World in a Corridor

On a conservative estimate, we, arguably, spend about ninety percent of our time waiting for our cases in the court corridors. This may vary for Senior Advocates and busy arguing counsels, but none may dispute that the actual time we spend arguing a case is minuscule compared to the time we spend in the corridors.

The never satiating spicy gossips, starting from the prospects of elevation to transfers and temperaments of ‘elevated’. In the election season, talks are often centred around the election results and echelons of power and take a sudden leap to the tapes, and pen drives to travelogues and tribulations. In sum, nothing practically remains untouched.

Great Equaliser

Most often, the bitterest of our opponents in the court room are our thickest friends. While in a generic sense, the corridor has porous with free entry and exit for almost the entire Bar, a subtle scanning reveals the subsets based on age, gender and sometimes, ideologies et al. But then, the corridor is a great equaliser with class and caste divides are never a criterion for mingling. While there is no empirical (or recorded) evidence on this tittle-tattle having shaped the careers and destinies, there is an arguable consensus on their utility on subtleties of courtcraft and finer learnings that verbal communication alone can bestow. The incalculable worth of learning (and unlearning too) of the corridor gets etched in the memory than any law school lesson.


Thanks to the trimester and semester systems in vogue in most law schools today, overwhelmingly large substantive laws become part of our curricula. No doubt, the ‘practical subjects’ are part of the syllabi but they occupy a disproportionality slight space in the overall teaching scheme. Even in the most aspired internships, the students do not get into the core of conducting cases. The interaction with the clients, arguing counsel and the top rung is minimal or oftentimes absent. Even those within the office seldom get a one-to-one interaction opportunity with the experienced ones. Reasons may be varied - unease of interaction, structural compulsions and mostly due to paucity of time – but fact remains that verbal communication, experience sharing are almost absent.

Certain soft skills and subtleties can be learnt only by reading humans like books and not otherwise. There is a critical need in our Bar rooms for human books.

The absorbing minds are full of appetite and stalwarts are a storehouse of knowledge, craving to share; what is needed is an informal or institutional mechanism to collate and knit the two ends.

Indian Heritage

From time immemorial, in India, the knowledge transfer was via Shruti which in Sanskrit means ‘what has been heard. The Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads and Vedanta knowledge assimilated through Shruti was passed on the next generation through Smriti – that which is remembered. The tradition continues even to this date with varying degrees of accuracy and expanse in thousands of Veda Pathashalas and Gurukuls. The Gurus and Acharyas of the yesteryears were the Human Libraries, which the pupil read over the years.

Human Library Movement

While India remains in slumber to its traditions, the western world seems to have ended the ages of hiatus. In the year 2000, Ronni Abergel and his brother along with their colleagues Asma Mouna and Christoffer Erichsen – started - ‘Menneskebiblioteket’. - The Human Library. From a modest start in in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Human Library movement has spread over 70 nations worldwide. A permanent Human Library was established in Lismore in Australia. In March, 2017, a Human Library was reported to have opened in Hyderabad and a few years ago, there was a report from Delhi. But all said, the Human Library movement has not spread with the same rapidity as other nations.

What is in it for us

The judiciary has not been decentralised to the extent of the other two arms of the State. The rural courts are yet to be established in almost all states barring a few States and that too on an experimental mode. The Advocates in general face acute shortage of knowledge resources. Even in the urban centres and State capitals, due to cultural and social barriers, the employability of the junior advocates is often determined by their social privilege and pedigree. interactions with Senior Advocates and seasoned professionals are available to the select few and that too scarcely. The digital divide is slowly erasing but it remains a reality in most parts for the poor and hapless. With the advent of Artificial intelligence and human interface as knowledge absorbing and disseminating mode is poised to pale into oblivion with time.

Establishment and nourishment of a library is not a priority for any State Government today across political dispensations. Unlike other populist programs, the libraries do not yield votes or influence voters. The intrusion of vlogs and digital media is the mainstream source of knowledge today and will be overtaken in time by bots and AI Presenters and Anchors. Humans are slowly becoming an avoidable aside in the knowledge partaking process.

Unlike the judiciary, the Advocates do not have Finishing Schools or Academies. All education, unfortunately, ends with the law schools. The legal education spectrum is so diverse today – from National Law Schools to makeshift building housing a ‘seasonal’ rural law college. Except for a few States, there is no dedicated State University for Law.

In these trying times, the Bar Associations and Councils, supplemented with private initiatives, can explore establishing Human Libraries. The effort and resources required for Human Libraries is far less as compared to their physical equivalents with no State support or sponsorships.

The Human Libraries for the Advocates may have to be tailored to our specific needs. Seniors writing guidance books for young Advocates is almost unheard of. The reported judgements and biographies available in the public domain do help, but the paucity that Human Libraries can bridge is of a very different kind.

In a Human Library you can see the catalogue of ‘subjects’ and borrow a Human Book and read her. You can clear your doubts and efface prejudices, ask questions that have haunted you for ages. The interaction can help you shape your worldview and enable making life-changing decisions. The Advocates today – young by age and hearts – are in acute need of a human book rather than a drab and dry law reporter.


Historically, one-to-one interaction has always been proven to be more effective as compared to mass actions. If Bar Associations and Councils are perceived to be too busy and crowded, the Human Libraries can be started by small subgroup of Advocates say – Panel Advocates of Legal Services Committees, Advocate General’s Office, Central Government Standing Counsels or specialised Bars on Tax, DRT, Energy etc. Instead of holding routine Seminars, symposia and mass outreach programs, the Human Libraries can be conducted on an experimental mode.

Author is an Advocate practicing in the High Court of Karnataka and Non-Official Member of the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA).

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.