The Senior Talk: Navigating College and Building Connections

Senior Talk is a series by Ruhi Thakkar where she speaks to different people in the field to understand their perspective. This week she writes about how to be more involved in college, interact with seniors, and build connections from which you grow.

The Senior You Never Had, But Wish You Did’

Life at law school can be pretty overwhelming, especially when you are in your first year. You’d be running around clueless, wondering why you’ve put yourself through this toil. There may be times when you aren’t interested in your college. But law school is not a place to just attend lectures and give exams, it’s an immersive experience. You spend five years at a place, give it a fair shot.

One very important tool of navigating your way through law school is interaction with your seniors because they have been there, done that. But for a lot of students, it can be a task. Cue to the introverts out there! To save you the turmoil, I interacted with two seniors from different colleges and got insights on how to make the best use of the time.

First Things First

Love your college!

Bhomesh Bellam is a law graduate from Rizvi Law College, Mumbai. He completed his LLM from City University of London and is a first-generation lawyer working on the criminal side at the Bombay High Court. During his time as a law student, all his friends got into the so-called prestigious colleges, and he felt left out. He spent an entire year feeling stuck, which is a year wasted in retrospect. He realized being unhappy wouldn’t lead to anything. He got over it and moved on to make the best out of the opportunities that colleges in Bombay had to offer. He goes on to say:

 “The first step is always to like your college and automatically your college life will become good. If you hate the place you are at, you’ll never like it. It’s with anything, even with your home; if you don’t like your home, you’ll hate living in it. But if you like it at home, however small the home maybe, you’ll still love staying in.’’

It is important to not compare your college journey with someone else’s. It’s your journey, not a competition. When it comes to different law schools in India, understand that everyone is at par. Yes, recruitment depends on your college, but it doesn’t mean your career is over. Regardless of your college, think about how you want to proceed as a lawyer and make choices accordingly.

Akshay Pai is a law graduate from Adv. Balasaheb Apte College of Law, Mumbai. He completed his LLM from Mumbai University. He was one of the most active students in his college years and all the juniors still respect him for his contribution to the college. Alongside litigation practice at the High Court of Bombay, he is the Chairman of the Alumni Committee and a member of the College Development Committee of Adv. Balasaheb Apte College of Law. One line from our conversation will always stay with me- “You have to make sure that the Institution grows, because when the Institution grows, you yourself are growing, you are going to learn more.”

“Get that experience and gain the expertise. And moreover, now that you have entered college, make the best out of it. And to do that, you need to believe in yourself and push yourself in every direction. The opportunities in college help you to develop your personality. You might have many law firms in your CV, topped in several subjects but what matters the most is how you present yourself, whether you are likeable or not. 

And the five years of law college help you develop yourself as a lawyer. It’s not some rocket science, law is very basic. Students tend to spend five years only interning and miss out on all the fun in college. When you act like you are already a lawyer, you get drained by the time you actually practice. That’s what happens. So, it’s a good balance of everything. What you really need to do is be a good person, exploit all your opportunities and enjoy your law school. 

Everything else, it’s all in your head.”

Life at law school can be pretty overwhelming, especially when you are in your first year.

Talk It Out!

Importance of Interaction and Networking

Seniority is the foundation on which law stands, be it in college or in courts. For better or worse, your number of years in the profession often defines your place. Lawyers are supposed to be social engineers. This seeps into all aspects of the profession. So go out there, and talk to people.

As elucidated by Bhomesh, law schools on average have around 100-150 students every year. This means that in your five years of college, you know or can get familiar with roughly 750 people. Even if you manage to acquaint yourself with half of those people, your college life would have paid off in some way. You are bound to see them in courts or at workplaces later. You don’t have to be best friends with them, but it always helps to have a connection.

Akshay bringing in his perspective says that asking the correct questions often helps the other person as well. If you think your question is stupid, that’s even better. When you learn something from a stupid question, you never forget about it in your life. Those lessons are the best-learnt lessons.

Take the first step!

