Interview of Srividhya Ragavan, Professor of Law and the Faculty Director of the Indian program at Texas A&M University School of Law and has been shortlisted for the VC position at NLUD.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I serve as a Professor of Law and as the Faculty Director of the Indian program at Texas A&M University School of Law, which is the largest university in the United States by a number of students. My work has focused on how international trade and intellectual property law policies that affect development in other parts of the world, especially India.
What interested you in law and how did the ‘arriving’ at this career option happen?
I like to think that I stumbled into academia in India and similarly, stumbled into the academia in the US. Having worked for top corporate houses in India including for the TATAs and Wipro, and with reputed law firms such as J. Sagar Associates, I have tremendously enjoyed being an academic and the fulfilment it offers.
In some ways, my education lends itself well to academia. I graduated from and have taught at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore and received an LL.M from King’s College, University of London and an SJD from George Washington University.
You completed your law from NLS in 1994. How was your overall experience?
NLSIU was an exceptional experience for us. We lived the vision of Dr Menon and as a senior academic, today, I can see the power of his vision and the privilege of getting the opportunity to live it and reshape my life using the tools that his vision provided. NLS truly reshaped each one of us into lawyers, professionals and socially conscious individuals.
I give credit to the then professors at NLS who helped us accumulate the skills to transform each one us into who we are now. The residential nature of the environment at NLS helped us gain legal education while also acquiring legal and life-skills such as appreciating diversity, compete while cultivating respect, cultivating mutual-respect, confidence, independence and hard-work.
Traversing the learning curve at NLS helped me ease into US academia despite being fresh-off-the-boat in Oklahoma.
Tell us about your LLM degree from King’s College.
King’s was a different experience in the sense of accumulating international experiences, friends and travelling. As far as education per se as concerned, I loved the ability to get into the next level of issues and questions presented in my choice area of law but I also enjoyed getting know students from various parts of the globe and being able to appreciate how their local realities and lives changes informs individual thought process.
You have worked both in law firms/companies and in academia? What are the pros and cons of working in both?
While each line of work presents a different set of exciting challenges, all of them present important and interesting avenues to grow and to indulge in exciting questions of legal significance. Client’s interest rightfully rule law firms which will translate into which partner you work with, the hours one puts in and so on.
I found and still find corporate legal world exciting and it is something that I sometimes miss. As a corporate lawyer, legal questions invariably take into account business priorities, real-world impact as well as impact over the different business of the company and so on.
The distinguishing feature of academia is the ability to delve exhaustively in areas of one’s own choice and passion.
You have a stellar experience in IP laws. What are the best books/resources/courses that you’d suggest to a young person who has just begun her/his career in IP laws?
I love IP Stories which is a compilation of stories behind landmark IP cases. As for courses and resources, I would think a specialized degree in IP law such as an LL.M would help delve into this area and appreciate the nuances.
Tell us about your experience as a Professor of Law at Texas A&M School of Law. How’s legal education in America different from that in India?
I find that students in law schools in both India and the US are typically interested and informed constituents. American law students tend to be a tad more independent and a little more mature given that they have 4 years of undergrad schooling in their pockets.
Indian students are more idealistic, and I like to think, creative with a higher degree of exposure to international issues and tend to raise questions with an element of social consciousness. Personally, I have learnt from all of my students, irrespective of whether they are Indian, American or from anywhere else.
You have been shortlisted for the position of VC at NLUD. What plans do you have for law school?
I try not to count chickens before they hatch. That said, going global is the next step for a school of NLU’s stature. The school has several centres and areas of expertise. The next step is for the school to have a global impact with faculty research and presentations at global conferences and for students to make a mark in institutions abroad.
Newer NLUs haven’t really lived up to the NLU tag. How can they bring the charm back to being a law schoolite?
Of course, having a visionary dean at each one of these schools is the first step and I assume that it is already happening.
Other than that, having uniform policies that promote academic excellence and standards in all the NLUs; having a consortium of NLU deans so they can exchange best practices and appreciate common issues and find common solutions such that each school does not have to reinvent the wheel. And, have standardized policies that should set the road for the future.
What according to you is a good legal education and how can an institution move towards that?
A good legal education is one that handholds students initially to help them transform into independent learners of the law. Law is ultimately self-taught. When a student becomes confident in their skills as a lawyer including learning, interpreting, writing and appreciating the nuances, I think they have earned good legal education.
A lot of disagreements between students and the administration is a battle of values. How do you reconcile that?
Student voices remain important in identified critical areas where law school governance may converge with student interest. Having policies that identify areas where student input is necessary, delineating the purpose and role of student inputs will help.
Students form one of the several important constituents for the development of the law school. Faculty-governance using a democratic system to the extent possible is the best way to reconcile value-conflicts between faculty and administration.
How can young lawyers prepare themselves for the future of work and of legal careers?
Be humble, confident, work hard and work smart.
Parting words of advice for our readers.
It would be nice to see you at NLUD, but, if not, look me up at Texas A&M School of Law.