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Interview Of The Month  

This month, ILJs Naina Pachnanda spoke to Prof. Timothy Endicott, Dean, Oxford University, Faculty of Law about his views on the Indian legal education system vis--vis the legal system prevalent in the United Kingdom.

Ques: : Last year you had visited National Law School, Bangalore and this year, you are visiting NUJS, Kolkata and National Law University, Delhi for interacting with students. Can you give us your opinion on legal education in India and the quality of students that you have interacted with?

Ans: The quality of students is very high, as I already knew from the quality of students who come from India to Oxford in order to pursue their higher studies in law. They are students who are well prepared and hardworking which is essential for a good lawyer.

Ques: In what way according to you is the Indian legal education system different from that in the United Kingdom?

Ans: : The ways in which it is similar are more important than the ways in which it is different. It is different in many ways, just like India is very different from the U.K. But legal education anywhere in the world requires that combination of intelligence and hardwork and a lot of reading, and I think that India has law schools with good students who work hard and read a lot. In the U.K as well, we have law schools with good students who work hard and read a lot. But every law school is different from every other law school and Indian law schools are different from law schools in England. I am a Canadian and I went to law school in Canada and the similarity that we share in the laws schools in Canada and England and India is more important than the differences. But there is one way in which Oxford is different from other law schools in Canada or England or India: we teach graduate students as well as undergraduates in tutorials. That gives the students a unique response to their work form the professors.

Ques: The Oxford Faculty of Law currently offers a dedicated summer school in human rights law every year. Do you plan to the add more courses to your summer school say in subjects like IPR, competition law, corporate law etc. in the near future?

Ans: We don’t have any plans at present. The summer programme in human rights law has a special reason and it has a two years extended masters programme, so students who come for that programme in the summer can write a dissertation and finish their masters degree over two years and the reason for that is that it gives an opportunity for people involved in human rights to do a masters degree when they would not be able to come to Oxford for a year or two years. We’re good at teaching students face to face and so we don’t have any plans to start other summer programmes. I’m not saying that we won’t ever start them. There are various possibilities but the programme in human rights law as I just mentioned is a unique programme. In fact, there is a diploma in intellectual property rights and again that is for a special reason which is for practise in that particular field. We don’t have any such plans of starting other programmes at present.

Ques: Does Oxford have any plans to enter into exchange programmes for students and faculties with any of the Indian law universities especially the national law schools?

Ans: Not at present. It is more important  to us at present to expand  the kind of links that we’ve had with India in the past, which means to get Indian students to come to Oxford for a degree programme and also to train students who are going to be professors in Indian law schools. Hence there is a two way connection. So that’s the main thing. We want to teach outstanding students from India, we want to improve the scholarship provision for them, and to train them to be a part of the future of this country and the world. I don’t know whether we will develop student exchange programmes in the future, but our main interest is getting Indian students to come to Oxford.

Ques: In India, although it was expected that once the nationals law schools were established, more people would join the bar thereby improving the quality of lawyers and judiciary but on the contrary, more graduates have and are opting for cushy careers in law firms, inter-governmental organizations, as in-house counsel etc. Can you tell us about the scenario in the United Kingdom and if the UK is also facing the same problem of less graduates joining the bar or the judiciary and opting for firms, companies and inter-governmental organizations instead?

Ans: That is very interesting because there is something similar in the United Kingdom. Not all our graduates choose to go into legal practise, some choose to go into teaching or into business. Those who become lawyers, mostly then become solicitors in large firms; some go into public service, and some go to the Bar. The number who go to the Bar are in a minority, yet we train all our students in a form that is especially useful in terms of judges and barristers. So you might say that we love training people to be barristers and that’s right. The same training is actually useful to corporate solicitors and it is entirely up to our students to decide what they’re going to do with the training that we give them and what career to pursue. We try to give them good advice and we don’t have a view of what they should be doing once they leave Oxford. But we hope that they will do brilliantly in whichever path that they choose to take.

Ques: In your opinion, what steps need to be taken further to improve to legal education system in the United Kingdom?

Ans: We need to recruit outstanding law students and academics. Legal education in England will thrive if there are good law schools with good teachers and good students. There is no shortage of good students, as we have good students from around the world. The university has to be ambitious about recruiting and creating an atmosphere and a good institutional environment. So that’s the main thing in my view to improve legal education in the future, but then it’s not just the university’s responsibility. It is a responsibility that each of us has as a teacher to do our best to understand the subject and to contribute to a new understanding of the subject, and to convey that to our students. So improving legal education is actually the duty of every law teacher, and not just the institutional responsibility of the university.

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