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 third in a series of posts titled, The Journey.
As promised, here’s more about the Annadaata (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, read Part Two: https://goo.gl/FdBLc6)
While at these internships a variety of experiences are to be expected. Most common of them are to not be given any work and simply be asked to carry files from one place to another. Again, the Annadaata is not magically expected to know about your awesomeness at researching or drafting or decrypting complex concepts. Ask for work; if not given any, beg for it; if none is available at the moment, call dibs on whatever comes next. In some of my initial internships I was too shy and reserved to really go and actively ask for work. I didn’t realise then that what I considered as being initial introversion was being interpreted by others as arrogance. The equation is quite simple here, you are the one who applied for an ‘opportunity to learn’. You should be the one to make attempts at ice-breaking. Everyone else in the office already has a place carved for them and are comfortable in it. It can be difficult if you’re an introvert by nature. But nobody really wants you to be the life of the party and go out pubbing with them. It is just as simple as putting away the hesitancy in speaking to people, asking for work and learning from the opportunity.
There are other rather weird instances that you might encounter. If like me, you come from a small town, you will have the wonderful opportunity to intern at the district court, under the trees. Yes, in the heat of summer months, one would sit under the shade of a canopy of trees with wooden tables that serve as offices. Sipping on free nimbu paani offered by one of the kinder advocates, listening to the news and gossip in town – right from Madhu Koda’s coal scam case to the price of mangoes. And then there will be a case in the Family Court where you’ll hear arguments start in English, gradually progress to Hindi and then move on to Bhojpuri or Nagpuri, much to the amazement of a first year law school kid. The old judge would then ask the litigant, talaak de dein kya? (should I really order for a divorce?). On hearing no response from the illiterate woman and the poorly educated man, the kind judge would then order for a last attempt at mediation to save a home from breaking apart.
I was offered the opportunity to spend my time at home with the assurance that I would get an internship certificate delivered with whatever date I wanted to. But that’s not fun. It is a lot more fun to go to the High Court and watch two senior advocates fight like kids and make statements such as ‘huzoor ke saamne hum jooth nahi bolte hain.’ If you think this only happens in small town High Courts, you’re wrong. The Supreme Court has more drama than any other Court in India, just the nature of that drama is more sophisticated (in Maya Sarabhai’s words).
Court dramas aside, even law firm internships and company internships have their own share of funny instances. It’s slightly weird how people find humour while dealing with serious matters involving high stakes. I mean, the entire legal profession is based on disputes, you either try to resolve them or try to make sure that they do not arise at all and are sorted in the most efficient manner. It then becomes even more important to find humour wherever you can. Not doing so will make the profession even more dull, tiresome and boring than it is.
Over the course of internships, everyone notices one thing at the very beginning – the broken legal system in India. The number of undertrial prisoners, the delay in hearing matters, the lackadaisical manner in which IT officers assess returns, the delays in getting regulatory approvals (which the government keeps trying to change), the manner in which sarkaari offices are run, the inconsistencies in various regulations/notifications, the improper manner of drafting rules, regulations, notifications and even Acts which often become a bone of contention until the courts clarify them. It is a terribly broken system, like every other system in India. You could be disillusioned and question your abilities.
One might have joined a law school with the sole intention to pursue a career in litigation but when they see the manner in which courts function, they start questioning it. It’s good to be disillusioned and it is even better to change the initial perception about different career paths. We are raised as kids to believe in an ideal world with all those moral science lessons. That is not so, and it is a personal choice to jump into a profession despite its cons. Whether to mend a broken system or learn to deal with it or just shrug it off and walk away – these are the questions that could be answered by one’s experience at internships. And there is no right choice about it, it is only a matter of choosing what you would be most satisfied and content with. There is always scope to change the initial choices that one makes, so feel free to explore and experience as much as possible. There is no set path to follow.
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