law degree

In this article, Aditya Shrivastava of team iPleaders discusses 5 unconventional roles you can take up after getting a law degree.

Law was never a road which I wanted to take. It is not that I was forced to walk on it either. I wanted to become a journalist and my parents wanted me to get a degree first, which in their opinion would make my life more ‘stable’  – whatever that may mean. However, at one point they asked me: “everyone who wants to become a journalist will have a bachelors in journalism or mass communication or an English honors, what different will you have to offer? This country is anything but talent starved.” Well that did drive the point home. That’s how I decided to study law.

Since day 1 in law school, I knew that I am here to just spend my time and get the degree which was a matter of time. Still, I couldn’t just sit idly and while away my time. I got involved in the campus and academic life. Soon it began to look like that I am pretty good at law too. I fetched decent grades, enjoyed my projects, got appreciation at my internships, loved moots and aced debates. However, somewhere deep down, I knew I wasn’t meant for this. After rejecting an offer from a big law firm, and working in an MNC for 6 months, I came back to my first love – writing.

I know there are many of you out there just like me. You did opt for law because it is excellent liberal arts education, or a respectable professional degree, and perhaps you are not too bad at it either, but it’s not your heart’s calling.

Are we crazy?

Maybe you want do something more artistic, maybe you want to do something that involves being in the middle of people, or maybe you just want to do something with your hands rather than something intellectual. Maybe you just want to travel and start a small cake shop in a Himalayan town noone has heard of. Maybe you want to be on the covers of Fortune magazine as an entrepreneur. Are these bad choices given our 5 years of expensive legal education? Are we throwing away our career in law in search of a mirage? Is it even a valid choice?

The booming legal sector in India: headed for a saturation point?

Indian legal sector has seen a sudden boom in the past decade. More than 20 new National Law Universities emerged in less than a decade. There were another 1200 law colleges including state university affiliated colleges and private colleges and universities in 2014 itself. In 2018, the number has certainly increased, but the BCI has not made any data with respect to this available. The total number of seats in these law colleges have crossed almost a lakh per year. Is law going to face a saturation just like engineering? The total number of lawyers in India is perhaps at the threshold of 15,00,000, and with many fake lawyers being weeded out, it could be even lesser. If 1 lakh new lawyers are added to the market every year, what would be the state of competition? Will we reach a situation like USA where lakhs of students studied law in the hope of well paying jobs only to hit a saturated market where no more lawyers were needed?

In India, many engineering and management schools have been shutting down due to lack of students. There are many people who graduated from these colleges and got no jobs as the job market was not ready to support such a big number of job seekers. Many parents lost their life’s savings and children learnt the hard way that degrees are not the answer to their problems. I dare say, in a few years we will reach that situation in the Indian legal market too.

The never-ending chase for the first break as a lawyer

The never ending quest to bag a good role with a big law firm, or becoming an in-house counsel or settling up as a litigator is becoming more and more competitive and ridiculously difficult with every passing year. Even the 2nd or 3rd tier law firms that earlier offered a job to anyone who came with decent CV, are now taking months to even give an internship. They are flooded with emails and phone calls from job seekers and internship seekers. Most companies now refuse to hire fresh law graduates at all, and insist on a minimum 2-3 year experience before considering any lawyer to be hired. Senior Advocates usually take up a handful of extremely skilled lawyers, leaving limited scope for new entrants.

How do you get your first opportunity to build and demonstrate your skills as a lawyer? It’s a very tough world for budding lawyers out there.

Why do you want to be a lawyer in the first place?

When the going gets difficult, you must touch base with what inspired you to be a lawyer in the first place. That’s the moment of reckoning. You must figure out if you are really ready to fight the uphill battle to become a successful lawyer. If it does not mean a lot to you, you are probably going to give up midway anyway. Why not chase a passion that you really care about? For me, that was being a writer. Once you chase your passion, opportunities find you. At iPleaders, I am paid to write mails and articles like this for you.

