The standard of legal education that law schools impart across the country is undoubtedly below par. It is therefore commendable that to take corrective measures a three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) has formed committees to come up with recommendations for improving the quality of legal education after inspecting the law schools across the country. The order came as a petition filed by Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) against the mushroom growth of law schools was decided. The problem is complex, with many institutions negligence combining to create the deplorable situation we witness today, but the SC can certainly play its part in the process.
While the assumption is that private sector helps the state in providing facilities to all those who can afford, one fact that is often overlooked the times is that private sector does not consider people’s need as a responsibility. Instead, the industry looks at demand from the angle of profit maximization. Therefore, anyone who had a little capital and some property entered into the business of education. Thus the result was the mushroom growth of all kinds of educational institutions. Regulations were not enforced – in fact they were not devised in any meaningful way in the first place – and standards fell sharply.
The Pakistan Bar Council Legal Education Rules, 2015 regulate legal education in law colleges. However, it lays down no standards for the education itself. To date no move has been made to create such standards by the Pakistan Bar Council or the Higher Education Commission (HEC) – the bodies responsible for creating them.
As a result we have witnessed out-dated modes of examination in many institutes. Every year questions are repeated. Students instead of relying on their rational faculties rely more on guides and rote memorisation of answers.. This practice does not allow the students to do research or go through statues and reference books that are the most critical tools in the hands of any lawyer. One should be well equipped with these tools for defending his client’s interests.
Also, the role of the bar councils cannot be overlooked. One can firmly blame the bar councils for allowing every person with a law degree in his/her hand to start a practice. After years of simply giving licences to everyone with a degree the bar councils have started taking examinations – a single laughably simple multiple-choice paper, where the invigilation is notoriously lax. Everyone can essentially still get the licence, as evidenced by the staggering 98 % pass ratio.
Lastly, the premises of the law colleges across the country also need inspections. Typically, law colleges operate in houses. They lack proper academic setup. Neither libraries nor computer labs make it to such law schools. All other facilities that are detailed out in the rules regarding establishing a college are usually ignored.
All this can be done by directing the HEC and Pakistan Bar Council to create the standards they were supposed to.