AlumniSpeak

Build Brand YOU: ICFAI Law School, Hyderabad

This post was submitted to Ergo by Gehna Banga, a 2016 graduate of the ICFAI Law School, Hyderabad. 

Hi! My name is Gehna Banga & I’m a 2016 ICFAI Law School, Hyderabad graduate. Firstly, thank you Tejas and team Ergo for giving me the opportunity to give everyone an insight into my law school experience. As per my understanding the focus of the magazine is to throw light upon what an enriching experience a law school can really be and ultimately help you become a unique person irrespective of whether you belong to the ‘N’ category or not! It is a general belief that anyone who is not from a NLU faces some form of discrimination at some point in time of their law school life and legal career.

I won’t deny the fact that I did not face discrimination for the sole reason that I did not belong to a NLU but as you will read further in my post, you will be amazed to know who really was carrying out the discriminatory behaviour.

My post will be structured in the following three parts;

  1. My Law School Experience,
  2. Did being a non NLU graduate student affect my law school life and legal career,
  3. My advice to those who are studying at a non NLU.

My Law School Experience

Let me first give you an insight to what kind of a place did I land myself at for not being smart enough to crack any other law school in this country! Oh yes, I did not crack into any law school. ICFAI had just started in 2010 and they were looking to take in anyone for their 2011 batch irrespective of their aptitude or attitude.

So here I came, all the way from Punjab, to be able to only know and understand why and how ‘communities’, ‘caste’, ‘religion’, ‘race’ and ‘sex’ was so manipulatively shaping our lives, futures and surroundings. I always thought I might face discrimination from fellow college mates for not being from a renowned college, instead, ICFAI constantly discriminated against me in classrooms, faculty chambers, hostels and on campus for not being a South Indian capable of speaking or understanding Telugu and for being a young ‘North Indian’ girl who wore provocative clothes to college!

Faculty!

I was lucky to have talented professors teaching us both management and law courses however, their talent somehow got lost in their petty politics, unrequired personal comments against students and their personal lives, traditional evaluation methods, no technology in the classrooms please attitude and ‘I am a faculty and you better behave as per my sometimes illogical controlling ways’.

Peers!

All my classmates had a strong and unique aptitude, however, this too somehow got lost in their petty politics, irrelevant sexual gossips and rumour milling (I don’t even know if milling is a word but as long as you all get the point), gossip mongering’s (not to forget how some of my juniors indulged in the same). My ambitions were mocked as arrogance and hard-working attitude treated with displeasure. On the contrary, there were and still are in my college some gems who are consciously working hard to make a mark for themselves and I’m truly proud of them. I always aimed high, I never lost hope about what shape I could give my 5 years at law school and my legal career despite a lot of my classmates trying to make me feel like I wasn’t capable of achieving all that I had in my mind and sometimes even executing obnoxious behaviours that intended to hamper my success or cause me to lose my track. So much so that when I cracked Amarchand, Delhi as my first big law firm internship after completing my 3rd year, instead of appreciating where I went, people passed remarks such as ‘whether it is so easy to get into AMSS that someone like me could make it’.

Institutional Support!

Well, ICFAI believes in providing good buildings, greenery, air conditioners and nothing else really! They clearly don’t believe in the concept of ‘extra-curricular activities’, which by the way is one of the reasons why law graduates have an exceptional personality in comparison to other graduates. Even if a student sincerely wishes to take the college forward nationally by making a mark in mooting, debating etc. the college seems disinterested to aim high and let their students achieve their goals.  There is not much focus on research, journal writing, blogging and instead mugging up is preferred. The grading system is relative and therefore it only makes one complacent as they begin to realize that their grade can be the highest even if they don’t cross 30 out of 100 since they are competing with their fellow mates and no one else. The college conducted its first State Level Moot & Debate and National Level MUN in its 6th year of existence which also was a genuine effort by the college students and not much interest had ever been evinced by the institution as such before. They were reluctant to set up extra-curricular societies, research centres, journal societies and placement committees at the right time and conduct events. I was an avid mooter and I wanted to be the first team ever to make ICFAI proud at Jessup. However, my college was least interested in supporting students that wanted to pursue Tier 1 level moots. My team was adjudged 2nd runners up in my first moot and despite that the search for a researcher for my international moot (2ndmoot) became a political drama and so did my 3rd moot due to irresponsible behaviour showcased by my mooting faculty in charge in both cases. I was stopped from attending two of my competitions just a day before due to various unnecessary first time restrictions imposed on me. Not only did that waste my time and effort in preparing for the competitions but also Rs 10000 for my flight tickets. My college was not doing enough to get us the right internships at right places. It actually was disinterested and a similar behaviour reflected in our placements too. In simple words, ICFAI did not provide any institutional support to me to build a good CV. By the time I was in my penultimate year I had understood that the only time I could do well in an extra-curricular would be if it had nothing to do with my college, no dean/faculty or hostel permissions required.

