The Failure of Legal Education in Pakistan
The legal profession, or the legal fraternity, has traditionally always been the guardian of the citizen’s rights and the champion of many noble causes. This role is performed through the law and its processes, not by leading rallies across the country or by demolishing the structures that represent the legal system. The legal profession was, therefore, very active prior to the formation of Pakistan and it played a major role in securing freedom for our people. These lawyers were not only politically active, they were giants in the field of law, proving their worth through their writings and intellectual efforts. The high standards set by these stalwarts influenced the lawyers of the first generation after partition. Gradually, and unfortunately, the standards began to decline over the decades. The result is that lawyers who have produced written works of some quality, in recent times, can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The argument that lawyers are busy people and have little time to write books, and law books at that, is flawed and without merit. If a person, any person, has something valuable in his possession, like an inventor, he will share it with others come what may; indeed he must. We have made efforts to invite, and even cajole, some of the leading personalities to write for law students in particular and for lawyers in general. We have failed in our efforts so far. A suspicion lurks in our mind that the standards have sunk to a level that it is futile to expect works of some quality from the existing legal fraternity. If this is not true, then someone in Pakistan has to prove us wrong by producing good textbooks and commentaries on the law. We are also terrified by the realization that standards are falling further. This has compelled us to identify some of the causes of these falling standards.
There are many causes for the falling standards, but today we will focus on the cause where it all starts, the mother of all falling standards, so to say. This cause is the constantly falling standard of legal education in Pakistan. This phenomenon too has several causes, for which there is an obvious cause that can be remedied with a little effort by those who are responsible for legal education in this country. In fact, today, we will point out the persons who are directly and primarily responsible for this initial cause of low, and constantly falling, standards of legal education in Pakistan. These persons are the “Examiners,” who set childish questions for law students in examination papers, and then repeat them in the following years. The result is that if a student memorizes about 7 questions just before the examination, he will definitely pass. In fact, he might even get an A grade, if he is intelligent enough to write out some headings with a marker. This is the position in the case of law colleges that work on the basis of an annual system and that have a number of other colleges affiliated with them. Do not be surprised if we say that some of the questions asked have been repeated again and again for the last 70 years. We will place the question papers of these institutions on our website as they become available. We will, however, raise a question here: does the law student have to attend classes for taking such an examination?
It is our guess, based on considerable experience, that the position in other law schools that run on the basis of the semester system, and that are not affiliated with some university, is no better. We understand that an institution like LUMS is different. Thus, what we say is an assumption as these law schools, mostly operating within universities, do not publish their examination papers. These examination papers must be available in the records of the examination departments from where this can easily be verified. Our assumption, however, is based on certain facts. The facts revolve around a body of “guesswork” literature that has been created for examinations and around which legal education in Pakistan revolves. Due to the preponderance of this literature, some of the potential authors we approach offer the lack of any purpose in writing as an excuse; we have no answer when this excuse is offered.
Now, it is possible that some dedicated and conscientious teachers, within the semester system, compel the students to study proper materials and then answer meaningful questions, questions that ascertain whether the student has developed an understanding of the legal rules and their application. Nevertheless, these institutions must ask their teachers to provide the question papers to their principals/heads of departments, who should cause these to be placed on the institutions’ websites, or at least keep them ready and available not only for the students, but for those who wish to subject them to scrutiny by the Pakistan Bar Council and the Higher Education Commission (HEC), or by a legal education committee that the Superior Courts may constitute for the improvement of legal standards. Till such time that this is done, it will be assumed that the type of questions asked, and the frequency of repetition, is no better than their sister institutions following the annual system.
To highlight the gravity of the situation, further, this website will cause to be published here analyses of individual institutions that suffer from this examination system. The institutions currently on our list for analysis are: Punjab University Law College, Peshawar University Law College, Bahauddin Zakariyyah University, Multan, Islamiyyah University Bahawalpur, University of Sindh, Hyderabad, University of Karachi, Shah Latif University, Khairpur, and Hamdard School of Law. After this we will turn our attention to the universities running law courses on the basis of the semester system, for which we will seek the help of interested teachers and students, who are free to contribute blogs for this site. All concerned law teachers in all law teaching institutions in Pakistan are requested to come to our aid and help us, in the interest of legal education in Pakistan, by writing to us and pointing out the defects of the system of law teaching, and law examinations. The Pakistan Bar Council and the HEC are also requested to take immediate notice of this situation and to adopt remedial strategies so that the education of the students who are eager to absorb knowledge and who are paying heavy sums for the purpose is not laid to waste. It must be remembered that ultimately it is the right of the common man and his security that is at stake here.
Finally, we may add that law colleges will not come to have high standards merely by the size of their buildings and the number of books in their libraries, nor by wasteful seminars and gatherings, but by the way the teachers and the examiners make these tools work. This is a matter of great public interest, because in the end it is the public that suffers when the rights of the individuals are not secured as they should be.