Quality legal education has a paramount significance to a country like Nepal which has recently adopted the federal system of governance. Moreover, the concept of an improved parliamentary system and separation of powers requires quality legal experts of jurisprudence and constitutional law having an in-depth vision of the socio-political situation of the country. In such scenarios, law schools play a prominent role in the development of quality lawyers to ensure robustness of the legal system in the country. Educating competent lawyers requires developed infrastructure, access to resources, experienced professors, legal training, and participating in moot court competitions. Thus, this article tries to articulate the existing situation of law schools by primarily focusing on the process of seeking admissions, an overview of the curriculum offered, exposure provided, and provisions of examinations to undertake.
The establishment of ‘Shrestha Pathasala’ (an elementary school to train clerks for administrative positions in the field of justice) in 1913 followed by the introduction of a Bachelor degree course (LLB) in 1954 created a firm basis of legal studies in Nepal (Mukhia, 2005, p. 12-15). Tribhuvan University, established in 1959, introduced its LLB programme encompassing Nepalese laws and legal principles (Chakhun, 2014). With the introduction of this programme, Nepal initiated its steps towards substantial proliferation of legal education. Consequently, the role of lawyers seemed to have extended beyond advocacy and legal counselling. As a result, various Nepalese universities started to offer the proficient courses of Bachelor's and Master's degree in law to meet the demand of law students and legal specialists of diverse knowledge and expertise. Thus, today we have several law schools in Nepal offering extensive legal programs with varying yearly and semester-based courses designed either in the form of regular 5 years BA LLB/BBM LLB or 3 years LLB bachelors program. However, the lamentable fact is that still all of the law colleges mentioned below are operating through affiliation with different universities, which shows the faulty situation of legal education in Nepal, constantly striving for the independent law university solely offering the legal education programs. The existing degrees are as follows:
- Nepal Law Campus (Tribhuvan University)
- National Law College (Tribhuvan University)
- Prithvi Narayan Campus Faculty of Law (Tribhuvan University)
- Bright Vision Law College (Purbanchal University)
- Chakrabarti Habi Education Academy College of Law (Purbanchal University)
- Kathmandu School of Law (Purbanchal University)
- Kathmandu University School of law (Kathmandu University)
- Mid-Western University School of Law (Mid- Western University)
Having said that, this article is articulated with a focus on Bachelor’s degrees in law programmes offered by the prominent law schools of Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu University, Purbanchal University, and Mid-Western University.
Tribhuvan University (hereinafter TU)
Tribhuvan University, the oldest university in Nepal, has been consistently promoting a qualitative, competitive, and ethical legal education in Nepal since the establishment of Nepal Law Campus in 1954 followed by Prithivi Narayan Campus Faculty of Law and National Law College. (Tribhuvan University, 1954). Intending to foster the training of competent leadership, TU has been offering semester-based five years LLB programmes to students having recently completed high school or equivalent. The programme is developed with some seats reserved for vulnerable and minority groups, with a motive to promote effective academic representation of such legally protected groups. Further, certain reserved seats are also offered to foreign students (Prithivi Narayan Campus, 2012).
The first and second year of this program is mainly focused to develop the basic knowledge in interrelated fields of law where students are offered major legal subjects such as constitutional law, procedural law, jurisprudence, international relation and diplomacy, political science, sociology, and anthropology (Nepal Law Campus, 1954). Similarly, the third and fourth-year courses are carefully designed to provide an extensive study on domestic and international laws, both private and public, ranging from criminal law to labour law with the expeditious development of legal research and writing method as a cornerstone of the courses. In addition to this, these two years are aimed at developing the litigation and advocacy skills of undergraduates through moot court competitions, pre-trial preparation, and participation in court trials as a compulsory part of the programme. Lastly, the fifth year offers the courses in furthering the proficiency of lawyer specific skills and professional ethics in undergraduates through seminars and clinical courses (National Law College, 2012). Other than the aforementioned compulsory courses, the programme provides an elective platform with two optional subjects in every semester.
With regards to admission, TU conducts a single nationwide entrance test requiring every candidate to clear both subjective and objective tests either in English or Nepali language. Candidates are expected to possess basic knowledge in areas of law, rights and duties of persons, the Constitution, and fundamental rights in order to participate in the examination. Consequently the qualified candidates, based on their score, are referred to its different constituent and affiliated law colleges.