I think it is fairly clear from the above narrative that if anybody really discriminated against me to begin with in the first place, it was my faculty, administration and the institution on the whole who believed that just because I was pursuing law from their institution which was not categorized as a NLU, my dad’s hard earned 11 lakhs paid in fees did not create an obligation on their part to give me the support that I needed to build my CV. I was discriminated by my own college for not being in a NLU and therefore rightfully demanding for their permission and support to be at places and be given the opportunity to grow.

I was discriminated by my own peers and faculty for not being smart enough to make it to three tier 1 law firms in India for 6 internships in total in a period of two years or to be able to win a few competitions where students from different NLUs participated too.

 

Did being a non NLU graduate student affect my law school life and legal career?

Being a non NLU graduate student did affect my law school life but not my legal career. I missed out on an opportunity to try my luck at participating in Tier 1 moots or debates or to be surrounded by the wittiest of minds during college life. However, not being a NLU student opened the door for many more unconventional opportunities than I would have pursued had I been at a NLU in the last five years.

I have grown up in a boarding school and being independent and managing to stay lonely for a time period as long as 5 years is my forte. However, the discrimination by my own people taught me how to push my limits and find my own way rather even when nothing seemed possible than follow the traditional route. I began exploring different practice areas, tried different strategies to get good internships, learnt how to connect with the right people, developed my own set of skills rather than relying on the ones taught to everyone, also tried my hand at starting my own venture and finally concluded my law school life with a book called “Run Your Fingers Through My Soul” available for sale on Amazon Kindle at the following link; (Also, anyone who wants a deeper insight into what my law school life was like can always read through this book!)

https://www.amazon.in/Run-Your-Fingers-Through-Soul-ebook/dp/B01BQTXWTE

Book Cover
The Book Cover

 

I don’t think I would have tried to start my own venture or write a book and publish it online or interned in practice areas such as energy or telecom law had I been studying at a NLU right now.

As far as my legal career is concerned, I made it to the dream firms for my internships. Once I did go there, I never faced any discrimination for not being from a recognized college. My work and attitude was always looked at more keenly and the college tag was not given a thought especially if I did perform well at my work tasks. Also, I did make a couple of friends from the NLUs and never did any of them ever make me feel that I was any less than them in calibre just because I did not have an ‘N’ tag to my qualifications attached.

My advice to those who are studying at a non NLU;

The most important thing that I learnt through this process of discrimination and am still learning every single day is;

“How to establish YOURSELF as a BRAND! Yes, a BRAND that doesn’t require a disclosure of my qualifications or an ‘N’ tag but just my name or existence to resonate through the Universe and the industry I plan to work in. I learnt how to make MYSELF a BRAND rather than rely on a brand to have myself recognized in the market.”

I would advise everyone who is not a NLU graduate student to look at your situation as an opportunity in hand! Sure, you’ll miss out on Tier 1 competitions but getting research papers published or winning drafting competitions that do not require you to learn a certain form of skill from your alumni (for example in case of moots) will not be out of your boundaries. They never were beyond mine and trust me, if I could win some drafting competitions or write papers, so can each of you. Use your situation to build a distinctive CV and a BRAND that does not require disclosures about your qualifications. Joining a NLU will give you opportunities that have been available to most students since their inception. They will not be anything out of the box. By not being from a NLU you actually have the opportunity to “disrupt” the existing law student market! Disruption is the reason why companies and billionaires are made or broken. Be a disruption, not a follower. Create your own path, eventually what you are working for will come to you by hook or crook!

