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This article is written by Anjali Dhingra, IInd year student, B.B.A. LL.B, Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA. In this article, the author discusses the need for developing expertise in a subject during law school and the ways in which one can develop such expertise.

 

Introduction

According to the vision statement 2011-13 of The Bar Council of India, The Indian legal profession consists of approximately 12 lakh registered advocates, around 950 law schools and approximately 4-5 lakh law students across the country. Every year, approximately 60,000 – 70,000 law graduates join the legal profession in India. This is the data of half a decade ago. Focussing upon the increasing culture of Law, these figure has crossed 15 lakhs of graduated lawyers in our country.

If you ever visit the court in any legal matter, you will find hundreds of lawyers sitting idle and somehow convincing you to avail their services. These lawyers are graduates and are willing to handle any type of case you have. As a layman, a single case matters to a person let it be a property dispute or a criminal liability. Therefore, generally, people prefer that their case is represented by an expert who has the best knowledge in his field.  

If you are a law student, you will never be willing to have a career like this. Thus, it is always advisable to have a specialisation in one field instead of just putting your feet in every field of law. Although a lawyer is expected to have knowledge of all the fields of law; but what stabilises the lawyer in this field is his specialisation.

Law firms also look for lawyers as per their particular needs. For example, if there is a need of an advocate to handle the arbitration matters; instead of going for just a graduate, they would like to hire a person who has special knowledge or expertise in the subject.

Firstly, you need to decide the subject in which you want to develop your skills. If you know about the subject; then your job is half done. This will be the subject you are interested in and want to know more and more about it may it be criminal law, mergers and acquisitions, or intellectual property laws. But if in case you are not sure about what is that dream subject, you can choose a subject you like to read or something that attracts your attention. If this test also fails, the final option is to make a list of potential subjects and analyse in terms of career options, earnings and your own ability to work in that field to choose the ideal subject.

Now since we know that developing special expertise in a subject gives you an upper hand and have found the ideal subject you want to pursue; what is needed to be answered is how we can develop such expertise at the time we are studying in the law school. Here are some tips or ways in which you can develop such expertise during law school.

Read the Bare Act carefully and interpret as widely as possible

The bare act is the essence of any law. Whenever you want to know about any law; do not go for any book. Just pick the bare act and start reading. Reading a Bare Act is an art which you needs to develop in this field. My Contract law teacher always said that no book is going to help you. It is the bare act only which can give you the best interpretation and understanding of an act. By reading a book, you confine your thoughts to that of the author only.

It is to be noticed that you cannot read the bare text like a novel. You need to read each and every word and understand and interpret the widest possible interpretation for the same. A layman can never think or imagine the way courts have interpreted Article 14 and 21. From right to equality, can any ordinary person imagine that there is a test of intelligible differentia or non-arbitrariness! If the jurists and judges had confined themselves to the books only, they could have never achieved this rule.

When you read a section, break it into points, form the essentials of the act. These will be the premises. When you have identified all the premises; you will see that it will give you a conclusion. So a simple interpretation will be that X will be the conclusion if all the premises of the section are satisfied.

Join online courses and diploma

By sitting in the class and reading what others are reading will make you no more knowledgeable than what others know. For developing the specialised knowledge, you need to go for special activities and put in special efforts. This can be fulfilled by joining online courses and diplomas.

By joining the online courses, it does not mean that you join the course, read the material one day before the exam and pass the course just for the sake of a certificate. If you are seriously willing to develop expertise in a subject, you need to follow-up on a regular basis and read the material they are providing and attend as many video-conferencing or Zoom meetings, as possible.

I repeat, do not appear for the course just for the sake of certificate. If you are willing to take up an online course, remember that not every course is good. It significantly depends upon the people and the firm or the institute who is providing the courses. Thus, before rolling into any course just check the details and ask any of your friends or known people who have enrolled the course before. They will give you an idea about the output of the course.

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Go for moots relating to that subject

Moot court competitions are given great importance in law schools. A person makes memorandum for both the sides and then plead for getting the judgement in his/her favour. Although it is considered that moots are law school’s activity but are not helpful with any practical application in litigation.

But according to me, when a person takes up a moot and is given a moot problem; intentionally or unintentionally, he goes through the subject thoroughly. He has to make memorandums from both the sides and thus has knowledge of both the sides of the coin. After the memorandum is prepared, a person knows what was the purpose of this law, what are its strong points and what are the loopholes of the law.

Thus when you are going for moots, instead of going for any moot that comes your way; wait and choose the subject you are interested in. The best moots of the country may not be able to give you the exposure and knowledge which you will be gathering if you are doing a moot of your own interest or the one you want to be specialised in.

Do mock trials if you are interested in criminal law and/or litigation

In case you are thinking of going in the field of criminal law or want to pursue your career as a litigator, a mock trial is a good option for improving the skills in a subject matter. When you are engaged in mock trial competition, you become thorough with the criminal manual i.e. IPC, CrPC and the Evidence Act. Mock trials provide you with a practical insight of the courts and practical applicability of the side of the statutory law by side. You develop argumentation skills and understand how to apply the theoretical knowledge on point.

