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Imparting Legal Education by Conventional Vs. Virtual Classroom Method

The current pandemic brought numerous jurisdictions observed lockdown (partial or complete), has advanced people to switch to technology. This has culminated in the need for digitalization and the promotion of virtual means. The education sector is not aloof to this trend. Perhaps, this sector has been forthcoming in using virtual means to teach, educate people, more so connected to masses.

The virtual classroom may be understood with Plato’s proverb ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’. The imperative need to adopt and function classrooms virtually has been felt lately. It can be opined that unprecedented pandemic has triggered the necessity to work with virtual or digital technology.

In so far as continuing with virtual classroom education in times of this unprecedented pandemic, it raises profound issues of digital illiteracy, limited resources, privacy, or IPR issues. Nonetheless, besides these obstacles, one essential aspect of the virtual learning-education system is the absence of non-verbal communication. Conventional classroom education has a major contribution from nonverbal communication i.e. non-linguistic means. It includes kinesthetic, paralanguage, haptics, olfactory, chronemics forms of expression that not supplement verbal communication but enrich the whole learning process.

A vital question proliferates, as a consequence of the unprecedented situation, whether conventional classroom education is replaced by non-conventional or the virtual classroom. Even more pertinent contention is the significance of nonverbal education imparted to law students. Can advocacy skills be imparted through nonconventional or the virtual classroom?

Distinctly, the black letter law can be taught by a virtual classroom. Black letter law refers to the basic principles of law, generally known and are devoid of dispute or doubt.

There is a plethora of e-books, articles, literature, lectures, videos, webinars, etc. accessible online that facilitates the teaching of the black letter law.

However, the core concern of imparting and inculcating advocacy skills through virtual classrooms exists. Legal education is an amalgamation of black letter law, personality development, practical and clinical learning that results in incumbent law professionals. Their learning is guided and supported by one’s advocacy skills, which is indeed very personal and individualistic. Albeit, this skill is built, developed, and nurtured in the course of every law programme. There are moot courts that build and brush the advocacy skills of a law student.

It may be noted that under the Bar Council of India, Rules on Legal Education, moot court exercise is of mammoth part of legal education. The Rules delineates the need and functioning of moot court exercise in law programmes.

The unprecedented pandemic has impelled academia to devise mechanisms to conduct classroom education and practical or pilot study virtually.

Moreover, an endeavor has been made by many varsities to conduct moot court competitions online. However, it takes one back to the point that does legal education rely on conventional education which in turn involves building advocacy skills in law students, in so far as nonverbal communication is inseparable.

The author is of the view that the seeds of advocacy skills can be sowed by the conventional classroom method because they include inter alia nonverbal communication.

A cursory perusal of qualities that an advocate ought to possess, suggested by Judge Edward Abbott Parry in his book The Seven Lamps of Advocacy (1923) resonates with the aforementioned view. One of the seven lamps of advocacy is the skill or the quality of eloquence. Justice E. Abbott Parry prescribed eloquence as one of the qualities of an Advocate because advocacy skill involves the skillful use of language, effective communication to convince the Bench. Even though the other qualities which are honesty, courage, wit, judgment, fellowship, and industry stand at the same level that of eloquence. The term eloquence does not restrict to way and fluency of speaking or the language used, it is more than that. It can be understood as expressing and communicating lucidly and effectively, be it drafting or oral arguments or submissions. The tone and tenor, the body language, the gestures, the expression of an advocate can be game-changer. Ergo, the conventional mode of legal education cannot be replaced or even substantiated by virtual education completely.

The new-age virtual teaching methodology will supplement conventional classroom training and education. Legal experts across jurisdictions can deliberate and disseminate their proficient knowledge to law students or professionals at the click of a button.

Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that virtual mode will play an assertive role in the overall educational system. It has emerged a new way of virtual education that will progress to the use of artificial intelligence that is devoid of emotional intelligence.

This virtual system might be the need of the hour however, it will not be able to replace the human interface in terms of their personal touch, sensitivity, emotions, tackling, convincing, negotiating, etc. It can, therefore, be concluded that conventional education systems are not inconsequential for professional courses like law and perhaps for the medical field.

Anchal Mittal
Faculty of Law
SGT University

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