Continuing Legal Education: Rethinking Professional Ethics and Responsibility in India

Published date01 July 2018
Date01 July 2018
Subject MatterArticles
Continuing Legal Education:
Rethinking Professional
Ethics and Responsibility in India
Prakash Sharma1
The declining standards in legal profession, coupled with loss of public trust and confidence, call for
emphasis on a deeper understanding of professional ethics among lawyers and perhaps articulate a
different notion of professional responsibility that extends beyond the standards of professional conduct
and etiquette for lawyers. The 266th Report of Law Commission of India highlighted the need to structure
legal education and to bring ethical standards in legal profession. In this regard, the article proposes to
mandate continuing legal education (CLE) for legal professionals. The purpose of introduction of CLE
programme is to emphasize upon the quality of advocacy. Further, it was to implement the concept of
professional responsibility, which provides that a lawyer should represent a client competently. In this
regard, CLE programme might help lawyers to re-inform, re-imagine and reconstruct the legal profession
in India in ethical and responsible ways. This article discusses the considerations and the process that
must led to the adoption of the CLE plan.
A unique aspect of law schools in the United States and other countries is their deep and pervasive
engagement with law rms, corporations, non-governmental organizations, legal aid centres, think tanks,
government agencies and intergovernmental organizations. Unfortunately, in India, there is little
interaction between the legal profession and legal academia, let alone any fruitful collaboration. Indian
lawyers almost always lament the fact that law schools in India do not prepare law graduates to engage
in legal practice, especially when it comes to the lawyers’ actual involvement and contribution to
teaching, training, capacity building and mentoring. Indian law rms see law schools to be purely and
almost exclusively recruiting platforms.2 The collaboration between the domestic bar, international law
1 Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India.
2 Gitanjali Shankar and Amba Uttara Kak, Litigation v. Non-Litigation: Practise of Law under the Advocates Act, 3 NUJS Law
Review. 299–321 (2010). No doubt changes must be in consonance with the needs of modern world, see Mary C. Daly, The Ethical
Implications of the Globalization of the Legal Profession: A Challenge to the Teaching of Professional Responsibility in the
Twenty-first Century, 21 Fordham International Law Journal. 1240–1295 (1997). See also, Amanpreet Chinna, Liberalisation of
Asian Journal of Legal Education
5(2) 152–168
© 2018 The West Bengal National
University of Juridical Sciences
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/2322005818775439
Corresponding author:
Prakash Sharma, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India.
Sharma 153
rms and law schools can lead to sophisticated training of students, funding of research centres, faculty
and student exchanges, executive and continuing legal education (CLE), and knowledge development
The article promotes introduction of a programme, which requires all licenced professionals including
judges to complete a postgraduate level legal education programme every few years.4 Why do we need
such an action? How is our plan set up? How is it going to work? The experiment legal profession is
likely going to witness, will it be a risk worth taking? Questions like these need to be answered. Since
countries like the United States have already taken huge strands in making CLE mandatory, besides other
countries are also considering similar proposals, this article welcomes this opportunity to explain the
importance, origin and operation of the CLE plan.
Continuing Legal Education: Meaning and Historical Background
The CLE (as termed in the United States) or minimum continuing legal education (MCLE) or, in some
jurisdictions, as continuing professional development (CPD), consists of professional education for
lawyers/attorneys that takes place after initial admission to their respective bars. These programmes
however differ in various jurisdictions, and were recommendatory initially and later became mandatory.5
Generally, practical experience and independent study advances requisite legal education, CLE connotes
a formal educational experience, such as a lecture, a seminar or a workshop, related to the practice of law
and sponsored by a bar association, a law school or an organization which specializes in such advanced
professional training.
Indian Legal Services: Politics and Challenges, 12 Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal. 295, 298 (2013)—author is
of the opinion that Indian legal fraternity and the authorities often argue that due to various restrictions, Indian advocates will not
be able to compete with foreign lawyers and unless a level playing field is established by removing those restrictions, the Indian
legal market should not be liberalized; Michael Chapman & Paul Tauber, Liberalising International Trade on Legal Services: A
Proposal for Annex Legal Services under the General Agreement on Trade in Services, 16 Michigan Journal of International
Law. 941–954 (1992); Richard Abel, The Future of Legal Profession: Transnational Law Practice, 44 Case Western Reserve Law
Review. 737–870 (1994)—author gave a detailed effect of liberalization of legal sector in various countries; C. Raj Kumar, Raising
the Bar for Legal Education, 11 July 2015, The Asian Age, available at (Explaining how Indian law
firms see law schools to be purely recruiting platforms. Author explains how any measure of collaboration between the domestic
bar, international law firms and law schools can lead to training of students).
3 See National Knowledge Commission, Report to the Nation 2006–2009 (2009), available at http://knowledgecommissionarchive. (Building world-class law schools today will require creatively responding to the
growing international dimensions of legal education and of the legal profession, where it is becoming increasingly necessary to
incorporate international and comparative perspectives, along with necessary understanding of domestic law) Id. at 81.
4 It can be based on hours, days or weekly basis—depending much on the structure of course emphasized upon. Also, the programme
has to be routinely reassessed. See Douglas H. Parker, Periodic Recertification of Lawyers: A Comparative Study of Programs for
Maintaining Professional Competence, 54 Michigan State Bar Journal. 768–795 (1975); The Honorable Robert J. Sheran &
Laurence C. Harmon, Quality Advocacy and the Code of Professional Responsibility, Minnesota Plan: Mandatory Continuing
Legal Education for Lawyers and Judges as a Condition for the Maintaining of Professional Licensing, 44(6) Fordham Law
Review. 1081 (1976), available at Acted as a catalyst to the usage of CLE programmes,
wherein Burger accepted ‘as a working hypothesis that from one-third to one-half of the lawyers who appear in the serious cases
are not really qualified to render fully adequate representation’, see Warren E. Burger, The Special Skills of Advocacy: Are
Specialized Training and Certification of Advocates Essential to Our System of Justice? 42 Fordham Law Review. 227 (1973).
5 Within the United States, US attorneys in many states and territories are mandated to complete certain required CLE in order to
maintain their US licences to practice law. Lawyers in various jurisdictions, such as British Columbia in Canada, the Philippines
must also complete certain required CLE. However, some jurisdictions, such as the District of Columbia and Israel, recommend,
but do not require, that lawyers/attorneys complete CLE programme.

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