I used my law school days to create MYSELF as a BRAND, you must do the same. Offer something different and urgently required through your profile, that’s how brands break into markets. Law School is just a sea, there is an ocean out there that requires you as a BRAND and not your college tag at a crucial point in time.

DISCLAIMER: The views represented above are that of thewriter alone and do not reflect the views of the magazine, Ergo. No legal liability or other responsibility is accepted by or on behalf of Ergo for any errors, omissions, or statements on this site, or any site to which these pages connect.  We accept no responsibility for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of reliance on such information.

The Journey – Part Five: GNLU

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 fifth in a series of posts titled, The Journey. 

Most of my publications came out of either projects that I made in law school or from the issues involved in the moots that I participated in (another reason to moot, Ha!). There is again no strait-jacketed formula about writing good articles that are worthy of a publications but noting a few things may help. First, topics on very recent contemporary and important changes/challenges are always appreciated. But the problem with these kinds of articles is that you may find very few authorities to support your arguments (if any) or analysis. So make sure that the analysis is bang on point and is convincing enough. Unlike moots, you don’t need to pick a side in a research paper. There is enough flexibility to point out the loopholes and benefits for everything.

Second, the scope of an article needs to be narrow enough to focus only on one problem. For example, an article on Article 21 and the right to life may not be a good topic because there is too much that one can say. You article will start sounding like a repetition of case laws. But an article on Article 21 and a right to privacy within the ambit of right to life is a burning contemporary topic and is narrow enough for a good research paper. Similarly, something about Article 15 and non-discrimination by private institutions could be a narrow topic.

Third, always try to contribute something additional by a research paper instead of just repeating what scholars have said. Even if it is just one small point of analysis or pointing out the inconsistencies in someone’s opinion or marking the contradictions among two authors. As law students there is really little that one can do by analysing something from scratch by oneself. There will not be enough authority or weight behind an analysis conducted by you if it is not backed by some other more important authority (unless it is an analysis that’s mind blowing and the product of a legal genius). But there is always scope to come up with creative solutions and suggestions, like taking off from where one scholar has stopped discussions.

Fourth, always structure your articles. It is important to know where you’re going with your article and to read it in a manner that the sections lead to a consistent and natural flow to your conclusions. There’s a trick to doing this, try typing the conclusion before you type your main article and the introduction at the very end (it may or may not work). Once you’re done with the body of the article, read the conclusion and the introduction again. If the two seem consistent with the body of the article and there is a logical flow, there is a good structure. Quite often one gets lost while writing the main body of the article so it is important to remember the initial idea behind the article.

Fifth, streamline your research. There is no point in reading loads of books and articles and cases but not being able to find out what point was mentioned in which book. Use a notebook, scribble the important points under each text or mention the authorities under each issue, either way is fine. I prefer using OneNote for all of this where I can divide tabs into issues or authorities and then have pages and subpages under each mentioning which authority says what. It makes it easier to then type out the research paper.

Sixth, enjoy writing. If articles aren’t your thing, start a blog. Write short posts about the recent legal developments. Or don’t write at all if that’s not what you like. Eventually it really isn’t worth the effort if you’re not enjoying the process. Same goes with moots, same goes with everything that you’ll do in law school, and maybe even in life.

DISCLAIMER: The views represented above are that of thewriter alone and do not reflect the views of the magazine, Ergo. No legal liability or other responsibility is accepted by or on behalf of Ergo for any errors, omissions, or statements on this site, or any site to which these pages connect.  We accept no responsibility for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of reliance on such information.

The Journey – Part Four: GNLU

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 fourth in a series of posts titled, The Journey. 

Before I begin, let me provide some perspective. Mooting is an activity that has been very close to my heart. I fell for it the moment I participated in my first intra-batch moot court and only grew up to continue participating in moots. But where did this so called ‘love for mooting’ take me? It led me to participate in 5 moots over the five years of law school (6, if you count the year I coached a University team). However, till date, I have never qualified beyond the elimination or preliminary rounds of a single Moot Court Competition, let alone winning a moot court competition. I can at most boast of a Best Speaker Award and an Honourable Mention for a Memorial. So if I were to answer a question, were all the days of preparation, missing out on chilling with friends, all the effort put in worth it? Would I do things any differently? The answer would still be a resounding yes. The only thing I would change is to participate in more moots if I could. That is how addictive and interesting mooting can get. Once you’ve caught a hang of it, it is really hard to let go.

