Scared of Criticism

Tanuj Kalia

I got another email from a law student asking me to remove the internship experience he had shared on this website. The law firm had asked him to do so. Why? Because among the 400 good words he had written about the firm, there were 50 not so good words.

This has happened earlier too. Law firms guard the reputations to the hilt, and rightly so. Reputation, like any other good thing in this world, is hard to gain and easy to lose.

However, being unable to take review & criticism in the right spirit are signs of a malaise. Individuals, societies and professions, scared of criticism, won’t go too far ahead. When you do not have people telling you what’s wrong and all that you want to hear is what fuels your ego, progress becomes impossible.

I might be talking of an ideal here. After all, being open and accepting to critique is an ideal.

The said law firms however go further. They say, “We can’t stand what this intern has written. Take the post down”.

The take it down part is a threat to the intern. It also is a vicious attack on the freedom of speech. And well, when the attack comes from the supposed guardian, it disgusts me.

This attitude won’t change unless the legal industry becomes comfortable with fair criticism. And fortunately, things are changing.

Websites like Legally India too have some stories which do not go well with law firms. Earlier, the law firms used to howl in protest; now, they still howl, but it has mellowed down.

Slowly, the legal industry will get used to fair reviews and fair criticisms. It should be a very healthy thing for the profession and will lead to a change in mindset. A mindset which is open to critique and has the ability to laugh at itself.

Some law students have even been threatened. “This won’t be good for your career”. My reply to the law student always is, “They won’t be able to do much. And if such is the attitude of an employer, better not deal with them in any capacity.”

The argument from the law firms is: “This is the experience of one person. We (generally) provide for better internships”.

Experiences/reviews, of course, are subjective. Someone likes the kebabs, someone finds them too spicy, for some they were bland.

Reviews/experiences are subjective, but multiple subjective reviews become indicative, “This restaurant is good; that is bad and that one fabulous” and of course “This is the place to intern; do not intern at that place”.

Also, dear law firms, how you treat one, is (generally) how you treat all.

So well, dear Lawctopus’ readers, do share your internship experiences here.

You are slowly changing your profession for good!

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Comments Till Now

  1. Protik Prokash Banerji says:

    Vivek wrote: ” than wagging tongues and grape-wine. Dudes & Dudetes, get your jurisdiction right! You are law students.
    As for Lawctopus. Guys! Com’on! We all have a reputation to guard! Its the right forum for the right thoughts that matter. However, don’t get me wrong. It does help to get some juice of an internship. But lets restrict it to that. Not grapewine.”

    1. What does he mean by “grapewine”? Does he mean grapevine? How can you stop something spreading through the grapevine? Why should you? Grapevine and gossip are not the same. During times of repression and official media censorship (such as the Emergency that we had in India) grapevine and BBC were all that we had. Vivek might be too young to remember those days. Most of us in this generation are not.

    2. Right forum for right thoughts? I can understand “right forum” as a continuation of the thought of “jurisdiction”. However what are ‘right thoughts’ ? Who gave you or me or Vivek the right to decide what the right thoughts are? Is this not the start of censorship?

    Guys and girls, I have no problem at all with any law firm or lawyer or how they treat their interns. I am also known to be a very difficult person to work with and so I really do not blame another lawyer (whether independent professional or an associate or a partner) when he or she behaves like a tyrant, because ultimately the efficacy of the behaviour is judged by what the intern learns or how disciplined the intern becomes. The principle that what happens in chambers must stay in chambers also militates against a kiss and tell internship. If this is encouraged then very soon lawyers and law firms will stop taking interns because they will be worried about their image and what would happen if an intern completes the internship and then goes to town about the inner workings of the firm or the chambers.

    Yet, and this is an important yet, if you cannot tell people about what you went through, then are you not living in a police state? If you cannot tell people what you feel or felt, are you not under the yoke of the same tyranny that our libertarian democracy is opposed to?
    I think that here too a balance is to be maintained. A balance between disclosure and discretion. We cannot expect young interns to work this balance out the very first time. I think this is where the editorial pen comes into play.
    In other words, let there be as many internship experiences as possible – but let it be the editorial pen which decides what is published.

    • administrator says:

      Protik Da, Thank you for the support and for the fabulous insights.

      The editorial ‘sieve’ we apply is two-folds:

      1. No advertorial content (unrestrained gushing praise for the firm is common in such internship experiences) is put.

      2. Nothing defamatory, especially content which target specific personalities, is published.

      Also, we approve most of the comments which come for a post. A ‘bad’ internship might receive ‘good’ comments. A ‘good’ internship might receive ‘bad’ comments. This is yet another ‘balancing’ mechanism.

      Also, an ‘X’ intern might rate internship at ABC as ‘bad’ while a ‘Y’ intern might rate internship at the same firm as ‘good’. We have no problems in publishing multiple internship experiences of the same firm.

      What internship experiences provide prospective interns with is a subjective yardstick to decide whether that internship will be good for them or not. This, we feel, is important. A month well spent by some law student, and we’d have done our job.

      Cheers,

  2. A sincere advise to all those students of law who would like to spell their beans love and anger and flex their unsolicited freedom of speech. You always have the Human Resource Department or such other partner(s) of the Law Firm, where you may conveniently drop prompt mails, which I am sure are more helpful and useful than wagging tongues and grape-wine. Dudes & Dudetes, get your jurisdiction right! You are law students.
    As for Lawctopus. Guys! Com’on! We all have a reputation to guard! Its the right forum for the right thoughts that matter. However, don’t get me wrong. It does help to get some juice of an internship. But lets restrict it to that. Not grapewine.

    • administrator says:

      Hi Vivek,

      A few questions:

      1. How many law firms do have an HR department?

      2. In how much time do HR departments reply to internship applications?

      3. Do HR departments facilitate applying/getting internships? Or is getting an internship always a pain?

      Also, the ‘my internship’ section is not wagging tongues. These are write-ups; written subjectively, but honestly; just like a movie/restaurant review.

      And the right forum to share internship experiences is here 🙂

  3. chhaya Bhardwaj says:

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