The Amicus Interviews are meant for broader discussions on legal education, and the legal profession. And one of the viewpoints that I find particularly interesting relates to how legal education professionals view the Indian law graduate.
In this edition, I speak with Cristóbal Alvear who is part of the faculty at IE Law School. Cristobal has spent several years in India, working on a comparative study of the legal systems of India and Spain. I got to speak with him while he was on a quick trip to India, and managed to get his views on the similarities (and differences) between India and Spain, the future of Indian law graduates who choose to study in Spain, and a lot more.
You have had quite an interesting career – you studied law, worked as legal counsel, and then opted for a master’s international relations.
After studying in Paris and working in Bordeaux, I decided to go international. But first I wanted to pursue a master’s in international relations and diplomacy at the Diplomatic School of Spain. After that, I moved to New Delhi and joined the Spanish Embassy there.
I joined the political department at first but later I started providing legal advisory services, comparing the family law systems of both countries, and the interaction between them. I began studying laws related to marriages, adoption, surrogacy etc.
What were some of the highlights along the way?
After leaving the Spanish Embassy I started working with the Spain-India Council, which is a very interesting organization because it is established by the government but the funding also comes from private actors.
So, I started working with them organizing bilateral interactions. We created together Spain-India forums and dialogues between governments, think-tanks and civil society. Spain is a very complex country, but India is (laughs) a whole subcontinent. So, we tried to create common programs between both countries fostering a better understanding of each other.
How did you land up at IE Law School?
IE offered me the opportunity to teach about South Asia, and I created a course on an Introduction to South Asia not only for the Law school but also for the business programs.
I started teaching about South Asia from a cultural and a legal perspective as well as discussing the business environment in the region. The program worked very well; I think we were the first to do this in Spain.
When it comes to legal systems, the two countries are quite different. Where does one even begin with a comparative study?
It is challenging, it is an onerous task at times. We have to invest a lot of time, but it makes sense because we are going international, we are part of a globalized world. Individuals, companies and governments meet internationally across a significant number of fields where different legal frameworks are involved. Consequently, we are forced to compare them.
For example, we are now talking a lot about global compliance for international companies. We know that for doing global compliance you really need to have a very good knowledge about what is happening in different legal systems, those which have nothing in common with your own legal system.
Any advice you would have for Indian students looking to do a masters, not just in IE, but in Spain?
I would really recommend them to take advantage of the opportunity. Go into the streets, meet people, and really be a part of the society and culture. Get an idea of how the country and the society work. Have a very good look at what is happening in the country.
The second piece of advice would be to try and learn the local language. Learning Spanish opens up the Spanish-speaking Latin American market, which is not only huge but a quite interesting one.
And the third piece of advice is – it is only nine months, but it is almost a lifetime in terms of all the knowledge that you can learn.
You have been teaching for a while. Would you say that IE is different from other law schools?
Although I do comparative law, I don’t want to compare schools. (laughs). What I love about IE is that it is centrally located in Madrid. It is a law school really connected to the profession.
Our professors are all legal professionals. Some have their own law firms, some are advocates before the court, some do international legal transactions. So, they have this amazing professional experience. They are not talking about what they have learnt in theory, but what they have learnt through experience.
Placements – that is always the big question. What is your reading of employment LLM students?
I will say that whoever works hard will get whatever she or he wants in the legal profession; good professionals will always do well. And there are many opportunities here because the legal profession is one that is really changing a lot.
We used to think about the legal profession as this “innovation resistant” industry. But now, we can see digitalization, LPO, AI – all this is changing the industry. So, there is a great opportunity for entrepreneurship in the legal industry.
But as you said, even studying in IE, you don’t have hundred per cent guarantee of getting a job. However, I do feel that things are changing in the legal profession, and there is space for new people trained in excellent institutions such as IE.
What do you think is a good legal education?
For me, it is one that focuses on legal concepts and institutions from a practical point of view. There must be a practical approach.
We should be talking about what is happening in the legal world, what is happening in the business environment, what is happening in the government – we should be really connected to the legal trends that are around us. And we should create debates around these trends. We must help our students to build an opinion about them.
That is a good legal education because we train professionals to play a key role in a better society.