Interview by Varun Sharma
“Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was stabbed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman’s name out of a satire; then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to be a writer- and if so, why?
This ‘why’ is often hard to answer for students who, after getting a degree in law, opt for or want to opt for writing as a career. In this interview, we’ll be asking Apoorva Mandhani, who works with LiveLaw.in this very question.
In this interview, she talks about:
Her life at law school.
Choosing a career in Legal Journalism.
Pointers for students who want to take up writing after their Law schools.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hello everyone! My name is Apoorva Mandhani and I work as an Assistant Editor with LiveLaw.in. I graduated from Symbiosis Law School, Pune in 2017 and have taken up legal journalism and legal writing as a career.
I scribble poems sometimes too, and can usually be found with a book in my free time. I prefer fiction because it makes for a good escape and a great break from all the non-fiction that I write for a living. I’m currently reading ‘Midnight’s Children’ by Salman Rushdie (it was long overdue). Anybody who has read it is welcome for a discussion on it!
Since many of our readers are college-going young people, tell us something about your school/college life.
I think my school and college life wasn’t very different from any other student out there. However, it did take me some time to balance my social and work life. I began college with an A-type personality, feeling guilty about any leisure time.
However, over the years, I realised that I was missing out on a lot of quality time with my friends. I began taking conscious efforts to not compromise on either of the two and it helped me make some of my most treasured memories during those days.
As for extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, I did try my hand at mooting, writing as well as being a part of various college cells. I feel that more than taking these activities as mere credentials on their CVs, students must begin seeing them as character-building exercises.
You have chosen writing as your career option, which is unconventional for a law student. What persuaded to think that this is what you want to do? How has working as a writer been till now?
For me, it began as a financial necessity. I stumbled upon LiveLaw in my second year, on a lazy afternoon when I was applying for internships. It was just six months old then and the founders got back to me within two days. I wrote for them for about a week, and got a call from Mr. MA Rashid, asking me to intern with them over the vacations.
They offered to pay me a stipend, and I’ve always craved financial independence. So it was the natural choice for me.
However, it soon turned into a passion. I began writing for other publications too, in my free time, because I realised that every article helped me grow and articulate better.
I joined LiveLaw full time as an Assistant Editor last year, and it is astonishing how the role has so much to teach me.
Fun fact, a classmate who I hadn’t spoken to since 7th grade recently connected with me on Facebook and reminded me that during a class discussion back then, I had told my teacher that I wanted to become a “writer”. So, I guess, what has to happen finds a way?
Of course, it is not all sunshine. I have to finish my share of admin work or dry write-ups. Also, I work from home most times. This can turn out to be as enticing as it sounds, provided you formulate a rough routine for yourself and stick to it.
For instance, my ideal day starts at around 6:30 am, with a jog. It includes writing four to five reporting pieces, along with research for an analytical piece in the free time. I also like to squeeze in a novel in between write-ups.
That’s all the certainty that I can give to my day. Nevertheless, I believe that there’s something to learn from everything and that’s the beauty of it all.
Your advice/message for future law students who want to pursue writing as their career paths.
Unfortunately, legal writing as a career is at a very nascent stage in India right now. However, this is changing. A lot of law firms are gradually realising the importance of investing time and resources into their own blogs, having realised the necessity of the web in establishing them as thought leaders in the industry.
While there is no rule book for students who want to take it up as a career, here are some essential pointers:
Read. It is important to read seriously, for technique. Subscribe to The New Yorker, The Economist, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Don’t just skim through articles, notice the writing style when you read them. This would also help with your vocabulary. Of course, a good vocabulary isn’t about finding the most obscure word for your write-up, but about finding the most appropriate word that fits in.
Write. There’s no better teacher than experience. Make other people read it and try to work on the feedback that you receive. Polish your craft every single day, even if you write only one paragraph daily.
You could also send me your articles on [email protected] and I’d respond with feedback. I promise. 🙂
Polish skills before starting up. So I see a lot of legal websites coming up, with formats similar to Lawctopus or LiveLaw.
While it’s great that start-up culture is finally catching up with the legal community, a lot of these websites or blogs put out sub-par content. It is, therefore, necessary to polish your skills before taking up such a project.
Your primary motivation behind putting in efforts into a blog or a website should be to put out good content for your readers; this should be your driving force.
Be diligent. Proof-read everything at least twice before putting it out there, and make sure that your write-ups are free of grammatical and typographical errors. Download tools like ‘Grammarly’ to keep your write-ups error proof. More than anything else, this shows how careful you are with your art.
Which books, movies, and resources (courses/experiences/online tools) have informed or inspired you the most?
Honestly, I’m extremely impressionable and get inspired by anything and everything if I choose to look at it that way.
For instance, there have been episodes of Masterchef Australia that have sometimes made me hurtle towards the laptop with the passion to begin working on a project.
As for being informed, most of it, like I mentioned, has come from practice, and from my mentors, the founders of LiveLaw, Mr. MA Rashid and Mr. PV Dinesh.
They have always made it a point to guide me through the writing process, giving me personal attention at every stage. I’ve been extremely fortunate in this respect, and hence, would suggest all students look for such mentors who can help to shape them for the future.