law school

Being a first generation lawyer, I had a lot more to catch up at law school, than the lawyers who had a legal family background. From the courses to take, to the classes, assignments, presentations, moot courts and everything in between; I winged it on my own.

I still remember when filling out the form, my father asked me why am I not ticking the box for BBA.LLB instead of B.A.LLB. I told him that, “I do not wish to work for a corporate entity or a law firm, I want to be a litigation lawyer and all the famous litigation lawyers did just that.” So, from the moment I started, I was a clueless idiot. I ended up working for a company longer than I did litigation, and my choice of course then had no effect whatsoever. The point is – ignorance may be blissful, but naivety can cost us in the long run. Guess which one I ended up being?

I have had to struggle a lot for two reasons- one was lack of knowledge, the other was having an ego big enough to not seek timely help.

I was one of those people who, in the initial years wanted to get by on their own merit and no reference whatsoever. So things went slower for me than many other people around me. What I clearly missed was that a reference is a mere validation that this person is qualified and can be trusted. It is you who give the interview and whose resume is reviewed. So you basically do the work, and the other person vouches for you. But, pride comes before the fall, and did I have a great fall or what!

Lack of knowledge is no sin. We all learn with time. The problem is that we all do not know everything, so when someone is giving advice or help where you have no idea, take it!

Later, I had to choose optional papers, and this time I listened to my seniors and went for media law. Let’s just say that small act helped me build my career. But as a law student I could not have fathomed the impact it had, back then.

Then about the courses and assignments, I was pretty much on point. You have to study smart to get the good grades. I somewhat had a clear idea and plan of action.

But then I faltered again at internships. My applications went without adequate response or my cover letter was unimpressive. Sometimes the presentation of the resume was lacking. Even the past internships and papers didn’t show cohesiveness. I faced a lot of rejections based on my shoddy cover letter or inadequate resume. This is where a reference would have probably helped. But well, I did not ask for help in time. So I cannot blame anyone else for that.

By the time I had graduated, I had superficial knowledge of a lot of subjects like property laws, intellectual property laws, media laws, family laws, criminal laws, cyber laws, labour laws, etc., having studied them for one or two semesters each. But what I lacked tremendously were the essential skill sets like contract drafting, negotiation, dispute resolution, strategizing, etc. Internships and moot courts had helped me develop some drafting skills, research skills, etc., but in the grand scheme of things, they seemed inadequate.

Looking back I wish law school had taught me some of the following things in order to prepare me for the real-life challenges in the legal industry.

# Teaching drafting skills

Law schools teach drafting to students, towards their final years. I remember giving the examination for drafting and passing them. While preparing for the test I had memorised a few templates. I did not know the significance of what I was doing and why. I attended lectures as diligently as I could, I had interned as well.

But if you have not been taught from day one how to draft an application, petition, etc. or even a contract, skills that are the most desirable in real world, then isn’t the system lacking in some manner?

These days there are contract drafting courses which teach the conceptual and practical aspects of drafting contracts to students. To be honest, without these the law students would be left to fend for themselves, and struggle like many others including me.

But these basics skills ought to be taught as part of the curriculum from the first year itself. For what is a lawyer without their drafting skills.

# Teaching subjects practically

As I have mentioned earlier, that I had superficial knowledge of a lot of law subjects. I had studied 65+ papers in law school! There were some subjects like media laws and cyber laws, and criminal laws which I had more interest in than others. So I studied and researched a little in depth about them. But all these subjects were taught theoretically, so I did not know much about the practical applications they had.

The examinations or assignments were more research based and did not involve a lot of practical application. That is unless one was interning or doing moot courts in their own time in these areas. I knew the sections and the concepts were within my grasp too. But without being taught how to apply them by doing application based examinations and assignments, I was on my own to figure it out.

The point remains that law schools should teach the practical aspects compulsorily and not as an option. One should be studying how law is applied instead of just memorising the concept or sections.

# How to ace at your internships

Ever seen a headless chicken? I felt like one during my internships. I was running around courtrooms, from court to court, from court to conferences, etc. Then there were days, I was just reading and making notes. Initially the work I was doing made no sense at all. It was not related to subjects I was being taught in law school at that point. So I had to research a lot.

Then by the time I reached my final years, I was in some form able to understand what’s going on at least. But my skill sets were not up to par. This is a problem most interns face. They do not know what to do or how to do something. I wish I had learned how to apply for or plan my internships in order to get the best available jobs for me. Good grades, publications, moot court experiences surely help. But, even they are not a guarantee for getting the internships you want. You may learn how to ace internships and get a PPO here.

Internships are crucial to enable students to get the practical training that the institutions does not provide. But without guidance about what and how of the internships, aren’t the students left in the dark to find their way out?

# How to build your resume and crack the interviews

I must have sent countless applications for both internships and jobs. Some of them panned out, mostly they did not. For a very long time, I did not know what was wrong with my applications. Then I showed my application to a senior in college who had secured the best internships and job. She told me my resume was bulky with unnecessary information and the cover letter was way too long!

The recruitment cells in most colleges help students by teaching them how to work on their resume and applications, putting them in touch for internships, etc. But should there be not a proper mechanism in place to teach all students how to apply for internships, jobs, prepare for interviews?

Then there were interviews. I prepared myself for interviews well. Once I had an interview with Hindustan Unilever Ltd. (HUL) within a short notice. I read everything about my resume, the company, brushed up on the FMCG related laws, etc. But when I ended up there, after a couple of rounds I went back to my office. Then as soon as I reached my office, I got the call that they wanted me back right away. Now no one told me about such situations. I had to either leave my office yet again and look unprofessional or reschedule with HUL and look uninterested. I picked the wrong option and missed the job.

There should be resume building and interview training classes or seminars in law schools for students to be really prepared for the job at hand. We lack that as a part of our legal training, which can sometimes cost us an opportunity.

# Making us job ready

So while we learn a lot of things at law schools from debating, mooting, law subject and more, we are not job ready.

The law school teaches the theoretical aspects of various subjects, but never tells us what the legal market wants from the law students. There are seniors and alumni, even     professors who may suggest or inform what may be expected, but should not this be a part of the curriculum or legal training?

The market has job positions for banking sector, media and entertainment industry, general corporate lawyers, mergers and acquisitions lawyers, insurance lawyers etc. Why is that our legal training does not focus on subjects which are definitely useful in the real-world? Why do we have to get trained on the job instead of the three/five long years of law school? Why are we not more prepared in law school itself, where we go to learn laws anyway?

Our present legal education system has some gaps which we need to fill to get the desired results from such institutions. Do we really need a five-year law school plan with little to no practical teaching or skills development? Why should students be left to find internships during their vacations rather than such training being part of the regular curriculum? There are online diploma courses trying to bridge the gaps between the theoretical and practical learning of the law students, why can’t law schools try to do that themselves? The idea is to make the aspiring lawyers as industry ready as possible. Will we see the revamp of our education system any time soon? No one knows for sure. What we can do in the meantime is to find our interests and build our way towards that goal.

1 COMMENT

  1. […] 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, […]

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