There can be right and wrong reasons for which one might want to practice or join a law firm/company. If you are determined to join a law firm because that’s what you always wanted to do, or you like a specific stream of law then go ahead. However, if you are trying to get into legal practice for any of the following three reasons, you might want to give it a second thought :

  1. Becoming a lawyer is very glamorous and financially empowering

You must have probably watched all episodes of Suites and imagined law firms to be like Pearson Hardman, and life of lawyers working in these firms as glamorous and luxurious. Well, I find it immensely cruel to break it to you. Working in a law firm may be many things, but I never heard anyone describe it to me as glamorous. Yes, there are some touches of luxury. But most of them never have time to enjoy that. Imagine you have gone to a new city to do a due diligence and clients put you up in a 5 star hotel. You may not get any time to enjoy the amenities. A swim in that mazing blue pool? Forget it. You are not even going to get time to eat the buffet breakfast. You may pass out in the bathtub at night, after working for 16 hours straight.

There is no doubt that you might earn relatively better if you end up with any of the top 10 law firms, however, the chances of that, unless you are exceptionally good or work really hard on developing your skills are extremely bleak. There are about 3000 lawyers working in the top 6-7 law firms, and no more than 300 jobs are created for fresh graduates every year in those firms. There are over 3000 NLU graduates, and graduates of other good law schools competing for those same jobs. Always remember that.

How much money do you make if you don’t get into a big law firm?

Yes, there are still jobs in other law firms, even if they don’t pay 1 lakh starting salaries to fresh graduates. In tier 2 or Tier 3 firms, you could hope to start with a starting salary of INR 30-50,0000. If you end with a low tier law firm, your salary is likely to be about INR 20-25,000. If you end up going for litigation, you would probably start with 10,000 per month, which is a meagre amount even for sustaining yourself in a city like Delhi or Mumbai. If you look at the return on investment of your education to your salary at the entry level, it looks quite bleak. It is all about surviving these lows and proving your mettle over time, and becoming a successful lawyer who everyone is eager to hire. That’s gonna take time. That means you will be living in opposite of luxury and glamour for a very very long time. Thus, if money or glamour is your driving factor to opt for a legal career, you might want to rethink.

2) Lawyers are their own bosses, they can live life on their own terms and conditions

While lawyers are crusaders of aggrieved employees, it is a very rare occasion to see an associate working in a law firm fight for their own rights. There are many instances of various 1st year associates quitting top tier law firm because they got frustrated of the extreme work culture in a law firm. Imagine coming to work at 9am before your partner arrives, work till 3 am because the case recently saw some development and reporting back at 9am the next day, even if it is a Sunday. The same is true for litigation firms as well, irrespective of whether you get paid peanuts, you need to be in court till 5:30 pm till the next day’s listing is displayed, come back to office and prepare for the next day till you are done. You will usually finish by midnight or even dawn. There are innumerable instances of even the partners missing various important occasions with their families because of the work pressure, so as newly minted associates, very disposable, your options are very very limited.

If you wanted to avoid being a corporate slave by becoming a lawyer, you need to think of some pretty innovative ideas to escape this trap.

3) Law is an extremely creative field and has a lot of scope for people with original ideas

This actually might be true, in the sense that with law you can explore various genres and industries as a lawyer. You could start with criminal law and end up as a general counsel 5 years down the line. However, the freedom that appears to exist in theory very rarely materialize for most lawyers.

However, the sad news is, that most of the companies and law firm teams look for people with experience in the field they operate in. Everybody is accepting of people with any experience whatsoever at a junior/entry level. However, as the role increase the more expertise conscious these firms become. You could probably answer it yourself. Who would you hire for a senior associate for an M&A team that handles deals worth several hundred crores in a year? Someone with 4 years of experience in M&A from another law firm or someone with 10 years of experience of media or criminal laws? As a lawyer, you soon feel the pinching need to specialize and stick to one area of law.

Apart from this, legal profession is extremely hierarchy driven, relies on tradition and resists change a well as new ideas in general. Be it a law firm or a chamber of a celebrated senior advocate, what they expect from a junior is very clear and they do not usually indulge the juniors to either come up with path breaking ideas or introduce innovations to systems. If you are a creative or innovative person, you will find yourself very frustrated at the average law firm or a chamber of advocates.