However, it is not necessary for everyone to like mooting and to make it their religion. It is upto personal preferences and priorities. I know of people who scored really good ranks in intra-round moot courts, did really well at reputed moot competitions and then never continued again because they realised it was not something they enjoyed. Others, like yours truly, continued mooting with little rewards.  Beyond the compulsory internal moot rounds, if any, there is absolutely no reason for any law student to moot unless they are interested in it. There are research papers, additional courses, starting a blog, working on a random start-up and activities like sleeping, listening to music or reading books in the time that you would spend n working for a moot. As far as the pressure of having a good CV is concerned, there is no strait-jacketed rule that you must have XYZ number of moots to get yourself a job at ABC Firm. You can make up for the non-interest in moots by showing an equivalent or greater interest in a different activity.

It took us almost 8-9 classes to teach our juniors the basics of mooting and how to go about drafting a memorial. That is definitely beyond the scope of this write up and would be better handled by your institution. Quite honestly, there is not much that can be taught here. Nobody is born a good orator or a brilliant researcher. Sure, there are some who have an inherent charm and flair, but those aren’t enough skills for a moot. One only gets better at it by continuing to do it, learning from it and working on their shortcomings. A friend of mine was ranked in extremely low in the first intra batch moot that we had. But he never gave up and went on to win Speaker Mentions, Best Speaker Awards and represented the University at the World Rounds of Jessup. So teaching how to moot is an inappropriate approach. What I will try to convey here is my experiences while mooting, what I have learnt from it and why I continued doing it.

As far as experiences are concerned, I have made some very good friends while mooting in a team, have met some wonderful people at the moots that I went to, got a picture with Mr. Gary Born at an international moot, got to see a brilliant senior advocate in action as a judge and got to work on some very interesting problems. These experiences however have not always been pleasant. I have at times doubted my abilities, been very under-confident, felt beaten down and known the loss at a competition despite having done my best, even better than other teams that did qualify (as accepted by judges and opponents alike). All in all, I have managed to have more learning experiences at moots when compared to anything else in the university.

Why did I continue doing it? Because it taught me to keep challenging myself, to learn more and to try to do give an honest best attempt at the assignments that I chose. About what I learnt from it, I learnt about the contemporary changes in the legal field, recent controversial topics and some very interesting issues that arise for us lawyers. GNLU’s intra round moot court selection pattern has got a lot to do with whatever I learnt through mooting. We used to have two rounds of internal mooting to determine our ranks on the basis of which we were allotted national or international moots. So if I have done 5 moots in all, I have also participated in about 10 internal rounds of moots. In total therefore, I would have worked on about 10+5, i.e. 15 moot problems, all on different issues, ranging from contract laws, public international law, constitutional law, law of arbitration, IPR laws etc. In doing these moots I learnt much more than what I would have learnt from only attending classes. It has been exponential, the amount of brainstorming that was needed with friends to understand the nuances of a problem, the frustration of being thrown into an unknown legal subject and the satisfaction of having found a solution out of it. These were the reasons why I continued doing it. But most of all, it was because I found some wonderful people with me who were as interested and helped me all along the way with mooting.

Moots are often understood to be something which require good oratory skills and researchers are often played as the underdogs of a moot team. That is a notion that I have never understood. It is more important to have a good researcher than a good speaker because one can eventually hone their oratory skills. But researching is something that comes with a lot more experience, time and practice. The most crucial thing about research is to know the separation between relevant and irrelevant points. Often while researching it becomes difficult to find out if a particular case law will be of help and we end up collecting as much as we can. But it is extremely important to know that a moot court requires specific and relevant information. It is good to do background reading but a good researcher will always be able to make arguments that are on point. Some moots will contain an issue which will be in a much weaker position. It is then upto the researcher (this includes every member of the team) to find that one case-law or scholarly opinion that supports their stand. If not, then find a whole new perspective to the argument, to be seen in a more non-conventional manner. These are again skills that you learn as you continue mooting, like I said, nobody is born a good mooter – orator or researcher.

