My Tryst With Law School and How it Changed Me Not Wholly or in Full Measure, but very Substantially

By Zubin Dash

Some time back, CLATapult asked me to pen down something for its website, regarding CLAT, or my experience at law-school.

At first, I felt a sense of accomplishment in that he thought of my experience worthy of being shared with others. Later though, I must confess, I was at a loss for words.

A loss not because there was nothing to write, but because CLAT and the ‘law-school experience’ are not something one can put down concisely in a single post.

A fair warning, therefore, is in order, that in no way do I claim to be the final word on what ‘the law school experience’ is like. I’ve heard of autobiographical books written by other National Law University (‘NLU’) alumni, and perhaps they would capture a more complete idea of what this experience is.

So if you’re one of those aspirants who’ve qualified for an NLU, and are seeking some sort of direction, one post, or one alumnus can never be indicative enough, and as the law often mandates, corroborate from a number of sources.

Through this post, instead of going on an autobiographical rant, I’ve written a little about the subject itself, and what this law-school ‘experience’ has been for me, all of which is essentially drawn from my own interaction with people and this subject in my little time at NUJS.

There are two aspects to this, one from the point of view of the institution itself, and second, from the point of view of the students. 

From the point of view of the students, law school presents a battery of challenges in the form of the rigorous curriculum as mentioned earlier, yet at the same time, it equips students for life. The fact that one is given readings on a daily basis, which seems a tedious task, develops higher comprehension skills, faster reading ability, since law as a career requires perusing through hundreds of judgments, quickly grasping new legal concepts and applying the same to their work.

Students are also exposed to many modern legal research techniques by being given access to some of the best legal databases in the world and well-stocked libraries.

Thus, don’t be fooled by appearances, on seeing students who walk their hallowed hostel halls in their boxers and flip flops, partying till late in the night, and owing a large part of their grade to Red Bull fueled nights.

The modern law student is one who can handle high-pressure situations and learns to work with deadlines without falling short of expected standards.

In a nutshell, the concept of law school has successfully dispelled the earlier misconception of law students being those who have failed to get into the IITs, medicine or DU, and have, as a last resort turned to law. In fact over the past two decades or so, this field has been attracting an increasing number of the brightest minds of our country.

I was lost for the major part of my first year, trying to choose the best option from the plethora of activities available to a law student.

But with time, one manages to find one’s way, one learns the meaning of one’s first moot court victory, or even the sheer pleasure of advancing arguments in a mock court, or parliamentary debate. For in those few minutes, the stage is yours, your views have to be heard, and you are quite literally speaking, at the centre of the limelight.

I remember during my first moot court, a lot of what I learnt during research, I could directly apply to the subjects I was studying. I was now thinking critically, and perhaps the most unique aspect of a moot court is that it requires a student to look at the same issue from both sides.

Often when making arguments, one is required to find loopholes in one’s own arguments, and make better arguments for the other side.

At the same time the exposure one gets is unparalleled. In my first moot, our team got to face some of the best in the world from NYU, Russia and the UK, which made the victories against most of them all the more special. Similarly, this year when NLS won Jessup (read: World Cup of Moot Court competitions), it wasn’t Bangalore that won the competition, but India.

Testimony to this fact was the rare congregation of law students over blogs and social networking sites, putting aside their ‘NLU sibling rivalries’, albeit only for a short moment, and celebrating such an achievement.

Such is the nature of law-school, that the lines between extra-curricular and curricular get blurred, they complement and supplement each other, many of these skills, be it advocacy, or even research are ones that are required in the legal field for all of one’s life. For those who enjoy having their minds engaged, law school caters to their needs to the fullest.

And it doesn’t stop at moot courts or debates, culture is an integral aspect of law-school as well.

Music, dance and stand-up events happen through the year, and such events bring with them students from other law schools and such events are generally looked forward to by all.

A batch-mate of mine is perhaps one of the best jazz dancers I’ve seen (while there are two others who make me question as to whether this freedom to dance should be applicable to all).

