Economics And Management Integrated Professional Legal Education In Nepal

There is a growing realization that exclusively teaching lawyers the law without exposing them to other disciplines or providing a broader educational context at the undergraduate level can have both advantages and limitations in their professional development.

Jan. 1, 2024, 10:38 a.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 17, No. 12, January.26,2024 (Magh,12. 2080) Publisher and Editor: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

In recent years, Nepal has witnessed a substantial surge in the field of professional legal education. Initially, Tribhuvan University stood as the sole institution offering formal academic degrees across all levels. However, the last two and half decades have witnessed the establishment of several new universities providing professional legal education in various cities throughout Nepal. There has also been a significant upswing in the number of students opting for legal studies at the higher education level.

While a considerable number of students are opting to pursue undergraduate studies abroad for various reasons, there remains a significant local interest in legal education. This growth has led to increased competition among universities and colleges offering legal courses. Furthermore, the job market for law graduates and young lawyers has expanded. This overall transformation in the landscape of professional legal education is undoubtedly positive. However, a critical question arises: Does the evolving trend in legal education align with the contemporary needs of Nepal, particularly in terms of fostering the rule of law, economic growth, and overall national development?

Why interdisciplinary legal education?

There is a growing realization that exclusively teaching lawyers the law without exposing them to other disciplines or providing a broader educational context at the undergraduate level can have both advantages and limitations in their professional development. Lawyers who undergo specialized legal education typically acquire in-depth knowledge of legal principles, statutes, and case law within their jurisdiction. Such intensive legal training often hones research and writing skills, enabling lawyers to analyze cases, interpret statutes, and craft persuasive legal arguments. They may become specialists in specific legal areas, contributing to a deep understanding of niche practices such as tax law, environmental law, or intellectual property law. While a specialized legal education at undergraduate level provides a strong foundation in legal principles and practice, there are important advantages to incorporating interdisciplinary elements into legal training.

Lawyers exclusively trained in law may have a more limited perspective when addressing complex issues that involve multiple disciplines. They may struggle to appreciate the broader context and implications of legal matters. Legal issues often intersect with other fields, such as business, technology, and ethics. Lawyers who haven't been exposed to interdisciplinary education may find it challenging to navigate the complexities arising from these intersections. Without a broader education, they may lack a deep understanding of business operations, which is crucial for advising corporate clients effectively, especially in areas like mergers and acquisitions, contracts, and corporate governance. Lawyers who haven't been exposed to diverse disciplines may face challenges in communicating with professionals from other fields. Effective collaboration often requires a shared understanding of terminology and concepts.

Cross-disciplinary perspectives often contribute to innovative problem-solving. Legal practitioners exclusively trained in law may be less inclined to think creatively or consider non-legal solutions to legal challenges. In rapidly changing environments, professionals benefit from adaptability. Those with a narrow educational focus may find it challenging to adapt to emerging trends, technologies, or changes in legal and business landscapes. Exposure to other disciplines can enhance critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and the ability to address the diverse and interconnected challenges that legal professionals may encounter in their careers.

Kathmandu University Approach

Kathmandu University School of Law, as a novel intervention in legal education, has adopted a unique approach to address this concern. Established in 2013 by its founder dean, Professor Bipin Adhikari, the school has been a pioneer in Nepal by introducing, for the first time, an integrated undergraduate legal education that combines economics and business management. Under his innovative initiative, there are two undergraduate programs offered: the Bachelor of Business Management & Bachelor of Laws (BBM-LL.B) and the Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Laws (BEc-LL.B).

The primary objective of the BBM-LL.B program is to meet the demands of Nepal's burgeoning private sector, while the BEc-LL.B program aims to cultivate human resources for the economic development of the country. Graduates from these programs have the option to enter the legal profession through competitive channels or pursue civil and judicial positions within the Government of Nepal. Professor Adhikari envisions that these graduates, due to the interdisciplinary nature of these programs, will bring about significant changes in Nepal's legal landscape. While the actual impact is yet to be substantiated, the emerging trend is undeniably positive.

As proposed, economics can be an important foundation for a law degree. Its significance depends on the area of law and the career path a student plans to pursue. As a discipline, economics provides a framework for understanding how legal systems function within the broader context of society. It helps students grasp the economic implications of legal decisions, regulations, and policies. Legal professionals often engage in policy analysis and advocacy. An understanding of economics enables lawyers to assess the economic impact of proposed policies and regulations, contributing to informed decision-making. In areas such as corporate law and business transactions, knowledge of economics is crucial. Lawyers involved in mergers and acquisitions, contract negotiations, and corporate governance need to understand economic principles that underpin business decisions.

