Initial years of legal practice in India can be extremely challenging – finding the right genre of practice area, establishing a strong clientele, finding excitement in everyday rigmarole, and most importantly being financially independent from the word ‘go’. The advocating community in the country always finds many, if not all, of these tasks very challenging.
If you are not one of the prodigies who started independent practice right out of law school and then excelled at it, you know what I mean. Talking from personal experience, being average at everything sometimes lands you in a soup where you have no edge over anyone, and nothing to show but mediocrity at many trades with excellence at none.
This mediocrity can lead to a lot of problems in the long run and hamper growth in this ever- so-bustling profession. In this extremely competitive era, where expertise and experience is the key to success, can you imagine what could happen if you are a jack of all trades and master of none?
Come to think of it, there are so many conflicts that can internally restrict a common litigation aspirant from trying hard to break free and conquer the profession. How many such experts you can think of who have made tremendous differences in the very start of their careers?
These issues are not unique to anyone. It is about how can one take them and what can he do to overcome them. Having dealt with most of these issues myself, I thought it would be appropriate to write and apprise others about what to do differently in order to keep ordinariness from pulling you down.
What Can You Do To Stand Out?
If you visit any court in the country, you will witness that there is an abundance of black and white clad men and women. It almost feels like one more entry, and you might just suffocate! With so many seniors and fresh entrants, it can be a daunting start for any new lawyer to gather the confidence and find the prolonged patience to stick around and be on the grind every day.
From looking at faces that are on the TV every day, to witnessing the argumentative prowess within the courtrooms, the overpowering environment in the courts can sometimes be discouraging for any new entrant in the profession.
“Where do I stand amongst these big names? How will I ever be able to carve a place for myself? Is 20 years the minimum time one needs to be a renowned name in the industry?”
These are some of the few questions that cross every law graduate who is lagging a little behind others for whatever reasons. However, let me assure you, none of these answers are in negative. Sure, it might seem a little difficult in the beginning but there is always a way out.
In the article titled How To Survive In Litigation As A Fresher? Aditya wrote broadly about what one should do in order to survive in litigation as a fresh law graduate right out of college. He wrote about a very interesting story of his friend, who was asked to appear in front of Customs Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT) with just one brief on the very second day of work. What would you have done, had you been in her shoes?
If you are entering litigation, you need to be on your toes from day one. Before you get into it, speak to your seniors for insights before your joining date, read up on what’s the latest development in law, read up about the law firm or the lawyer whom you are joining, take up an online course if needed, figure out what is required of you as a fresher and ensure that you are mentally prepared for any challenge thrown your way. After all, the one who succeeds is the one who stands out.
How To Find Your Niche?
The increasing competition is a huge barrier to establish yourself in the legal practice. Once you enter the profession it is extremely confusing to figure out what can get your practice going. For most people, the obvious first choice starts with either criminal or general civil litigation. It is possible that a few months into practice one may encounter various problems. Every area of law has its own scope and benefits. Realizing the limitations of each may take years.
With the recent boom in people choosing legal education, it makes it all the more important to figure out where interests and abilities coincide. The five important years of law school are a great and long opportunity to experiment and find one’s direction. Many fields in law are quickly emerging and demand serious attention and practice.
Taxation Laws, Investment Laws, Commercial litigation, Alternative Dispute Resolutions, Debt Recovery, are just some of the many emerging sectors within the legal field. You learn more about the practical aspects of these subjects here.
In my opinion, to start early during law school is the foolproof way of exploring and eventually finding your niche. Internships are the first and foremost opportunity every law student gets to gain first hand real world experience. Five years bring many opportunities to do diverse internships and to make the most of them is crucial.
Long term prospects of the legal profession differ vastly in different fields, and networking, discussions, internships and online courses are some very important way in trying to figure out your niche area of practice.
Don’t Worry About Money; Work On Enhancing Your Profile
Money in first few years of litigation can be tough to make but that should never be the discouraging factor for new litigators. Litigation throws many challenges at you and money is just one of those.
Restricting yourself in just one area of practice is often one of the first mistakes. It becomes problematic for many young lawyers to attract the kind of cases they are looking for and to do groundbreaking work. Isn’t it obvious that the more places you are in, the more possibilities you will be surrounded by? Enhancing your work expertize comes with intense hard work but is equally important and rewarding, especially for early practitioners.
There were times during my practicing days where I could not understand a single word being argued by the lawyers. Reason? Because it didn’t belong to my area of work. You never want to be in the situation same as me. Your area of work is law, and the more you know about the different laws in this country (and others), the better.
During my college years, unique electives and specifically tailored courses which combined different schools such as Business, Technology, etc. were a great way to learn beyond the general law.
However, not all law schools in India offer such tailor-made courses and that turns out to be a disadvantage for many law students. For any of you who are willing to overcome this speed-bump and go beyond the usual text books, you can have a look at this online course to enhance your knowledge and skills.
Don’t you think the more you know about a subject, the more you wish to talk and impress others with your knowledge? The huge diversity in the legal profession is a great thing and it brings me to the next exercise which litigators can do to set themselves apart.
Overcome The Networking Fright
Law is a profession that, as all would agree, works mostly on the networking. Being good at conversations is one thing but legal networking requires a specific set of skills to be effective. If you are in the profession for long, you would realize that this networking is best done by someone else for them.
This holds true for first generation lawyers with no network as compared to second or third generation lawyers who may have it easier in the legal profession. Most first generation lawyers always feel that advocates with a family background in law are lucky to have an already established reputation and clientele passed down to them.
A lawyer must constantly increase the resources at their disposal to cultivate different skill sets. Those who have actively participated in debating, mooting and public speaking in college find it much easier to network than others. Convincing speech is the most important attribute of any lawyer and not being good at it can prove fatal for a budding law career.
In the courts, I often found myself vulnerable of not being able to rightly put my point across. This in turn acted as a strong reason for me to be motivated and increase my efforts to do better. I spoke at length with various seniors in the field, enrolled in online courses to have clearer understanding of specific concepts.
Will Just Law School Education Suffice?
No! Law, unlike most other professions, is competition. You fight and defeat others in your profession in order to move ahead. But what better are you going to do than your competition if all you studied in law school was the same curriculum as everyone? This is why law schools are always brimming with intellectually stimulating co-curricular activities.
We have all read and instantly ignored emails from various legal societies in our college. Ever realised that they are a great way to start practical learning right from within your institute? Legal societies generally operate around vast subjects that often go ignored in the curriculum but have massive practical implications. Similarly, conferences and seminars yield good benefits and help in both – networking and deeper understanding of the subject in discussion.
You can only be different than your contemporaries if you indulge in activities that are uncommon. Along with all the things discussed here, the potential of online studying cannot be emphasised enough. In today’s time online tools are a great way of acquiring valuable knowledge in any area, and the legal field is no different. Some of the celebrated legal online courses can be accessed here.
I wish you goodluck in your journey to becoming a great advocate.