An Interview With Dr. Suchithra Menon C, Faculty at Daksha Fellowship

Dr. Suchithra Menon C is currently a faculty at Daksha fellowship. She has worked closely with the Government of Karnataka and Government of Rajasthan on water and irrigation laws. She conducts gender sensitization workshops for government officials in Kerala and gender sensitivity at work place sessions for corporate participants at various institutes. Prof.Suchithra has also acted as trainer and resource person for various organizations such as NADT, NACEN and IICA. Her area of interest includes Public Law, Human Rights, Consumer Law and Employment Laws.

The short video lecture discusses the 123-year-old Epidemic Diseases Act which is not good enough for a pandemic in the Information Age. India must revisit the National Health Bill that was not passed. A 2020 pandemic in the Information Age does not require this colonial law, but warrants a new and robust public health law. Is India’s legislative and regulatory framework equipped to deal with such situations? Let us know more through the brief lecture by Dr.Suchithra Menon C

1) According to you, where is the discipline of Law headed?

I feel that law as a discipline will witness more inter-disciplinary approach in teaching pedagogy and research paradigms.  During my research for PhD, I noted that books such as Nudge or Weapons of Math Destruction attempt to provide better answers regarding how law can integrate behavioral changes. Even in my doctoral dissertation the need for understanding child as a consumer has been explored using multi-disciplinary perspectives on consumer studies, human rights and constitutional law. We will for sure see more discussions and debates on the regulatory state, and how regulations may be designed to integrate similar multi-disciplinary perspectives.

We have kept in mind the need for such multi-disciplinarity when designing the Daksha Fellowship.

2) What is a Fellowship? How is it different from a conventional degree program?

Through the Fellowship model, we are looking to build a community of learners who can cope with changing realities in the world of work. Therefore, the emphasis is on collaborative learning, instilling a sense of lifelong learning, and even personalization of learner outcomes and student journey. These are far too important, yet very difficult to achieve in a standardized LL.M program. In an LL.M program, the imperatives of regulatory prescription have resulted in conventional curriculum design and methods of course delivery, with limited emphasis on building a collaborative community. It has also become quite difficult to capture recent trends in law on real-time basis within the framework of an LL.M.

3) We understand that the Daksha fellowship for lawyers is a first of its kind program in India. Could you tell us more about this program?

The Daksha Fellowship is a one-year residential program, to be held in Chennai. The program is a joint vision of leading educators such as Dr Pramath Raj Sinha and Savita Mahajan, entrepreneurs such as KV Ramani and NR Narayana Murthy, and stalwarts from the world of law such as Justice MN Venkatachaliah and Justice BN Srikrishna. Leading academics such as Dr Kamala Sankaran, Dr Madhav Khosla and Dr Jamshed Bharucha have graciously offered their thought and time to help design the structure of this fellowship.

The proposed start date at present is mid-September, 2020, when we look forward to welcoming an inaugural cohort of students selected through a rigorous process that assesses their writing skills, academic record, and performance in a personal interview. We have a team of core faculty led by our Dean, Dr. Ananth Padmanabhan, and visiting faculty from law firms, industry and the consulting world, prepared to dedicate their time in training this cohort of fellows. In addition to lectures, students will learn from bootcamps and other methods of immersive learning.

Dr. Suchithra Menon C

4) How does the curriculum design at Daksha Fellowship help develop specializations and skills?

The curriculum design at Daksha Fellowship has been built around three pillars, namely knowledge, expertise and skills / exposure. As part of the knowledge pillar, all Daksha Fellows have to undertake courses in finance, accounting, data and decision-making, public policy and research methods. Once the baseline knowledge is built, we move to the phase where we impart expertise, mainly through our specializations. To revisit them, we have three pathways – Technology Law and Policy, Law and Regulation, and Disputes Resolution. Under each of these pathways, we have ten focused courses that provide our fellows with the capability to handle legal and policy problems in these areas.

The skills/exposure pillar has several components to it. The eight-week long internship program is very important, as it helps to learn beyond the classroom and solve real-life problems. The Communications Lab enhances writing, expression and presentation capabilities. The Work and Well-being Lab is a unique personality-oriented lab which includes components like critical thinking, personal finance management and leadership. This will equip a Daksha Fellow successfully manage, thrive and belong in the world of work. The bootcamps will help gain hands on experience.

5) You’re also offering a global immersion as part of the Daksha experience?

Yes, a ten-day stint with one of our partner universities is being planned, and we are in advanced stages of conversation with Tel Aviv University in this regard. There too, we are aiming at a mix of core faculty from the partner university and visiting professionals from law firms, government and the industry, to engage with our fellows. Exposure to legal and regulatory challenges in the host country would give candidates a significant edge in their understanding of law and policy. Moreover, understanding cultural differences in the way business and policy operate is an important plus point.

6) Could you tell us more about the internship and placement opportunities at the Daksha fellowship?

We have launched an internship program with institutional partners across leading and boutique law firms, consulting firms, tech and non-tech conglomerates, think tanks, and not-for-profits. The partner on-boarding process is underway and the initial response from these stakeholders has been fantastic, to say the least.

Daksha Fellows will end up doing a two-month stint with these partners, tentatively in March and April 2021. We hope our fellows stand out at the workplace for these stakeholders to want to extend pre-placement offers as soon as the internship gets done. We also have a dedicated team for placement assistance.

Dr. Suchithra Menon C

7) Does the Daksha Fellowship promote inclusivity?

Early days for us on this front but we have consciously taken some important steps. We are offering 100% tuition fee waivers for our inaugural cohort, both to attract meritorious students and to ensure that financial reasons do not come in the way of pursuing a world-class education, especially in these uncertain times. We have also reached out to IDIA on account of their exceptional work in this area, to spread the word among their scholars. We hope to attract some of them to be a part of our inaugural cohort.

8) Please share your advice, if any, for law aspirants and young lawyers.

Focus on areas where expertise would be required in the years to come. Think ahead. Attempt to gain practical exposure through internships and boot camps.  Develop your network with practitioners in the relevant field of interest. In the current scenario, a non-linear approach to law and practice is required.

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