Mock Trials gives an entirely different blend of theoretical knowledge with practical experience. Having expertise in a subject is not limited to having the textual knowledge only. I remember how I improved in every stage of my mock trial which was a year-long competition. The magistrate on the stage of framing of charges said that I was not prepared with case laws and had no knowledge about the section under which I had filed the bail application. With time, I was able to find legal mistakes in the submissions and arguments of others. At the stage of defence evidence, the judge praised me for how I applied my presence of mind along with the law.

Read Newspapers and online articles regularly to stay updated about the changes in the subject

When you thoroughly want to learn and become an expert in a particular subject, only knowing about the basic law may not be enough. You are expected to know about and give an opinion upon the recent activities in that subject. Even personally, you need to stay updated with the activities associated with the subject in order to have a better knowledge of the subject.

Say, for example, you have read and had the knowledge of labour law. There is some amendment in the labour law or any judgement is passed by the court which explains the scope of certain sections of say workmen compensation act. If in this case, you are not aware of these recent changes, you may not be able to compete with the other experts and may not remain a person with expertise in the subject anymore.

Therefore, it is necessary to always stay updated about the recent activities relating to the subject. This can be achieved by regularly reading newspapers and articles on the subject matter which explains any activity in detail.

Set up Google alerts to get the latest updates

There is a requirement for you to stay updated with the subject matter and related activities going around. You need to know every related information and its results. If you are a person who is interested in knowing and researching the legal issues; the Buland sheer riots are as important to you as the Sabarimala case is. You need to read the opinion of people about the situation as well as the state activities to handle the case. You must be knowing about the opinion of the supreme court and the bill presented in the parliament if any.

For keeping yourself updated to this extent, keep your Google alerts on. You will be getting notifications relating to news and updates. Unlike a single newspaper app, you will be getting news from different editors and reporters at the same time.

Most of the times, we do not read all the news in detail which flashes in the notification but we definitely go through the headlines. Thus, we may not be aware of all the news but we definitely have an idea of what is going around.

Read Landmark Judgements on the subject and analyse the interpretation given by the judges

Now since you know about the basics of the subjects after you are done with reading and interpreting bare act and attending online courses, you need to expand your area of knowledge by knowing what the supreme court or other high courts have said on those particular matters. You need to read those judgements and understand the reasoning of the judgement.

Do you know what is the best part of the judgement? That the court explains in detail that what were the facts of the case, what were the applicable laws, the arguments of both the sides and what was the reasoning of the judges on the basis of which they gave a certain judgement or order.

We have extreme judgements of courts in cases of Mathura Rape case and Nirbhaya Rape case. We can analyse and can even have a comparative study of the verdicts of judges.

You are not supposed to agree with what the court says. Just read and understand their reasoning and apply the law as you have read and interpreted. Analyse the reasoning and the judgement of the court from top to bottom and try to find loops which are occurring because of the improper application of the law. This will help you improve your analytical skills and understand the stand of court on the subject.

Write articles for blogs and explain the sub-topics of the subject in easy language for the layman

Before writing any research papers or rigorous research on the subject matter, try writing articles for the blogs. Break the topics of the subject into various small parts. Write long articles of 1500-2500 words where you will be explaining the topic from scratch. Write in as simple language as possible as if you are writing for a layman who has no knowledge about the legal terms and technicalities.

Even though I had read about general defences in the class but at the time I was writing an article on the same, I got to know about various other aspects of these defences in such a way that this topic is now crystal clear in my mind.

This is going to help you in clearing your basics about the subject. Whenever you are starting to read a new topic, write an article on it. When you will be researching the topic, you will get various different opinions and interpretations. You will try to write an exhaustive article which includes all the perspectives or opinions you found while researching. This will help you in a wider understanding of the topic and will clear your basics about the topic. So whenever you are curious to read a topic, don’t just read but also write them in your own words about what you understand about the topic as a whole.

Write research papers on the subject matter

When you are up for regressive research on the subject matter, think of writing a research paper. A research paper is vast enough to cover most of the area of the subject. If you are trying to have primary data on the topic, you will get the first-hand answers to various unanswered aspects of the subject. A research paper will help you increase your technical knowledge about various small aspects of the subject.

Moreover, if in case you present your paper in a seminar where the theme topic was your subject; you will get to hear about other researches which were conducted and different aspects that never clicked in your mind. Your knowledge base will increase and you may continue to research on the same subject with some additions, improvements and different angle altogether.

Although I had written an article on sexual harassment, after presenting my article, I was sitting there and knew about the condition of women in India in the light of marital rape, female genital mutilation and homosexuality as well.

Attend seminars and conferences on the subject

The same thing that applies to the writing of research papers, applies here. When you attend a seminar or a conference as a viewer without any submission, your only job there is to watch, listen and observe. You will meet various big people who are experts in their fields and give a speech on their personal experience. This is what maximum people want to step ahead.

Moreover, there will be many scholars, teachers, practising advocates and researchers who will be talking on the same issue or theme but with different perspectives and an observer gets a chance to learn and develop contacts which can help when he will be pursuing his career in this field.

