Today law is being studied in the context of social change and development. Legal ethics have to be taught in all schools but they have not been so far.

N.R. Madhava Menon

Having been active in the field of legal education for five decades, N.R. Madhava Menon has played an important role in establishing a model that has raised the bar in this sector. He tells Meedhu Miriyam Joseph that the questions of professional ethics are now coming to the forefront.

Today law is being studied in the context of social change and development. Legal ethics have to be taught in all schools but they have not been so far. Lawyer being the most conversant with the problems of society, understanding social values and following legal ethics are impetus to delivering social justice, says N.R. Madhava Menon, eminent legal educationist who was also instrumental in setting up the National Law School University, Bangalore, recognised as one of the premier institutions imparting legal education in the country.

There is a role for law outside the litigation in courts, Mr. Menon says. That role is in Parliament or administrative offices such as police stations or health care or education sectors. If we want to look at the implementation of the law in these areas, we need to study law in the context of social change that means bringing in a lot of social facts into the disputes, says the legal educationist.

According to him, the quality of legal education is of prime importance as it affects the judiciary, legislation, and thereby society. A mix of good, bad, and indifferent institutions spring up but there is also a healthy competition to achieve qualitative improvement among these institutions.

With the introduction of the five-year integrated programme in law, a lot of talented students are now attracted to legal education, but what we lack are teachers who can understand this changed context of law, says Mr. Menon who has been the member of the Legal education Committee of the Bar Council of India.

“The stereotyped and conventional method of education is still followed in many law schools and what we now have is a dysfunctional system with highly talented students and mediocre teachers,” said Mr. Menon.

“With the liberalisation of the economy, opportunities for legally trained people have multiplied. So I would imagine that 20 years from now there will be ample opportunities for highly trained students outside the courts because today law firms are becoming a multi-disciplinary single-window service to the client,” noted Mr. Menon.

Research component of our law schools, says Mr. Menon, is the weakest link in our legal education. Hence the next phase and the future of legal education in India will be research-based education, innovative in terms of imparting skill-based and ethical education, he says.

His latest endeavour has been imparting continuing education and training for lawyers all over the country. The aim of this judicial education is to stress the need for following professional ethics and understanding law as a means of social engineering rather than for merely settling disputes, says the doyen of Indian legal education.