Advancements in Legal Education in India: Challenges and Opportunities for Interdisciplinary Research

AuthorShimreichon Awungshi Shimray,Chetan Singai,K. Rajashree
Date01 January 2021
Published date01 January 2021
Subject MatterArticles
06ALE946699_ncx.indd Article
Advancements in Legal Education
Asian Journal of Legal Education
8(1) 66–78, 2021
in India: Challenges and
© 2020 The West Bengal National
University of Juridical Sciences
Opportunities for Interdisciplinary
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DOI: 10.1177/2322005820946699
K. Rajashree1, Chetan Singai2 and
Shimreichon Awungshi Shimray3
Social, economic and political changes have brought new challenges and divergent views to twenty-first-
century legal education. Law is an expression of the social idea, and more creative solutions evolve from
interdisciplinary collaborations. The resolution by legal luminaries to elevate legal research to a high
standing, on par with other disciplines, is yet to find a foothold even after the introduction of reforms
to legal education in the past two decades. This article makes an attempt to explore the emerging
interdisciplinary trends, with the innumerable challenges that require exploration, identification, analysis
and quality enhancement while conducting legal research in order to strike a fine balance between
teaching and research, as they supplement each other.
Law is a mechanism for ushering in social change, and the fact that it can never be studied in isolation
demands the convergence and divergence of multiple disciplines. Yet, the traditional conceptualization
of legal research is largely confined to the judicial process and the exclusion of social process. Keeping
in mind the benefits of interdisciplinary association of law with other areas/disciplines and of research
being a continuum, the article emphasizes law’s collaboration with other disciplines. The article
accentuates the role of law schools to undertake and encourage interdisciplinary legal scholarship to
diversify the learning experiences of students in conjunction with other disciplines. Learning through
such experiences enables students to find solutions beyond the strict academic discipline of law and at
the same time offers ample opportunities for them to explore a wide array of possibilities that interface
with legal profession but transcend courtroom practice. A comparative analysis of two educational
institutions imparting legal education, taken as cases in point, is performed for the present study.
1 Ramaiah College of Law, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India.
2 Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India.
3 Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.
Corresponding author:
Shimreichon Awungshi Shimray, Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana 131001,

Rajashree et al. 67
The draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019; envisions the promotion of multidisciplinary teaching,
research and extension activities across higher education institutions in India. It is one of the few policies
that suggests reformation to professional education, especially legal, technical, agricultural, and medical
institutions.4 Interdisciplinarity in legal education can be traced back to Upendra Baxi’s, ‘Notes Towards
A Socially relevant Legal Education’ the earliest authoritative piece that one can refer to. The report was
transformational, especially in the Indian context, as it led to many reforms in legal education. Such
changes are evident in the various Law Commission Reports, especially the 184th Law Commission
Report on Legal Education & Professional Training, the Advocates Act, 1961, University Grants
Commission Act, 1956, and other imminent policies that support the progression of interdisciplinarity,
paving the way for the renaissance of juristic learning.5 The 184th Law Commission Report is an
important starting point that sets the pace for engaging with interdisciplinary research in legal education,
which elaborates and stresses the need for competence and social responsibility, invariably demanding
the engagement of law with interdisciplinary teaching, research and extension.6
For very long, research in legal education had confined itself to the study of codified laws and judicial
precedents for preparation to practise at the bar and bench. The ultimate objective of law schools was,
and to some extent still is, to teach law as a set of rules and regulations. With minimum prescription
standards mandated by the Bar Council of India (BCI), the curriculum was designed to develop law as a
distinctive discipline with no or less interaction with other disciplines. However, one has seen a reversal
of the same, with the diversification of opportunities to a young law graduate, simultaneously propelled
by the need to understand and address the problems of the society. Legal education has tried to resurrect
itself from the time of the realist movement and slowly moved away from the theory of ‘training men for
legal profession’7 or to ‘think like a lawyer’, as famously stated by Prof Langdell, towards a more
interdisciplinary approach. Keeping in line with this progressive vision, Prof Dr N. R. Madhava Menon
started the National Law School of India University in the year 1986.8
Owing to the need to align legal education towards a global market, integrating interdisciplinary
disciples, has marked the revolution of legal education across the globe. Yet, despite its incorporation in
governmental organizations, industry and academia, it still has its detractors. It is argued by the
traditionalists that interdisciplinary legal research is highly impractical and in a way dilutes traditional
legal research.9 It is further stated that legal academics have tried to pick up bits and pieces from other
disciplines and have exposed themselves to ‘interdisciplinary dilettantism’.10 According to the executive
director of the Association for Integrated Studies, interdisciplinary means an inquiry that critically draws
upon multiple disciplines and, further, can lead to an integration of disciplinary insights.11
4 MHRD, National Education Policy 2019 (31 May 2020, 05:30 am),
5 Upendra Baxi, Notes Towards a Socially Relevant Legal Education, 5(1–3) J. BCI. 1–33 (1976).
6 Law Commission of India, 184th Report on The Legal Education & Professional Training and Proposals for Amendments to the
Advocates Act, 1961 and the University Grants Commission Act, 1956 (December 2002).
7 Notes, Modern Trends in Legal Education, 64 Colum. l. Rev. 710 (1964).
Available at
8 Arpita Sengupta & Devrupa Rakshit, Modernization of Legal Education in India: The Interdisciplinary Approach to Education,
2 asIan J. legal eduC. 57 (2015).
9 Dave Owen & Caroline Noblet, Interdisciplinary Research and Environmental Law, 41 eCology l.Q. 887 (2014).
10 Theunis Robert Roux, The Incorporation Problem in Interdisciplinary Legal Research, 8 eRasmus l. Rev. 55 (2015).
11 CaRolyn Haynes, InnovatIons In InteRdIsCIplInaRy teaCHIng (West port, CT: American Council on Education ORYX Press,

Asian Journal of Legal Education 8(1)
The 184th Report by the Law Commission of India identifies the challenges and multiple dimensions
of legal education and the significance of improving the objective of imparting quality legal education in
the profession.12 With the emerging advancements in contemporary education, interdisciplinary legal
research holds a significant role in modern curriculum. Legal research has multiple connotations. Legal
studies, widely recognizes and follows doctrinal research of the legislations and judgments involving the
process of collating, analysing, interpreting and its application to a given problem at hand. Such methods
form the core of legal and judicial practice.13 Such research is primarily employed in understanding and
analysing law the way it is, and is often referred to as ‘black letter law’. There has been a gradual
transition from such expositions, propounded by Salmond, towards a more progressive understanding of
legal research, one that combines multiple dimensions, such as sociological, ethical, economic and
historical.14 Such legal research connotes legal scholarship’s ultimate purpose to not merely acquire the
necessary skills for the legal profession but also move beyond traditional scholarship. Hence, distinctions
have been made between ‘research in law’ and ‘research of law’.15 The intention is to encourage the
possibility of understanding legal problems and issues from a comprehensive framework and, at the
same time, use these specific interdisciplinary experiences to address those issues without the strict
inhibitions of the legal framework. Such experiences are crucial to address issues and look for solutions
in areas such as alternate dispute resolution mechanisms, labour law, legal aid, human rights,
environmental law, the Constitution, criminal law, etc. A synthesis of multiple disciplines, most
importantly, enriches the students and teachers’ overall educational experience.16 The education system
that focuses specifically on a single discipline follows the traditional methodology, and it may not be at
par with the essential pedagogy needs of the present.
Therefore, with the growing interface of law with other disciplines and the call for imbibing inter-
disciplinarity into legal research, on the one hand, and the argument to retain legal...

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