To tackle the complex challenges inherent in international trade one law school is creating business lawyers with a global outlook.
--BY KRISHANA PRASAIN
The doors of opportunity in international trade formally opened for Nepal when the country was inducted as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2004. Besides WTO, the country over the last few decades has signed a number of multilateral trade agreements such as the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi - Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and bilateral trade pacts with 17 nations including India, China, United States, United Kingdom, Bangladesh, Poland, Egypt and Sri Lanka. However, Nepal has not been able to capitalise on the opportunities that have come its way in international commerce due to various reasons, this is despite the fact that the country’s foreign trade has gone up dramatically over the last decade and a half. One of the reasons for this drawback cited by experts is the lack of human resources well versed in business and international trade laws.
At present, there are very few university level courses in Nepal aimed at producing lawyers with the right knowledge and comprehension. The Kathmandu School of Law (KSL) affiliated to the Purbanchal University is one of the law schools in Nepal that has been offering courses in this regard. The college has been teaching the LL.M. (Master of Law) in Business and International Trade Law (BITL) since 2004. “The course is designed to teach students international trade laws. It is an effective push for them to pursue a legal career in industry, commerce, finance and arbitration,” says Prof Dr Yubaraj Sangroula, Principal of KSL. Sangroula who is also the former Attorney General adds that the programme teaches students how to handle the complex legal business environment and also to face the various challenges of the global economy.
The major objective of the programme is to promote research-oriented activities in the legal field of business and international trade at national, regional and international levels.
LL.M. in BITL provides students an opportunity to gain knowledge on how the law relates to commercial activities within a globalised economy from the perspective of the private business actors. “Students learn to interpret laws as they have to study the interpretation theory,” mentions Prof Dr Kumar Ingnam, Programme Coordinator of KSL. According to Ingnam, who is also a member of Access to Justice Commission of the Supreme Court, students will be taught to tackle any legal hurdles whenever new policies are introduced.
KSL also conducts various residential programmes for its students. “We provide a six-day legal education continuously to the passed out students,” says Sangroula. The college also invites foreign experts to conduct special classes for two or three weeks. “In collaboration with the University of Sindh, Pakistan we organise intensive two-week trainings every year in February for the development and law sectors,” he mentions. Similarly, the college has been conducting a three-week training session in economic law every year in October where teachers and students from other countries also participate.
According to Ingnam, the teaching faculties in KSL mostly comprise of executives from various institutions who are in the decision making levels in their respective organisations. Around 400 students have already graduated in LL.M. in BITL from the college so far. Ingnam says that the reason behind the relatively low number of graduates of the programme is due to the fact that many students have not submitted their dissertations as there is no specific deadline for the submission of the thesis.
Emphasising the importance of the programme, Principal Sangroula says, “Programme like this produce legal experts who can help the policymakers to formulate proper laws, rules and regulations related to the country’s international trade. However the government and policymakers usually do not hear the suggestions of experts.”
This programme allows students to focus on specific issues related to international trade. It covers legal and commercial issues associated with international trade contracts, formation of the contracts, management of transportation of goods and resolution of disputes.
Initiation of the course
“When we initiated the course in 2004, our focus was on legal issues Nepal could possibly face in international trade and commerce following the country’s accession to WTO,” shares Sangroula, adding, “We were looking for a formation of appropriate laws and to produce legal professionals who are able to cater to the best interests of Nepal in global trade through legal means.”
According to Ingnam, there were primarily two objectives when the course was launched for the first time. “The first objective was to produce lawyers and experts with knowledge of business laws focused on formation of companies and joint ventures,” he informs. “The second one was on producing experts with knowledge of international trade laws focused on operating international legal services.” Ingnam states that the course centres on rules and regulations of WTO alongside the practices in international corporate law. “We have also focused on arbitration process so as to help settle different types of trade related issues and cases easily.”
“Our graduates are working in government offices, private firms, consulting firms NGOs/INGOs and we take feedback from those organisations where our students have gone,” informs Sangroula.
The graduates are working at institutions including Department of Industry (DoI), Ministry of Finance (MoF), Office of the Prime Minister and private sectors associations such as Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), according to Ignam. He says that the graduates have an effective representation in resolving issues in processes of formulating trade and transact treaties. Most KSL graduates are working as joint secretaries in various ministries while some have also reached decision making levels in their respective organisations.
Private companies have also been interested in hiring professional lawyers produced by KSL in recent years. “This year, Surya Nepal offered jobs to around seven students of our college who have been pursuing their undergraduate degrees in LLB. We are planning to introduce a one year L.LM in BITL in a bid to encourage them to pursue the masters’ degree programme,” says Ignam.
Course of Study
According to Ignam, the college has developed the syllabus of the programme very differently than other colleges. He says that students are required to study intellectual property rights law and contract law separately.
In the first year, students are required to study Legal Research, Comparative Study and Legal System, Contract Law and Law of Intellectual Property. The second year syllabus includes Banking Law, Laws on Corporate Management, International Trade law and Arbitration, Taxation (Income Tax and Value Added Tax, Insurance and Dissertation. Meanwhile, the dissertation is mandatory. Apart from the regular academic activities, KSL sometimes takes students to locations such as the dry port to make them clear about international trade.
Graduates in LLB are eligible for the L.LM in BITL programme. The college conducts an entrance exam and selects students on a merit basis. For this year’s intake, the college will be opening admissions in October/November. The class will commence once the admissions procedure is completed.
40 to 45 seats have been allocated to the programme for which the college receives applications from more than 100 students.
The total cost of the course is over Rs 200,000. The students can pay their fees at the time of admission or on a monthly basis.
Students securing top positions in the examins for the first year receive a tuition fee waiver for the second year classes. Their first year tuition fees are also refunded. The student securing first position gets a full scholarship and the student in second position can get a 50 percent scholarship.
KSL located at Dadhikot, Bhaktapur runs the classes in the morning from 7 am to 9:30 am.