given through examples, common issues arising in law school have been attempted to be analysed:


1. Extracurricular activities - Extracurricular activities particularly at the selection stage to represent a university in an event brings up questions related to ethics and how transparent the selection procedure is.

For example, Moot court competitions are based on rank lists set out through internal selections. Yet, rank lists are overlooked and people try to make sure that compatibility is given primary importance while sending across a team.

Ethical viewpoint: People engage in dealings, manipulations etc. to make sure that compatibility issues don’t arise. A rank 1 may be made a researcher because the rank 10 may be close to the convener of the Moot Court Committee or probably because. This isn’t exactly ethical on the part of Rank 10.

Loophole: The Moot Court Committee rules do not prescribe how the moot courts need to be allocated. Therefore, compatibility comes into question and people take advantage of knowing people in the right place and the right time. Period.

Have any rules been broken?



 2. Attendance- Irrespective of who a person is, where he is from and what he/she does while at law school, attendance is an issue which he/she has to encounter at some point of time or the other while at law school. Students have to deal with it in varying degrees of intensity depending on how severe their case is.

For example, if a person falls short of the 75% cut off to sit for an exam, what does he do?

Ethical Viewpoint: The person’s options to make good the shortage to sit for the exam range from fake medical certificates to false claims in committee work (Jugaad) to sucking up to the faculty. Ethically, this does not definitely sound right since the person is trying his best to make sure a claim which isn’t right gets pushed forward.

Loophole: The examination committee rules may or may not permit such attendance claims to be worked out. So, claims are often adjusted according to the whims and fancies of the people in question and the people in power.

Have any rules been broken?



3.Recruitment- This is an all time favourite topic of most students and amidst the lofty packages offered and the recruitment details put forth by colleges, there always arises a question as to how transparent a campus recruitment process is and how best can bias not creep into the campus recruitment process.

For example, a recruitment committee convener may be close to a person ‘A’ who is applying to firm ‘X’ through campus recruitment. Firm ‘X’ happens to recruit only those people who have interned with them previously. ‘A’ has surpassed the necessary allowance of attendance granted for internships while skipping college in the final year and yet, gets eligible to write the exam.

Ethical Viewpoint: ‘A’ has explained his case to the recruitment committee convener. The attendance is granted to ‘A’ in order to facilitate him to get recruited and also to ensure that Firm ‘X’ can appear in the list of recruiters for the recruitment brochure. But, a flipside to this is that only ‘A’ has clandestinely availed of this advantage and the same treatment isn’t afforded to anyone else sitting for recruitment for Firm ‘X’ despite claiming for attendance for the exact same reason. This happens because ‘A’ happens to be close to the recruitment convener.

Loophole: The recruitment committee has fulfilled its objective of making sure that ‘A’ gets recruited and also to make sure that Firm ‘X’ becomes a recruiter. In order to do this the recruitment committee relies on the words ‘as it deems fit’ in the internship rules while considering attendance claims.

Have any rules been broken?



4. Marks- This category could most certainly apply to autonomous institutes where the syllabus and marking criteria is completely in the hands of the faculty.  

For example, ‘A’, who is a brilliant student, is marked very badly despite having written an almost symmetrical answer to that of ‘B’, another brilliant student who is marked excellently. But, there is a background check which needs to undertaken here, ‘A’ had questioned the faculty’s knowledge with regard to updating of the latest position in the subject matter taught and hence, is facing the repercussions.

Ethical Viewpoint- The faculty member may or may not have bias against ‘A’ but he/she repeatedly pesters A and makes sure he does not get adequate marks in the subject in addition to recommending strict action to be taken against him from other faculties.

Loophole: The faculty member is answerable only to the authorities in question and his/her accountability to students is limited and to a large extent is a by product of the rapport he/she shares with the students.

Have any rules been broken?



5. Secrecy- This, by far is the most common feature seen in law schools. While, there is no doubt that each man is meant for himself and should make sure that opportunities are never missed, sometimes, secrecy leads to hilarious and awkward situations which make heads turn and point in different directions as a blame game begins.

For example, in a debate competition, a couple of people represent the college while the college doesn’t even know the existence of such a debate or about these two people.  The invite is kept to themselves since they receive it on mail and so that no internal selection takes place in college. The college gets the official invite after the aforementioned unofficial team has left and sends out its official team after a hurried selection process. As it turns out, in the same debate competition, the official team faces off against the unofficial team with utter confusion arising as to which team is actually supposed to represent college.

Ethical Viewpoint- What the two people did was fine since they did not jump the selection procedure and left for the competition before the internal selections process. But, at the same time not informing the existence of the debate to the appropriate committee was not ethical on their part.

Loophole- The committee rules governed internal selection procedures within the college only with respect to invites they received. It wasn’t obligatory on the part of the unofficial team to inform the committee of the existence of the debate.

Have any rules been broken?



Therefore, there always arise instances where ethics are often compromised or brushed aside in the name of competency or opportunities. While, this has worked for temporary phases at law school, people often fail to realize that the interplay between competency, opportunities and ethics is something which by default manifests itself at some point either today or in the near future. Most people, resort to means like the ones mentioned above and they will continue to resort to doing so unless and until more transparency and accountability arises among law schools at large. Few law schools, do possess this transparency, and for the others that don’t, people will continue doing what they currently do and may even probably carry the same attitude in their professional lives.   



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