LexTalk World Interviews Ms. Shaaista Sarki. Shaaista is an intrinsic part of the legal education industry since 2001. She is the Dean, Faculty of Law at Ziauddin University, Karachi. She is proud of the acumen displayed by her students who are successful contributive members of society. The guiding philosophy behind the Ziauddin Faculty of Law is to ensure the democratization of legal education by way of access to education by ensuring not only affordability, but to quality education. We ensure effective teaching coupled with insight into the practical realities of the industry. Our unique pedagogy and highly qualified faculty ensure that students not only learn academic and practical legal skills, but their soft skills are also developed via courses which are not mandated by our regulator but are offered by us: Public Speaking, Meditation and Mindfulness, Philosophy of Perception (phenomenology), to name a few. This is to ensure that not only are we producing effective socially-contributive lawyers and academics, but also self-aware humans on whose shoulders the weight of our world's future shall rest. Besides academia, Shaaista has interest in occult sciences, literature, music, philosophy and spirituality.
Host: Tell us about your journey as a legal professional so far?
Shaaista: Education is a national security issue. We need to take it seriously or we lose our youth. They are distracted because our system has fundamentally failed to provide them with what they require. A right kind of learning and teaching that honors the whole human being- mind, heart and soul- an essential integration if we hope to address the complex contemporary issues.
I returned in 2002 from US with masters in law, with concentration in comparative constitutionally law and human rights. My first engagement in the legal education industry led me to be appointed as the founding Head of Department at the SZABIST Law School-name of which eventually became synonymous with quality, dedication and consistently-brilliant Advocates and legal advisors. After serving SZABIST for around sixteen years, and realizing that change comes from the grass root level, I took the offer to join Ziauddin University.
My current engagement differs from the previous one in two ways- I have been appointed as the Dean, Faculty of Law, Politics and Governance ('ZFLP&G') at the Ziauddin University, Karachi. Secondly, we offer the 5-year LL.B. program regulated by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan; the previous program offered the University of London (International Programs) LL.B. degree.
Host: How are you contributing in transforming the legal education?
Shaaista: My team and I have been working closely with members of PBC (Pakistan Bar Council) and senior legal practitioners to enhance the LL.B. curriculum to be relevant in the 21st Century. The fundamental premise for this exercise is to ensure that Pakistani graduates are at-par with their foreign counterparts and can thus be competitive in an ever-evolving world. We have revisited the curriculum, crafting innovative modules that are research based to enhance their mindset. Moreover, at ZFLP&G, we have a unique system to ensure the growth of our students. We boast a Legal Incubation Centre, available for lawyers wishing to establish their own practice but lacking the infrastructure to do so. We offer them office space, research resources and a multimedia-functional conference room in order for them to flourish in their practice. In return, the incubate teaches a full-credit course and engages students as interns to work with them on commercial-legal projects for clients. In effect, this model is allowing our students to work on-campus and gain practical experience during their studies, thus preparing them effectively for their professional lives. To the best of my knowledge, such a system does not exist in any university for legal education. I have penned down establishing of boutique law firms under the ZFL banner where within the five year program students while interning (during their studies) learn from the experienced lawyers within their studies here at ZFL. With these innovations, they will greatly benefit in establishing themselves as successful independent professionals. We have established a Centre for Access to Justice (for pro-bono legal consultation, open to the public), a Centre for Human Rights, Centre for Law & Technology and a Centre for International and Constitutional law, which is the first of its kind in an educational institution in Pakistan. Our unique pedagogy and highly qualified faculty ensure that students not only learn academic and practical legal skills, but their soft skills are also developed via courses which are not mandated by our regulator but are offered by us: Public Speaking, Meditation and Mindfulness, Philosophy of Perception (phenomenology) literature and music to name the few. This is to ensure that not only are we producing effective socially-contributive lawyers and academics, but also self-aware humans on whose shoulders the weight of our world's future shall rest.
Host: What are your future plans as a Professional?
Shaaista: Moreover, our long-term plans include enhancing our existing Centers into colleges which shall offer postgraduate (Masters) programs specializing in various aspects of the law; to name a few: Air & Space Law, Environmental Law, Law & Technology, Intellectual Property Law and Digital Laws. The future is skill-based, largely remote, and rests on efficiency and ease. We stay ahead of the curve by utilizing cutting-edge technology and ensuring our students are familiar with digital (online) working procedures and ethics. Furthermore, by arranging webinars, seminars, panel discussions and symposiums on pertinent topics with industry leaders, academics, politicians and legal practitioners, we ensure that we are leading the conversation on the most relevant regulatory/policy/political matters in the country as well as internationally.
Host: "Law is not only about litigation". What are your views?
Shaaista: Law helps in improving the standard of thoughts, skills and knowledge. It is personally fulfilling. We need good human beings. Law is the fundamental of life and liberty. It’s also about rights, justice and understanding of human behavior and society. It also provides the courage and support on which one can stand for the rights of other’s and his own. After all, our nation need leaders. Leaders- with integrity and style. Not followers.
Host: Our audience will love to know about your Mission?
Shaaista: We commit to excellence and humanity. Not just theory but practice. Our students are busy with research projects from their first year of legal studies. The curriculum has been revisited and almost all modules are research based. There is a law clinic and the Legal Incubation Centre on campus where their engagement is required. Thus it is very early on, that they involve themselves in legal practice.
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