Harsh N. Gokhale, is passing out of Faculty of Law (Law Centre 1) Delhi, this year and would be joining DSK Legal in Mumbai. He is a first generation lawyer. He has a master’s degree in Social Work from TISS and some work experience in Bangladesh HIV/ AIDS programme. He soon intends to write a weekly account of his travels and travails as his journey in the field of law unfolds. Connect with him on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smart people learn from other’s mistakes, the ordinary ones learn from their own. The smartest of course never make any mistakes because, you know, silver lining etc. and because everything teaches something. Quite frankly, in my three years at Faculty of Law at Law Centre 1 (Delhi) I’ve managed to learn in all three ways but I’ve also managed, albeit sometimes but habitually, to transgress into the paradigm where the stupidest exist: making the mistake and not learning from it.
My actual dedication to law began in the second year of my three-year course. I’ve done/ attempted several things before I came into law and even when I was entering law, it was simply an excuse to do something else. But that is a story for another day, another blog. For now, let us assume that you want to become lawyers or be in the judicial system and this post is about what I did in law school and what I could have done better.
There is quite a clamour about deciding which kind of law practice one would want. I had already decided upon litigation but maybe the things are arranged differently for you. You may require money at the end of the 5 years/ three years period; you may want to live the high-flying life or have any other desire (which only you would know). If you know it chase it, yet keep the other doors slightly open. Experience every kind of work available- litigation at district courts, high courts, supreme court, in-house-counsel work, corporate law firm, different high courts- all of this in different combinations such as with chamber lawyer or litigation law firm, judges’ chamber etc. Just know your reality and accept it and make your decisions. In any of the cases just make sure that you are giving your best so much so that the place wants to hire you when you get out of law school. Security of options when getting out of law school is a luxury very few have. The field of law will accommodate everybody only the entry point is a bottleneck.
My first foray into experiencing law was at the office of a very kind lawyer who was then a consultant to the MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests) and because of my master’s degree in the relevant field, she agreed to keep me as a research assistant for three months. It paid handsomely and I will forever be indebted to her. Nevertheless, the elementary idea is that you find your core competency whether you liked it or not, and find a lawyer in that field to work it. For instance, if you are from a commerce background, find a lawyer who is working
For instance, if you are from a commerce background, find a lawyer who is working in the same stream, because quite frankly you’ll be useless in terms of law to him or her so might as well make yourself useful in another way. In my case, I was from the human development sector and I found it natural to join Ms. Shomona Khanna because the work was steeped in the same conceptual idea but just anchored in the legal world. This of course applies more readily to three year law school students because there is a graduation degree on their resume before law school and hence the competency (however inept you are). For those from the 5 year law courses your choice would depend on your ‘stream’ of study in class 12 or an avid area of interest which you’ve explored. A lot of people are suggested to take up NGO work at the first go but I’d suggest otherwise, because unless you’ve seen that culture before you’d be adrift. Intern in the legal department of a scientific research company if you are from the sciences, in a financial institution if from a commerce background…. you get the drift. The trick is in synergizing.
In my first internship/ research job I was so lucky I ended up working on matters of forests rights, prisoners’ rights and went to the Supreme Court often with her. This is also, I am sure, counter-intuitive to a lot of you but I’ll stand by and reason with you why it’s the best way. If you see our course work, we are tempered in abstract and lofty concepts of constitutional law, contract law, IPR, jurisprudence etc. They are not concerned with nuts and bolts of the judicial system and rightly or wrongly, it is the circumstance, and hence might as well synergize your internship with that learning. It will aid you in your next step as you will be introduced to other aspects of law practice which you might want to engage with next- filing, legal research etc. It could be anything. At this stage keep your mind open.
My second internship was with a senior advocate where I made my mark by the time the internship ended. I directly assisted Sr. Advocate Parag Tripathi after he took notice of me in one particular Constitutional Law matter. Neither did I plan this nor did I desire it but just be true to your interests and providence will take care of everything else. Since I always enjoyed Constitutional Law it just happened to come together. A dear friend calls it the power of manifestation. At this stage the learning from the previous internship came in handy: legal research, speed reading, making single page notes with proper formatting which the ‘boss’ can read in one go. That is after all the job of a junior. Just know that not many designated seniors do original side work and thus do not expect the improbable; in the words of another friend ‘know your horses for the courses’.
My third internship was with a young duo that did a lot of trial court work and it was where I learnt nuts and bolts of original side work, client handling, drafting etc. Advocates Prerna Arora and Vaidant Chaddha were more buddies than bosses by the end of the internship.
As one can notice I was climbing down the proverbial judicial ladder- research based Supreme Court work, senior’s chamber, trial court and high court work. All of this was based in Delhi as I am based here and so is my law school.
My final internship was based in Mumbai at DSK Legal which is going to be my first port of call for work. The internship was good because I made sure it was good and while this is counter-intuitive as well, I have my reasons to move to Mumbai, even if for a bit. I think it is largely because I just want to experiment because Delhi will be here whenever I want to return but once I begin in Delhi there would be no reason to move to another High Court.
For those who are starting out and even for those who are starting out late, I think there are only a few things which need to be inculcated and do not need any talent at all. Quite frankly I wish I had these:
- Being on time
- Ready to listen
- Being prepared
- Ready to seek answers
I do not know what and where I will be with this career choice but since the only thing I know is how to make the best of it, I wouldn’t be badly placed. I now understand some of the words which people around me had uttered which make sense now and some of which stand out:
‘Relax, the law is not rocket science.’
‘Read as much non-law literature as you can, it will keep you sane’
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