Antitrust and competition law frequently involve economic concepts. Lawyers practicing in these areas must analyze market structures, assess competition, and understand economic consequences of business practices. Environmental law often intersects with economics, particularly in matters related to resource allocation, cost-benefit analysis, and environmental impact assessments. An understanding of economics can enhance a lawyer's ability to address environmental issues. In intellectual property law, particularly in areas related to patents and innovation, an economic background is valuable. Lawyers may need to assess the economic value of intellectual property, analyze market dynamics, and understand the role of innovation in economic development. Economics is integral to understanding international trade and investment law. Lawyers in this field must navigate complex economic issues related to tariffs, trade agreements, and investment flows.

Lawyers working in public interest law and advocacy may encounter economic justice issues. Understanding economics helps in addressing issues related to poverty, inequality, and access to resources. In civil litigation, economic analysis may be crucial in cases involving damages, valuation of assets, and financial disputes. Lawyers with an economic foundation can collaborate effectively with economic experts in such cases. Professionals providing legal consulting services or advising on public policy may benefit from an economic background. It enhances their ability to provide comprehensive advice that considers both legal and economic aspects.

Similarly, according to Professor Adhikari, a foundation in business management can also be highly beneficial for individuals pursuing a law degree, particularly if they are interested in areas of law that intersect with business, commerce, and corporate governance. Business management knowledge is valuable in corporate law, where lawyers often deal with issues related to corporate governance, compliance, and the management of business entities. Business management skills are beneficial in contract law and negotiations. Understanding business operations, financial implications, and strategic goals can enhance a lawyer's ability to draft effective contracts and negotiate favourable terms. Individuals interested in entrepreneurship law or working with start-ups can benefit from a background in business management. Start-ups often require legal advice that integrates legal considerations with business strategy.

In M&A transactions, lawyers need to understand the business rationale behind mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures. Business management knowledge aids in assessing the strategic and financial implications of such transactions. Business management skills can be advantageous in tax law, where lawyers may need to analyze the financial structures of businesses and advise on tax planning strategies. Business management knowledge is relevant in risk management and compliance, where lawyers help businesses navigate legal requirements, mitigate risks, and ensure compliance with industry standards. Lawyers specializing in financial regulation or securities law may find business management knowledge useful in understanding financial markets, investment strategies, and regulatory compliance.

Individuals pursuing entrepreneurial lawyering or working with small businesses may find business management skills helpful in providing holistic legal advice that aligns with the business goals of their clients. In-house counsel roles often require lawyers to collaborate closely with business leaders. Understanding business management principles enables lawyers to communicate effectively with executives and contribute to strategic decision-making. Individuals with a combination of legal and business management skills may explore alternative legal careers, such as legal consulting, legal project management, or roles that involve both legal and business expertise.

Strategy of Double Jurisdiction

Professor Adhikari's integrated law courses, incorporating economics and business management, highlight an additional significant aspect. The curriculum and syllabi are intentionally designed to enable students to explore the concept of "double jurisdiction" across various law subjects. In this innovative approach, students are not restricted to studying Nepali laws exclusively; rather, they are actively encouraged to delve into an additional legal system pertinent to the subject matter in each course.

To illustrate, a student specializing in constitutional law will not only explore the constitutional law of Nepal but will also delve into the constitutional law of a comparable advanced jurisdiction, such as British constitutional law. This distinctive feature empowers students to grasp not only the intricacies of the Nepalese legal system but also gain insights into a foreign legal system where applicable. The emphasis is not on studying British constitutional law comprehensively; instead, the focus is on understanding issues that have not yet surfaced in Nepal or do not exist within the Nepalese context.

Despite their absence in the local scenario, these issues remain crucial and warrant attention. Consequently, students acquire knowledge of laws and institutions practiced abroad, aspects that may not be as clearly or adequately elucidated in the local constitutional laws. This approach serves to reinforce students' legal knowledge, particularly in areas where the Nepali system may be less robust or less transparent. It also enhances their capacity to comprehend legal themes within a global context, mitigating any potential identity crisis that may arise when navigating legal concepts and practices on an international scale.

In practical terms, students in a program offering double jurisdiction legal studies might study and analyze legal concepts and cases from both the native jurisdiction and a selected developed legal system. This approach can provide a larger and comparative perspective on legal issues, preparing students to navigate legal complexities in different contexts. It can be particularly valuable for individuals who plan to work in international law, cross-border transactions, or in areas where knowledge of multiple legal systems is beneficial.