Purbanchal University (hereinafter PU)
Purbanchal University has been proficiently working on imparting far-reaching community-responsive legal education since the establishment of Kathmandu School of Law in 2000. Regarding the increasing significance of legal professionals, the university further contributed to the substantive burgeoning of its promotive participation in the Nepalese legal education with the establishment of Chakrabarti Habi Education Academy College of Law and Bright Vision Law College in 2010. It has been ensuring pragmatic legal education through innovative and substantial research approaches (Bright Vision Law College, 2017). In addition to this, it has been continuously initiating pioneer steps in revolutionising the traditional model of legal education in Nepal.
PU offers a five-year LLB program for those who have completed high school or intermediate level in any subject. During the first two years of the course, undergraduates are familiarised with the basic principles of political science, economics, sociology and management along with their exposure to eminent discussions on fundamental principles and concepts of law, legislative principles, and theories of criminal and procedural laws (Kathmandu School of Law, 2020). Similarly, the third-year course is designed to encompass advanced theories and principles of laws such as ethics and constitutionalism. With the aim to deepen the analytical power and critical thinking of undergraduates, the fourth and fifth-year courses offer following basic areas of specialisation: criminal law and justice, constitutional law, commercial law, environment and development law (Chakrabarti Habi Education Academy College of Law, 2018).
Law colleges affiliated to PU have their discretion to direct the admission procedures as per their framework. Thus, the syllabus pertaining to the admission tests of its affiliated law colleges is varied.
Kathmandu University (hereinafter KU)
Kathmandu University started to offer the legal programmes after the establishment of Kathmandu University School of Law (KUSL) in 2013 as the first law school in the country offering an integrated course of management and law. It aims to generate competent lawyers having a special edge in corporate sectors and public enterprises.
KUSL, as the only law college of KU, offers a five-year semester system LLB program with 59 prescribed subjects (Kathmandu University School of Law, 2013). It includes 37 legal subjects followed by 17 subjects in Management and 5 general subjects. In the first three semesters, basic principles of constitutional law, family law, and jurisprudence are introduced to undergraduate students along with lectures on business management and economics. The fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh semesters are focused on providing students with extensive knowledge on criminal law, civil procedure, and company law. The last three semesters are focused on legal research, dispute resolution, and moot course exercise.
Candidates seeking admission at Kathmandu University must undertake a KULSAT test where general knowledge in English, mathematics, and law is tested (Kathmandu University School of Law, 2020). Candidates clearing the KULSAT test have to appear for an interview session.
Mid-Western University (hereinafter MWU)
Currently the MWU School of Law is in the development stage, therefore, the information available on this subject is still unreliable and inaccurate.
Pre-requirements for admission
There is no other specific requirement than those mentioned for every university above, for a candidate taking the legal entrance examination. Although, most law schools require the candidate to pass high school with a minimum score of 2 CGPA (cumulative grade point average) or 50%. Any candidate meeting these minimum score criteria are selected based on their performance in entrance examinations of the respective law colleges.
Scholarships and fee waivers are considered terrific ways to encourage diligent students and to ensure equal learning opportunities to students from marginalised spectrums of society. Scholarship schemes pave the way for competent students having financial and social constraints to pursue higher education, ensuring equal access to education for all citizens as established by the Constitution. Taking this into account, students who had attended government schools or one belonging from marginalised ethnic, cultural, and linguistic communities are given special priority with regards to scholarships at TU. However, such scholarships vary on the required criteria that a candidate must suffice to.
In contrast to this, KUSL provides scholarships based on student performance in the end semester examinations. The student with the highest score is awarded a full academic fee waiver for an entire semester. If more than one candidate secures an equal GPA, the amount of scholarship being awarded is equally divided among the candidates. Similarly, Kathmandu School of Law affiliated to PU offers scholarships to the three best students from a batch, who secured the highest marks in the final examinations. The highest GPA of every batch is accredited 100% scholarship whereas the persons with the second and third highest marks receive 50% and 25% fee waiver as scholarship respectively. Moreover, those students having financial and economic problems are offered separate scholarship provisions.
A law graduate is required to attend the examination conducted by the Nepal Bar Association to obtain a license. The license obtained by the graduate allows him/her to plead as a lawyer in all competent courts of Nepal. However, law graduates can still work in law firms, corporate houses, or work as a legal consultant without participating in the Bar Examination. The requirement to clear a separate examination after graduation was introduced based on the belief that lawyers are a vital component of the society and their competency must be tested before they are permitted to advocate in a court of law.
As a conclusion, Nepal has achieved political and economic stability with the promulgation of the new Constitution, ultimately increasing the requirements of legal professionals in local government and corporate houses. Thus, a degree in law would equip the students with diversified knowledge ranging from laws to management and economics, making them highly capable to deal with existing national issues.
By Dipsikha Guragain and Yagyadi Acharya
This material was published in Lawyr.it Vol. 6, September 2020, available only online.
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