This post was submitted to Ergo by Anu Shrivastava, a graduate of the 2011-16 Batch of the Gujarat National Law University, and marks the first in a series of posts titled, The Journey.
Life gives you a lot more perspective and free time once you have finished law school and are whiling away your time at home, either eating, sleeping or watching random shows. Tejas (he is a wonderful guy, Best Speaker at Manfred in his first year, much pride) had asked me to write something on my law school experience about 8-9 months ago and I told him I would write something once it comes to an end. So here it is, a series of blogposts about the varied “experiences” that I have had as a law student and are most commonly expected of being in a Law School.
First, a brief introduction. My name is Anu Shrivastava, a graduate of Science and Law from Gujarat National Law University (GNLU), batch of 2011-2016. As for my credentials, they aren’t as important or impressive. I did a couple of moots, wrote a few research papers, did decently well at my academics, did some extra-curricular activities (was involved with Musi Club), tried my hand at debating in my first year and overall attempted a fair mix of things while in the University. The idea behind this series is to give a bird’s eye view of what one could expect at law school and provide better insight to those who are already enrolled in a law school. These posts have been divided according to the different components of Law school life – Academics, Moot Court Competitions and Research Papers, Internships, Extra Co-curricular activities and last, the overall law school experience.
Before I begin, I request the reader to note two things – first, I am not a blogger and I am not creatively gifted to weave a beautiful web of words to entangle my reader. Therefore, pardon the series of disjointed ideas and the lack of creative flow. Second, whatever I write in this series is from a personal perspective. Do not take anything as a guiding factor and feel free to make up your own mind about things – that is one of the most important things to learn at Law School. This first post is about academics and has been coupled with the introductory paragraphs because in my honest opinion, academics form a rather small part of Law School.
If one were to study in the five year integrated programme, classes take about 5-6 hours of the day on an average. I wouldn’t have much idea about the three year LLB courses but I have heard that the duration of classes is much lesser and the attendance requirements are far less stringent. In GNLU, for instance, one has to study 5-6 subjects per semester which totals upto 10-12 papers per year and about 55 papers during the course of five years. These 55 papers do include non-law subjects, but almost 40 of those 55 papers would be based on core law subjects.
Studying 40 core law subjects over a period of 5 years is a humongous task. Especially when there are books spanning over a thousand pages dedicated to just one subject. It then becomes a question of survival and interest which usually determine how one might fare in the final CGPA or percentage. The survival part is rather easy, just sit in class, listen to the teacher, make notes if necessary, supplement this knowledge with some additional online reading before the exams and you’re ready for the three hour long battle. Now, sometimes it is also important to know what a particular teacher wants in the answer sheet. This is something that the faculty members, in their kindness, do hint at during classes. Some might want a well-reasoned answer to an application based question and give marks for that reasoning even if the answer isn’t correct. Some might expect exact section numbers (they’re a pain in the backside) while some would be happy if the essence of the provision is there. There really is no strait-jacketed approach to it, find the middle ground between one’s capabilities and the teacher’s expectations. That’s the best one can do.
As for the interest part, if at all over the course of five years, one does end up gathering a genuine interest in any field of law, my advice to you is to read about it. Read as much as time would allow, write to one’s heart’s content, discuss it with like-minded people (there are enough nerds in this world to talk to, you just have to find them) or start a blog on the topic. But never expect to be rewarded for any of these. I know people who read judgements as regularly as the rest of us read Facebook status updates but there’s no high CGPA or multiple publications that they can show for it.
Honest confession, I used to write blog posts about subjects that interested me but gave up because it wasn’t really ‘helping’ with anything. In retrospect, I sincerely believe that giving it up was a mistake. No matter how clichéd it may sound, there are things one must do for oneself. On an optimistic note, there is always the chance that your blog might become really popular – social media works in weird ways. There is also the chance of taking the seed of one of your blog posts and turning it into a good research paper publication. An interest in a subject can lead to wonderful things. It just requires a lot more perseverance and guidance. Most of all, it requires the understanding that whatever is being done is because of a genuine interest and it shouldn’t matter as much if it does not yield ‘results’ as long as the process is enjoyed.
Speaking of academics, of course there are differences in the way two minds function. Some people are gifted with a good memory, some (like me) are gifted with the ability to drift into random spaces when there are more important tasks at hand. The entire studying process at Law Schools can give a lot of insight into what method of studying really suits a person. Experimenting with different methods is therefore, advisable before one settles for a particular style. For example, reading and making notes, reading and making marginal notes, reading and reciting for memory’s sake etc. It is also possible that one might not have any style at all except for reading as much as possible.
The process of studying for a subject that you don’t care about can be extremely frustrating. Call friends to the rescue, they can really ease out the annoyance. Revision sessions in a circle of friends can be very helpful too. It also helps to brainstorm over a particular provision to really understand what it means. I remember sitting with a bunch of friends the night before our Banking exam, trying to figure out what those long complicated English sentences in the Negotiable Instruments Act meant. Same with the different types of marriage, divorce and inheritance in Muslim Law for our Family Law paper.
As far as exams are concerned, this is all that I can, in my limited experience, share with everyone. CGPAs also depend upon projects, group discussions and other such internal evaluation methods. Usually, these are easy to get through. A project on a decent topic with well researched (read paraphrased) material and minimum plagiarism is all that one needs. Oh yes, citation styles, all hail Bluebook and Chicago! Even if there is no prescribed citation style, sticking to a uniform system makes the research paper neat. Throw in some page borders, a good header and page numbers, a nice cover page and that’s all that’s needed. In case the research paper is on one of the ‘interest’ subject matters, one could try coming up with good quality material and subsequently make it into a publication.
Group discussions are easier and a lot more fun. A basic understanding of the topic along with a couple of discussion/deliberation/dissenting points make it an enjoyable process. There are however, people who are shy about speaking in a GD or who might not have a great command over Angrezi. I cannot make a general statement on this but from whatever I have seen, teachers and even students are quite encouraging and would want to know your opinion. It might be a little difficult in the beginning to overcome the initial hesitation, but I have seen with my peers that a little bit of an effort is all that is required. Simple things like standing in front of a mirror and speaking, or giving a demo to a close circle of friends can help quite a bit.
Here’s some General Gyaan for the concluding paragraphs –
The whole CGPA and percentage rat race can be taxing and pressurising at times. Why can’t I get better at my scores despite working very hard? How does that dude manage to ace it everytime just by an overnight study session? I don’t know where I lost my marks, the paper went pretty well according to me? This faculty probably hates me, or maybe it is the exam department, wait it is actually the whole world that hates me…. These and many other thoughts are quite likely to come into the minds of anyone who attempts to do well at academics. But please note, be kind to yourself, and to others.
There is no point being arrogant about scores – good job, well-done but the world is not going to fall on your feet because you managed to fill more pages in three hours. So be kind to others, help others out, it is not really going to take anything away but might give something to the other person. Additionally, all of us need to be a lot more kind to ourselves and stop being as harsh. Our entire education system is based on pushing people to achieve more and more, and that is a terrible concept (acknowledgements, Sharngan Aravindakshan and Madhulika Srikumar). There will always be someone better and there will always be another milestone to achieve. There is no point in being hard on oneself, eventually these scores will end up in a mark-sheet in one of the drawers of your cupboard. All that will stay is the ‘learning’ of the law and not just the ‘study’ of it. Most of all, we will ask ourselves, whether all of us really learnt HOW to learn the law.
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