Editor’s Note – This interview was first published on May 5, 2017.
Interview by Aryan Babele, our campus leader from RGNUL, Patiala.
This is an interview of Harendar Neel Choudhary, currently an Associate in Banking and Finance Team in J. Sagar Associates, Gurgaon.
Having studied Banking Law in his under-graduation at the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala and Corporate Finance Law in his post-graduation at the University of Oxford, He developed an interest in the area of Banking and Finance Law in India.
Within the first few years at law school, he had, during various internships, worked briefly in the field of Banking and Finance. Banking and finance law has been his core strength due to his extensive studies and research in this field.
1. Give us a brief overview of your life in law school in India.
RGNUL for me was a temple of learning and a place of opportunities. My time at RGNUL was fulfilling and demanding as it offered a vibrant and amazing student crowd. Academics was always was my priority.
At the same time, my learning was not limited to the classrooms of RGNUL. I participated in moots that enlarged my frame of learning and interned with an NGO, Senior Advocate and reputed law firms in India. I was actively involved in sports and other extracurricular activities at the university.
I was also an avid volleyball fan and had the opportunity of being a part of the gaming team at National Law University, Bhopal as well. I loved my time at RGNUL, largely because of the friends I made, and because of that is where I am today.
I must admit that my law school did not challenge me academically and professionally despite being taught by some exceptional teachers. Indian law schools lack teaching methodology and content. Even when opportunities did not come my way naturally, I found myself seeking them and making the most of what was available.
2. According to you, what are those things which helped you in getting admission in BCL, University of Oxford?
Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) as a Masters Law programme attracted me because of its unparalleled reputation, global reach and the range of subjects available. I picked the Oxford because I wanted to pursue a general LL.M. with a focus on corporate finance law, arbitration, competition law, negotiation and mediation.
It requires great amount of dedication and hard work in drafting the applications and Statement of Purpose (SOP) for applying to Masters in Law. The academic standard is significantly higher and only those with outstanding first law degrees are admitted for BCL at the University of Oxford.
My academics helped me the most in getting an admission to the most rigorous Masters in Law across the world. I have been awarded four gold medals in RGNUL including the University Medal, Pavani Satyanarayanamma Medal for Excellence, RGNUL Medal for Excellence in Business Specialization, Surana & Surana Medal of Excellence for Academic Excellence.
My academics did matter for admission to the most prestigious law course across the world, but it was not enough on its own. An excellent curriculum vitae which portrays an all-round personality matters a great deal.
As admission to BCL is cutthroat competitive nowadays, research papers, publications, moots can make a significant difference to your curriculum vitae. I co-authored a book titled “Playing with Regionalism” with my classmate Jatin Garg which seemed to give me an edge over the equally well-deserving applications.
A clear, brief and credible SOP is another key element of the procedure stating what exactly you seek from Oxford and what you will do with it once you graduate.
Also, Letters of Recommendation from Professor (Dr.) Paramjit S. Jaswal (Vice-Chancellor, RGNUL), Professor (Dr.) G.I.S. Sandhu (Registrar RGUUL) and Dr. Anand Pawar (Professor of Law, RGNUL) helped me immensely.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Ms. Pratishtha Verma (Batch of 2010, RGNUL) who continuously helped and guided me with my application process. It is quite a journey from not wanting to do law, to ending up with a Masters from the University of Oxford.
3. Is an LLM necessary for a career in law?
One’s horizon of knowledge and ability to analyse the things will always be broadened by an LLM. It provides you with a great opportunity to specialise – whether in arbitration law, corporate law or something else entirely.
If you are interested in an undeveloped legal specialization, you will find a Masters to be very beneficial. If someone is interested teaching and research about law, then he definitely needs an LLM. Moving forward, in order to keep a pace with the transnational legal atmosphere I believe that international global exposure is a must.
If an LLM is done from institutions having an unparalleled reputation like Oxford, it means you could a job anywhere in the world as it gives you international exposure, and then move anywhere to make use of it. The high-quality coursework and practical education experiences gives an individual a phenomenon learning platform.
A multicultural community set up of any foreign university would not only cater to the development of legal acumen but also give a chance to socialize with colleagues from a range of jurisdictions and background helping in collaborative learning and teamwork.
4. What kinds of internship did you engage in as a student of law which you think are valuable?
Practical experience is as important as the theoretical experience. I think it is very important for a law student to complete a hierarchy of courts in India to have a basic understanding of how the legal system operates in India.
My first legal internship was in the District Courts of Jaipur where I read and researched upon matters of criminal law and land acquisition disputes. Subsequently, I did my internships in Rajasthan High Court and with Senior Advocates/Hon’ble Judge of Supreme Court.
Further, in order to gain corporate experience in the intricacies involved in the legal field, I interned in some of the most distinguished firms in the country such as Bharucha & Partners and JSA.
These corporate law firms gave me a chance to gain an insight into the knowledge and skill required for being a successful legal professional.
5. Which is the ideal time according to you for LLM: right after undergraduate studies or after practising for some years?
This is the toughest one to answer out of all as it completely depends on an individual. I think if a law student does an LLM after practising for some years, it makes more sense as he would have a better understanding of the specialised law in which he wants to pursue his career ahead.
But at the same time, if any legal professional is doing ligation and his practice is picking up, he can lose the momentum in the middle of a growing practice. As far as I am concerned, I got into Oxford when I was in my under-graduation. I did not want to lose this opportunity, therefore I went straight after I finished my law school in India.
6. How important are grades, in your opinion?
Grades are important but at the same time, you should have a balanced curriculum vitae. A law student should explore almost all the important aspects of the legal profession through academics, moots, research papers, seminars and other co-curricular activities.
For example, participation in various moot exposed a law student to the various facets of law and honed his research skills which can help him in both the litigation and corporate field.
Additionally, in today’s challenging legal field to have certificate courses in specialised fields from law schools will definitely give you an edge over other students.
7. Final message to all those 10,000-15,000 students which visit Lawctopus every day?
I am not in any worthy position to give a message to anyone at this time. However, I have been guided by the profound words of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam – ‘If four things are followed – having a great aim, acquiring knowledge, hard work, and perseverance – then anything can be achieved.’
You can’t achieve success without possessing any of these qualities. I have tried to be true to this principle by remaining focused in life and exploring all the opportunities that I have been offered in school and work and in life, in general.
There are immense possibilities for law students in the legal field whether be it litigation, corporate law firms or NGOs. People should go in the field that interests them. My advice would be to remain passionate about whatever you do in your life and do smart and hard work.