If you have original ideas, law firms and chambers are unlikely to become the places that will adopt your revolutionary ideas.

So what do we, the rebels, the dreamers, the misfits do in the legal industry?

Quite early in my career, I felt that climbing the legal corporate ladder will be futile for me. I did not really like the work culture of a law firm, which I observed closely as I repeatedly interned in one of the top tier law firms and removed it from the list of possible career choices. I was working at an MNC working on global compliances when an opportunity finally knocked on the door and I swooped in.

You have to know what you don’t want before you find something that you really want. You have to watch out. You have to convert half a chance into a full opportunity, with your alertness and hard work.  

Life gave me the half chance, to work in Goa for iPleaders, in marketing. My job description includes writing insightful articles on career in law and developments in the legal profession. Life gave me an opportunity for working on developing my writing skills and become a powerful writer and influential campaigner as I always wanted to be.

I want you to find your passion, and follow it. The law you learnt, the time you spent in law schools, law firms or courts will be an asset, not a baggage of bad investment. I will share below some ideas with you, but you may find something totally outside of this and chart out your own way. If you do, please do drop me a mail and let me know.

The point is that there are some professions where lawyers have a huge natural advantage. You should at least consider a few of them if law is not the real passion and calling for you.

Following are my top 5 picks if you want to pursue an offbeat career after becoming a lawyer or studying law. Do share with me your top 5 too! So here is to the road not taken.

1# Entrepreneurship

Lawyers are sometimes considered to be the biggest troublemakers by business folks. Risk-averse attitude of lawyers, and their need to analyze legal viability in almost everything make them seem anti-business to non-lawyers. However, contrary to the popular belief, lawyers make excellent businessmen. Many top CEOs and founders of Fortune 500 companies, and indeed several iconic Indian companies are law graduates or former lawyers.

Have you heard of Ardeshir Godrej? He was the founder of Godrej group, and was indeed a lawyer to start with. MDs of companies like Goldman Sachs, Disney, IndiGo and CCavenue are all lawyers.

I asked Ramanuj Mukherjee, the CEO and co-founder of iPleaders, about this. Is it a good idea to pursue law if you eventually want to become an entrepreneur? “Law gives you a broader perspective. As a lawyer you get glimpse into many industries and businesses” Said Ramanuj, “you see the risks, the consequences and rewards from the sidelines. That kind of prepares you for your own business at some level.”

One can find a lot of common skills between an entrepreneur and a lawyer. Lawyers do have some advantages when they start their own business. If you think you have some of these aptitudes, or if you are at least ready to develop them, you could perhaps become a successful entrepreneur.

  1. Ability to convince others
  2. Foresight
  3. Research skills
  4. Market knowledge
  5. Leadership
  6. Ability to mitigate risks
  7. Self assessment and constant strive for improvement

It’s a tough road, to be an entrepreneur. This definitely requires a lot of confidence in yourself, ability to build a team in the early days when resources are meager, being willing to suffer poverty and failure if things do not work out and a constant hunger for success when the whole world is against you. It’s not for the faint-hearted. However, it is certainly a thrilling adventure, and nothing is perhaps more satisfying than seeing your idea come to materialize as you win battle after battle. It is pivotal for you to know what challenges you are about to take and what can be the consequences of it. You need to prepare, you need to pull up the socks and research, read as much as you can. Talk to people, take up courses like these, research, read, discuss and create a network before undertaking the challenge. If you are all set, then there is nothing that can stop you.

Legal industry is full of broken systems and inefficiencies. It is predictable that hundreds of new companies will have to be set up to cater to the humongous legal industry in India as things mature. As a lawyer, you know better about the market than others. Will it be a good idea to team up with some engineers are build some products that solve some real life problems, something that millions of people will have to use?

#2 Journalist

If you are someone like me, then I will tell you why opting for journalism post your law degree is the best thing to do.

