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New Delhi: As foreign law firms step up collaborations with Indian counterparts and legal back-office service providers sustain hiring here, the country’s expanding legal education sector is attracting global interest.

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC), which conducts the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) for around 200 law schools in the US, will soon launch an Indian version of the test.

LSAC president Daniel Bernstein explained the move to Mint on the phone, saying, “Many law schools in India are looking for highly standardized entrance exams". At present, most Indian law schools and colleges conduct independent entrance tests and just a handful use a common test score despite calls by the Supreme Court for a uniform test.

Scheduled to be held mid-May, registration for the pencil-and-paper test has been started by Pearson Virtual University Enterprises (VUE) of the UK-based Pearson Plc., which has a licensing pact with LSAC to conduct the tests.

Pearson-VUE is the sole testing partner worldwide for tests such as the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT) and is one of the bidders for conducting the online Common Admission Test which the Indian Institutes of Management plan to launch this year.

“They (LSAC) are aware of the Indian market and the growth of law schools here so they thought they could reprocess the test for India. LSAT-India is open for adoption by any university/college in India interested in standardized tests," said Sarvesh Shrivastava, chief executive officer of Pearson-VUE India.

India has 13 national law schools (NLS) and around 900 law colleges, while only seven NLS and three law colleges have been using a Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) since 2008. A core panel led by NLS Bangalore conducts it.

An aspirant to any of the 13 NLS that offer five-year programmes to high school graduates may be writing as many as seven tests.

Shrivastava said LSAT-India would be conducted for entry to three-year degree programmes in its first year. “As more schools sign up, it can be adapted to include five-year law programmes," he added.

The Jindal Global Law School at Sonipat, a private law school funded by Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, has already signed up. When the school launches in September, it will accept LSAT-India scores for its three-year LLB programme, said the dean and Harvard Law school alumnus C. Rajkumar. Such programmes in India are open to students with a bachelor’s degree.

The growing legal education sector is fuelled by law firms and legal back-office service providers stepping up recruitment. More recently, collaborations of foreign law firms, which are not allowed to practice in India, with local firms has also stimulated demand for legal professionals. For instance, UK law firm Clifford Chance Llp. and India-based AZB and Partners tied up last month to offer services to clients of both firms, and UK-based Allen and Overy’s tied up with Trilegal, an Indian law firm last year.

“Earlier, with a law degree, you could only practice as a lawyer; with globalization, there are various career paths, say, in corporate law firms and legal wings of multinational companies," adds Rajkumar.

N.R. Madhava Menon, who helped set up NLS Bangalore and Kolkata as founder-director, sees LSAT-India as an alternative score law schools could use, particularly for foreign students.

“For foreign students, especially the children of non-resident Indians wanting to study in India, a globally accredited test like the LSAT-India can be suitable for assessing the minimum required competence," Menon said.

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