Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut openly called out Karan Johar for being the flag-bearer of “Nepotism” in an episode of his very own chat show, the infamous – Koffee with Karan. It brought out the unsaid tale of what goes on behind the closed doors of Bollywood. Who is going to talk about the rampant nepotism in the legal industry?
The glamorous legal field is no stranger to nepotism. You might have faced it. Let’s say you are trying very hard to get an internship at a law firm but come up with rejections every time. Your friend, who happens to be a famous lawyer’s son, easily bagged one although he applied at the last minute.
This is the reference effect.
Would you make use of a reference your father has to get you an internship at a Tier 2 law firm? Is your answer a no? If the idealist inside you has already started rolling his eyes at me, give me a chance to present my case.
Using references to secure an internship or a job is not a recent phenomenon. A friend of mine got placed at a law firm without having to appear for an interview. She was practically driven to the firm and asked to join the very next day because her dad was an MLA. I, on the contrary, had to struggle to get an interview scheduled.
Did this bother me? Initially, yes. However, the faster I acknowledged the fact that references work, the lesser frustrated I was. In fact, I realised this was an option. I did not ask my parents or the IAS aunty to refer me to some place, in fact, I built my own network.
In spite of coming from a very influential family, I was determinant that I would never use my parents’ reference anywhere. I still maintain that about myself. However, I did use certain references.
You can build your own references on the basis of your hard work, intelligence and talent.
Imagine, you landed an internship with no references. Chances are that this internship is at a small law firm. However, if you happen to perform well at an internship and create an impression on the partner, chances are he would be willing to stay in touch with you. This is not because of the family background you come from, or because you have flattered him. This is primarily because he sees potential in you. In this case, if you ask him for a polite favour to recommend you at another firm, you are doing nothing wrong.
A very close friend of mine was known for her networking skills. An extremely smart and meticulous student, she wanted to make it big in commercial arbitration. She worked very hard at her first internship at a leading arbitration centre in India. The director loved the work she produced. He went ahead and recommended her to International Singapore International Arbitration Centre. She worked her magic there too.
Her networking skills were so strong that she managed to start an arbitration club in our university, published a book and has conducted two major conferences in Singapore and London. Needless to say, it was, of course, her knowledge that brought her so far, but networking played a key role in the process.
When I first joined iPleaders, I heard about Sayli Petiwali, who took up a course on Entrepreneurship and Business Administration and became a member of the iPleaders Club. As a result, she was assigned a mentor and was introduced to several other industry experts in order to prepare for various interviews. She took guidance from him to apply for a judicial clerkship. However, she made a major mistake in her application which possibly offended the judge. It was solely because of her strong networking and the bond she created with her mentor, that he helped her in spite of the mistake on the application.
It is immensely insightful to hear such success stories and realize what wonders networking do to you.
Where can you network?
As a law student, you can practically network anywhere. Mohona, my colleague, tells me of a story where she was attending a 3-day certificate course conducted by Naik Naik and Company at her college. The initial two days, while senior associates and partners were conducting sessions, everyone meticulously made sure their doubts and queries were answered by the end of the day. However, there was one girl from the 2nd year who was oblivious.
The day Mr. Ameet Naik, the managing partner of the firm, showed up, she opened her pandora’s box. She had questions lined up; questions that she didn’t ask during the first two days. Even while Mr. Naik was leaving, she managed to speak to him and convinced him to give her an opportunity to write for Naik’s blog.
Right from such platforms to virtual platforms like FaceBook, LinkedIn, and even Tinder (trust me when I say this, lawyers network here too), lawyers are making contacts.
Here are some places where you can build your network:
Internships are perhaps the best platform to get exposure.
You are under a constant scrutiny and your hard work is constantly being evaluated. Most of the associates are friendly if you do good work for them. Keep one golden rule in mind while you are interning: Introduce yourself to the Partner without fail.
During internships, the interns believe that they will be directly assigned work from the partner. Some believe that they will get work when partner calls for them or, even better, the HR will introduce them to the partner. This is not true.
Wait for a day or two, if HR does not introduce you to the partner, do it yourself. Seek work from him and give your best possible input. If you manage to do good work, get recognised for it and thereby create a network, you should be good to go – at least for the next internship.
Let’s say you are interested in media laws, and you go for a good media law moot court competition, you are likely to meet the big shots of the industry at one place. All it requires you to do is to muster some courage and speak to them once the moot court is over. In my post, 5 things to do while you are at law school, I have mentioned how moot court competitions like Vis Vienna, provide a social night specifically for networking purposes. Take your chance, if you manage to leave an impact, who knows where that may take you.
In a conference, your research paper is your identity. Conferences are known as platforms for knowledge exchange. If you are able to showcase the knowledge you have, you will be able to build a network for yourself from the very same audience. When I first developed an interest in company laws, I attended a workshop on “Startups and Evolving Laws.” I based my entire research paper on what I had learnt in one of the modules of my online course. I did not just receive a special mention in the valedictory ceremony but was also given an opportunity to work further with one of the leading law firms as an intern.
Online Courses and Clubs
There a lot of online courses that provide external mentorship to students. These mentors are professionals and luminaries from various areas and actively help and support students out of their busy schedules. It is also perhaps one of the key indicators of how much the course providers are aiming to help the students.
For instance, iPleaders provides 24*7 support for students by the mentors. They have a forum, where continuous questions about laws are being posted and legal luminaries from all around actively participate in them. Sayli is one of the many examples of people who were benefited by this network.
Social Networking Platforms
If you know how to use LinkedIn and FaceBook correctly, you will be able to garner the required attention. You will keep coming across opportunities that companies and professionals are willing to offer. However, you need to keep certain things in mind. You cannot cling on to every opportunity you get. You need to wait for the ones that best suit your interests and profile. If you meet the prerequisite and have adequate knowledge, you will automatically build relationships.
Networking can be a great tool if used the right way. All you need is the right connection at the right place (and some luck).
Till then, happy networking.