This article was submitted to us by Ashwin Shanbhag, a recent graduate of the CMR Law School, Bangalore. An advocate with the Madras High Court, Ashwin is known pan-India for his prowess at Model United Nations and Moot Court Competitions, and currently trains teams attending the Harvard Model United Nations India.
Let me firstly begin with thanking Tejas Rao for giving me this wonderful opportunity to talk about my Law School. I also wish him all the very best for this initiative to reach greater heights.
My name is Ashwin Shanbhag. I’m a graduate of CMR Law School, Bangalore. (Ranked the 15th Best Law School in India). I’m currently enrolled as an Advocate at the Madras High court. My Areas of Interest and practice include Constitutional, Taxation, and general Commercial Laws. Now for the sake of reader’s convenience, we will split this article into three main parts. The First part will contain information about my Law School. The Second Part consists of one of the major problems I’ve personally faced in my initial years of law School life, and lastly, The Third Part consists of some general tips which I think helped me out personally, which I think would help you out too.
As compared to most Law schools that have been around for a really long time, CMR Law School has been around for only close to a decade. Located in the beautiful city that is Bangalore, in quite a sparring campus, it is one amongst several under institutions that come under the CMR banner.
At the outset, I’d like to state that the infrastructure that the college provides is quite unparalleled compared to a lot of law schools I’ve visited. State of the art features. Lush and green as well. A Law school needs a Library the same way a kingdom banks on its armory. The better the Library, the stronger the minds that come out of it. In this regards CMR Law School has ensured that the students get access to the best of Books, Commentaries and Journals (Regularly updated) with borrowing and photocopying facilities too. The Management did not at any cost think twice before setting a library of this level.
The Faculty members are extremely educated and well experienced coming from years of both academic and practical experience. They are extremely approachable and are ready to help out at all times.
The Law School has a Moot Court Society, a Debate Society and a Model UN Society as well. Apart from these main societies, there are other clubs such as the cultural activity club, and the Editorial board. The Moot court Society apart from being trusted with the function of hosting the Internal selection rounds (Which happens in a fair and transparent manner) also is entrusted with the task of organizing the National Level Moot Court and Cross Examination Competition (Which sees participation from over 40 Law Schools across the country, with finals usually being judged by eminent legal personalities such as Judges of Karnataka High court, Advocate General and Other Senior Advocates).
In the recent times, the Moot Court Society has been performing extremely well by winning prestigious moots such as the KIIT Moot, the School of Law Christ University Moot, the Karnataka State Law University Moot and many such more.
I had the distinct pleasure of training the Model UN team and the Debate team (To a certain extent) and traveling with them to competitions to see them perform well.
‘Opportunities’ is the one word that comes to my mind when you think about this Law School. With the Principal ma’am and the Management being extremly supportive, they encourage you to participate in many events, while ensuring that you maintain a balance in your academics.
Jovial & inspiring seniors, amazing bunch of juniors, friendly and high competent faculty members, non-draconian Management all adds up to only one thing: That the Law School is a learning environment-friendly place.
Second Part: Practice what you preach?
Now before I go on wit this part, I’d like to tell you that this article is only written with good intention. This has not been written to offend anyone, and in the process if I do I’d like to profusely apologize.
I am a victim of discimination. Not Racial, Not sexual, not caste based. But something that’s equally an evil in today’s scenario. I was a victim of discrimination based on where I studied.
I decided to do Law at a very late stage. I had initially planned on pursuing B-Com, then an MBA and take over my father’s business: Pretty Sorted right? Somehow, it just didn’t feel like my cup of tea. So I decided to do Law. Started preparing for it at a very late stage (After my boards) and obviously didn’t put in enough effort, to end up with not such a great ranking. I did, however, crack LSAT (Used for Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat-but ended up not taking it). So I got into CMR Law School, Bangalore. (I skipped the Christ Entrance exam) and this was the only other option I had and at that point spending close to 40 lakhs for my undergrad didn’t seem worth it (And mind you, Jindal though now is an amazing institution, had only opened up then) so when we asked around, a lot of good reviews were coming for CMR, so I took it up.
