INTERVIEW: Priyambada Lal, Uttar Pradesh Civil Judge, on Cracking Judiciary

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Hey, aspirants! Welcome to Lawctopus’ Judiciary Corner

This week we’ve got something really exciting for you! An interview with a judicial officer to keep you motivated until you become one yourself. 

In conversation with Lawctopus, Priyambada Lal, an Uttar Pradesh Civil Judge (Junior Division), spoke about her journey from working in the corporate world to clearing her judiciary exam on the first attempt.

Uttar Pradesh Civil Judge

Please give a brief introduction about yourself to our readers.

I am a judicial officer currently serving in the Uttar Pradesh Judicial Services. I was born and brought up in Lucknow and did my schooling from Loreto Convent. After that, I completed my B.Com (Hons.) from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University. 

Then I pursued my LLB from Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi. Immediately after completing law, I joined Clifford Chance LLP and worked as a Capital Markets-Corporate lawyer for close to 5 years. Subsequently, I joined Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas as an Associate in the Capital Markets team. After my brief stint at SAM, I started preparing for Judicial Service examinations and cleared the PCS(J) Examination in my first attempt. 

Tell us about your preparation journey for Judicial Exams? Also, did you take any coaching?

I started my preparation journey while working in a law firm. It was mostly on weekends that I was able to manage sufficient time. Working at a Tier-1 law firm is very challenging. Yet, with whatever time I had, I ensured that I was consistently studying each day for about 3-4 hours. I tried covering major portions on weekends and studied for 10-12 hours. 

While traveling to work, I watched law and general studies videos and read material online to ensure better utilization of time. I did not take any coaching and focussed primarily on self-study. After quitting my job, I was completely devoted to the preparation. 

In hindsight, I feel working in a challenging environment prepares you to have undeterred focus. Sitting for long hours and crunching the entire syllabus preparation in close to 6 months was the most challenging part, but it felt achievable. 

My sister who is also a judge in UP mentored me during this journey to ensure I give my best efforts in the limited preparation time. I never really felt the need for coaching as I had a good support system at home. Also, I believe that the strategy of smart work really helped me to a great extent.

For instance, I would spend some time each day on social media platforms such as YouTube, educational apps, websites. It provided me with a good amount of learning material that is convenient to refer to while you are a working aspirant. Another thing I ensured was to revise and discuss whatever I learned each day. It helps in retaining more of the information grasped over a period of time. 

You are a Civil Judge (Junior Division) in Uttar Pradesh. Was this your first preference?

Yes. Uttar Pradesh was always my first preference as this is my home state. 

What motivated you to become an Uttar Pradesh Civil Judge (Junior Division)?

I have always nurtured the urge of doing something for society from a very young age. I hail from a modest family background. To us, becoming a judge not only meant a matter of pride and prestige but also meant getting an opportunity to work for those at the grass-root level, who look up to the system as a harbinger of hope and justice. 

Therefore, after ensuring that I am financially independent and had gained experience in various other fields, I decided to pursue my childhood dream. 

The Uttar Pradesh Civil Judge (Junior Division) exam is conducted in three stages. What was your approach? Did you prepare in stages or was your focus always Mains oriented from the beginning?

I have always been a champion of following a holistic approach. I prepared myself by devoting an equal amount of time to Prelims and Mains from the get-go! Both stages require different approaches. It is, thus, important to cover each subject from an MCQ perspective as well as subjectively. 

In terms of the Mains examination for Civil Judge (Junior Division), what is the importance of case laws? Are they essential for clearing the exam?

Judicial precedents are an essential source of law. Therefore, having knowledge and understanding of case laws is vital to the extent that it gives you an edge over others in the competition. 

Although it is not essential for clearing the exam, it enables the examiner to determine that the examinee understands the law and is well aware of judicial precedents which is an important aspect of our dynamic judicial system.

In all stages, one can expect a plethora of questions that require knowledge and understanding of case laws. 

Many aspirants don’t know how to handle interview questions. Nervousness, anxiety, and under confidence are common before the interview. What is your suggestion for them?

I would suggest that the aspirants prepare themselves by going for mock interviews or taking help from friends to create a mock interview environment. 

Besides academic knowledge, it is equally important that you are prepared with questions relating to your personal and professional background and general awareness. Have some questions of your own prepared in advance. 

This stage is devised to test your personality, poise, attitude, basic social skills, and ability to communicate with your experience and education. Thus, it is imperative that you communicate clearly and have a good demeanour. 

During the interview, be sure you understand the question; if not, ask for clarification, or restate it in your own words. Answer completely and concisely. Stick to the subject at hand. In situations where you don’t know the answers to a particular question asked, don’t hesitate and politely accept your lack of knowledge/understanding instead of losing confidence and staying nervous for the remaining interview. Don’t be embarrassed if you are nervous. 

It is true that many aspirants don’t know what to expect when they become Civil Judge (Junior Division). We want to know what your day as a judge is like. Can you share your day-to-day schedule with us?

Serving in the judicial services is a very satisfying experience, and every day is a day of new learnings! Besides the regular court hours, we are also given the responsibility of being an officer-in-charge on holidays, etc. which entails greater responsibility. There are numerous training opportunities and seminars that ensure that as judicial officers, we are updated on the evolving legal aspects and well versed with technology. 

Please share some tips for our young minds who want to be a part of UP Judicial Services.

Most of the judicial service examinations require a similar level of preparation as far as statutory and procedural laws are concerned. However, for UP judicial services, one must concentrate on the following aspects:

  1. To begin with, focus on general studies. Both static and current for both Prelims and Mains. 
  2. A good grasp of general studies ensures that clearing the Prelims cut-off is easier and in Mains exams, you get an edge over others in the competition. 
  3. Besides, the aspirants should practice answer writing consistently and time themselves well. This ensures that you’re comfortable writing the Mains paper and can finish attempting the required questions in the time allotted. 
  4. While practicing answer writing, try to present your answers in a more crisp format instead of writing paragraphs, quote sections, and case laws in a brief but comprehensive manner. 
  5. Do not skip UP local laws. It is important to give equal importance to the local acts as this is a mandatory subject in the Mains examination. 

Last question is for your female readers. Some of them are apprehensive about joining judicial services. As a woman who is now a successful judge in UP, what would you say to them?

I find that judiciary is a great career option for young lady lawyers. In recent times, the representation of women judges has substantially increased in Uttar Pradesh, reflecting that not only has the system evolved with changing times, but it is more transparent, inclusive, and representative. 

I feel woman judges bring those lived experiences to their judicial work that tend toward a more comprehensive and empathetic outlook that encompasses the legal basis for judicial action and sensitivity towards the effect of those consequences on the people as well. Although judicial work is challenging yet, it offers a great work-life balance, social security, and stability compared to other law career options. 

Enjoyed reading this? You might also enjoy reading how to write answers for Mains.

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