I was sitting with my friend Piyush, over tea, discussing our college lives. He suddenly questioned me about my university’s annual fee. The number was an absolute shocker for him. “What do they even teach you in law school? How can they charge such atrocious amounts?” he asked. His question left me startled.
Rishi is an engineer and graduated from a National Institute of Technology that boasts of world-class infrastructure and amenities. However, his college fee was less than a quarter of what I paid. This might not be the case with some of the traditional government law colleges, but I think it’s fair to say that most law schools charge very high fees. Per year fee in a law school could easily run into INR 2-4 lakhs.
This made me wonder. What is it that differentiates law schools from all the other universities that make them equipped to charge us so much?
Our college life is all about experiences. We learn and evolve during the years we spend there. We enter college merely as a fresher, right out of school and leave as an adult, ready to take on the challenges thrown our way!
Come to think of it, life in law school is a bit distinct from rest of the colleges. A usual day in law school involves lectures, hours of reading judgments in the library and innumerable activities which are organized by various societies in the college. During the summer or winter breaks, a majority of law students intern to get hands-on industry experience.
Most law schools have cut-throat competition in every aspect of the campus life. It starts with exams and ends with student politics. Students want more and more points to write on their CV. They write papers, articles, blogs and what not to make their CV look better than others. In the course of 5 years, aspiring lawyers are absolutely focussed on building their careers.
Somewhere in between trying to crack into mooting teams and landing an internship at a recognizable law firm, some law students turn into formidable budding lawyers. Many of them don’t though, so it is not like the law schools have the formula to do this with every person they admit.
Most importantly, this is the biggest difference between the law schools that charge big fees and those who charge negligible fees. Most of the low fee colleges do not have moot court halls, their libraries don’t have good books, they do not send teams to moot court competitions, there are no fancy societies and clubs, and may not even have a college fest or the budget to organize one. The experience, in that case, is definitely not as good.
5 years of your law school! That is half-a-decade of opportunities, activities that eventually lead to lifelong experiences; and you wouldn’t want to miss out on them. When I first joined law school, parliamentary debating was a relatively new concept. The first three years, we hardly had 10 to 15 teams participating in the intra-college rounds. However, by the time I became the convenor of the debating society at my college, we had nearly 60 teams registering for the event.
Was this because of the experience and skills they learnt? There were students from the final year who participated in the event for the first time. As per them, they enjoyed the whole experience and regretted not participating earlier. Not just this, these experiences are extremely important to build your resume. If you were a recruiter, would you prefer a candidate who came with a wide range of experience in activities and accomplishments over someone who doesn’t?
Our experiences shape us. When you are put through pressure cooker environments your nerve becomes stronger, work ethics is built up, ambitions are fueled, confidences are conjured out of thin air where there used to be none. In some cases, bad experiences lead to loss of confidence, depression and even addiction. Life in college can make or break you.
However, here is the good news. You can choose to have the experiences you want no matter which college you go to. I am going to share with you some of the most enriching experiences you must seek out as a law student.
Here are 5 absolute must have experiences that you should seek out if you are a law student:
1. Research Paper Publications
Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO of iPleaders, and coincidentally my current boss, told me about his experience with writing research papers. He said that research papers have helped him shape who he is today.
When Ramanuj was in his first year, he was suddenly bombarded with an instruction of submitting 5 research papers of 5000 words each by his university. When he started writing, he could barely manage to submit those articles. He struggled and mostly sat with a blank word document on his screen.
Cut to his 3rd year – he could write an entire paper within a few hours. He began writing the research papers a night before the submission deadline, and successfully managed to write it. By the time he reached his final year, he was equipped to take 3 different tasks from 3 different associates and work at a stretch for 14 hours without feeling exhausted.
That’s the impact research papers have on you. You get accustomed to intense research work and drafting which is a great skill to hone. Any legal profession ranging from litigation to judiciary involves researching and drafting.
While you are researching on a particular area of law, you are bound to garner knowledge. Due to his own experience at writing research papers, he realized that he could incorporate the same habit in many others through the courses his company builds. He realized the value of it and made it a part of compulsory assignments. The results ever since then have been beyond amazing.
One of our students, who dropped out of his first job and had difficulty in finding another approached us to help him. Ramanuj suggested him to continuously write 2 articles per day for the rest of the month. He followed it religiously for a week.
13 articles down the line, he appeared for an interview. By the time he gave the interview, he had already researched on 13 topics. Impressed with his hands on knowledge of the law, he landed the job. When I called him to congratulate, he said, “I had 13 in-depth topics to talk about. Each one of them impressed them on a different level.”
Looking at how writing research articles were turning into success stories, Ramanuj decided to launch a dream job boot camp where everyone was required to write articles with full attention and rigor. The results have been phenomenal. With 100% success rate, it is the biggest proof of what wonders research paper writing can do.
Writing research papers is the key tactics to hone research and writing skills. They are demonstrative of your potential to read, analyze and interpret various laws. It is an exercise of finding the relevant information and quoting it to substantiate your analysis.
As a future lawyer, writing research papers mean you are perfecting an art that you will require for the rest of your life.
Legal internships are where knowledge meets practice for law students. The scope and area of law is unfathomable; you have a lot of options to choose from. Right from litigation to NGOs, corporates, real estate, sports, media, fashion – law and law experts are needed everywhere. A greater challenge is how would one recognize which is the field tailor-made for an individual.
