The Madhava Menon model of legal
education (The Hindu)
Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Legal education
Mains level: Madhava Menon model of legal education highlights
The study of law was often a default option, when you couldn’t get
admission to any other course or didn’t know what course your life should
The law degree was a three-year affair following an undergraduate
There were a few exceptional teachers and a few exceptional
students; for the rest it was pretty much an active engagement with the
“guide” books in the run-up to the examinations.
Real learning started when you were apprenticed to a senior
Menon (1935-2019) shook that up. Responding to an appeal from the
Bar Council of India, which was gravely concerned with the steep decline in
standards of the profession, Menon accepted the challenge and transformed
himself from an academic to an institution-builder.
With missionary zeal he established the country’s first National
Law School in Bangalore in 1987, with an independent university status.
He oversaw the building of its campus. He drew in excellent
He carefully designed a five-year law course as the first degree
after school, thereby ensuring that only those who were seriously interested
in the subject came in, and would emerge well equipped for what the
The Menon model
The mix of motivated students and faculty overseen by a Vice
Chancellor to whom dedication and discipline came naturally produced results
which made the Bar, Bench, law firms and other users sit up and take notice.
As his graduates entered the field, it was clear that
law had joined the ranks of other professions where much could be expected
from an entrant, and the entrant could expect commensurate responsibility,
position and compensation. Inevitably this led to the creation of other
national law schools which largely followed the Menon model, and whose heads
were often Menon trainees.
That one achievement would have been enough to
guarantee him a place in any honours listing, but Menon was far from done.
Judges too, especially young recruits to the service, needed training.
The National Judicial Academy (NJA) was set up in
Bhopal, and the Menon magic of institution-building created another sterling
institution from scratch. It became de rigueur to have this on the resume of
a judicial officer, and it was a mark of subject expertise to be invited to
teach a course.
In time this expanded to reach higher levels of the
judiciary, especially in new areas of law.
Many senior judges received their first exposure to
public interest litigation and human rights and environmental issues at the
NJA long before these became current coinage indeed, Menon’s endorsement of
these outlier subjects was a key reason for sceptics to become adherents.
Supreme Court judges also came to teach, learn and, on occasion, receive
reprimand for an errant judgment, which took the occupant of the apex court
back to his college backbencher days.
Law for society’s benefit
At the request of the State government, he set up the West Bengal
National University of Juridical Sciences, Calcutta, which sought to focus
on academics and research.
To some extent, this was to alleviate his concern that students
from his first and premier law school had shown a preference for law firms
and corporates rather than joining the Bar or NGOs where a rights-based
language was at play.
For Menon, the law worked best when it worked for society’s
benefit. True enough, retirement and quieter times did not figure in his
list of options.
In his sunset years, he created and ran the M.K. Nambyar Academy
for Continuing Legal Education in Kerala as well as the Menon Institute of
Legal Advocacy Training for developing grass-roots capacity to access and
use the law for underprivileged sections.
Being the last word on the subject, he was, of course, the first
choice when it came to being asked to serve on the Law Commission and other
bodies and committees connected with legal education.
All these tasks he accepted willingly and gave each one his best.
At a personal level he constantly engaged with those working in
fields close to his heart.
They received his advice, encouragement and valued friendship.
He will be missed and mourned by many, especially generations of
Perhaps one tribute that would please him would be an
introspection if they passed the ultimate Menon test of using the skills he
gave them for the public good, wholly or at least in part.
Q.1) What is the objective of the National Knowledge Network (NKN)
project? (a) To encourage faculty from global universities to teach in Indian
(b) To provide for funds from global universities to Indian universities.
(c) To enable collaboration in research efforts in India by providing secure and
(d) To enable learning through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
Q.1) Describe the highlights of the Madhava Menon model of legal