Your name, University, Year of study
Maitreya Ghorpade, Hidayatullah National Law University, 5th Year
Name and Location of organisation
Alternative Law Forum (ALF) on Infantry Road, Bangalore. The office is conveniently located less than a kilometre away from the Karnataka High Court and can be found quite easily even by individuals not belonging to Bangalore. (The pinpoint location is available on Google Maps).
Type of Organisation
One of the most crucial aspects that people must realise is that ALF is unlike the vast majority of organisations that law students will intern under during their law school life. Having personally interned at law offices involved in all the levels of the judiciary as well as Think Tanks and NGOs, I can safely say that ALF does not prescribe to most of the norms of procedure.
There is no strict hierarchy, neither is there a culture of ‘Sir and Ma’am’. In fact, I was routinely mocked for my formal emails, a hang up of my previous internships.
The associates at ALF at jovial, fun loving individuals, who are allowed to work on matters of their own choice, and such are not delegated by a ‘senior’. In fact, this ideology of independent work pervades nearly all aspects of ALF’s functioning.
Application process with contact details
The application procedure requires interested individuals to send in their details at [email protected] around 3 months prior to the date of the desired internship.
ALF’s website (altlawforum.org) prescribes a format for application by listing certain essentials (name, university, etc) that are to be filled and sent to the the aforementioned email id.
Based on my own experience, I have found that individuals whose application emails contain Statements of Purpose which are coextensive with ALF’s mission have a higher probability of getting accepted.
There also has to be a certain level of dogged determination in following up on an application once sent as the Associates at ALF are incredibly busy and cannot always respond to every mail.
Thus, personal correspondence may also be made with the Internship coordinator, who at the time of my application, was Mr. Mohammed Afeef ([email protected]), who is undoubtedly one of the nicest people I have ever encountered.
Duration of internship and timing
ALF typically encourages a minimum of 4 weeks internship, thus my internship extended from 2nd July to 28th July, 2018. I can safely say that 4 weeks was not enough and as the days of my internships flew by before I realised.
The timings, much like most things at ALF, are self imposed. While you are, at the bare minimum, expected to be present when the office opens at 9:30 am and stay till 5:30 pm.
However, in keeping with the spirit of ALF, nobody will force you to stay or chide you for leaving early. It is entirely upto the internee to take as much or as little work as s/he deems fit.
First impressions, first day formalities
In complete honesty, I was a little underwhelmed when I first reached ALF’s Infantry road office. The office isn’t quite like the legal chambers and corporate offices I was used to in my previous internships, and in fact, is a residential property that has been turned into an office.
However, contrary to such premises dissuading me from being furthered to work, I seemlessly began feeling at home as my internship progressed, thereby more comfortable and productive.
I was greeted by incredibly warm associates, with whom I ended up developing a great comfort and ability to converse freely.
My fellow co-interns, belonging to some of the most prestigious private law universities in India, and I, got along rather quickly and a spirit of camaraderie came to us naturally. It felt like every single person at ALF emitted this warmth from within, something I had never seen in 4 years of various internships.
Office and Infrastructure
As previously stated, the office was not the fanciest or most posh one I had seen. However, it had a homely charm to it that made waking up for office every day seem a little less dreary.
The office is essentially a bungalow of two floors, with the ground floor making up the office space while the first floor provides the kitchen as well as an open area which is used as the dining area, as well as doubles up as a meeting space for the variety of organisations with which ALF liaises.
The ground floor is replete with a variety of books and magazines in every social issue imaginable. There are also numerous posters, pictures, and pieces of graphic arts that are hung around the office, such adding to the unmistakable ALF charm.
The office also houses to mind-numbingly adorable cats, who voluntarily plonk themselves on your laps and make you fall in love with them.
ALF provides all interns with lunch which is had at the first floor. These community lunches are incredible opportunities to interact with associates and interns that you have otherwise not had the chance to talk to.
Main tasks and responsibilities
As previously stated, ALF will provide you with as much work as you are willing to undertake.
My main responsibilities were researching on the numerous issues that ALF deals with, ranging from Dalit activism, women’s rights, transgender rights, Freedom of Speech, etc. to name a few.
I was also tasked with drafting divorce and domestic violence petitions for the Pro Bono legal aid provided by ALF to distressed women in need of help.
In addition, ALF undertakes a whole host of activities such as organising panel discussions, assisting in organising activities such as the Namma Pride parade and book launches, as well as protests in situations when the circumstances demand so.
Therefore, I sought to include myself in all these activities and was provided with exposure and experience therefrom.
The work environment is anything but static. Things constantly seem to be happening at ALF. There is always some case being filed or argued, or some matter which will require research, or some event that will require organisation.
In addition, the associates are young, vibrant social activists, who are as fun to be around as they are dedicated and driven. Furthermore, given that ALF takes interns who are more or less inclined towards the same kind of work and associate themselves to a similar ideology of public service, it is very easy to establish an effective relationship.
Moreover, the individuals and organisations that ALF associates themselves with is fascinating to say the least. I have been privileged to listen to various stalwarts such as Colin Gonsalves and Ashish Kothari solely because ALF provided me the opportunity to do so.
I also got to attend Namma Pride parade meetings as well as other initiatives that have found a home at ALF, such as something called Critical Cities Circle, a discussion group that meets every few months, etc.
It’s incredibly difficult for me to pinpoint what I would consider a highlight for me during my time at ALF, since the entire month felt like a highlight of my law school internships.
If I had to choose, I would undoubtedly say the people that I interacted with, be it my fellow interns, my associates, the lawyers that ALF liaises with, the street workers and labourers ALF seeks to defend, the members of the LGBTQIA+ community that ALF associates with, and Diego the cat, the light that brightens up ALF.
I can say with no uncertainty that the quantum, as well as the quality of work I undertook at ALF was previously unparalleled in any internship. I worked on issues that were not only close to my heart, but of monumental social importance.
Doing the kind of work that ALF seeks to do, will not only fill you with a sense of accomplishment, but also a sense of altruism, a quality that I feel doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
In all honesty, it’s tough for me to narrow down on the drawbacks of the internship. If I had to, I would say that ALF is perhaps too easy going with its interns at times, and some students need to be parented a little more in order to make sure they work.
However, since that is not in keeping with the spirit of ALF, it is understandable that they do not stand with a carrot and a stick, trying to whip its interns into action. Therefore, the biggest objective drawback would have to be that the kitchen smells a little weird owing to the cat food laid out.
ALF does not provide any stipend but does give a book to all interns who have successfully completed their internship.
The most important aspect of ALF for an individual like myself, unsure of whether to commit to a life of public service, was to show how fulfilling and meaningful such a life can be.
Being able to interact with such bright and brilliant individuals not only furthered my own understanding of the intersectionality of law and society but also furthered my interest in developing an aptitude for public service.
I can safely say that ALF fundamentally altered the way I perceive my own calling in life, and for that I am eternally indebted.
Read more internship experiences at ALF (all of them are amazing!)