A legal education that includes exposure to multiple jurisdictions can contribute to the development of quality lawyers in several ways. Exposure to different legal systems provides students with a broader and more global perspective on legal issues. This understanding is crucial in an increasingly interconnected world where legal matters often transcend national borders. Quality lawyers with an international outlook are better equipped to handle cases with cross-border implications. Studying diverse legal systems helps students develop adaptability and flexibility in their thinking. They learn to navigate and apply legal principles in different contexts, preparing them to address a variety of legal challenges that may arise in their future careers. Comparative legal studies allow students to analyze and compare legal frameworks, practices, and outcomes. This analytical skill is valuable for lawyers working in areas such as international law, trade law, and human rights, where understanding the similarities and differences between legal systems is essential.

Exposure to different legal systems often goes hand-in-hand with exposure to different cultures. This can enhance a lawyer's cultural competence, an important skill when dealing with clients, colleagues, and legal professionals from diverse backgrounds. Dealing with legal issues in multiple jurisdictions requires sophisticated problem-solving skills. Lawyers who have been trained in double jurisdictions are often adept at finding creative and effective solutions to complex legal problems. A legal education that includes exposure to multiple jurisdictions can open up diverse career opportunities for lawyers. They may be well-suited for roles in international law firms, multinational corporations, government agencies dealing with international affairs, and organizations focused on human rights or global governance. Lawyers with knowledge of different legal systems can make more informed decisions for their clients. They can weigh the advantages and disadvantages of legal strategies, taking into account the legal landscape in different jurisdictions.

While the benefits are significant, it's important to note that the effectiveness of such programs also depends on the quality of the curriculum, faculty expertise, and the practical experiences provided to students. Overall, a legal education with a focus on double jurisdictions can contribute to the development of well-rounded and adaptable lawyers capable of addressing the complexities of today's global legal environment.

The case law method is a fundamental approach used at Kathmandu University to teach law to students in a well-developed semester system. This method emphasizes the study of judicial decisions, or case law, to understand legal principles, doctrines, and reasoning.

Teaching Pedagogy

Interdisciplinary professional legal education is a dynamic process, and is increasingly becoming a trend in the modern world. The legal landscape is evolving, and there is a growing recognition that lawyers need to possess a broader skill set that extends beyond traditional legal knowledge. This includes the use of online learning platforms, virtual classrooms, and legal research tools. Technology is also influencing the way legal professionals engage with clients and manage cases. Law schools are offering courses that address international legal issues, and students are encouraged to consider the global implications of legal problems. International collaborations and exchange programs are also on the rise. There's a greater focus on preparing law students for practice. This involves incorporating practical skills training, such as legal writing, client counselling, and advocacy, into the curriculum. Clinics, externships, and simulated exercises are becoming more common.

Legal education institutions are placing a stronger emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Efforts are being made to create more inclusive learning environments, diversify faculty and student bodies, and address issues related to social justice within the legal system. Flexibility in legal education is becoming more prevalent. This includes offering part-time programs, online courses, and other flexible learning arrangements to accommodate the diverse needs of students, including those with work or family commitments. Legal technology is influencing the way law is practiced, and legal education is responding.

Some law schools are incorporating courses on legal technology, innovation, and data analytics. Students are being exposed to tools that can enhance efficiency in legal practice. There's an increased emphasis on ethics and professionalism in legal education. Law schools are incorporating ethics courses and practical training to instil a strong sense of professional responsibility and integrity in future lawyers. The mental health and well-being of law students and legal professionals are gaining attention. Law schools are implementing programs to address stress, burnout, and mental health challenges. The goal is to create a healthier and more supportive learning environment. In some jurisdictions, there's a focus on reforming continuing legal education to ensure that practicing attorneys stay updated on changes in the law and maintain high professional standards throughout their careers.

Conclusion

Legal education is increasingly taking a challenging perspective. The traditional approaches to teaching law are being reconsidered, and new challenges and complexities are being embraced in the educational process. The evolving nature of the legal landscape, the demand for interdisciplinary approach, and advancements in technology are likely to continue influencing how legal education is structured and delivered in the future. Legal systems must adapt to these changes to remain relevant and effective. This could involve the integration of technology in teaching methods, the use of digital tools for legal research, or the exploration of innovative ways to deliver legal education through online platforms.

{Advocate Neupane is a legal consultant}

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