This post was submitted to us by Darpan Singhi, a graduate of the 2011-2016 batch of Jindal Global Law School.
My decision to study law was never consequentialist. I had no agendas of becoming a corporate lawyer or filing PIL petitions. I was merely curious about the law because of the rhetoric that surrounds it and the hyperbole with which it was displayed on our TV Screens. Armed with sparse knowledge of the internal workings of the field, I decided to enter law school. I entered JGLS because it offered fantastic faculty and continues to do so, and it seemed appropriate to focus on understanding the philosophical nuances of the subject. I still don’t plan on entering law firms or the Courts. Instead, I am moving on to getting an M.A. in international relations because of my interests in international politics and diplomacy. I’ll break this narration into two segments (for the sake of linear thought). I will discuss my time at law school in the first segment and the expected career advice in the second.
My Law School Journey (2011 – 2016)
In order to avoid the risk of sounding whimsical and inept, I would like to declare that I’ve been able to maintain respectable CGPA throughout my time at law school. I also went through the routine internships and thoroughly enjoyed myself while working at law firms and chambers of Counsels, alike. However, it was through the informal structures of education – debating and critical reading groups that I most developed. While I cannot speak on behalf of every law school in the country, I can speak only of my experiences at my own. JGLS has an excellent extra-curricular and co-curricular activities culture. Students have the freedom to set up new Societies and Clubs to pursue interests outside the classroom. I joined the Jindal Debating Society in my second year and stayed with it till the end of my fifth year. Bearing in mind that I was absolutely petrified by the idea of public speaking throughout my school days, entering the Debating Society was perhaps the boldest decision I had taken during my formative years. I soon realized that the activity – much like any other, is all about personal growth and development. Debating helps harness the ability to critically think and argue – traits essential for being a good lawyer. However, aside from the obvious, debating also helped me gauge my interests. I realized that I preferred debating motions based on international relations and politics as opposed to pure law. I am in no way insinuating that debating is possible only when you’re in law school, I’m only stating that law school opened up a healthy mixture of extra-curricular activities for me. As I mentioned, this field serves as a master-key to various careers – but only if an individual is willing to dive into a plethora of activities and make most of the opportunities provided. My only advice to junior batches is that one must focus on academics, but also take on extra and co-curricular activities. Debating not only helped me decide what I wished to get a Master’s degree in, but also helped me curate specialized electives.
It is my belief that actual “teaching” of the law student takes place in electives more than anywhere else. It not only allows an individual to personalize their subject lists, but explore off-beat subjects. I preferred to experiment with my electives and opted for subjects like International Humanitarian Law, International Criminal Law, International Law of Outer Space as well as Law & Literature and, Law & Social Theory – a veritable potpourri of subjects. The mantra I always maintained throughout my days (and years) was to say yes to as many opportunities and try my hand at diverse subjects. The early labelling of students as corporate lawyers or criminal litigators can be detrimental because it may deter them from trying new things. Aside from debating and academic experimentation, I also found it fruitful to act as a Teaching Assistant (TA, hereon) for different subjects and for different batches. Teaching Assistant-ship is akin to a Research Assistant – you are working for a professor on a set subject. The difference lies in the job description. As a TA, I was allowed to conduct tutorial sessions for students under the observation of a senior professor. I TA’d for subjects like Commercial Contract Drafting, Sociology and International Relations (keeping the philosophy of diversification yet again). Needless to say, the brief flirtation with teaching classes helped further define the nature of future careers I wished to undertake. I wish to reiterate, however, that I still continued to maintain a CGPA that would further the career goals I was identifying through the course of the mentioned activities. The academics end was never put to risk for the sake of experimentation. I also continued to intern religiously and seriously every vacation and opportunity I got. It is important to continuously keep yourself busy throughout Law School because of the competitive and rapidly evolving nature of the business.
Career Advice – Time beyond the College
I belong to the batch of 2011-16, meaning that I finished my classroom education mere days ago. This might make long-term career advice difficult to dispense, however, there are certain pointers to be kept in mind. In law, like everywhere else, it is essential to identify areas of interest. Students often struggle to decide whether they wish to work for Law Firms or practice in Courts. There are obvious merits to both sides, but it is important to keep in mind that the field can become dry and unrewarding if your day job isn’t one you enjoy. The pay-packages change violently each year and money ought not to decide where you work. However, since I am moving on for higher studies, I feel I ought to limit myself to that. The essential pointers to keep in mind while applying for your Master’s are –
- Be absolutely certain about what you wish to Master in and why, do not be whimsical about it. All reputed institutions require a Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose and need to know why you are interested. An honest (and thereby seat winning) S.O.P would display a clear intent and show a path of interests, reflected from internships and electives studied.
- Do not treat your Master’s as a holiday year. It’s needless to point out that higher education is not inexpensive; therefore it ought to be treated as an extension of your final year at Law School.
- Try to publish research papers/scholarly articles related to the field the Master’s sought in. This is not to suggest that individuals without such publications cannot get into reputed Universities, but it certainly helps.
- Maintain an updated and typo-sans CV.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my college experience, I can’t help but wish I knew certain details of the field starting out. For instance, I wasn’t sure of the internship procedure and the nature of internships I ought to take in the first year, second year etc. A stability brought forth by having the guidelines is extremely calming. Another bit of information I wish I’d gotten hold of in the initial years is the amount of work required to publish scholarly articles.
However, in spite of these gaps of information, I am certain I milked the most from my time in college. I was able to do so because I never feared losing. It’s my opinion that there’s a growing pressure to always win. While the emphasis of the “win-all” mantra is meant to inspire, it has unknowingly inspired a culture of evasiveness. Students increasingly become wary of participating in difficult tournaments or trying new activities for the fear of losing. I always felt that my growth was amplified with each loss that I accrued. College is a much protected environment, you are allowed to make mistakes and have do-overs – options not available when working for the pay-check. This means that you are allowed to lose and you ought to try new things. Debating was the stone to my Sisyphus for a while because I never seemed to win. I began to win rounds (and eventually titles) only after I started learning from my losses. It’s also important to not limit yourself to activities i.e. not presume you’re not a mooter or debater etc. merely because you were a dancer by training. The key to all things in Law is to approach all events and activities with open minds.
Secondly, I resent not reading enough fiction during Law School. It is essential to maintain a balance in the academic reading and the “consumerist” literature you consume – it comes handy when trying to maintain mental sanctity. I ended up making more friends over Alan Shore and Jeffery Archer conversations than over Article 354 of the Indian Constitution. Lastly, as important the study of law is to becoming a lawyer, as is the activity of bonding. Effective lawyers (or any practitioner) are able to cultivate meaningful relationships with not just their peers, but also juniors and mentors. Fluidly traveling through roles of mentor and junior is essential for the growth of an individual, and I am certain that my time at Law School would have been boring had I not made the friends I had (from senior and junior batches, alike).
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