Ask aspiring law students about their dream institute, and invariably the answer would be the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bengaluru. For, NLSIU, which redefined the legal education system in the country, continues to set the standard by introducing the latest trends, involving illustrious alumni and legal luminaries as faculty, and promoting a free-thinking culture among students.
Spread across 23 acres, most of it natural forest and adjoining the Bangalore University, NLSIU is one of those rare government-backed educational institutes which has not only carved an identity of its own but maintained its pre-eminence even after 30 years of existence. Indeed, it has become the template for the government in setting up legal education institutes in the country.
Prof. S.N. Venkata Rao, vice-chancellor, NLSIU, attributes the top position to three different, unique aspects. “We focus on innovation, be it teaching or syllabus. We also focus on socially relevant themes, the need of the hour for a country like ours. Thirdly, we promote justice-oriented legal education,” he points out.
In addition to routine academics, the institute sets aside time in the afternoons for seminars and discussions on socially relevant topics. Recently, it set up the Marginalised Community Study Centre as part of its Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion & Inclusive Policy. It has also set up a Centre for Intellectual Property Research and Advocacy and an Institute of Law and Ethics in Medicine. “Our students discuss topics highly relevant to Indian society, issues and suggestions that contribute towards framing of laws. We are much ahead of other institutes in promoting liberal thought that ignites young minds,” says Prof. Rao. Indeed, NLSIU students are even in the news at times for challenging the faculty on issues, which are all, of course, resolved amicably.
NLSUI ’s Strawberry Fields is India’s largest student-organised rock show
In addition to the core subjects, the institute also focuses on electives. Students get to analyse in-depth issues such as electoral reforms, cyber-security, space law, competition law, healthcare and even the impact of artificial intelligence. Afternoons on week days are reserved for debates on topics concerning society. For this, the institution involves the best minds from the sectors concerned, including private, government and the judiciary, some of whom are also guest faculty here.
The NLS Debate is South Asia’s largest parliamentary style debating tournament
NLS NMC is Asia’s largest alternative dispute resolution tournament
Students enjoy library facilities up to 1 am, especially during examinations. There is also no restriction of any sort for the students, unlike in other educational institutes. The BA-LLB (Hons) is a residential programme and all students are expected to enroll for hostel facilities. Even if a Bengaluru student has secured admission into NLSIU, he/ she has to stay at the hostel. “The idea is to provide a homely atmosphere for students, considering that they will be spending five years away from their families. The students here love it,” adds Prof. Rao.
Admission to the BA-LLB (Hons) degree programme is purely on the basis of merit, as assessed through the Common Law Admission Test conducted for the purpose. The top 500 of CLAT every year usually opt for NLSIU as their first preference, but only the top 75 make the cut. The teaching methods promote multi-disciplinary inquiry and a practical appreciation of problems. The methods of teaching involve lectures, discussions, case studies, moot courts and project work. The NLSIU alumni are involved in a big way; classes undertaken by them form an important component of the course work of students.
The law school has 60 faculty members for 550 students
NLSUI offers a sanitary napkin dispenser on campus
Many former alumni of the college have pursued further studies in their chosen areas of law, getting into other prestigious foreign universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Warwick, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Michigan. Scholarships like Rhodes and INLAKS have also come calling. Today, NLSIU graduates are practicing at various levels, from trial courts to high courts and the Supreme Court. Some have set up independent law practices, and many have joined corporate law firms both within the country and abroad.
Prof. Rao attributes the success of NLSIU to the values they inculcate in students. He insists that in addition to academic scores, it is important for aspiring students to have a “functioning heart” and a mind that thinks about “equality”. “It is common to hear about a functioning brain, but our students also need a functioning heart, a heart that beats for everybody,” says Prof. Rao. “They have to understand that everyone is equal in society and only then will justice prevail. These qualities have to be highly relevant to students who aspire to study in NLSIU.”
The support of the government is critical for any educational institution to succeed, observes Prof. Rao. “The Karnataka government has been supporting us from day one and even now all or new initiatives are well received,” he adds. For instance, the state had a big role to play in the setting up of the Marginalised Community Study Centre as part of its Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at NLSIU.
A major reason students opt for NLSIU is the holistic growth opportunities it provides-be it working with top law firms, exposure to the functioning of the judiciary, interactions with legal luminaries. Incidentally, NLSIU has one of the most successful placement records. It is also a fact that a few students opt out of placement to pursue other interests like higher education abroad or seeking a career in the civil services.
How is NSLUI different from other law colleges?
Innovation in teaching, like our cooperative model where two or more teachers jointly offer a course and interact with the students in the same class.
Socially relevant themes to make students understand problems at a broader level; experts and resources from the public domain to engage the students.
Justice-oriented legal education to ensure that the course isn’t just another academic course.
New initiatives in the past three years
Contemporary topics for electives-electoral reforms, space law, healthcare law and cyber-security.
Signed MoUs with 10 law colleges in mofussil areas to improve the quality of legal education and provide support, expertise and resources to students there.
Set up the Marginalised Community Study Centre as part of the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion & Inclusive Policy.
One thing I want to improve in my institute
We are already one of the most transparent institutes in this country and I want to raise the level further.
What makes an NLSUI student shine?
It is common to hear about a functioning brain, but our students also need a functioning heart-a heart that beats for everybody and a mind that thinks about equality.
What’s unique about campus life here?
I don’t think any other institute promotes such free thinking. The campus also has excellent infrastructure. Every student gets exposure to all facets of life apart from academics. Students enjoy all kinds of freedom with absolutely no restrictions.
What I like about my college
It’s the best when it comes to curriculum and teaching. That’s what I like most about NLSIU.
One change I want in my college
We are keen on improving the mental health infrastructure on the campus. > > > Students face heightened stress levels and we need to address this.
The best facility in the college
It has to be the library; it is the best for legal education in India.