Sandeep Bhalothia is an alumnus of Jindal Global Law School and is currently working as In-house Lawyer in Dubai. He is a member (MCIArb) with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb, U.K.) and Member of The PACT.
By now you all have made numerous resolutions for 2019, and have heard from your professors, friends, family members, mentors and well-wishers as to how you can be a great law student and a successful lawyer. I do not intend to undermine any of those resolutions or suggestions but what I have below are few suggestions from my five years in law school. All of these suggestions tried and tested. The reason why you should read these 10 points is that I have failed many times trying to implement these suggestions myself and ignored most often than not and then regretted that at various stages of my law school. So I do not want you to repeat the same mistakes.
- Online Courses: Why: Firstly, law schools will not teach you everything, and Indian law schools are certainly not equipped to teach courses related to FinTech (including cryptocurrency and blockchain) law and policy, RegTech, AI and legal implications, law and economics of media platforms, negotiation and mediation, US Federal Taxation, smart contracts etc. All the above-listed courses are unique and diverse, and it is impossible to find such courses even in India’s top law schools. However, online platforms do offer these interesting courses 🙂
Secondly, these courses will also help you to show your interest in the specific domain of law for internship applications, job applications or for any other opportunity. All your friends will be studying the courses offered in the law school, they will also be interning just like you and will also participate in various national and international competitions. So how to make sure that your CV and you stand out from them for any opportunity? You got the hint, right?
Thirdly, there are some courses which can even help you indirectly landing an internship. I did one course on IPR course from FICCI when I was in my first year, and as I scored decent grades, so they offered me an internship in their IPR cell of FICCI. I also did an online course in international environmental law and got to intern with a boutique environmental law firm in the second year. In the first year, I did another online IPR course from WIPO and to my luck, I was able to negotiate 2 IPR related internships based on my WIPO and FICCI course and even got selected for WIPO Summer School, Delhi.
Fourthly, if not for the internships and other opportunities then do it for fun and knowledge. I did my first online course immediately after joining law school in 2013 and today, even though I graduated last year, I am still actively pursuing two online courses attending few hours of online classes on a daily basis. I assure you that you will never regret investing your time in an online course if chosen wisely and strategically.
Few platforms for online courses: Coursera, edx, MyLaw, FICCI, WIPO, LawSikho, HBS Online, ICC and more options can be found on Lawctopus here.
There is a very helpful article available on this topic on Lawctopus and one on iPleaders Blog
2. Read more and take interest in emerging technologies related to legal domain like smart contracts, the blockchain, AI – Morality and Law, self-driving cars and legal issues. You do not have to necessarily love mathematics, physics, computer science or chemistry to do this. It is not that difficult to understand these technological advancements and their implications on law and legal system. With all the available online resources at your disposal and video explanations and lectures on YouTube, you should not be making an excuse. There are technologies which are impacting legal sector in a big way. The current legal market is no longer the same as it used to be ten years back. The world is changing because of the recent advancement in technology and so the description of required candidates.
3. Participate in variety of competitions during your law school. Please don’t restrict yourself to moots. The skills that you gain from mooting are essential, but mooting is not a silver bullet for being an efficient lawyer. Involve yourself in competitions related to negotiation and mediation. Do some debates and client counselling competitions. Diversify your competition participation experience.
Each type of competitions will require you to hone a different set of skills, meet people from different background, and all of this will develop you into a more mature law student and a lawyer.
4. Write and Research More: This will help you in improving your legal research and writing persuasion. These are the two most essential skills that every lawyer should have. Start writing blogs for various platforms or regularly publish on LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform.
Research + Writing + Publication = Credible visibility.
You know that Indian Advocates Act does not permit an advocate to advertise but unfortunately, if you are not visible, then you do not exist in today hyper-competitive market. So the purpose that advertising serves can be fulfilled by publishing proper researched and carefully drafted legal articles/blogs.
The habit of writing will also improve your critical thinking and will force you to stay updated about recent development on the issues that you are writing on.
5. Use LinkedIn: I do not want to lecture you on how to create a decent LinkedIn profile. There are thousands of articles written on this topic. However, what I want to emphasize is that LinkedIn is a great platform to connect with the leading legal practitioners, and to secure job and internships. Most of the Law Firms and lawyers are very active on LinkedIn. What Twitter is for politicians, LinkedIn is for Lawyers. The application process for my current job started from LinkedIn where I submitted my CV. Trust me, LinkedIn will be more helpful for your professional and mental health compared to Instagram or Snapchat (no offence intended).
6. Try to aim for 3-1 Rule; technically speaking, there is no such rule I just wrote it in that way because it looked interesting. What I want to communicate here is that take interest in every subject that is taught to you in law school but be good in at least 3 subjects and develop a firm grip on at least 1 subject.
