Professional Legal Education burdens the education provider with the onerous responsibility in equipping the student with such tools through which life and property of a citizen of the country are to be protected. This education should, in theory, familiarize the student with the law, the basic and current judicial precedents of superior courts, procedure of the courts and last but not least the ethics and morals that a lawyer must instill in himself and never let go in his career.

Currently, all over Punjab there are 92 affiliated law Colleges of three Public Universities (Punjab University, Bahauddin Zakariya University and Bahawalpur University) in Punjab (there may be a small variation in affiliation numbers as Universities conduct affiliation process every year). Apart from the affiliated colleges, these universities also have their own constituent law colleges. Both constituent and affiliated law colleges follow the same regime of teaching methodology and there is a centralized examination system taken by the concerned University.

These Law Colleges, produce thousands of law graduates ever year and a safe estimate suggests that by and large 3000-4000 thousand (if not more) join the legal profession in Punjab every year by successfully qualifying for the bar exams. These figures are astonishing leaving the legal profession essentially overcrowded and a downward trend is being witnessed in professional and ethical competencies.

This article will shed light on what is lacking in our institutions imparting legal education and Bar Councils who grant licenses to candidates to practice law.

(1) Legal Education and the

examination methodology

The syllabus for legal education is approved by the Pakistan Bar Council and implemented by the Universities for it’s constituent law college and affiliated law colleges.

The three year LL.B course has a number of subjects being taught in each year. The study is in shape of lectures given by the faculty with one exam at the end of each year. The examination papers consist of 10 questions out of which 5 must be attempted by a student. As a practice stretching over decades, these examination papers carry the same questions that have been repeated in earlier examinations and a brief calculation of common questions makes a question bank of 10-15 such questions for each paper. Thus a student needs only to memorize these 10-15 questions for each paper.

To make the matters worse, the legal education revolves around use of “guides” by the student that are freely available in the shape of small pamphlets. Their contents are extremely sub-standard and are available for every subject and carry “answers” to these 10-15 examination questions. Over decades of unchecked practice, these “guides” have become the text-books of law being used by a large majority of students. The 10-15 common questions are memorized by the students from these “guides” and are reproduced in the examination. Astonishingly, the student passes the examination and over time, these guides have become a gateway to success in examinations. The use of these guides has other far-reaching effects for legal education. The students do not read statutes or reference books, they do not have the need to go to the library or do research, and students do not have to attend the classes so there are very few students in attendance in a class. The judges, lawyers and teachers being produced are a product of this dreadful system, which is a disturbing dilemma for our legal education. Distressingly, this is not a secret and every stakeholder is aware of this predicament, yet they turn a blind eye to it. Painfully, more recent development are the “guides” for civil judges and additional session judges available for their judicial examinations; and are presented in all their glory on banners displayed outside the Honourable Lahore High Court, Lahore and office of the Punjab Bar Council.

The prudent way forward would also be an immediate halt to the decade old practice of repeating questions in examinations. The past papers can only serve as a guide as to what the exam may be like and not what it would be. This would get rid of the “guide” culture and turn the students to a more studious environment.

The questions in the examinations are essay type questions. In most of western jurisdictions, the emphasis in law exams is on problem questions, that have to be solved by identifying the issues, stating the law/precedents, giving arguments and concluding the answer. This develops analytical skills, research capabilities and class participation. A student will have to know the latest precedents to answer the questions and would develop his analytical skills. These problem questions should be introduced in the examinations and should form a major part of the same.

(2) Role of Bar Councils

The Bar Councils regulate the legal profession and it is their foremost duty to check the competency of the new entrants. The Punjab Bar Council grants the initial/basic license to prospective lawyers enabling them to practice in the lower courts.

The licensing systems in other countries are quite stringent and tough standards are to be met before a license is issued to a candidate to practice law. As an example: For clearing the New York Bar exam, the candidates study for 6-8 months and may not clear the Bar exam in the first go.

In sharp contrast, the licensing system of the Punjab Bar Council is a breeze and almost very little effort is required to get a license. The Punjab Bar Council exam is in the shape of multiple-choice questions. The Punjab Bar Council has prepared a booklet containing these questions and it is out of these questions that the examination questions are prepared and this booklet is available to the candidates for exam preparation. What is astonishing is that the contents of this booklet have remained unchanged for years with no amendments/changes to the question bank. During this examination process, the invigilation process is also very relaxed; as a result there is 98% to 99% success rate. This entrance test is a travesty and a license is given to practically every candidate; thus the huge influx of lawyers every year.

(3) Pakistan Bar Council Legal

Education Rules, 2015

The Pakistan Bar Council Legal Education Rules, 2015 (“Rules”) regulate legal education in law colleges, both constituent and affiliated. The Rules, however, do not prescribe any standards of legal education. A perusal of the Rules indicate that Rule 34 deals with standard of legal education shall be laid down by the Pakistan Bar Council and the directions issued by the Pakistan Bar Council, the Higher Education Commission and/or the University shall be complied by the law college. To date no standards have been laid down by the Pakistan Bar Council and there is no evidence to of any related directions having been issued by the Higher Education Commission or the concerned University. The current plight of legal education requires serious and immediate deliberation and revamp.

Moreover, the Rules specify the building requirements, library facilities, medium of instruction, fee concessions, etc.; but lack the essence of legal education i.e. methodology of teaching and examination methodology. The size of building may not matter if quality education is being provided; and what good is an ample library if it is not being used.

As a result of this decadent system, there is an influx of new lawyers that have breezed through the sub-standard education and lax licensing system, and now have the license to play with lives and property of citizens of this country. There is ominous need to set things right. The Universities, Bar Councils and Higher Education Commission must understand the gravity of the situation and take immediate action to improve this predicament.

 

The writer is an Advocate of Supreme Court of Pakistan.