Modern Day Untouchability: How Law Firms Treat the Students of Non-Elite Law Schools

I came across the blog written by a student from CNLU on the reality of placements in NLUs and I thought how I’d shed some light on how the law firms (most of them) treat their interns/future employees.

Getting In

I think I have more luck climbing Mount Everest twice without oxygen then getting my CV noticed by any of the Top Tier Law Firms. The months of June and July (which are an off for almost all law schools) are when most law students apply for an internship. This is what happens:

I apply, I follow up. I try every trick in the book. The fact that I am from one the top-ten colleges in India (read non-NLU, read the great Outlook rating), the fact that I am one of the batch toppers and the fact that I have some additional knowledge in my interest area does not seem to interest the HRs.

Then my fellow batch-mate’s (who has never come to college, I doubt if he ever made a CV) uncle’s uncle who knows some partner in some law firm makes a phone call and there he has my dream internship.

For one, I’ve always seen them discriminate CVs. I have never understood what do the law firms look for in the CV.

If you need experience, how do I get that when you won’t give me the chance to intern?

According to me, chasing HRs is actually pointless. They’d rather choose a top tier college student with a back paper then choose a batch topper of another law school.

I don’t entirely blame them either because I am sure anyone would fine this preliminary screening easier than going through 100s of CVs a day.

A lot of people I know from my college try applying on merit and the firm which rejects them first suddenly has place to take them if they manage to find a ‘reference’. That’s saying a lot about merit.

Once you are in

Assuming you’ve made it somehow (jugaad or otherwise), this is what happens (based on personal experience).

Many firms have an internal policy of not paying stipend to those who have come with ‘reference’. That’s great except that I worked two times harder than the ‘bright minds’ they picked and I got nothing out of it.

Again some would say this is a one off case but I would say that first they won’t choose my CV and if they suddenly choose it because of my reference then they won’t pay me for the work I do.

The first question that any associate asks you at the law firms is your college. I doubt if anyone has ever asked me my name. But yes once they know your law school they pretty much decide the work you will get.

This one firm where I had worked had an associate who called the interns room and specifically asked for any student from NLS. The least you can do is keep the discrimination discreet.

Getting noticed is another issue. Given that there are at least 10 students in any of the Top-Tier Law Firms at one time; getting yourself noticed is a challenge.

One has to struggle to get work, let alone quality work. Given the limited work available one has to ensure that one’s task is done to perfection. There is no room for mistake. One error and the rest of the summer has you sitting in the corner of the AC room doing nothing.

Lastly, if you intern in months when you believe there is less rush and you believe that you would get noticed (final year, final semester or even the second half of the fourth year), you’ll realise that the placement for the year has closed already given that recruiters now offer jobs to students in their pre-final and not final year.

how law firms treat law students from non prestigious law schools in india

Post the Internship

Searching for a call back/ interview is always a distant dream. It takes months for firms to revert and I’ve rarely heard of interviews being given at the end of the first internship itself unless and until one really managed to get noticed by the right people.

A 4 week internship rarely guarantees anything.

If we pick up the recruitment done by firms then how many jobs were offered to the students who had previously interned with the firm?

So the recruiters can blindly put their money on someone whose quality of work they do not know off then in a student who is willing to work and prove his merit but all he wants is an interview at the end of the process.

The worst is finding out the difference in pay packages which vary if you were taken on campus, taken off campus but on an interview obtained yourself and taken on reference.

A friend of mine who recently became an associate at one of the leading law firms confirmed that the amount paid to him in the training period was different from his colleague who got the offer on campus (this is specific to this firm as I unaware of the policy followed by the others).

So basically, we may somehow find a job and we would still not be paid the ‘fancy package’.

Send us your blog posts/write-ups at [email protected]

Read More

Comment Using Facebook

Comments Till Now

  1. It is strange that the editors of the website seem more interested in approving the comments on the grammatical errors rather than appreciating the efforts of the author in bringing out the reality.
    Furthermore, for once everyone should acknowledge that this sort of discrimination does take place rather than mocking the attempt made on trivial grounds.

    Mr. Legal Malpractitioner has agreed to the same himself. If such is the outlook of the associates in the firm then how are the students in other law schools expected to learn? Why not just introduce a policy in public and refusing them internship opportunities.

