Indian Legal Education and Profession: Reforms Required to Tune with Modern World

Being a Lawyer means working in one of the Noble professions of Society. The Indian Legal Scenario has come a long way since its origin. Currently, India has the world’s second-largest legal professional market. The sector was valued at US $1.3 Billion in the year 2017 and continues to grow tremendously. With Law being a dynamic discipline, there are always changes in the Industry, whether in respects of laws, education, profession or its awareness. 

The changing dynamics of the world in terms of globalization, technology, innovation and concepts; directly impacts every sector, and thus obviously the legal one too. Many-a-times, it is seen that society moves faster than law, and in other times, the law is used to change society. For doing either of those, reforms are required. The current scenario also requires a change, towards a stronger system, an essential ingredient in the world’s largest democracy fighting towards a developed nation.  

This article will focus on the reforms necessary in the Modern Indian Legal Sector.

The Saga of Indian Legal Industry:

As already known, India has a rich and deep history, which has also not exempted law from its bounds. Law has been in India since the Vedic period. It has evolved from that religious authority to a legal and constitutional system of today, transgressing through various periods. The Mughal and British regimes had a great impact on it. During the pre-Mughal and Mughal periods, religion was a language of law. It is what people knew, practiced and believed.

The British Colonization brought a paradigm shift, and set systems, many of which became an integral part of Independent and Modern India. These included a tiered system of courts, appellate mechanisms and codification of laws, standardized practices and even advocacy. However, Indian Practitioners were greatly restricted in the system. While shifting from the Mughal legal system, the advocates under that regimen, “vakils”, too followed suit, but were only limited to representatives. The doors of courts were closed to practitioners and the right of audience at the Supreme Courts was limited to English, Irish and Scottish professionals. Subsequent rules and statutes culminating in the Legal Practitioners Act of 1846 opened up the profession regardless of nationality or religion. 

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The Independence movement and subsequently Independent India also saw brilliant leaders and drafters, BR Ambedkar, MK Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and many more. They stood as a proof of exemplary legal professionals. However, the Nation lacked legal education institutes, and thus many legal luminaries held a degree from institutes in the UK and an enrollment in UK courts. It could even be seen as a profession for the wealthy or the fortunate. 

Although the very first Indian Law College (and also first in Asia) is recognized as Government Law College, Mumbai, opened in 1855; was restricted for only a select group of members and did not function regularly. It wasn’t until 1925 that it became a full-time institution. 

Although, Indian Legal Profession could be seen since the establishment of the first British Courts, Indian Professionals did not get the same opportunities as that of British.  After establishing the High Courts, there were six grades of legal practice in India. One had to go through many requirements just to be a Vakil, and later prove to be a good one, to be promoted to the post of an Advocate. Post-Independence, the Advocates Act 1961 reformed the profession greatly, in terms of admission, practice, ethics, privileges, regulations, discipline and improvement of the profession.

Indeed, the Industry has come a way far from what it was and faces new challenges, open to reform.

Reforms needed in Legal Education:

The result of a large population and a never-ending profession is what legal education in India looks like today. There are over 1,500 law schools and law colleges across the country, with over 1.5 lakh graduates every year. The number of law colleges doesn’t include branches of the institutes. 

With these many institutes, laws relating to them remain complex and multi-layered. Many overlap with the multiple regulatory bodies under which these institutions function. These institutions are usually set up under public universities, which have their own department and/or also make other private colleges affiliated with them. This affiliation system seems to be a major problem to regulate law institutes in the country.  A rapid growth leads to declining efficiency and quality. Thus, having many institutes become a problem, as a lack of standards can be seen in many. This leads to incompetent law graduates who eventually lead to dilution in the profession as well as education. For example, the three state universities of western Uttar Pradesh — Meerut, Agra and Kanpur universities — have 107, 40 and 67 law colleges affiliated to them, respectively. These 214 law colleges offer over 25,000 seats in the LLB degree program alone. This problem of multiple regulating bodies makes upcoming and current students unsure about what is expected of them in various situations; may it be admissions or examinations. It also poses a threat to the profession in a sense that basic standards of expectation get diluted. It is necessary to have one body of regulation for these institutes.

Further, completely private universities have good results for law graduates; however, such a standard comes for a heavy price. That makes legal education a market, rather than a temple of education. The Bar Council of India also has no authoritative control over the colleges. Thus, Universities perceived law colleges as a lucrative source of income to finance other activities of theirs which were unconnected to the law college or the profession itself.