Go for internships under the recruiters who have expertise in the subject

Since you know the subject in which you want to develop an expertise and may pursue your career in the field; you must not go for internships of other fields just to explore or any such lawyer or firm who practices in all the fields of law. This will make you get a mixed work of all the fields which will not be of great help for developing your skills in a particular subject. When you will be interning under a firm or a lawyer who practices multiple fields, you will get tasks from various fields. This may help you in having basic knowledge of multiple fields at a time but is not useful in improving your expertise in a particular subject.

Therefore it is always advisable to intern under a firm or litigator who holds an expertise in the subject you are interested in. whenever you are applying for an internship, make a list of the experts in your chosen field of law and arrange them in hierarchical order. Apply only to the places where you know that you will be getting the type of work you are willing to learn practical aspects of.

Do some pro-bono work as a freelancer

When you are having the theoretical knowledge about a subject, what you need now is the practical application of the subject. The best way to so that is by doing some pro-bono work as a freelancer. This means that you will be working on some social issue and helping mankind and will be working without money. It simply means working for the public good.

Yes, it is true that you will not be earning in the first few years of your law college through this work but you will see yourself developing and getting a better grip in the field. When your other batchmates will be graduating with an average portfolio, you will be having experience for 1-4 years depending upon when you started with this work.

Being a freelancer will make you professionally creative and a successful independent contractor. Moreover, you have found a reason for working and a passion may develop in you through this work of the charity. This will make you more passionate about your field of work and you will put in more efforts and will work more.

And this is just the starting. When you are working in this field, you will start earning from it.

File Public Interest Litigations

Filing public interest litigation (PIL) is another way to get a practical insight into the subject. There is no need for any specialized formatting or drafting. You just need to write a letter or an e-mail and it will be considered as a PIL in the court. Moreover, these are not even expensive as they require a minimal cost for filing public interest litigation. Also, if you have filed the case with a legible and reasonable cause, the senior lawyers may agree or be interested in mentoring and guiding you. [1]

This is another way of developing expertise. Whenever you find that there is any serious problem in the society which may harm the public in large, you can file public interest litigation. Moreover, you are not supposed to make up a wasteful case just for the sake of doing it. You need to notice the loops in the law and suggest some suggestions. You need to have convincing reasons for filing such PIL.

Stay active on LinkedIn and follow the leaders and experts in the subject

Social media has now become a great platform for your academics, career and professional life. It is a way of increasing your networks and social circle. Apart from other social media platforms, LinkedIn is for professionals. You can grab an internship or a job if you develop a nice LinkedIn profile. Stay updated and active, follow people and firms relating to your expertise subject, contact them and talk to them. Message them regularly and try to discuss legal issues with them.

The best way to know what is trending among people is through LinkedIn only. When people are discussing the same matters, you get to know what is going on and what is the perspective of people on that subject matter. This will help you with an insight into the subject and gathering various perspectives towards a legal issue. Share your achievements and link of your work, articles and research papers. Being active on LinkedIn may help you with increasing your network and you will gain recognition among the experts in your field.

Go for post-graduation in the subject

If you are interested in pursuing higher education in your subject, it is a really good option to actually be an expert in the field. When you are already in your bachelors’ course and have made up your mind in going for an LL.M; start researching for the various master’s programmes you can get and the best universities or law schools offering such programmes. Read all their requirements carefully and start preparing for them. Some of them may require you to appear for TOEFL, so prepare accordingly.

The reason I am upon this aspect is that as compared to other methods which we discussed so far, a masters degree in that subject is eligible to give you detailed knowledge about the subject and will add to your qualifications as well.

Be in touch with your course faculty, recruiters, mentors & seniors and discuss the current matters

When you are in this learning and reading process, you will be having various questions in your mind and ideas popping in your mind one day or the other. You may read an article or come across news and have confusions or queries with the subject.

In this case, the person needs to be in touch with their college faculty who is specialized in the subject or any mentor or any past internship recruiter who can help you with answering your questions and giving you the correct advice regarding your academics and career in this field. In case you had enrolled in an online course, you can also contact your mentors for the course. You can also approach your seniors and alumni of the college.

Conclusion

Now you have got the reason as to why people prefer being specialised in one subject rather than putting their hands in a different field. One prefers to be called as an expert in a field rather than being a versatile lawyer who can practice what comes in front. People nowadays prefer to approach a lawyer who has the expertise rather than the versatile lawyer who knows about the law and can just represent the case.

The best time to develop such expertise is your law school since this is the time when you are developing your skills and learning each day. The general knowledge of law imparted by the law schools is not going to help you in the long run. Also, whenever you say that I am a law student, the immediate question is that what are you planning to pursue in future as your career or what is the field of law you are interested in and want to continue it as your profession. These questions put a law student in deep thoughts if they have not planned about it yet.

Now if the question arises as to what is the best time to start working on it; I would say that anytime is the best time when you realise what you want to do in future and have a plan ready as to what are the potential things I need to fulfil to achieve what I need!

References

[1] Ramanuj Mukharjee, How can you specialise as a lawyer by building expertise and credibility in an area of law?. iPLeaders. (Dec. 29, 2017)

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