A range of legal fellowships for LLB students and graduates helps them gain critical practical skills in the new branches of law, writing, and communication.
The fellowship is a response to a poorly designed curriculum in a country… which lacks practical skills for students.
New Delhi: Sponsored by Sai University, Chennai, the Daksha Fellowship focusing on Technology, Law and Policy is a one-year residential program for law graduates that aims to develop practical skills in law students. The Justice Layla Seth Fellowship was launched in 2020 by UK civil society organisation, iProbono, to train lawyers to work to advance social justice and rights. The Fellowship of Legislative Assistants to Members of Parliament (LAMP), offered by the PRS Legislative Research Center, gives law graduates the opportunity to work with Members of Parliament and assist them in the legislative drafting process, from the Monson session through to the end of the budget session.
The Law and Public Policy sectors offer a range of fellowships that help fill gaps in legal education, especially in the field of practical skills.
“The fellowship is a response to a poorly designed curriculum in the country… which lacks in providing practical skills to students,” said Ananth Padmanaban, Dean of Sai University School of Law. He added that students who aim to specialize in certain branches of law usually apply for such scholarships to gain skills and work experience.
“Our vision is to create a new type of lawyer who is taught to change people’s hearts and minds through legal storytelling,” said Maryam Farooqi, Managing Director of iProbono, of the Justice Leila Seth Fellowship.
The main motive of these fellowships is the desire to learn something that is not taught in most traditional law schools. “India, unfortunately, has not got the right higher regulation in terms of law education. The legal industry needs to solve problems in terms of the current dynamic scenario. Fellowships like Daksha, Justice Leila Seth, LAMP and others address the specific needs of the industry, which are not taught in law schools. Traditional Unless you are a prominent institute you cannot make major changes in your syllabus or the way you are presented.Padmanaban explained that there is a need to update the curriculum.
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Bridging the skills gap
“The fellowships bridge the gap between law education and industry,” said Reshav Ranjan. A current Daksha Fellow, Ranjan is involved in Technology Law and Public Policy. “They both polish the foundations in both public and private law and prepare students to create a major,” Ranjan added.
The Judge Lila Seth Fellowship equips law students with drafting skills and the ability to communicate legal matters clearly, making them accessible to all. “Lawyers have traditionally used technical terms that the public does not understand, but our fellowship provides opportunities for lawyers with two years of work experience to make a greater impact,” Farooqi added. Young lawyers seek guidance and support they do not get in terms of continuing professional development, particularly advocacy, writing and drafting skills. There is a gap here. Also, with respect to broader education, there is a requirement for ‘clinical legal education’, i.e. on field practice during law education. This is a consequence of the weakness of the Bar Council of India, Farooqi added.
Farooqi believes it is important to provide such skills and connect the world of commercial justice (including corporate) and the world of social justice. “We aim to advance different worlds through this fellowship as fellows are trained to work on the work of iProbono and a partner organization,” she said. Furthermore, since the fellowship is supported by Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives to work on children’s rights objectively, this year’s focus area is children’s rights with only two fellows participating. As this is our first cohort, colleagues are currently working with attorneys on Child Sexual Offenses (POSCO) and Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) attorneys in a way that is ready to move forward with litigation in these two areas.”
At Daksha, students specialize in the latest laws of technology. “With the emergence of emerging technologies such as cryptocurrencies, big data and artificial intelligence, companies are using them and a lot of regulatory information has come with them,” Padmanaban said. However, there is also a parallel skill gap when it comes to these recent legal regulations and policies. At Daksha, we create legal professionals who can address issues such as general data protection and compliance in the case of Indian companies or intermediary guidelines for OTT operators on encryption. In each of these areas, an interdisciplinary approach to law is needed.”
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Most fellowship programs have a rigorous admission process including several rounds of examination. Daksha does an All India Exam followed by another written test and an interview. “Last year we enrolled 40 fellows but this year we have reduced the number to 10 to ensure we have the best students ready to learn,” Padmanaban said. Similarly, the Justice Leila Seth Fellowship has a three-stage process that begins with the submission of a detailed resume (CV) and cover letter expressing interest and suitability, followed by the submission of a two-minute video recording with two writing samples, and a final interview with the Fellowship Selection Committee.
The LAMP requires interested candidates to fill out a registration form with a policy brief to measure the candidates’ written and analytical skills along with an understanding of policy making in the country.
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A practical, skills-based curriculum
Judge Layla Seth’s fellows are also trained in research and writing skills and are required to write a blog post each month. “Meanwhile, they receive guidance on writing and research skills along with career advice and coaching every month so that at the end of the 18 months we can plan exactly what fellows want to do,” Farooqi explained. Fellows work with patrons such as Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, Zen Buddhist guru Shantum Seth, novelist Vikram Seth, and director Aradhana Seth on various elements such as writing, legal storytelling and advocacy. “This year we are trying to change public opinion about child sexual abuse survivors, and children being treated under the JJB system. Storytelling plays a big part of that along with the idea of mindfulness and self-reflection,” Farooqi said.
At Daksha, the curriculum is designed with an emphasis on understanding technology vocabulary, followed by a course on technology policy regulation and global governance. “This is part of our fellows’ foundational learning. Public and private law are emphasized by these two courses,” Padmanaban said. The one-year residential program includes but is not limited to classroom instruction. “The fellowship has a mandatory six to eight week training As part of the curriculum. The special thing about the fellowship is that it has tracks in technology, law, and public policy. On the other hand, LLMs are just majors in law and regulation,” Ranjan said.
In the second semester, the focus is on technology and media courses. “There is a course in technology litigation to provide a sense of the practical challenges that lawyers face. Then we have a course on information technology, and in the last semester, we teach taxation in the digital economy, telecom regulation, and competition law. All these courses are useful for people who want to enter the industry as professionals in technology litigation. policy and not as legal advisors,” Padmanaban added.
Ritanshu Lohani, LAMP Fellow for 2021-22, said the LAMP fellowship is open to all disciplines but every year, more than 10% of fellows come from a legal background.
On the 10- to 11-month fellowship, you learn to draft law, address bill in Parliament and relevant legislatures. Fellows are designed to work with MPs and policy experts. Major work on the fellowship includes drafting question interventions, preparing summaries of bills, and preparing speeches for conferences Media Representatives. However, the main skill that a law graduate can learn is to prepare member-specific bills or member-specific resolutions to be presented in the House of Representatives,” Lohani said. The fellowship also includes work on many issues, from child development and rights and women’s empowerment to the coal and steel industries. It depends on the preferences of MPs. The fellowship helps attorneys create a niche as it helps them master research methods, analyze data and engage with experts from the industry,” Lohani added.
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India has excellent legislation in place regarding child sexual abuse and trafficking. But the problem is implementation and awareness, Farooqi noted. “Because we need good lawyers to understand cases but we also need judges who are sensitive and can adjudicate them. In the Fellowship, we also work in the area of how Supreme Court rulings affect lower court and trial courts, and information and rulings slip through other state courts. Furthermore, we We are working with NCPCR to look at the issues comprehensively,” Farooqi said. The National Committee for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is the highest child rights body in the country.
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Padmanaban added that recruiters are willing to hire people with areas of expertise who have the required foundation and professional training especially when the majors are not covered in law schools.
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