The discussion about how to teach law students and develop their competencies often omits one of the biggest components of legal education i.e. the best way to train students to be lifelong learners. The law schools cannot teach students every area of the law or every skill they will use as lawyers, the focus should be on teaching them how to transfer their learning in law school to the novel situations that they will face in the legal profession. Furthermore, law schools need to teach them how to continue to draw upon their learning experiences during the practice of law to new situations they will certainly encounter. This requires that law schools move the students from novice learners to expert learners.
Law school offering five year integrated Law Programme is expected to impart requisite skill sets for the two types of jobs the legal services market throwing up in the changing economy scenario. In this context law school requires to recognize the importance of clinical teaching with trained credentials and well-structured engagement and with necessary protocols on procedure supervision and assessment integrating the clinical teaching with the rest of the curriculum.
The most important skills law schools can teach students to make them better lifelong learners are metacognitive strategies. Essentially, metacognition is the ability to regulate and control one’s learning. Metacognition can be better understood by breaking it down into the knowledge of cognition, the regulation of cognition, and how these two connect. Put simply, it is the process of “thinking about thinking” and the ability to self-regulate one’s learning with the goal of transferring learned skills to new situations. There are many metacognitive skills that everyone employs in the learning process for e.g. monitoring one’s reading comprehension, evaluating one’s process of learning, understanding the influence of outside stimuli on one’s learning, and knowing when one lacks motivation, just to name a few. Most learners who employ these various metacognitive strategies do not even know that they are using them, but the students who use many metacognitive skills well are often the best learners.
Law schools are required to improve their students’ learning by implementing strategies to assess that learning. Law schools can do this by critiquing students and providing them feedback through more effective formative assessment methods. Instituting self-assessment surveys and portfolios can help the students improve their metacognitive skills while providing the professor with more information to assess their students’ learning. By providing their students with more explicit training in metacognition, and by using more effective formative assessment techniques, the professor will improve the lifelong learning skills of law students and make them expert learners, which should be the main focus of a legal education.
The practical exposure of the students in the field is possible by imparting the clinical legal education to all the students. Keeping in mind the growing need of the practice ready professional in the arena of litigation on the civil, criminal and other recognised branches of practice, as well as growing demand of the ready to join profession candidates and capable justice providers, the Nirma, Institute of Law has envisaged a “Lawyer Incubation Clinic”.
The Clinic aims to be the torchbearer in the field of clinical legal education and legal pedagogy where the theoretical knowledge will be supplemented with the practical training of law students to make them practice ready. The same can be achieved with the help of the interface between the academia and the professionals.
The activities of the Clinic give exposure to students with respect to various skills required for the practice of law, such as client counselling, drafting the pleadings, examination and cross examination of witness, eliciting expert opinion and its relevance, filing of various suits, applications, complaints and petitions along with art of writing orders and judgements. To make our students great lawyers is the one-line answer for the principle object of LIC. The teachings, projects and exercises by the LIC is to inculcate the ideology in our students that, of all, they should become a great lawyer, a true lawyer, able to take out their respective clients from the varied crises of their lives keeping in centre interest of the society.Author Prof. Purvi Pokhariyal, Director and Dean, Institute of Law, Nirma University