I won’t recommend you to specialise in just 1 subject say competition law or IPR. Firstly, because you are capable of doing more than that. Secondly, it is not going to be of great help when you enter the job market. If you know one domain of law well but not confident is any other domain of law then your marketability will decrease, the opportunities available for you will shrink.
The time of specialisation is long gone. Now companies want their lawyer to be excellent in the law of their business domain, but at the same time, they also want their lawyers to be able to handle related issues effectively.
7. Keep volunteering for a social cause that you strongly feel about. It can be child labour, women’s right, labour rights, animal rights, environment etc. It can be anything but don’t do it to add another bullet point in your CV.
To be a law student is a privilege. There are lacks of people in India who are suffering because of some or other issue and law provide a direct or indirect solution to the majority of those problems. In the race to be a top scorer in law school, secure top firm internships, win prestigious moots and get a well-paying job we sometimes ignore the purpose of life. Volunteer for a cause and I assure you that it will give you more mental peace compared to a monthly six-figure paycheck from your law firm or all awards and recognitions from moots and academic excellence.
8. Improve Public Speaking Skills: No one knows better than me how terrifying public speaking can be. In 2015, I participated in a debate (my first public speaking competitions outside my law school), and I was the last one in the list to go on stage. When second last person was about to finish his part, I told my friend who was sitting next to me that, “Buddy let’s leave, na ho paega ye sab.” However, he convinced me to stay back and participate. I do not know whether he did it for me or for the free dinner that was on offer after the competition was over. Anyways, I went to the stage, and everything became blurry as if the auditorium was suddenly filled with fog. I lost 20% of water from my body because of heavy sweating, 40% of eyesight as everything became blurry and 99% of my hope to live. It was scary, and obviously, I did not win that debate.
However, I knew how important it was for me to be a good lawyer. So next one year I read books on delivering debate, presentation and speech. I watched videos of good debate competitions and practised for hours to add as little as 1% improvement in my public speaking skills. In 2016, I participated again in the next edition of the same debate and was declared as the winner. My point here is not to say that I am now a great and confident debater but to let you know that it does not matter at what stage you are, you can always improve yourself.
Public speaking is an important skill that a lawyer needs even if he/she is not going to practice before the court. It gives you confidence and ability to articulate your thought in the best possible manner. You might have the best arguments in your mind, but if you cannot communicate them passionately and persuasively, then they are of no use.
One way to start working on the fear of your public speaking is by participating in Research Paper presentation. A lot of universities are organising legal seminar/conference where they invite law students to present their papers. There are good chances that you will not know majority of the people in that seminar so even if you mess it up, as it did in 2015, you can still come back and sleep peacefully because no one will come to your university to tell your friends and professor that you didn’t speak well or you lacked confidence. There is nothing to embarrass you after you have left the venue. This will help you in gauging where you stand, what needs to be improved and how other law students were presenting their papers and learn from their experience.
9. Have Empathy; Surviving through a law school is not an easy task. You have to deal with the expectation of your parents, professors and friends. You will be in the constant hunt for internships. You will be endlessly preparing for your next competitions and at the same time trying to finish your readings for next day’s classes. So this list goes on and there are good chances that this kind of chaos will be waiting for you when you enter the professional domain. As per a recent report by Washington Post, the lawyers rank highest on ‘loneliness scale’. Also, because of all of this chaos, you might lose human touch, and remember that your friends might also be going through the same situation and therefore it is important to have empathy towards people around you. Don’t forget that you are a human being before a top aspiring lawyer. Help others and actively seek help whenever in need.
10. Have Fun. Yah, you heard me right. I know you might be thinking this guy is crazy. In the last point he spoke about depression, and now he is saying have fun. However, that is the whole point. Although this is the last suggestion, however, it is more important than all nine suggestion that I discussed above. Had I started my article with this point first you would have never taken me seriously and wouldn’t even bother to click on the link. Remember, you will be spending a half-decade of your life in a law school, and all the above suggestions are useless if you do not enjoy this significant part of your life. Having fun does not necessarily mean that you have to go to pubs/bars or exotic locations for vacation. Simple stuff like sitting in sunlight during winters with a cup of tea and few friends around also fall within the definition of fun. If you have a hobby like sketching, painting, sports or music then hold it tightly, don’t let law school snatch that precious thing from you. Never trade things that you enjoy with that one additional moot that you could participate or prepare for, it will never be worth it.
Thanks all, fellas!
If you want to discuss any of these suggestions further or want to say hey and have a casual chat, then write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will take it from there.
Belated Happy New Year!
From a law student who scored 33% in Mathematics Class 12th Board Exam (CBSE)