Law school has been a dream since I was 16. It was so much more than I had imagined it to be. It broadened my horizons for life. It was one of the first and best decisions I ever made. The five years were the most wonderful years and they prepared me for what life would be in the coming years.
Recently, I had written about 5 things I wish law school taught me. The idea was to share the the things I wish I had learnt at law school, in the five years there, rather than on the job. Things like drafting, in-depth knowledge of relevant subjects, being job ready, etc. I mentioned how we are not taught the practical aspects of say contract drafting or merger and acquisitions, cyber laws, media laws, etc. How students may opt for contract drafting course, cyber law course, mergers and acquisitions course, media laws course, etc. instead of learning on the job after graduating from law school to widen their practical knowledge base.
It is true that our present legal education system relies more on the theoretical knowledge than the practical ones. There are other professional courses like that for medical education or chartered accountants, that include the internship or articleship as part of the curriculum. This way the students spend the total time learning both practical and theoretical knowledge.
But that by no means implies that I learnt nothing substantial at law school. I did learn so much like all the other law students. Maybe, I was too clueless, maybe the system was flawed. But that very system taught me so much more. It gave me life skills, to survive in the legal industry and life in general. I did not know while going through the entire experience that I was gaining them, but they were being imbibed nonetheless.
Think about it, five years right after high school, the moulding years. We spent them in law school. It unknowingly shaped a lot more in our lives, than it gets credit for. In my case, the learning was both necessary and well-timed.
I was an over-eager, opinionated, somewhat stubborn individual. I was above an average student who wanted to change the world. Law school taught me how to channel my energies more productively into bringing about the change I wanted. It turns out, change begins at home. So slowly I began to evolve as the years progressed. Aside from the obvious skills like analysis, critical reasoning, interpretation of laws from both sides, research, etc., I learnt some other things, I did not realise I was learning.
Law school teaches you to commit to the cause or the job at hand.
The commitment begins on the day you decide to devote half a decade to get an education. It is by no means an easy feat. As I had taken a gap year, I had friends doing graduation for three years and then pursuing their masters, by the time I’d finished law school!
Every law student has to devote significant time to study multiple subjects, give two semesters examinations, submit countless assignments, participate in moot courts, debates, pro-bono work, etc. Then they appear for the bar examinations. After that they begin their career.
Law school trains you to be committed to a case, client, job, etc. It teaches you to be devote yourself to the work at hand for the best possible outcome. I was committed to educating and teaching underprivileged for the most part of my law school. A practise I brought with me while informing clients, assisting in my family school books business, or even now at iPleaders, when I share my experiences and insights from law or life with the readers. The idea is to help others learn as I do.
Law School prepares you for life. From the first year, you can participate in multiple activities and begin learning. Moot courts help you prepare for a case and argue for it. It helps your research skills as you find out the issues in the case and research laws around it to support your arguments.
I still remember all the moot courts experiences. Everytime it filled me with drive to push and do better than the previous time. Preparing the memorials, helped me to learn the procedural laws and learn basic drafting. Although the improvement was slow, I learnt to prepare for counter-arguments while researching for my main arguments.
The researching skills came in handy when I tried writing articles or research papers for paper presentation. The mere fact that I had to get up on a stage in front of a crowd to present the paper was nerve wracking. But it prepared me to go before a judge in a high court and present the facts, in a packed courtroom! It was still nerve wracking, but it was not the first time, so I knew how to get over my fear and do the job.
They say law is a cut-throat profession where you are always opposing someone and the outcome is win-lose. It is true. But what they don’t tell you is that camaraderie that lawyers share. You’ll see the same lawyers fighting and tersely opposing each other in a courtroom, come out and instantly start chatting like old buddies. They might even advise or consult each other on unrelated matters.
Law school teaches you from day one to work in group projects, participate in teams for inter/intra-school competitions, etc. I remember during my first national moot, I was practically living with team after college. This was to ensure a more productive collaboration of work and it worked and we won that moot!
The point is when you graduate, you have to either work in a chamber, law firm, legal department, etc., where you are a team member. You have to not only learn how to get the best outcome, but work as a team to get there.
Imagine a multi-billion acquisition happening. The legal teams involved have to not only rely on each others work to be impeccable, they build the entire deal on such teamwork. Even if one member is not able to collaborate with others to get the desired results, it affects the entire team. The team members must have mutual respect and rapport to ensure the best outcome.
# Time Management
Law school involves a lot of work. From regular classes, extracurricular activities, assignments, examinations, internships,etc., the students have to juggle a lot of activities in the five years. Sometimes, you may have an assignment submission on the day of your moot court or some other competition. Other times, late submissions resulted in marks deduction as well. So to stay ahead, you learn to manage time accordingly.
At your jobs also, you may have multiple cases on the same day. So you have to be prepared to argue any matter as the daily or monthly list progresses. To me this time management came in handy when we had to prepare for our cases along with doing the day-to-day work. You need to invest time and have attention to the details, at the same time the other work has to be managed too. I was always learning something or doing some course or writing articles along with my job as well. This helped me manage my time as efficiently as possible.
My time management skills had improved due to my law college activities. I did not realise it until I started writing this article. I have much to be grateful for learning life skills in my law school.
# Attention to Detail
The devil is in the details. As a law student, your marks in school as well as competitions will be determined by a lot of factors, including your attention to detail. I remember there were points allotted to the drafting of the memorials. The guidelines were clear about the presentation from font to spacing of lines, etc. If the presentation was lacking, there were points taken away.
On your job, a sharp eye for accuracy is crucial to a successful career in law. A single word out of place can change the meaning of a clause or contract. Whereas, errors or grammatical mistakes in emails, letters or documents can give clients a bad impression, costing your firm their business.
My initial job applications were full of errors. It cost me several jobs and cast a bad impression as well on potential employers as well. More importantly, it is the job of a lawyer to dig deep and find flaws in arguments, documentations, etc. So you don’t want to be the lawyer whose work is questioned on the missed out details. It is frustrating to say the least.
Law school taught me these things and made me life ready, even if not as job-ready as I’d like. But these lessons are so subtle yet so impactful that, we may not realise its influence in our day-to-day lives and work. Yet they exist and shape us as individuals. So to all the law students who are hopefully not as clueless as I was, keep an eye out and learn as much as you can in law school. The system may not be perfect, but these formative years will be the best you have. Enjoy them and learn from them.