DISCLAIMER: The views represented above are that of the interviewee alone and do not reflect the views of the magazine, Ergo. No legal liability or other responsibility is accepted by or on behalf of Ergo for any errors, omissions, or statements on this site, or any site to which these pages connect.  We accept no responsibility for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of reliance on such information.

The Journey – Part Three: GNLU

his 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 whichsarkaari 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.

DISCLAIMER: The views represented above are that of the interviewee alone and do not reflect the views of the magazine, Ergo. No legal liability or other responsibility is accepted by or on behalf of Ergo for any errors, omissions, or statements on this site, or any site to which these pages connect.  We accept no responsibility for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of reliance on such information.

From Outer Space To Jeffrey Archer: JGLS

his 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 –

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).

DISCLAIMER: The views represented above are that of the author alone and do not reflect the views of the magazine, Ergo. No legal liability or other responsibility is accepted by or on behalf of Ergo for any errors, omissions, or statements on this site, or any site to which these pages connect.  We accept no responsibility for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of reliance on such information.

 

The Journey – Part Two: GNLU

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 second in a series of posts titled, The Journey. Catch Part One here: https://goo.gl/4Zicdd

This part of the series will deal with one of the most important activities that is expected out of law students, internships. When I came to GNLU, our internship division guided us to follow a prescribed internship format which went somewhat as follows:

First year – NGO/Trial Court

Second Year – Trial Court/District Court/PSU

Third Year – High Court/Supreme Court/Law Firm

Fourth Year – High Court/Supreme Court/Law Firm/Company

Fifth Year – High Court/Supreme Court/Law Firm/Company

I believe this was more for guidance, to give students an idea about a suitable nature of employment based on their year of study and their knowledge of law. But most of us ended up following it as a rule of thumb and in the process delayed the chance of interning at a place of our liking. To clarify, the chart set out above is helpful for a law student to gain experience and exposure to different kinds of working environments which vary in the kind of laws that they deal with. It helps inculcate interest by allowing them to be involved in the ground work. It helps break a lot of myths associated with any work. But if you have already made up your mind to follow a particular career path, it would be better to seek internships related to that field. Even then, one would be advised to explore as much as possible.

Two things that I want the readers to again note before they continue to read further. First, people will often tell you that by the third year of your law school life (in a five year integrated programme) you should have a clear idea of what you want to do. It is good if you do, but equally alright if you don’t. In fact, it is okay even if by the end of five years you have no idea about what you want to do. I know of people who are professionals working at an organisation who are still are experimenting with their interests and aren’t certain of what they want to do. The tryst for purpose and clarity is noble, one must strive for it, but there is no need to be bothered with a deadline to figure out what you want to do in life. Believe in the being able to pursue it whenever the time comes.

Second, just because you have enrolled in a law programme does not mean you have to be a lawyer. I am a firm believer of the fact that a degree in law offers the most flexibility in choosing career paths. You could be a law student and still take a shot at acting, film making, journalism, MBA, civil services, start-ups, etc. I know a very close friend of mine who assists in directing films (she is currently looking for a place to stay at in Mumbai which wouldn’t require her to sell her organs). Another friend of mine is going to pursue her passion in theatre. I knew of a person enrolled in an LLM programme who wanted to make career in music. Law can be an extremely demanding profession, it might not seem so in law school. It is better to put in the required effort in a profession of your liking than holding on to a legal profession just because you made the choice to go to a law school at the age of 17-18.

Now back to the internship scene, there is a preliminary step which needs to be crossed, the most difficult one before any of us get that desirable internship. This step involves sending out emails with curriculum vitae attached and then following up through more emails and phone calls. For NLUs with established internship divisions, the process becomes much easier. But otherwise, getting shortlisted for an internship or even an interview might seem like a tedious task. I belong to the category of privileged brats who didn’t have to work much towards securing an internship. Litigation internships are relatively easy to secure, and all the law firm internships happened through the internship division at the University. But I have seen quite a few people secure top notch internships by taking their CVs to the HR and being consistent with follow ups.

