In 1973, the fifty-fourth report of the Law Commission of India recommended the establishment of a national academy for judicial training. This remained an ideation for the next two decades. And then, just before conclusion of the final arguments in the Second Judges’ Case, Union of India announced the proposal to establish a national institution for comprehensive training of judicial personnel.

Thus, five decades have elapsed since conception and three decades have elapsed since actual establishment of the National Judicial Academy (NJA). Over the years, the well-structured teaching pedagogy and academic methodology involved by NJA has effectively percolated to the State Judicial Academies.

Emulating this exemplar, it is time to conceive a finishing school for the Advocates, firstly at the national level and then its replication at regional levels. The Bar Council of India permitting operation of foreign law firms in India should act as the latest stimulant for the legal fraternity to evolve institutional frameworks for the continuing training and capacity building of our fraternity.

Unlike Judges, the Advocates in India are one institution – both administratively and functionally. This integration resulted in many pathbreaking initiatives in the realm of legal education in early phases. BCI forayed into legal education even before the constitution of NJA as it established the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in 1986.

Drawing inspiration from the NLS model, almost all major states in India have established law schools through their state legislation, the latest being the BCI’s own institution - International University of Legal Education and Research (IIULER), established in 2022, in association with the State of Goa. The role of NLSIU and like institutions in revolutionising the legal education in India is spectacular. As logical sequel to it all, it is time to establish a national educational institution for Advocates - as a finishing school and as a think tank for espousal of our causes.

As foreign law firms and e-Courts Project Phase III stand at the main door, Finishing School and allied educational reforms have to be initiated on the most expeditious basis. So, it makes sense of all the stakeholders - the BCI and the executive - to adopt an existing physical infrastructure to kickstart the process.

In fact, one such prêt-à-porter opportunity exists in Karnataka in the form of the erstwhile campus of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Dharwad, in the next-door neighbourhood of the Dharwad Bench of the Karnataka High Court. IIT has hence moved to its permanent campus paving way for utilisation of the well-designed classrooms, dormitories, and other physical infrastructure on immediate basis. BCI Trust, in association with Karnataka State Bar Council can partner with Union of India and Karnataka State Government to form the governing structure and allied administrative formalities.

The vicinity of Karnataka State Law University in Dharwad is an added advantage besides strategic advantages that Dharwad has to offer. The city is home to several eminent academic institutions like Karnataka University, University of Agricultural Sciences, Karnataka State Higher Education Academy the latest addition being the southern regional campus of National Forensic Sciences University. Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), Belagavi, one of India’s largest technical universities, with one lakh students, is a one-hour drive from Dharwad.

The Union of India may incubate the proposition by first providing the thematic edifice and then granting necessary fiscal and academic infrastructure. The partnering State Government also needs to handhold the venture in its inceptive phases. With e-Courts Project Phase III in the offing, the prime focus of the institution must be on digital realm capacity building of the Advocates - particularly form the rural and semi-urban areas of India. The institution must aim at supporting the needs of the Advocates from the most diverse and disadvantaged regions and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Prime beneficiaries focus of earlier phases of legal educational reforms have been the corporate institutions. Now, the next phase must prominently focus on the vulnerable sections of the society. Devising inventive mechanisms for incentivising legal aid and services to the vulnerable sections is the need of the hour. Advocates need to realise that deeper penetration of benefits and access to justice results in overall welling of the legal fraternity. So, it is essential that we devise inventive ways for rendering legal aid and services.

Teaming up with the judiciary for accelerating judicial infrastructure creation is always complimentary to interest of the Bar. Instead of engaging in avoidable conflicts and skirmishes with the judiciary, the Bar can think of broad-based and holistic association with the Bench in various spheres. The Bench will definitely be a prominent associate of the Bar in the resource mobilisation of the Finishing School. In the long term, a Finishing School can empower Advocates at multiple levels besides acting as thinktank for espousal of their causes.

Author is an Advocate and Non-Official Member of the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority.

[The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Verdictum does not assume any responsibility or liability for the contents of the article.]