Ever seen Shawshank Redemption? That Scene where Andy Dufrense (Tim Robbins) crawls through miles of sewage, on his path to freedom? Yeah, that’s somewhat how I felt through the first two years of my Law School life. My own friends who got into some of the finest law schools, starting making fun of me based on where I studied, borderline bullying too, if I may add (A reason I still can’t possibly fathom as to why). Let me make one thing clear, I respect, love and admire a lot of National Law School students. I wish I had gotten in as well. This is not a direct attack on ALL students of National Law Schools. They have created some of the finest legal minds of our country. I regularly keep myself updated with the works of people like Dev Ganjee, Gautam Bhatia, V.Niranjan and many more: They’re just simply mind blowing. And more importantly I have so many friends who study at NLUs, who I absolutely adore. But this about many stray events that I’ve faced by a lot of people, and a lot more people like me we’ve faced such situations as well.
This used to happen so often. This weird form of discrimination, being made fun of for belonging to something they did not think highly of? Yeah, for a 17-year-old boy, I felt ashamed of myself like I was at fault for being the person that I was. I was a fully grown man and there would be days then where I would just sit back and tear up when I was much younger, asking my folks if I took the wrong decision, and they would be left pretty helpless – not knowing how to handle me this happened for almost close to two years, where I was literally invisible. I wanted to be the one changing this scenario. I was already involved with Model UN, so I continued doing so, and performed well. Then I slowly started participating at Moot Courts. Believe it or not: This was not easy for me. We did not have fancy coaches, or even too many Seniors teaching us. I learned it the hard way. I’ve had memorials thrown at my face, abused and laughed at. What’s worse? When an opposing team asked us which college we were from, they would never take us seriously as they would just assume it was easy to beat us, or we wouldn’t be of good competition. Somehow that didn’t discourage me, but rather encouraged me to learn, and want to perform better, and so I did. 3 Wins, 2 Runners up (Moot courts and Trial Advocacy together). I had also had the opportunity to work with some amazing people from my law school, both batch mates and juniors.
Now there was an insane number of opportunities coming our way. So, I participated in the Global Debate and Public Policy Challenge, and got selected as one of 45 speakers around the word through my Policy brief selected from 2000 odd people) I had a wonderful time there, learned a lot, debated well, met people from across the world. I also did my Summer Abroad at London School of Economics, where I had an infinite amount of exposure and was introduced to this whole new system of interaction between the teacher and student.
Please don’t think of this as bragging, I’m merely trying to tell you the sort of difficulty that I went through and how I decided to make a mark by establishing myself. Now I don’t hear anyone making fun of where I studied, even if they do, I couldn’t care less because towards the end of these 5 beautiful years I’ve achieved clarity to such an extent that I now know what I want to do for the next 20 years. But that doesn’t take away the way I felt when I began here. Quite ironic, isn’t it? Being in a Law School and indulging in this form of discrimination. I’m not going to ask them to stop. It’s not my place. But for the 1000s that do end up like me: This is going to exist, for a long time, there’s not much we can do about it. But the moment you realize that it’s about the Law at the end of the day, you can still make it out there because the real world isn’t exactly just about your degree. It’s almost always about you, you’re going to be just fine. I love what I do now and that’s a feeling no one can shun.
Third Part: To do things: Just a few things I think would help you guys.
Take Academics seriously: If you’re planning on doing your masters, this is extremely important. CGPA is one of the key factors they look at.
Participate: Try not to be idle for the 5 years of your Law School life. There are tons of opportunities. MUNs, Debates, Moots, Model Parliament etc.
Publish: While I’ve just ventured into this field recently, I’ve been advised that it’s extremely rewarding if you try to research on a topic area of your interest and try to get your work published.
Intern: It’s highly imperative that you intern during your breaks. Not for the CV value, but it will definitely try to help you understand what you wanted to do. For example: I knew working for a corporate law firm wasn’t my cup of tea only when I did both Corporate and Litigation based internships.
Have fun: 5 years is a long time. I’ve seen too many people burn out too quickly. Try having fun too, road trips, beaches, hills.. you get the point.
Love the Law: Don’t do it because your parents asked you to. Or because you think it’s rewarding (Monetarily) or because it’s Harvey Specter like. Law is an amazing subject. So much to learn, if you love that, then you’ll do it for the love of the law.
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