Any legal office, be it a firm or a company or the chambers of a senior advocate gets hundreds if not thousand emails for internship opportunities. It is the careful and crisp drafting of the cover letter and the CV that would make someone noticeable in the eyes of the employer. The cover letter needs to convey a short introduction about you, followed by important achievements and previous work experience, if any. When I say main achievements, there is no need to repeat the entire CV in the cover letter. For whatever it is, a CV needs to be short and crisp, no more than 250-300 words. If you have done academically well, stand in the top 10 or top 5% of your batch, mention that in the cover letter. Moot Court wins, best speaker awards. Honourable mentions, parliamentary debating achievements, important research publications, by all means, do mention it in the cover letter.

But what if one is still in the initial years of law school or even in the later years of law school and doesn’t really have any ‘achievements’ to show? In that case, mention the attempts. Mention participations in different events and try to show a genuine interest in the internship. The idea is to simply catch the HR’s (or the clerk or whoever the concerned recipient is) attention. Write a line or two about displaying team spirit, about a project that you’ve undertaken to show a genuine interest in the internship and sincerity in learning at the internship. You’ll get your chance at showing your skills at work and they might be better than a lot of people with better CVs. So learn to play at your strengths and accept your flaws with grace.

About the CV. It has to be short and crisp, definitely not more than 2-3 pages including all information about previous internships and work experiences. One needs to carefully cut down on the irrelevant information and include only those that would be helpful for the HR in making an assessment. For example, while applying for an internship at a law firm, there is hardly any need to mention an NGO internship if you have other company/litigation/law firm internships to count for. There is a standard format that most NLUs have for CVs. All in all, it should be divided as per the following heads – Academic performance, Areas of Interest, Work Experience (7 or 8 at max even if you’ve done 15 internships), Co-Curricular Activities (Moots, publications, seminars), Extra Co-Curricular Activities (no need for this section if you have enough to show for, put this in only if you’re an Indian Idol shortlist or a member of the under 19 cricket team :P), Positions of Responsibility (committee memberships, editorial boards, convener etc.) and References (not more than two, references for teachers should also work but try to subsequently get one reference from someone you have interned with).

The tenor of this blog post is getting a little serious, putting pressure on all of you to really sell yourself to your internship provider (I will refer to these law firms/companies/litigation chambers as ‘Annadaata’ from now on, for the sake of brevity). Often you will receive beautiful rejection emails, they wouldn’t even hurt to read at first, but they will reject you. Don’t bear a grudge against the Annadaata. As most of you will later realise the Annadaata itself has limited resources and cannot really accommodate everyone at internships. Also do not give up, do not get stressed. The beauty of this profession is that even in the worst case scenario (which isn’t really the worst case scenario in the long run) one can simply start at the trial court and who knows, become the next Ram Jethmalani (one must read his biography, I haven’t yet managed to finish it, but intend on doing so soon).

Speaking of trial courts, if you do secure the internship that you desire, what to do next? The answer to that question depends on what you want to achieve out of it.

In the first year NGO internships you’d rather want to chill around at the NGO internship. Do so you must, but at the same time try to get an insight into the groundwork because that’s what internships are for. If you want a call back with the Annadaata and are looking to impress to get a shot at being hired, give your 100 per cent. But at the same time be available to help in any manner possible, even for the most mundane work possible. The hierarchy of value at your internship will be somewhat like this – the partner/main guy, the senior people, the junior people, the clerks and peons, the watchman and finally the intern. And this hierarchy is only is only fair because some of these people, especially the clerks and peons, would be associated with the Annadaata’s office longer than an intern’s lifetime. So, be polite and humble, drop all sense of arrogance or self-importance and try to be of some use.

Quite often, you might be allotted tedious work, a difficult research proposition. You’d keep yourself at it and finally find a solution, satisfactorily making your way to your supervisor only to be told something entirely new/different or that the matter had been dismissed making your whole research redundant. In such cases, play a nice Beethoven tune in your head, imagine the silence of being at the Himalayas, murder someone in your head by feeding them to soldier ants, do whatever it takes to calm your senses, and then get back to work.