  2. Rohit Jain says:

    Not meaning to be rude but I guess a probable reason for your CV not making it on its own might be that you failed to appreciate the correct usage of ‘then’ and ‘than’ there too.

  3. Legal Malpractitioner says:

    Is there discrimination? Yes. Being the alumnus of an institution that is sure to be ranked somewhere around 300 if there is a complete all India ranking, I’ve bore it for close to 6-7 years. To this extent that I used to answer every query regarding my college during internship period with the statement “I’m from an obscure law college in Kerala that you probably haven’t heard and doesn’t care about”.

    Is that discrimination incorrect? I really don’t know.

    After bearing a lot of student interns from such obscure colleges as a supervisor after getting a job, I personally started picking the ones from the top 10 schools. I agree that the practice is objectionable, but given an option, I’d choose someone who can get the job done far better than even me. Maybe there are ugly ducklings in those B Grade law schools like mine, but why should I, as an employer or a supervisor take a chance?

    I’ve never had one single case of any intern from the top three N schools disappointing me with respect to work. They sometimes bunk or remain absent for days but one hour of their work is enough to compensate for a days absence. Even during the student days, I remember one female co-intern from NUJS who kept bunking office the entire week and appear suddenly to slog for just a day to produce better outputs than what I probably researched for a whole week. So, as an employer what would you choose? Social service or getting the work done better?

  4. This kid cries about law firms not reverting to him/her. I can’t help wondering whether the number of typos in his/her drafting has something to do with the lack of responses! Just look at the way “then” has been substituted for “than” at two places in this article! There are many other examples. The sense of entitlement of the kids these days shocks me!

  5. Well, even if you want to work as a junior in a Senior Advocate’s chamber, you have to come with a reference, atleast here in Bombay HC! Connections seem to work.

  6. There is no denying the truth……….I got a rejection from a A-tier firm saying they only take fial year students…….from the random and last -minute jugaad: Congratulations!!!!!111 I’m in…….

    Needless to say, didn’t want to particularly go for this internship…Soon enough, I won a moot and bagged an internship with a better firm……I’m telling you, it feels even better to be calling up the former firm and rejecting their offer. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

  7. Gaurav Seth says:

    Words of wisdom for Students seeking Internship:
    It is better not to go for top tier law firms. It is okay if you don’t belong to top ranked law colleges. Top law firms don’t treat you well either. If you intend to polish your drafting and thinking skills, go for a mid size small firm. The crux of the matter is that I learned more while working in a Mid size law firm than I got to learn at Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan or Mangaldas. In fact what I learned in a small firm is helping me to earn my bread & butter today. My classmates work in the top law firms and as per them matters are more or less the same in mid size and giant law firms. The only difference is the financial value. So cheer up. Delhi & Mumbai are no longer Litigation/Corporate hub of new India. The firms coming for your placement actually sees how consistently you worked for a single law firm. It is good to have a taste of numerous law firms but at the same time you must show some amount of stability.

    And at last but not the least I know some people from “not so popular law colleges” (not mentioning name for obvious reasons) who have secured internship in Hot shot law firms only by virtue of caliber and not contacts. So cheer up you can succeed as well.

  8. Deepak Joshi says:

    Akanksha. Missed the ‘k’ in the earlier response. :p

  9. Deepak Joshi says:

    Couldn’t agree more with what you’ve written, Akansha. I have been trying hard to get internship in firms and even under advocates but they tend to ignore ‘merit’ocracy and favor ‘uncle’ocracy. This is despite me having an additional qualification (and a valuable one too, I am lead to believe) in my area of interest and being from a reputed law college in Delhi! But I guess it is always the harder way for those from non-elite law school and with no ‘references’. I went to an advocate who is well known amongst the big tax consultancy firms for internship. The first question his assistant asks is “what is your reference?”! Needless to say I did not bag that internship. And yes, during my first internship in a corporate law firm the senior associate asked about my college before asking about me (you are correct on this).

    I would say that your own efforts matter in the end. At least this is how I have got my elusive internship in a respected law firm (Oh yes, without reference) 😉

Or Comment Here Anonymously

*

X