As a doe-eyed law student, I was full of wonder and awe, while stepping into the esteemed institution which was going to be my home for the next five years. However, being a first-generation lawyer, a little uncertainty lingered in the back of my mind, as to whether I will fit in and be able to accomplish all that I’d dreamt of, as a lawyer.
I was overwhelmed by the tall gates leading up to the campus, the library and even the students around me, including the freshers! Do I see them as my peers or competitors?
The preparatory courses I’d taken for CLAT seemed to have vaporized from my mind at that moment. I literally knew nothing!
It renders you speechless, when you’re at the threshold of your big dream, standing at the gates from where one of your most life-changing journeys begin. Trust me when I say that it is just the beginning of a grueling but equally exciting phase of your life. It will test your intellect, mettle, patience, and character at almost every juncture throughout the five years that you’ll be in law school.
Looking back, I wished I had a little more perspective and clarity about what I wanted to gain out of the five years and maybe I’d done them differently. A friend of mine once told me that he has a target list for every trimester of law school. He used to make a list of things he wanted to accomplish at the beginning of every trimester and stick it in front of his study table in the dorm room. He had said he did it for fun, to keep himself occupied apart from the classes that required to be attended at law school.
Being a law student is not only dealing with the right courses, assignments, and examinations at the end of each semester. It is also about mooting, workshops, seminars, debates, publications, sports tournaments, college fests, volunteer work, etc. This is the most opportune time to really find out what one wants to be or who one really is and what they want to do for a living in near future.
I had an interest in education and volunteered my time towards providing quality education to as many people as possible. Even though I veered away from it briefly, I found my true calling when I was running my father’s small publication for school books and thereafter with iPleaders who share a similar vision through their various legal online courses.
The goal of legal education for a student may vary from one student to another, but they usually have to face the same hurdles en route to their goals. Here is a list of five such hurdles I faced while pursuing my law degree:
Law Is An Expensive Degree To Pursue
Just as there are no free lunches, there are no free law courses offered by any university. In fact, far from it. Most of the national law schools charge an exorbitant amount of fee and lack of government funding is often cited as one of the reasons. The point remains that the law aspirants are often deterred by the sheer amount of fees needed from application forms to admission and tuition fees for five years!
Let me give you an example. Did you know that the application fee for the unreserved category for CLAT 2018 was INR 4,000? Or the fact that NLSIU Bangalore, arguably the best law school in the country, charges INR 2,01,000 per annum as their fee? That’s an education worth 10 Lakhs!
Although, in my opinion, education should be made accessible to students from all social strata, until then no stone should be left unturned for pursuing the education they desire and deserve. There are options like education loans, scholarships, waivers by institutions, etc. which may help to reduce some or most of the pressure of pursuing a legal education.
Choosing University and Courses
The number of universities offering courses in law has increased substantially in the last few years. There are 22 national law schools and several state-run and private law schools to choose from. Some of these colleges even offer B.A./B.BA. LLB (Hons.) with specialisation in corporate law, civil law, international law, etc. To name a few, KIIT Law School in Bhubaneswar offers honours in IP Laws, UPES Dehradun offers specialisation in Energy Laws!
The aspirants should research the universities beforehand and compare course structures, scholarships or waivers available, fees, etc. and choose a university accordingly. There a number of factors involved while choosing an apt college on the basis of your needs.
Does location matter to you? Would you prefer personal growth over better internship opportunities? Would better faculty lure you? Do you want to study law to become a qualified lawyer, or are you planning to use the degree as a stepping stone to a career as a legal journalist or IAS officer? These are merely a few questions that you would need to answer before you make that choice.
In addition, it helps to know what kind of career one has in mind. For instance, many law students prefer going to colleges in the cities where they want to practice litigation or are able to network better with senior advocates. It’s advised that you choose a university after careful research and consideration which must be solely dependent on what you want out of law school.
Adapting To The Life Away From Home
Law students generally join universities straight after high school or junior college. Most aspirants relocate for better opportunities and education. Leaving familiar environment is a considerable shift for law students at such an impressionable age. They have to suddenly become responsible for their own well-being along with their education and other activities.
They meet and interact with people from different countries, regions, faith, culture which can be quite an experience for them. From everything changing rapidly around them to making all sorts of life and career decisions, it can be a little overwhelming for the young law students. On the other hand, if taken positively, it could be a rich cultural exchange and exposure for them!
Going the Extra Mile
Knowing the legal provisions and laws, in today’s day and age is not enough for a successful legal career. The students have to develop skills through debates, moot courts, seminars, and workshops, team building activities, volunteer work, internships, etc. These will help them become better and wholesome lawyers in future. However, isn’t every law student today debating, mooting, attending seminars and workshops? What sets them apart?
While all these activities may help the law students add more to their learning curve and acquire something extra which is needed for their future careers, it’s not going to help them be any different from the thousand others in the line, waiting to secure a job.
Practical knowledge clubbed with domain knowledge of specific fields of law are the present day demand of the industry. Have you ever wondered why most companies do not take in fresh out of law school graduates?
I once sat for an interview with a well-known media company where I was explicitly told that they don’t hire lawyers without post qualification experience of at least four years? When I asked them if there was any specific reason for the same, I was told that they want people who not only know the law but are also well-trained in taking the right decisions when the moment arises.
Independent lawyers think that paying a mere INR 10,000 a month to first-year juniors is more than what they received back in their days as juniors. Why are junior advocates paid such a meager amount in spite of being qualified lawyers? Because they lack training, they lack real-world insights from the legal industry, they need to unlearn mooting and learn the art of procedure.
Given the current situation in the industry, one would have to go the extra mile to survive and flourish here. What will help you? Practical knowledge, whether it’s gained through internships, online courses where industry experts come and teach you the tricks of the industry, or live webinars on YouTube such as An Hour With LawSikho which helps in giving a taste of the more structured and hands-on legal knowledge through their regular panelists, prior to joining the real world.
Networking With As Many People As You Can
Being a first-generation lawyer, of the many things I missed out on was an established network of advocates, judges, corporate lawyers, apart from the uncle that could get me an internship at one of the top law firms in the country.
One of the most important manners of getting exposure to the legal profession is through internships. Through networking, this is made considerably easier. The way to your dream job may be made easy through training and internships which will allow you to get the pre-placement offer you want.
There is no denying the effectiveness of correct networking. It must be done to be able to capitalise them in foreseeable future. Set aside the misconceptions and issues you might have, and try your best to establish your own reliable network and bank upon it if and when required.
Remember though, when you network, you build relationships. No one will refer you to an MNC or get you an interview with a top law firm if all you have done is exchanged business cards. The key to networking is building a relationship through providing not only value but also trust.
Change can be unnerving and sometimes even terrifying. All monumental changes begin with a single step towards your dreams. Just because there are a few hurdles in the way, does not make the journey any less worthwhile. Your purpose and goal await you across the finish line. All you need to do is jump across the hurdles.