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you might remember the snorting hat. It determines which house a student at Hogwarts belongs to. Internships are like snorting hats. You try them on, and they will tell you whether you belong to there or not.
The legal profession is full of everyday challenges. One needs to find adequate solutions to each one of them, upholding the integrity of the law. Practice and learning are what internships provide.
Apart from providing a direction, an internship also helps you specialize and shape your career. If you have already figured out the practice or firm you want to get into, you can continuously intern at the same place or same industry and prove your mettle in that specific field. It helps you understand the practical application of the law.
Internships act as a major resume builder and are introducers of professionalism. However, getting an internship at a good law firm or converting them in pre-placement offers has become a major challenge for law students these days. It takes proper method to crack a good internship and perform well in it. However, if the art once learnt can lead to a much successful career in the end.
3. Moot Courts
Mooting is one of the most stimulating exercises one can take in a law school. I spoke to Mohona to figure out how mooting helped her. She said, “I still remember how badly I performed at my first national moot. There was excessive performance pressure. I let pent up anxiety lead to immense stress and a complete blackout while standing at the podium to present my arguments.”
Mooting teaches you how to be prepared for any challenge in life. Typically, a single moot takes about a month and a half to prepare. You start your preparation by reading the case, distinguishing between the relevant and irrelevant facts, preparing a memo. The brainstorming, research, preparation of full-proof arguments takes a lot of effort.
It teaches you how to push through the limitations and look for solutions. Your ultimate aim is to present your case in an articulate manner. Imagine preparing for a month and a half, and then having just 10 minutes to deliver all of it. You need to up your game and be best at what you do.
This helps you later in life in ways you cannot imagine. Let’s take a real-life instance. A couple of weeks ago, Mohona got a sudden call from her friend Vidya (name changed) informing her that she had been arrested by the police on false grounds. This was at around 7 in the evening. She had to represent Vidya in front of Judicial Magistrate within the next two hours in order to avoid judicial custody.
In spite of a lot of pressure, next to no knowledge about trial court procedures, an uncooperative police officer and a lot a stress, she had a job to do. She managed to prevent Vidya from judicial custody in spite of the limitations and the stress. She credits her mooting experience for it.
Anyone who moots tends to have a focus driven approach towards problem-solving having the ultimate goal in mind. This is where you learn how to strategize and get work done.
A moot is won on strategy, research, team spirit and to a great extent on articulate arguments. For perfecting the art of mooting, you need to start speaking with your seniors, people who have won previous moots, watch moot videos of best tournaments in the world like William C Vis Vienna, Jessup, Stetson, etc. You could read up the interviews and blogs on mooting.
4. Online Courses
A lot of law students dream of getting a job in the topmost law firm of the country or the best MNC. However, most of them are not able to land their dream job. The major reason for this is that most of the firms prefer hiring individuals who come with certain experience or specialized knowledge in the area of law they want to work in.
This is primarily because there is a huge difference between theoretical knowledge and practical application of the law. Most firms and companies identify this gap as a major challenge. Nobody wants to invest in training fresh graduates when there is an availability of experienced individuals.
An online course is an effective way to bridge the gap between the two. A good online course provides practical and theoretical knowledge about a specific area you want to work in. Imagine the impact that you might create in an interview where you can give them practical insights in spite of being a fresher.
The legal industry is currently going through a competitive phase. Where everyone is trying to bag a good legal role in the best companies and firms, an online course will set you apart. It will make you ready for the greater challenges in your career.
You can take up any course in the field you want to make your career in and then work hard to make it big. Always remember, a CV reflecting dedication is always preferred over a CV full of awards.
5. Parliamentary Debate
Parliamentary Debates are certainly a fun activity. While most of the students who are into academics believe that parliamentary debate is just another extra-curricular activity which will do nothing great for the CV or the career, I strongly disagree. In fact, debates where my favorite part in law school.
To start with, if you have ever noticed, debaters are a breed of individuals who catch everyone’s attention. Parliamentary debating gives wings to not just imagination but the power of logical argumentation – a key skill a lawyer should possess.
Parliamentary debating is about the thrill of being impromptu and creating logical arguments, simultaneously. Imagine appearing before a Judicial Magistrate because your friend has landed into trouble. You have no time to prepare or look for sections. All you can do is speak on factual matrix involved in a case, a parliamentary debate will prepare you for such situations. It is about integrating oratory skills with intellect, a skill not found in many.
I have been asked in a couple of interviews about my debating experience and how it can prove beneficial for their organization. I’d once told a recruiter, “in case of an emergency, I will always have a solution for you. Parliamentary debating has taught me that.”
This is the magic of debating. You cannot understand the thrill of parliamentary debating until you face and defeat teams one by one, by rigorous argumentation. You are just given a prep-time of 20 minutes to prepare speeches for 21 minutes. This is such a mentally stimulating exercise that makes your brain ready for most challenges in a short span of time.
Apart from all of this, even things like MUNs, Mock trials, Negotiation and Mediation Competitions, Mock Arbitration, Client Counselling Competitions, even Sports and Music Fests like Strawberry Fields, Virudhika etc., are few exercises that you should participate in. You never know, what clicks with you and make it a passion for you.
Even after my law school got over, I jump at every opportunity to be a core-adjudicator in a debate competition. It makes me happy. And it’s not just about that alone, these activities will also boost your CV and display your capabilities, potentials, and talents, without having to spell them out separately.
I reiterate law school is not just education. It is an experience.
Have fun, while you are there!