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Another problem seems to be that of entry to these institutes. As a student entering into the field of law, the number of entrance tests is vast. For those schools under a university or affiliated to them, a student may give the State Common Entrance Test. Others include CLAT, AILET, LSAT, and private entrance tests for private colleges. While a Student may prepare and appear for many, the standards for these tests aren’t uniform. This creates a status-quo amongst colleges and their students, and may act as a judgement factor when it comes time for employment. 

Another reform seems to be needed in the syllabi and infrastructure of these Institutes. Many still have outdated syllabi and lack basic infrastructure. These do not take into account the changing role of law in society and also lack teaching basic social engineering skills needed in any practicing lawyer. Due to various lacunas in these institutes, many students lack the opportunities of competitions and activities that fuel in developing many skills. Even though it is agreed that Internships are a great medium to learn hands-on, an institute cannot declare its work to be ended after teaching the laws. 

Language also acts as a huge barrier in many institutions. It is extremely important that every person be enriched in their local language; but that acts as a hindrance to becoming a good lawyer. It is not opposed to having schooling in regional language; however, all statutes, cases, books and material are in English. It has been seen that an achieving lawyer has good English skills. A prerequisite to being admitted in law colleges should be a basic understanding and spoken command over English. After all, English is the language of law. Students must be able to choose law as a career they truly look forward to, and the attitude of lethargy must be forgone.

In the case of State of Maharashtra V. Manubhai Pragmatic Vashi & Ors., the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed,

“The need for convincing and well organized legal education is absolutely essential, reckoning the new trend in the world order, to meet the ever growing challenges. The legal education should be able to meet the eves growing demands of the society and should be able to meet the eves growing demands of the society and should be thoroughly equipped to cater to the complexities of different situations.”

Law is a basic need of society. If basic standards get diluted, how can a nation develop better and have robust stands for upcoming challenges?

Reforms needed in Legal Profession and Industry:

The sector has been a fast-growing and flourishing Industry, in a fast-growing economy and a developing country. Naturally with the population load, the cases under Indian Courts are always overflowing. The “pending cases in courts” is an issue that seems no end. The Central Government is the single largest litigant in the country in terms of initiating cases and responsible directly for a significantly large number of cases as a respondent. This increases government costs and burdens the judiciary. This may be resolved by taking a normative approach along with technological impact. 

Normatively, the National Litigation Policy should be made binding and enforceable against officers of the Government. A lower monetary threshold should be introduced for appeals in matters that form the bulk of government litigation, and alternative dispute resolution methods should be made an option. Additionally, there should be greater monitoring of the number of pending cases where the Government is a litigant.

Further, legal in-awareness can be seen in the common man. Efforts can be taken to make the common man more aware of their rights and duties, helping them to contribute to the betterment of the sector.

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Another aspect that can be seen in Indian legal sector is the gender gap that is clearly evident. Though justice is usually portrayed as a woman, it has in general been embodied by men. This does not mean that there are no women in law, but it rather means that not many women hold positions of higher authority as that of men. Many High courts still have an extremely low number of female judges. Even after 70 years of Independence, India has not seen its first Female Chief Justice. Up till now, the SC has only seen 8 women as judges in its courts. Women empowerment in law is an incredible necessity. Being women in law can be a huge push to achieving more gender equality in many aspects of the Indian Society. 

Liberalization of the Indian legal sector is another need. Globalization and liberalization have opened up economies of almost all countries around the world. India has such a large bulk of lawyers, but the scenario is nowhere near as that of firms in developed countries like the US and UK. Most providing service in the sector is individual lawyers and family run law firms. Unlike sectors such as engineering and IT, foreign firms are not allowed in Indian Legal Market. 

However, this seems to be a controversial issue, as it means opening up of regulations to allow foreign firms to efficiently participate. But on the other hand, Indian sector has not seen the huge competition of firms where private cases can be taken up. A bigger private firm amounts to greater employment for upcoming lawyers, better incomes, and better quality of services. 


The Indian Legal Sector is open for a lot more reform. Its problems can be seen even by the common man. However, the faith and hope from the Legal World is never lost. Understanding and bettering the legal scenario will likely lead to better social and legal outcomes, allowing us as a nation to develop laws needed for the society. It will also help in making a system robust to new and upcoming challenges in the ever changing world. 

Law is the only profession dealing with society and all its problems. There is no doubt that the legal scenario has come a long way, but there is also no denying that it needs to move forward too.

Conceptualized and Edited by

Rajat Rajan Singh

Advocate, Allahabad High Court at Lucknow


Editor-in-Chief at Law Trend

Written by

Sai Kulkarni-Intern

Law Trend
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