SHOULD LAW PROFESSORS BE ALLOWED TO PRACTICE LAW?
Lawyers in India are growing qualitatively as well as quantitatively. An important journey of these lawyers is that of the journey of their law school. Law schools play a vital role in shaping law students into budding lawyers. The education imparted by law teachers becomes crucial for the law students in understanding legal subjects and nuances. Therefore, it is believed that the law teachers should themselves have a wholesome experience and knowledge of the law.
Bar Council of India is a body that regulates lawyers, represents and supports their interests. Therefore, the Council with Advocates Act of 1961, regulates the entry into the profession and the right to practice as a lawyer.
It has Bar Council of India Rules for the aforesaid regulation. Hence, the concerned provisions for the issue at hand are Rule 49 and 51 of Bar Council of India Rules, subject to Rule 3 of Advocates (Right to take up Law teaching) Rules, 1979. It allows a practicing advocate to take up teaching law in any educational institution affiliated to a university under the University Grants Commission Act, 1956 (3 of 1956), along with practicing law, as long as the teaching hours do not exceed three hours. However, it is believed that law teachers should be allowed to practice as an advocate, even if they teach for more than three hours. In this article, an effort is made to explore the need for law teachers to be allowed to practice as advocates.
Law is a professional course; hence you need as much practical application as possible in college. It can be achieved if the teachers of the law are allowed to practice as advocates simultaneously. Moreover, classes with a more practical application may act as a break from the theory, and keep the students interested for long hours. In short, the point I am trying to bring home is explained in a two-fold manner. Firstly, it will be helpful for the teachers as well as the students if professors can practice as advocates. Secondly, it will not compromise the curriculum upon taking specific measures.
Primarily, law professors are shaping law students who will probably go-ahead to practice law or work in firms. Hence, there comes a need to connect theory to practice in the class. For this, the teachers themselves need practical experience and knowledge. They can explain to students the challenges they will face and how to overcome them. Upon getting some practical expertise in college as a law student, time taken by a practicing advocate to settle his practice may also reduce. Moreover, if academicians are allowed to practice, then academia may look appealing to some law students who might want to do litigation along with imparting knowledge in law schools.
It gives an opportunity to create good academicians in the future. Additionally, it may also help senior practicing lawyers teach specialized courses to young law students, who can benefit immensely from the same. Further, a possible dilemma can be overcome by allowing legal academicians to practice law. Sometimes, one may feel that losing a chance to practice law may be a big step, so one may not feel encouraged to join academia. However, this behavior can be changed, and one can freely try his/her hand in academia while practicing law too. This can help in facilitating a considerable inflow in academia in the future generations. Therefore, it seems like allowing academicians to practice law may actually be of help to both the students and teachers.
Secondly, it has been said that a good lawyer always remains a legal scholar and can never stop studying law. A lawyer studies daily like an academician and is always up to date with legal knowledge. A teacher has to teach the same subject over the years and stay updated on all the new case-laws, statutes, or amendments. A lawyer has to have a strong base and be updated on all the latest legal developments too. Moreover, a lawyer also has the practical experience and knowledge of the variety of cases on which he/she works. Therefore, if teachers are allowed to practice law, the curriculum will rather be strengthened for law students as it will not be monotonous over the years. Also, it will have a variety and practical experience, along with the latest developments. However, it also poses a risk of the teacher not giving the required attention to teaching. It can be overcome with a model that mandates the teachers to fulfill a minimum quota of teaching hours per day. Moreover, it is not mandatory for every academician to practice law; it is merely an option available.
An analysis is done with the situation of academia in medicine. In Sukumar Mukherjee v. State of West Bengal,, the apex court had upheld the West Bengal State Health Service Act of 1990. The Act made a distinction between doctors affiliated to health services, and doctors affiliated to medical education. The Act prohibited the doctors affiliated to medical education from having a private practice of medicine. However, it allowed doctors hired to teach specialized courses which were employed on a contractual basis, to practice medicine. This was done to improve the public health system by focusing the teachers' attention towards imparting knowledge of the latest scientific and medical advancement. The Act was challenged under Article 14, but the court upheld the Act. Since there was an intelligible differentia between teaching and non-teaching doctors, and a rational nexus existed between their object of improving public health and the classification.
However, in the case of law teachers, the curriculum might not be compromised, as is mentioned before. Therefore, the object of such a classification in legal academia was to improve the level of education by focusing the teachers' attention on students. But it can be possible that the quality of education and curriculum may get better even if teachers are allowed to practice. Therefore, the situation of legal academia may be different from medicine academia.
National University of Juridical Sciences
 Bar Council of India Rules, § 49 & 51.
 Advocates (Right to take up Law teaching) Rules, § 3.
 James M. Dente, Need for More Professors who have Practiced Law, Cleveland State Law Review, 252, 253 (1969).
 Sukumar Mukherjee and Others v. State of West Bengal and Another, AIR 1993 SC 2335.
 Ind. Const. Art. 14.