Professor Nigam Nuggehalli, Dean of School of Law, BML Munjal University, routinely writes a series called ‘Letter to Law Students’, where he shares pearls of wisdom to help budding legal eagles make sense of what is happening around them.His latest letter (reproduced below) talks about The Importance of Community in Your Career.
Letter to law students #21-the importance of community
My dear law students, as we come to the end of the year, I want to talk to you about the importance of community-building one and growing in one. Both aspects of community are together important not only for a sustainable career but for a more tolerable life. The usual caveats apply. Just because I am talking to you about the importance of community does not mean I have cracked some kind of a secret code. I continue to make mistakes and sometimes, though not most of the time, I even manage to learn from my mistakes. Also, many of my experiences are subjective and anecdotal. I am not providing a formula, but telling you something that I hope will resonate with you.
As you embark on your law career, there are two aspects of community that I want you to think about.
Building a community: During my law school, higher studies abroad, right through work and now as an academic, I learnt, unwittingly for the most part, the importance of community. It is perhaps the most critical part of our lives, and yet we never really pay close attention to it. We play plenty of attention to our individual goals-grades, internships and the like, but we do not pay more attention to living as part of a community. Yet, without a community, we can hardly be the people we want to be.
Without a community our interests, talents and passions cannot be brought to their full potential. If you are interested in arbitration, for example, you will need to be in touch with like minded people-students researching, writing and mooting in arbitration, arbitrators, lawyers, academics and parties that have participated in arbitration. You will need to participate and perhaps even organise conferences in this area. In order to do this, you will have to look for people whose interests match with others. Ideally, you make partnerships with people who complement your skills. You might be good at speaking; others might be better at writing and research. You might be the big ideas person; others might be better at detail-orientation. This is something that is underemphasised at law school because of the focus on the individual and because alliances are looked at as political. But making allies and working together is how you flourish in society.
In law school, whatever might be your natural inclinations, try to take part in a wide variety of activities so that you meet people of different tempers and dispositions. The more people you meet, the more your chances of making friends with whom you share your interests and build a community. Building a community will also enable you to form deeper and more fulfilling friendships. A group of friends will help you laugh and shrug off your insecurities and aggravations, and help you seek succour and advice in a high stress environment. A community of people who like us and who we like in turn are critical for our psychological well-being. In high school, this is an organic process; in law school, for many of you, this might be something you need to work on.
Growing in a community: building and sustaining a community should take you to the next stage, which is to grow in a community. What you really want is to be part of a community where its members inspire you to greater excellence in what you do and are inspired in turn by you. Success in this case is not individualistic but collective. Individual success is often a question of doing well as part of an organisation or an institution or a team, whether it is moot court, or a complex legal transaction or a cricket team. It is critical that to be part of such a community, there is plenty of give and take. Be generous with your time, without any expectation of immediate rewards. Be ready to advance other people’s interests. Be proud of your community and think and act in terms of your community’s well being.
Once again, these aspects are not emphasised enough in law school. I would like my students to be known at their work not only as smart, efficient and organised but also institutional in their attitudes and outlook. You must gain the reputation of helping your colleagues when they are struggling even at a substantial cost to your time and effort. You should be known for participating in activities that contribute to your organisation even if those activities do not have an immediate pay off. You must make a name as someone who places a high price on organisational unity. Learning the law and applying it might appear like hard work for you. You will realise team work is the actual hard work and a team player is already on his or her way to greater success.
School of Law
BML Munjal University
Note: This letter has been reproduced after taking Professor Nuggehalli’s consent.
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