What modifications should be made to the Common Law Admission Test?

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At an event in Goa, CJI, DY Chandrachud, questioned if a national-level entrance exam, like the Common Law Admission Test, is capable of determining a student’s sense of responsibility towards society, or if it’s only useful for measuring a Class 12 student’s ability to interpret fundamental principles of law.

VC Vivekanandan from HNLU, Raipur pointed out that entrance exams for various streams have their drawbacks, especially if it is a mass testing. To some extent, the exam can measure the value system of a student, but it is questionable how far a test can accurately evaluate the “ethos” of a person who is still in the process of understanding social complexities.

CLAT and the ‘ethos’ debate

Legal professionals and academics agree that there is an excessive emphasis placed on passing the exam rather than assessing the moral character of applicants. Additionally, there is a belief that those who did not attend a National Law University may not be capable of becoming successful lawyers. As a result, most of the test-takers are only attempting to pass the exam.

Apurva Zutshi, an alumnus of NLU Jodhpur, who passed the CLAT in 2009 and is now employed as a corporate lawyer, stated that the right ethos entails bringing in candidates to the legal profession who are committed to increasing access to justice for all. However, the Chief Justice of India did not provide details on how to accomplish this.

Manwendra Kumar Tiwari, an associate professor at Dharmashastra National Law University (DNLU) Jabalpur, remarked that our culture tends to prioritize intelligence over integrity, but we must realize that intelligence is beneficial for individual growth while integrity is beneficial for the public. He further stated that in order to produce lawyers who are aware of their roles in society, all involved parties such as NLUs, pupils, and educators must collaborate.

According to Supreme Court lawyer, Tarun Gupta, the new generation of lawyers avoids litigation and focuses more on financially remunerative corporate practice.

Over the past decade, the legal profession has seen a great deal of evolution with the involvement of corporate entities. Nowadays, firms are willing to provide lucrative salaries to attorneys on their staff. However, this has led to a decrease in the number of lawyers providing pro bono services to those in need, as many strive to achieve more luxurious lifestyles.

Gupta joined the legal profession in 2005 after obtaining his degree from Punjab University.

Before and after CLAT

In 2008, the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) was established with the purpose of making it simpler to pick students for the National Law Universities. Before the CLAT exam, each university conducted its own tests, which posed a problem for the applicants because the testing format varied among the prestigious universities. According to Tiwari, a teacher who has educated both students who studied before and after the CLAT was implemented, the standard of students studying in the National Law Universities has stayed relatively the same.

Anas Tanwir, advocate-on-record with the Supreme Court, noted that the National Law Universities were initially established to support those in need by providing them with good lawyers. Nevertheless, due to the increasing cost of receiving a law degree, many students are burdened with loan repayment and are thus more likely to take up jobs with corporations instead of helping the disadvantaged. Furthermore, those who wish to gain experience by working with senior attorneys are often not adequately compensated or completely unpaid.

Tanwir is an alumnus of Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University (RMNLU), Lucknow. He joined the course in 2007, a year before the CLAT was introduced.

CLAT and barriers

Test-takers of the CLAT acknowledged that there were obstacles and that the system may not be the most suitable way to determine the students. The exam was computer-based, with multiple-choice questions, and was completely conducted in English, making it difficult for students whose primary language was not English.

According to Zutshi, the coaching accommodations for the CLAT are usually found in large and mid-sized cities, thus putting those from smaller cities at a disadvantage. He noted that although the exam does provide some access, there are still obstacles in place. Zutshi also mentioned that the exam brings a diverse group of students together, with geographical diversity being more common than the economic variety.

Tanwir believes that it is imperative to make legal education attainable and inexpensive. He commented, “There are people who understand their obligation to the public but are unable to pursue a career due to financial hardships. Therefore, it is essential to lower the admission fees, tuition fees, and to provide equal opportunities.”

Vivekanandan from HNLU proposed three solutions for making legal education more inclusive. These include providing a solid background in social sciences for students in BBA and BCom programs, offering students a diverse range of experiential learning opportunities beyond traditional law firms, and making Pro Bono work a vital part of the curriculum and assessment.

He stated that the remark, coming from someone of CJI’s level of knowledge and understanding, who has been observing the entry point closely, should be taken into consideration. He is wishing that the CJI will communicate with the NLU Vice Chancellors to provide his profound understanding and assistance to enhance the system.

Mayank Tewari

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