The Dos and Don’ts of Interactions

Now that we know the importance of interaction and networking, let’s figure out the most efficient ways to do it:

First and foremost, do not miss the opportunities to ask questions. It doesn’t matter if it is in college or at the workplace.

Try to get out of your comfort zone. Take up tough tasks. Gather the guts to speak to the strictest senior! Once that is done, you get the confidence to hold all sorts of conversations.

Every student has some kind of interest, and every college has committees that align with those interests. One should start by joining some of these committees. This also makes you like your college.

Tip: If your college doesn’t have the committee you want, start that committee!

Lectures! Some lectures can be of great benefits. You can also get the chance to do a Research Assistantship with a professor and build a connection that can help you in the long run. Moreover, interacting in class also shapes your communication skills.

All of this is easier said than done!

Sometimes, it can get difficult, especially if you are an introvert! Being quiet and reserved by nature in a profession that requires social involvement can be very challenging. But at some point, to excel as a lawyer, one has to make that shift to at least get the work done.

 “I was a massive introvert till 10th, I used to be very conscious about my speech, I used to think that every word I say, people are going to judge me for it, and I am not smart enough to hold a conversation. But that develops slowly.

You should probably put in more effort yourself than cursing yourself for not being the way other people are. It is always up to you how to make that change. It’s mainly self-confidence and the more you try to improve yourself on the flaws that you think you possess, your self-confidence will automatically increase. You will suddenly start talking to people with confidence because you are confident within yourself.”- Bhomesh Bellam.

Honestly, there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. You should just let that not get in the way of you getting opportunities. By being aware of what a particular opportunity requires, you can do it, while also not losing who you really are.

Being quiet and reserved by nature in a profession that requires social involvement can be very challenging. But at some point, to excel as a lawyer, one has to make that shift to at least get the work done.

Oops!

 What can go Wrong: The Don’ts

“There should be humility every time you ask the questions, don’t try to bring the other person down. Don’t ask questions because you want to show off. Ask to learn. Be honest, be humble. Virtue of humility is going to come till the end because no matter who you are, when the judge is in front of you, you are always going to bow down and say, ‘My Lord’.”- Akshay Pai

Secondly, some juniors try to be in the senior’s company even when they are not needed. Yes, some juniors are very enthusiastic, but when you want to gel with someone, it should come very naturally. Don’t force conversations. Most people will suggest against it. This is important for your self-respect too! If you talk to someone and they don’t respond well, let it go. You don’t have to be some jilted lover behind them, says Bhomesh.

You’ll get more respect if you find the balance between valuing yourself.

Wrap-Up!

Concluding Remarks:

Above everything, as said by Bhomesh, in a field like law, you have to take an interest. Only then you’ll be able to do a good job. Because the work is very hectic and if you don’t love the job it will become a burden. It is mentally taxing as all deliverables require the full application of your mind.

Five years is not a joke! It’s a long period and if you are mindful of the choices you make this time can be the deciding factor for your career. Take it from me, who spent two years of her college life cribbing, and is now working hard to rectify them.

College is an entry ticket to a lifelong profession. A profession filled with people who are always ready to guide you. Have the confidence to reach out to them. Get over your fear of being judged, because if someone is judging you for asking questions and working hard, it’s their loss, not yours.

“There is no set formula, the greatness of law is the charisma, that’s what attracts me to the profession, the dynamics, it keeps on changing, the formulas keep on changing. There are no set boundaries, you are limitless.” – Akshay Pai

PS:

To all the seniors out there- It feels nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.

To the budding Juniors- Don’t compare your weaknesses to someone else’s strengths. Wherever you are, that is the right place for you. Be humble, make mistakes. You will reach where you want to!

That’s what law school is all about!!

Note: I would like to especially thank Akshay Pai and Bhomesh Bellam for being so kind to me, taking out the time and giving such wonderful advice! To know more about them visit their podcast on instagram: @wetalkalawt

If you wish to write for us, or have a story to share, get in touch at umang.poddar@lawctopus.com

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