Clinical Legal Education gathered importance globally due to its potential to improve the quality of legal education. As law graduates in India directly enters legal profession without any further training or any Bar Examination, Law Colleges in India share the entire responsibility of skill training. As a result Clinical Legal Education assumes more importance in India.
The concept of practical problem solving, whether by working in a laboratory or in the field, as an important means of developing skills has been in acknowledged since time immemorial. However, it was in 1901, that a Russian professor, Alexander Lyublinsky, first proposed Clinical Education in law on similar lines as in medicine.
Until Clinical programs entered the scene, skills training and social justice work were for all intents and purposes, off the legal education agenda. Legal doctrines dominated the Law School syllabi, with virtually all instruction offered through classroom courses dominated by traditional lectures in India. Legal education was “Law School”, not “lawyer school.”
Introduction of Clinical Legal Education changed this scenario. Clinical Legal Education is directed towards developing the perception, attitudes, skills and sense of responsibilities which the lawyers are expected to assume when they complete their professional education. Thus, Clinical Legal Education provides students with opportunities for professional and intellectual development and prepares them for the practice of law, as competent, and socially as well as professionally responsible lawyers.
The earliest reference on Clinical Legal Education in United States could be traced in the year of 1917. Since that time, Clinical teaching has become an integral part of legal education in most developed and developing countries. The global Clinical movement started taking hold in the late 1960s; however, by that time Law Schools in the U.S. took the lead in providing Clinical Legal Education.
In most of the countries initially the primary focus of Clinical Legal Education was on legal aid, social justice and professional responsibility. However, this focus began to shift from client and community service to teaching skills, particularly in U.S. due to fading of student interest in public interest work.
Thus, the concept of Clinical Legal Education has evolved and contributed a new pedagogy in the teaching of law. It, to a large extent, also plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between the theory and real-life practice of law, or at least the environment in which they operate.
Clinical Legal Education took its roots in India in the late 1960s. But Clinical Legal Education becomes integral part of curriculum only when BCI introduced four practical papers to improve standards in legal education in late 90’s. These papers are aimed at providing practical training to law students. Until these papers were introduced in the curriculum, very little effort was made by Law Colleges to train students in advocacy skills.
Clinical Legal Education in India offers an opportunity to make integrative transformation of legal education and at the same time make legal profession socially relevant. To make such a transformation Clinical Legal Education should be viewed as a method of teaching and understanding law effectively rather than a component to offer mere skills.
The complexities of modern life require lawyers to play multiple roles such as advisors, negotiators, arbitrators, mediators, and administrators. The present day legal profession calls for much more skills than what was required of a legal practitioner a decade or so back. The field of lawyering is becoming highly competitive in that sense. Therefore, Clinical Legal Education offered in V.M. Salgaocar College of Law was structured in such a way to offer those skills that are required to make students to meet the demands of the modern society.
The clinical experience in this college was made as part of an effort to improve the quality of law practice, and to increase awareness among lawyers about professional and public responsibility.
Clinical Legal Education justifies the existence of law school in community’s context. The faculty will be benefited by the real life situations. This enriched experience in dealing with practical problems of the members of the society strengthens their theoretical knowledge of law. This in turn garners the benefits of teaching law in social context to the students. Therefore, the ideology and pedagogy used in teaching in V.M. Salgaocar College is to make the legal education socially relevant.