The same goes for sports. I’m no sportsperson, but I can safely tell you that some of the best athletes in the country study law.

The numbers that people turn up in at events like Invicta and Spiritus, which are some of the largest university level sports competitions only go to speak for themselves. If sports for you doesn’t go beyond FIFA, and you enjoy playing Counter Strike or DOTA, all night LAN matches between hostel floors might sound like something you’d be interested in.

Law school, as you can see, has a place for anyone, and everyone. The theme that I’m trying to underscore here, is that opportunities are aplenty, and I am to a large extent grateful, that my alma mater, like most other law schools, is largely free from narrow minded politics, and as long as one is willing to try, there is that one extra seat in the bandwagon.

 

Perhaps the most important characteristic of law school, in my opinion, is its effect on the individual. I have gained, in the form of experience, and more importantly, perspective. Had it not been for the national character of law schools, I would never have come to interact with people from different parts of the country, never would I have realized the stark differences in culture and language.

For someone, who for the better part of my childhood has lived in Delhi, I wouldn’t go so far as saying that it was a near exotic experience meeting South Indians not knowing a word of Hindi, but such an experience was indeed strange.

And yet, today here I am, and some of my best friends in college happen to be people from Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kerala.

My palate too, is more diverse. Dosas and Idlis are no longer foreign, and in fact, are part of my staple diet now. Law school, I would say in its own special way contributes to a holistic form of character development. I find myself in the company of a lot of like-minded people, and many of the friendships I’ve made I’m sure are ones that would last a lifetime.

The subject of law by nature is one that has to do intrinsically with people, and if used effectively, is an immensely strong tool for social change.

I doubt any other field provides as much of an opportunity as law does, in studying and understanding different aspects of human behavior, be it public or private.

It goes deep into the mind of society and the human beings that constitute it, by adopting an inter-disciplinary approach by incorporating aspects of sociology, political science, the pure sciences and economics. It prescribes in a normative manner, an orderly society and ensure justice for all, in all spheres.

Law therefore, teaches, and at time forces, one to look at things differently. It instills a scientific temperament, a curiosity which makes one question, and not believe in things blindly. Logic and justice are not concepts which are exclusive, and law as a subject helps reconcile the two.

Media trials invariably force us to come to conclusions before the law has taken its course. To quote a personal experience, recently during an internship at the Trial Court, a friend of mine jokingly said to me how her ‘ethics’ would not allow her to associate with me since I was working for a criminal lawyer.

Two years ago, I would probably have agreed with her, but law school has changed that perception, and now I acknowledge that the accused have rights too, and often it is because of this skewed perception of the law that it becomes even more important to protect the rights of such persons, the marginalized, and the unfortunate.

The bottom-line of what I’m trying to say, however, is that it is only by studying law that one can understand the rationale behind why the law is substantively and procedurally so.

It is not because the IPC or the CrPC simply stipulate something, it is by conducting an investigative study of the jurisprudence behind it can one understand how and why a particular legal position has been arrived at.

Over the last few paragraphs, I’ve tried to tell you about how law itself is an interesting subject.

But what one should also not forget, is that studying the subject is an experience by itself. Law school is not a consolatory experience if engineering, medicine or the Ivy Leagues didn’t work out, it’s a field where you should hold your head high for being the crème de la crème of the aspirants who have made it to these esteemed legal institutions.

Life is tough for most, including myself, when one comes to college. Be it the pressure of staying away from home, or even the coursework. But two years on, I’m glad I came here. I have been able to take some of the most important decisions of my life, which I couldn’t have earlier imagined taking without consulting others.

I have become more independent, and I have been able to hold my own, and take rational decisions (?). While I still have a good three years to go in law-school, I’m certain that the essence of what I have said would remain with me. When asked if I could redo the last two years of my life, barring a few things having nothing to do with law school, I would have it no other way.

Zubin is a 3rd year law student at NUJS.

 

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