The following post describes the experience of a first-year law student interning in a NGO. You need to check out this page if your interest is in finding good legal internships.Long time since you have seen a good post on internship here. Srishti Aishwarya, who just finished her first year in NUJS has been doing an internship. She was kind enough to share her experiences and thoughts about interning with an NGO.
When I joined the law school, the first thing that struck my “wanna be” “gonna be” lawyer’s mind as resembling “professionalism” was the whole notion of “Internship”. That made me go nuts to get a good internship as we are supposed to do at the end of first year. After whole lot of hoopla and deliberation with regard to organization and place to intern , I finally managed to bag my first internship in an NGO as we are supposed to do in 1st yr, 3 months in advance. Like a crawling infant anxious to walk, I was more than keyed up to join the “office” of XXXX (a legal NGO, name removed by editor) with date and time fixed in April in anticipation of my joining in may!
I made an announcement to every acquaintance and relative of mine that I have to intern in holidays and it will start right after I come back. But when the D-day arrived, the funniest thing happened; I missed it! On the day when I was supposed to join, I didn’t get up before noon. When I got up I realized that it’s too late to go to the office.
Finally, I joined the internship the very next day. I was there exactly on time showing my sincerity and kind of what I thought as commitment towards the work and expecting the same in return. This expectation was because of my notion of “professional” efficacy and accuracy, exuberating “official” air kind of working style. But I had to get rid of my preconceived notions when the ambience illustrated the fact of ineptness and imprecision.
The only thing that made me feels that its office was the racks containing files out there. What I expected was lots of responsibility and lots of work to do as one can generally expect when one “works”. I wanted to learn things and do things, but there was no work forget about learning.
To begin with when I came in, I was assigned some work that was later on dismissed by the “boss” as not worth doing and by that time I had actually started doing it punctiliously and seriously which turned out to be kind of time pass for them so as to keep the intern engaged over something or other.
Since, it was my first day, I was kind of jittered and thus did whatever work they gave to me seriously, even when seems to be something crass. One reason for it was that, I had lots of expectations and secondly it takes the time to get the hang of the system and to know what is relevant and what is not.
After dismissing my disappointment and adjusting to the fact that nothing exactly like my preconceived cognition of “professionalism” or work exists, came to the turn of going to the high court. The initial feeling of exhilaration while walking down the altar soon dwindled and finally vanished after witnessing the signs of staggering working style, the ineptness of the system. The lawyer with whom I am working was able to sketch my perplexed and shocked state and tried to solace me by saying that “ Don’t worry, it’s your first visit to the high court!”. But my level of uneasiness by seeing the swarming throng, the whole noisy melee which I was unable to comprehend, and all dressed in black and the whole hustle bustle out there, led to inculcation of an urge inside me to see something in shades other than what resembled the black and white cinema! Anyways, yet I managed my way to the courtroom through that throng while trying to adjust to the ambience.
Although I cannot comment much about the experience in courtroom as I found myself unable to comprehend what is actually happening in court which can be credited to the inaudible voice of the arguing lawyers who choose not to use mike, I managed to satisfy myself by the fact, that I was able to see the proceedings and know what courts are like exactly.
But the way lawyers carried themselves and the whole system made me ponder while coming back after a tiring day that whether law school creates exceptions and we as their students wear such a garb of perfectionism that evince penchant towards corporate, professional cosmopolitan world rather than the ground realities as underlined by the rank and files which functions in a staggering and shabby fashion, especially the lower echelon of the system or the system stands as an exception in itself.
The stark difference between what the law school offers and the expectations which it gives rise to and the system which is actually at work or the fact that working style of the organisation I am working in or the visit to the high court is not matching up to the earlier outlook of perfection led to a kind of perplexion within, making me try to get a balance between what I expected and what I saw as reality.
I won’t like to comment about the diversity that India sustains in form of regional and communal motifs, but it definitely illustrates the diversity and differences in the fabric of working system, while on the one hand stands corporate world, mechanized, perfect way of working, manifesting efficacy and on the other hand stands the tottering system that strive at the pace of tortoise, elucidating corruption along with bungling. It either makes you quit the system or moulds you and makes you a part of it, so the threadbare system stands as it ever did.
The whole cognition of internship is circumscribed by the notion of learning. That is why we are supposed to work with NGOs, Trial Courts, High Court and Supreme court and the law firms.
I don’t have the experience of courtroom internships or of working with the law firm as in 1st yr we work with NGO, so I’m availing the opportunity to comment about NGO internship. The NGO internship did not offer me many opportunities to work and learn, it is just that it gives you some exposure of work. Till the end of 1st yr, a student is just limited to college and before that to school, engaged in study and various competitions. Working with an NGO gives a faint idea about what work can be like, otherwise it’s just wastage of time credited to as I said earlier lack of work.
In an NGO what people end up doing most of the times is to make a fool of themselves (I have heard similar kind of account of many people!) for one month for the sake of a certificate in abidance of the system of law school.
At least for 1st year I can recommend that it will be preferable if they are allowed to do some constructive work during vacation and giving an account of the same rather than binding them with the fixed format of internship and making them succumb to the incompatibility (read, lack of work as well) of the system, as after all its learning that matters and not the format!