More about the Annadaata in Part Three!

DISCLAIMER: The views represented above are that of the interviewee alone and do not reflect the views of the magazine, Ergo. No legal liability or other responsibility is accepted by or on behalf of Ergo for any errors, omissions, or statements on this site, or any site to which these pages connect.  We accept no responsibility for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of reliance on such information.

The Journey – Part One: GNLU

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 J) 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 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.

DISCLAIMER: The views represented above are that of the interviewee alone and do not reflect the views of the magazine, Ergo. No legal liability or other responsibility is accepted by or on behalf of Ergo for any errors, omissions, or statements on this site, or any site to which these pages connect.  We accept no responsibility for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of reliance on such information.

Changing Cultures: NLSIU, Bangalore

This interview was conducted and transcribed for Ergo by Shivangi Bajpai, a first-year at NLU-Odisha, originally hailing from Jodhpur. She is a voracious reader, and writing poetry is one of her guilty pleasures.

Prof. Abhik Majumdar has gained his first degree in law from the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore. He followed this up with a thesis-track LLM from the National University of Singapore (NUS), where he conducted research in jurisprudence and legal theory. Prior to joining NUS, he was associated with several research bodies, NGOs, law firms, and has even worked with a music archive as legal officer for a project partnered with the Smithsonian Institution.
Currently, Mr Abhik Majumdar teaches Jurisprudence, Legal Methods and Statutory
Interpretation at the National Law University Odisha, Cuttack.

How did Law as a career option come up to you?

With a sigh full of –‘You are not going to like my answer’, Prof. Majumdar begins:
“One distant relative kind of blew into my dad’s knowledge the presence of NLS Bangalore. Consequently, I did all the formalities. We didn’t really have CLAT at that point, and after having done all the requisites, I managed to clear the entrance exam. It was basically incidental.  7 days later, my board results were out and they were so bad that I realised, I had no chance anywhere else (Chuckles).”

So, Law just kind of happened?

See, I will be honest. I was very confused at that point of time with the board mark sheet in one hand and the –“I–qualified-entrance–for-NLS” in the other. So, I chose the best out of the two. You see, this is the problem with the Indian education system. They make you take the hardest decisions about your life at the time when you have no experience with the outside world. It is completely counterproductive and contrary to all forms of reasoning and the worst part is when you are slotted as a Science student, an Arts student or a Commerce student, it is not easy for you to switch between these three slots. Abroad, it is very much possible. For example, I have had friends starting off with Physics and ending up with M.A in Psychology or Anthropology and the vice versa. Talking about the difference between Indian education system and he western education system is not permitted by time and weather. (We have pretty hot summers. Hot enough to make you averse to talking).

Were you excited about NLS?

NLS was not really renowned at that point of time. Things changed when we were in our first year and Arthur Andersen came and started showing us the money. And then, packages suddenly shot up.

How different is the student culture in NLS now and back in your day?

You see, it has been a while since I graduated but I would say that the student culture has definitely changed and not for the better because the people I interact with convey to me that the students have a tendency to take the faculty for granted. I don’t really know what the scene is, but I would say that back then things were quite rigid. There has to be a certain balance between flexibility, discretion and rigidity and this has to be done in an intelligent manner.

Back then, it was very rigid and things were hard and now things are very casual.  Speaking with experience, casualty to the limit of allowing plagiarism is a negative trend and speaking with experience, this is something which is very prevalent in the National Law Universities and I don’t really blame them, it is just the liberal attitude that has developed over time so much so that one of the students from the top tier NLUs who was interning in the most talked about Law Firm in India, plagiarised his research work. This is just one example and there are quite some instances of many such top tier colleges. What I am trying to say is that I get the impression that there is certain casualness which wasn’t there back in my days.

Do you think the course outline in NLS and the other Law Schools is any different?

