By Abhishek Sudhir
Should law students be taught dining etiquette? How about wellness training? Should that be a part of their education as budding lawyers? What about endurance training? Do lawyers need a strong body to complement their able mind? Before answering these questions, let me tell you about the solider and the lawyer.
Operation Vijay, Justice for Nirbhaya
The soldier is a product of the National Defence Academy, which is situated in Khadakwasla, Pune. On May 5th 1999, he faced his greatest test as an army man.
On that fateful day, he was in command of the 3rd Battalion of the Punjab Regiment when Pakistani forces had crossed the Line of Control and intruded into the Batalik defended area in Kargil. 3 Punjab, under the able command of the soldier, helped repel the intruders in the much heralded “Operation Vijay”.
The lawyer is a product of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bangalore. He faced his biggest test as an advocate in December 2012, when he was appointed Special Public Prosecutor in the brutal Delhi gang-rape case.
He worked tirelessly for nine months without charging a single rupee in fees, examined 85 witnesses and played a central role in ensuring that the accused were convicted in a fair and open trial.
The judge in the case lauded the lawyer for ‘displaying the highest degree of professional standards and competence and efficaciously assisting the court in the trial. ‘In the aftermath of the crime’, said the lawyer, ‘I felt I owed a duty to society. I would surely not make money when discharging my duty to society’.
Different Paths, Similar Traits
The soldier is Colonel Vijay Bakshi, who is the Head of Department for the Personality Enhancement Program (PEP) at IFIM Institutions.
Through PEP, IFIM Law College hopes to produce individuals like the lawyer, who is Senior Advocate Dayan Krishnan.
The design of PEP is based on experiential learning and is the brainchild of Mr. Sanjay Padode, the driving force behind IFIM Law College.
In Sanjay Padode’s opinion, “all humans have a tendency of picking up fears and complexes as they traverse through their paths in life. Complexes and fears can become obstacles and constraints in an individual’s internal discovery process and sometimes make it impossible for one to discover oneself.”
“The best way to deal with complexes and fear is by taking them head on, experiencing the pain and realising that one can overcome. If one overcomes pain, the fear begins to subside; if one learns to deal with and manage the pain, then the fear completely disappears. Fear is nothing but the anticipation of adversity and the suffering caused by such adversity.”
Both Colonel Bakshi and Dayan Krishnan stared adversity in the face, the former on the battlefield and the latter in the courtroom.
Operation Vijay was the culmination for Colonel Bakshi of decades of regimented training, years of conditioning to overcome fear and deliver when his country needed him most.
Similarly, Mr. Krishnan, a self-made lawyer, went through years of toil and hard work to be ready when he was tasked with seeing that justice was done in a case that traumatized the nation.
“Through enduring pain one emerges to become fearless, thereby building confidence and a positive attitude’ says Sanjay Padode. Thus, he believes that it is important to develop the ability to endure adversities, and experience is all about learning through making mistakes as ‘failures are harbingers of adversity”.
With this in mind, PEP poses challenges to our students to enable them to face and overcome their fears and complexes.
Lifestyle and Life-Skills
Sanjay Padode’s mission is to nurture holistic, socially responsible and continuously employable professionals. At first this might sound like corporate-speak; but he believes that every professional has to have a strong physical, mental and emotional foundation.
According to him, the physical foundation consists of the body and the faculties endowed upon the individual at birth. The mental foundation is the mind; free of fear and complexes, and an emotional foundation is the self, which is devoid of insecurities.
For him, the development of a strong body with a positive frame of mind and a balanced emotional quotient will result in transforming our students into individuals who can be of service to the society at large, much like Colonel Bakshi and Mr. Krishnan are.
With this object in mind, PEP mandates that our students undertake tasks and activities which are normally ignored by India’s modern education system. The course is divided into two streams: lifestyle management and life-skills development, with tasks being categorized under the former or the latter.
The student is given various tasks under these two streams, and is provided training to undertake such tasks; students are constantly supported by the PEP faculty members during the tenure of the program. The student has no option but to complete the assigned tasks and activities in order to pass the course.
Some of these tasks are:
1. Long distance running
2. Gym training on a regular basis
3. Public speaking for 20 hours in a semester
4. Reviewing a book and presenting the same in front of an audience
5. Developing innovative ideas for solving real life problems
The completion of such tasks and activities is recorded in a personalised logbook maintained by the student and supervised by the faculty. The purpose of the logbook is to force the student to reflect on his/her performance and note the improvement.
These improvements are termed as small wins which in turn help the student realize that what looked impossible is possible. In cases where the student is unable to perform, the faculty and trainers work with the student and ensure that these small wins are attained.
With these wins come the self-belief, self-confidence and ability to deal with various challenging situations.
Understanding Social Obligations
Reflection upon the route to success is another important aspect of PEP; once the student has treaded the path to success, he or she will realize that the ability to endure failures is the key to success.
Furthermore, PEP aims to sensitise the student to the rationality behind rituals and etiquettes that have been developed by society over a period of time. The students are forced to think and form logical reasons for such rituals and formalities, thereby leading them to discover that such acts were never designed for the self but for peaceful and harmonious living with the society.
This helps them understand their social obligations, and we expect that with this realization they will be more comfortable in dealing with society and its diversity. The object here is to ensure that the students perform these tasks non-mechanically.
For example, law students will be taught how one is to enter the courtroom, address the judge, address fellow advocates, what colour socks to wear and how to dress (white shirt, black gown/coat, dark pants and starch band).
Students will also enjoy the privilege of being mentored by seasoned legal professionals who have attained success in their chosen field. This will help them understand the nuances of our legal system and the challenges our society faces in implementing and executing the prevalent laws.
Additionally, these mentors help the student draft their statement of purpose, and then map what their professional and personal ambitions are. Thus, this SOP will go a long way in helping the student choose their electives and also define their career objectives.
Expected PEP Outcomes
The ultimate goal of PEP is to ensure that IFIM Law College graduates will be continuously employable in the market. Being employable does not mean simply getting job offers or a lucrative pay package.
We want our students to add value to society throughout their professional careers. To be continuously employable, one has to be a continuous learner, a trait which is developed through PEP.
Above all else, the ethos of PEP is to mould our students into good, decent human beings. Still not convinced? What does being a good human being have to do with being a good lawyer?
Let me tell you the story of a young man who was looking to make a mark as a litigating lawyer in Delhi. He had always dreamt of arguing in court but circumstances beyond his control had meant he could not realise this dream.
In May of last year, he decided that he would try to forge a career in litigation. He tried to contact every top lawyer in Delhi by writing to them repeatedly- he was a well-qualified Barrister from England and felt that he did not need “contacts” to make it in Delhi.
Only one of the lawyers responded to him; it was Dayan Krishnan. Mr. Krishnan invited him to his office, helped him in every way possible and put him on to several of his protégés who would be open to helping him.
Mr. Krishnan was being a good human being. The young man is the author of this article. He never did get into litigation but decided to pursue a career in academia.
As Dean of IFIM Law College, it is my dream, with the guidance of Colonel Bakshi and Sanjay Padode, to produce hundreds of Dayan Krishnan’s through PEP. If I am successful, then I too will have added value to society and my country.