  1. PTI says that law graduates do not need any journalism degree or diploma to join its ranks. This is an exception, and all others who want a job at PTI must get a recognized journalism degree or diploma first.
  2. You don’t need a training for researching and drafting. Your law school has taught you enough.
  3. Your communication skills are probably better than a lot of journalism graduates.
  4. You also know how the system works. For example, you can get information out through RTI that other journalists who do not know law will struggle with.
  5. You have been taught liberal arts in the course of your law degree.
  6. There are few people who pursue journalism after a law degree – means you have very little competition. Your understanding of things like constitutional law to patent laws will enable you to write quality articles and analysis that other journalists without legal background will find very difficult to match.

A journalist needs to be proactive, probing, argumentative and driven by logic. All these qualities are usually highly developed in a lawyer as well. If you are someone who has a flair for writing or speaking and can convince people with your communications, it might just be the right field for you. Coming to the economic front of it, as per payscale.com, a journalist on an average earns Rs. 3,46,511 per year during his initial years, which grows significantly over time going upto over 1 lakh per month as you become a senior journalist. If you find litigation/corporate law to be frustrating then chances are that you might never succeed. However, if you are passionate about media or journalism, the options are endless. You could be a news anchor, host a legal show on the TV, become a legal correspondent, or become producer of your own shows.

There are also now numerous legal media, starting from lawctopus.com to livelaw.com, which are doing well as specialized media on their own right. India suffers from a dearth of powerful specialized legal media unlike the developed legal markets like the USA and the UK. However, with a massive legal industry still growing and government deciding to lift the ban on advertisements on lawyers, the golden age of legal media is about to come.

What new legal media could you start?

#Policy Analyst

Are you someone who actively participates in parliamentary debates in your university? Are you someone who knows how policies are framed and want to be actively involved in the formation of such legislations? Public policy analyst can be just the right job for you.

A policy analyst, almosts acts like Chanakya to the king. If subjects like public administration and governance, abstract concepts, projections or making sense of statistics appeal to you, and you want to impact the governance and businesses in India at the policy level, you can consider this as a career option.  As a policy analyst you need to be continuously updated with latest laws, amendments and changes in the various policies. You should have a never ending quest for learning new updated, and ensure that you have enough expertise on various subjects. An easy way to do it is by taking up such courses which can help you up your game and get a lead amongst your peers.  After all, legal dexterity and policy making just go hand in hand.

“The lawyers are well equipped with various tools of planning and understand legislations which makes them the most fit for the job,” says Shashank Atreya, public policy analyst.

P.S. Arun, another public policy researcher calls this as one of the most challenging and rewarding job for everyone who plans to make a difference. “While I heard a lot of people having an issue with the current policy, nobody did anything about it, however, I am glad I took this option. It’s true that we cannot change the ideology a certain government believes in. However, we can always try our best to push a better agenda.”

A public policy analyst is mostly recruited by various think tanks in the country like Vidhi Centre for legal policy, Centre for Law and Policy Research, Bangalore, NIPFP Delhi, ORF Delhi, Centre for Policy Research Delhi, Takshashila etc. Various policy makers like MPs (through LAMP Fellowship, Swaniti Sparc Fellowship, Vision India Foundation), CMO’s (Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra,  Madhya Pradesh etc), Niti Aayog are amongst other recruiters of policy analysts.

There are also policy advocacy firms like Dua, PLC Chambers and others who focus only on policy advocacy on behalf of high paying corporate clients. Companies like Uber also have large policy advocacy teams where they hire experienced policy advocates. In India policy analysts often do the job that lobbyists do in other countries.

A policy analyst earns from INR 25,000 to 1 lakh per month depending on the organisation they work with.

4# Content Creators/Bloggers

India has recently come up as a booming sector for content creators, in any given field, and law is not far behind. What is the reason for this? Law firms are barred from solicitation or advertising as per the rules mentioned in the Advocates Act. However, law firms these days apply smarter approaches to market themselves. This is done through content marketing, where they create relevant content on most of the current legal issues and post it on various forums. The traffic that they generate out of it helps them to get leads to make better clients.

Apart from law firms and lawyers, there are also large companies like Vakilsearch, Akosha (now Tapzo), India Filings, MyAdvo and LawRato, amongst an increasing number of various legal services and technology providers which hire numerous content writers. Many PR and reputation management firms for lawyers have also sprung up over the years, helping with their branding, public profiles and websites.

