The relationship between legal education and legal profession in Bangladesh has never been a happy one. There is not only a common feeling of discontent about fresh law graduates being unprepared for multifaceted legal professions, but also about an absence of a proper blend of legal theory and real life issues in classrooms and law schools’ inability to provide socially responsive legal education. All these problems can be reduced to a basic problem: the inability of law schools to determine their functions and aims as legal education providers.
After joining the Faculty of Law, University of Dhaka, my classmates — now legal professionals — have shared their sufferings for inadequate understanding of procedural and substantive issues. The conversations have always been followed by a request to impart ‘practical’ (clinical) legal education which will enable fresh law graduates to do their ‘work’. I could not tell them that my legal education has not provided me enough to be an academician. What does one need to be a law teacher in Bangladesh? The answer is — good grades and a required number of publications. Legal education training is not a requirement either to enter or to continue the profession.
With my share of inadequacy of understanding I cannot ascertain for sure ‘What? Why and How?’ to teach. For I do not know who I am speaking to — prospective Lawyers? Judges? Corporate Officers? Academicians? What do the law schools in Bangladesh aim to develop? How do they define themselves? Imagine a college graduate entering law school watching ‘Paper Chase’ with high expectations and put down with no challenges at all by the mundane education system.
How does the student survive? I got an answer while watching another movie which had a punchline ‘sometime the wrong train takes you to the right destination’. So after boarding the wrong train of legal education the law students aim for their own destinations and groom themselves accordingly. For example, one aiming to be a law teacher in Bangladesh might discuss career and higher studies prospects with professors, get first-hand experience from a law firm, join seminars and workshops on research and writing.
After trying all above and still having a sense of inadequacy my destination was getting into a research university abroad for higher studies to get necessary training as researcher and teacher. I selected a law school which proudly says “this is not a trade school, this is a law school — our aim is to create researchers — a community that asks and thinks deeper questions about law.” As an LLM student I had training on research, writing and critique. As a doctoral student, I have the opportunity to be part of a research community by joining faculty events, presenting my work in different platforms, joining professors as teaching assistant in advanced stage of the program. For those interested to be law teachers, the degree offers an opportunity to get legal education training as well.
I am sure that my teachers and their teachers, my colleagues and their colleagues in every law school in Bangladesh, have and have had their own destinations and efforts — but until those are translated into a meaningful institutional change; all our efforts will be destined to personal wellbeing rather than defining and refining of a collective legal community.
By: Rokeya Chowdhury
(Rokeya Chowdhury is a human rights activist and Lecturer at Faculty of Law, University of Dhaka.)
(DHLR Blog, 31 October 2014) http://www.dhakalawreview.org/blog/2014/10/teaching-and-learning-law-473