You are forcing me to be disloyal to my alma mater (sniggers) See, things were mostly ad-hoc back then at NLS. We had certain teachers who would come to the class and open that bare act for the first time, in the classroom. We had several instances where teachers taught us stuff which had no guarantee of being correct. Now, I remember one person coming to class and saying something like, in Hindu marriages if the first wife consents to the contract of a second marriage then the polygamous marriage will not be illegal. We had our good share of brilliant teachers as well but in many core law subjects we did not have good teachers. NLUO, let’s say, in that respect is doing much better and this I am telling you by experience.  Given that I joined NLS in it’s seventh year of existence NLUO is in its seventh year, we are doing much better. See, we manage to pull ourselves better maybe because we learn from NLS’s experience and things like that or maybe because we were able to get our basics together in a much more efficient manner.

I will share an incident from my student days.

You know, we had no good faculty for tax law so they got us a resident faculty who was a chartered accountant and he was teaching us tax law. Traditionally, bare acts have ben allowed in Tax Law exams. So, we went into the exam hall with our bare acts and ten minutes into the paper and there is an announcement that bare acts are not allowed. So for the first time in the history of NLS, 70% of the students walked out of the exam centre and the professor was almost in tears as he didn’t expect this.  It is not his fault and it was not our fault. The point is what was the examination department doing? Right? They should have coordinated all these things and ultimately that was where the problem lay.

Let me say that there were many positive points but do not believe for a second that it was all smooth.

Do you think the trimester system is a positive point for the curriculum?

I think, for undergraduate studies, the semester system is better. After Prof. Madhava Menon started NUJS, he put up the semester system and since then it became a trend in many universities. The semester system gives us more opportunity to get indulged in co-curricular activities which becomes quite constrained in a trimester system.

Coming to NLUO, how different is the culture in NLUO and NLS?

We were more outgoing back then. I think this is one of the problems that need to be addressed, because we are a bit inward looking and there is a lot to be done and interact with other colleges as law is an inter disciplinary subject and we cannot study law in isolation.

What is that something that makes NLUO different?

Our foundations are laid very strongly. We have a lot of things going for us but we need to get our act together and a very solid concentration of facilities.

What are your regrets from Law School?

There are certain things that I didn’t do. For example, I was never a mooter.

What do you think about CLAT as a gauge for someone’s competence to study law?

I have a lot of problems with the idea of making students study tort law, contract law and other law concepts before admissions. How to gauge the competence of a student without making them study law subjects beforehand is something that needs to be worked upon and I don’t think they are going about it the right way.

Do you think the hierarchy that has been established between all the National Law universities is justified?

There are some NLUs whose market perception is fully disproportionate to their strengths. Okay, the top three law colleges have a lot of things to say for themselves but the gap between these universities and NLUO is by no means unbridgeable and it is entirely possible for us to get there.

NLS and NALSAR offer a very strong package of placements. Placement is another really sad thing; it shouldn’t have worked out this way.  See, once again it is about the reputation and brand value and a complicated story. I would say that ultimately, I am not sure how much difference is there between all the law schools. However, my belief is that the difference does not lie in the core attributes but what these universities have done with those core attributes. It is more of a question of orientation and my personal opinion is that the difference between tiers is largely the difference in orientation.

No doubt, NLS and the other top law schools have more exposure and that is where we lack and this is where students reap benefits in NLS and the like.

Also, coming back to the hierarchy system between NLUs, I would say that it is fine to have a difference but it is not fine to have a caste system. I would stop on that note.

What do you think about Ergo as an initiative?

As I said before, it is not right to have a class distinction between universities and any initiative to bridge this gap is always welcome. Funny that we don’t really think about it. I have also seen cases of students marrying students only from NLS or their own universities. What do you think, this suggests?

Thank you so much for you precious time and energy.

Always a pleasure.

DISCLAIMER: The views represented above are that of the interviewee alone and do not reflect the views of the magazine, Ergo. No legal liability or other responsibility is accepted by or on behalf of Ergo for any errors, omissions, or statements on this site, or any site to which these pages connect.  We accept no responsibility for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of reliance on such information.

Opportunities: CMR Law School, Bangalore

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.

First Part:

 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.

Part: 3 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.

DISCLAIMER: The views represented above are that of the author alone and do not reflect the views of the magazine, Ergo. No legal liability or other responsibility is accepted by or on behalf of Ergo for any errors, omissions, or statements on this site, or any site to which these pages connect.  We accept no responsibility for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of reliance on such information.

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