Being a legal content writer can be fairly rewarding, with salaries going upto INR 50,000 to 1 lakh. Even big law firms hire legal content writers and marketing managers at substantial salary. To get started with this, you need to have a knack for writing, research and promotion.

Moreover, just like travel blogs, a small section of legal blogs are gaining major success as well. Jay Sayta, founder of Glaws.com started out by blogging on gambling laws in India. However, right from the second year he found his followers in various entrepreneurs, business leaders and bureaucrats. He has a strong following in the gambling industry which looks to him for gambling law advice. One can possibly build a successful blog and then make money by providing consultancy to the readers who need expert help.

On an average, a blog or a content creation job can fetch you a low salary of INR 25,000 to 30,000 if you aren’t really good at it. However, good content writers are very rare and highly sought after. You could easily make anywhere between INR 50,000 – 1,00,000 per month if you are actually good at it.

Freelance writers often charge per word for their writing and it can be between 50 paisa per word to INR 3 per word depending on how good you are and what results your writing can produce.

5#

Teacher for competitive law exams.

When I said earlier that I was not forced into taking up law, what I meant was I chose to do it, ofcourse there was certain influence from my parents too. However, the real man behind this choice was Mr. Deepu Krishna, who is a very well known CLATt teacher/mentor and NLIU, Bhopal graduate. I happened to attend one of his seminar’s while exploring my options to get a stable degree and I knew after listening to him that law is something that might help me spread my wings.

Being a teacher at the competitive law exams preparation institute is very rare, but certainly very rewarding. Although teaching is not an easy profession at all. It is very difficult to connect with students and teach them as per their requirements. Knowledge is not sufficient, a passion for teaching is. Remember, we all have that one faculty who knows a lot but is not able to deliver it? Teaching is not a profession, it is actually a passion to help others in the noblest way.

To top it all, you just don’t become a mentor, you become someone who has an immense following. Students actually become very close to the mentors. They look at them as philosopher, guide, friend and most importantly a teacher, which has helped them shape their future. Also, it is a highly rewarding job, and if you manage to get a lot of selection, and end up having a good brand image, chances are you might not have to worry about your finances at all, right from the start of your career.

Not just CLAT there are a bunch of competitive exams that you can start your prep institute/teaching for. For example, AILET, LSAT, SET, CET, GGSIPU, DU LLB, CLAT for LLM students, UPSC, NE and a lot of other judiciaries and clerkship exam. All of these provide a huge scope for you to venture into and help all the interested candidate with their career options.

You need to be constantly updated with every legal development in terms of the above mentioned competitive exams and be sure that you have enough knowledge to answer any question that pops up the mind of the students. In my opinion, the task of becoming a legal competitive exam mentor is probably the most difficult of all preparation courses, because you are not just dealing with young, impressionable minds but also dealing with the most unsettling, probing and inquisitive minds of all. However, if you are ready to take up the challenge, it is equally noble, rewarding and challenging – thus, becoming the perfect package.

If you believe your law degree will help you in any of the endeavors, it will. However, you will have to develop yourself enough to it. If you have a great idea to start your business, then develop it further by understanding how to go about it. If you want to become a journalist, write regularly for various newspapers/magazines. If you want to become policy analyst, an intern at the right place. If you want to become an investment banker, enhance your knowledge if you want to become a blogger, start writing NOW! Develop yourself, speak to as many people as you can, take up courses like this to enhance your skills and knowledge and to become successful.

However, remember to be brave. It takes a lot of effort to, first of all, get a law degree and then do something which is slightly different from the conventional roles. Just remember, nobody can take your degree away from you and in case of a failure you can get back to practicing. However, take that first step.

All the best!

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2 COMMENTS

  1. It’s 6:30 in the morning when i stumbled upon this article of yours and probably i will be able to sleep after this as this article has given me a ray of hope..i have completed my llm this year and rejected offers from law firms just like you and am at loss as of what to do next. Thanks for the advice, i hope i do as good as you someday too.

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