More often than not, law welcomes students and young aspirants from generational influence in the industry. Times, however, do not remain so constant, with the emergence of new generations, law as an industry is being and will be subject to newer generations. Being one can be intimidating due to the lack of a clear path.
So, what do first-timers say about the legal field? They find it intimidating and time-consuming, allowing one to rethink their entire life choices. This is by no means to scare a prospective student of law, it is but a reality check. The law demands patience, perseverance, and ambition. Make no mistake, it is not for the faint heart. Such reality checks are important due to the sheer ignorance that is professed by our education system. It spends more time on what is to happen with the syllabus than what is to happen with the child’s future and prospective career. This can especially be seen by many who, when first touching law realise that the law isn’t just the Indian Constitution.
This article will seek to highlight the following points for the newly initiated and/or prospective candidates who want a dip into the pools of justice:
- Where does learning actually happen in law?
- What should be your goal and how to identify it?
- Is experience really king? Why should there be active participation always
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The biggest question that law aspirants ask often; what do they need? Which skills are necessary to sustain and climb the ranks of this competitive industry? The three most important things that any law aspirants can focus on are there:
Skills such as patience, confidence, public speaking, drafting, research etc.
Such as internships, court visits, sessions with industry experts.
A combination of the above, with such access to people who happen to be in the industry. Such interactions can create a perfect opportunity for one ‘career.
The basics of what makes a great lawyer. Now, given that many of those who read this will be young lawyers both budding and fresh into the industry, it is pertinent to understand the power of such aspects. Enhancing one’s skills through activities, projects or even working can go a long way to make a person that much stronger than their art.
5 pointers that will help you be at the top of your game
With that being said, here is a list of things that law aspirants can do through their academic careers:
1. Understand your subjects
Education in India is a controversial understanding. It is often said that the system is designed to impart mass education over quality education, focusing more on the generality and teach styles and methods rather than an in-depth understanding. Well, this is true in many but not all accounts, education in India is difficult theoretically if not in the right university or college. Practical knowledge is often a lost cause when it comes to a schooling experience.
This is the first complaint; any student will have when going to law school in India would be the lack of emphasis on industry needed skills. Often, practical experience is restricted to a monthly experience at the end of terms, unless students decide to work through the term as apprentices. This was the original practice, a study in the morning, an apprentice in the evening and work at night. However, with the rise in competitive industry placements, students often need to put in all their hard work to keep above the average for better placements. Despite being told, students often forget to understand that the industry looks for skills that they can work with rather than what one possesses. Academic excellence is required for the best placement, however, that does not remain the only criteria, if anything it acts as a bonus rather than a determining factor.
So, understand your subjects through experiences. If one were to learn contract law in the first half of law school, learning how to draft contracts and other specific agreements can go a great way to help you understand the subject while also adding the required experience that testifies to your skill.
2. Never narrow your vision
When going through law school, it is often easy to lose sight of the broader picture of the law. Students often come into law school for specific reasons, money being among the larger reasons sighted. While it is true that patience and perseverance pay in the legal world, such reasons often see students succumbing to the pressure that law school and the industry bestows on them. It is a sad reality that is often lost when people speak through school and college addresses.
Another notable way that students narrow their vision is through the choice of field. Students often enter law school with dreams, hope and a determined mind towards a certain field or job. It is important to have a vision, but to be constrained to that vision can be detrimental.
Having a broader vision keeps students ready for new interests and fields, during their initial years. Students must intern at places with multiple disciplines, authoring articles for a legal publication to working under an associate or partner, running around courts and observing cases. This method, albeit very crude at first glance, helps you understand the nature of things. After completing such small opportunities, events, projects, etc. You will find yourself forming strong opinions on certain topics, seeking certain areas. That process of elimination that is fuelled through physical exposure to the work environment creates a more firm decision for one’s career backed by experience and not reading from google.
3. Swim through experiences
Following the first two points, experiences are the greatest teachers. Law schools will often stress moots, client counselling and other such experiences. Albeit that such events do have the capacity to mimic an ideal circumstance to that of the real world, however, they are just mimicking. Well, there are times when it is difficult to enrol on a competition, stand in front of people and talk. Rest assured, that is not the only way to get the necessary skills. Internships and mentorship have always been the best way to learn the ropes.
Unlike legal competitions, this is the close one can get to the real world. Internships help in gaining the perspective required for practical application. When mentoring under someone, it gives you the real workaround on live cases and how each one is taken in the court of law. We are in a world where the law is supposed to look like the television show ‘Suits’, and the disappointment we face when it isn’t. But that is just the point, law, as we study it, is not how it is in real life.
During such internships, students can understand how the court works, from the layout to callings. In many internships, judges often encourage younglings to sit in court and see these proceedings. When a case that your senior is handling is called up, you get a sense of how things happen. In their basic nature, internships and mentorships are the reality check that young aspirants need when studying the law and for the bar.
4. Importance of networking
A more general tip for everyone, never ignore a chance to network. The world of being great at what you do is over, the rise in competent and skilled population took care of that slight issue. Networking is now king for all, especially first-generation career holders due to their first introduction without outside help in most cases. Now the question arises, where do you network? How do you network?
It is quite simple, any person you meet, take your time to get to know them. An interesting idea to pursue is called the ‘elevator pitch. The situation goes like this;
“You are stuck in the elevator with the person who is most renowned in the world and/or in their field. You believe that this person can enrich your career with opportunities that they can provide. Then in that 30-second elevator journey, pitch them yourself, an idea or anything that you believe will remind them to contact you when they need a person for the job”.
The elevator pitch may sound simple but do not be mistaken. To impress someone whose entire life at that point would be to see dozens or hundreds of applicants, all wanting an opportunity from them. Create a simple way to impress them and the chance just might be yours. Now do not mistake this for some scenario that you will never come across, in fact, many people will often arrive at such opportunities without head or tail of knowing what to do about it.
Get in front of a mirror and practice an elevator pitch, whittle it down to 30 seconds and you got something unique to you.
5. Participate! Participate! Participate!
All things said and done; participation is the one thing that a majority of students hold themselves against. It is “cringe” to say that the most important thing is to participate yet, however, nothing can be further from the truth. Experience is the harshest yet the best teacher there is. This should not be restricted to just events and fests, any opportunity provided that there is time and effort to spare, for the best work through one’s capacity must be explored. Here is a list of things that you can do:
- Moots, any moot with a good team and topic can go a long way to prepping you. Feeling confident, then try Jessup, Lach’s or other reputed moots and test your skills.
- Debates, debates are it solo or with a team, through Asian parliamentary or British Parliamentary are all good events to sharpen your oration and research skills. In India, most national law schools have highly competitive events, for the daring of course.
- Internships, any internship can give new perspectives that they could not have explored before. A great suggestion would be to start with legal publication and media, where you can have the opportunity to write about various law topics and fields giving a chance to research a majority, if not all. Post which, finalizing your area should become much simpler than it is, from then onwards, target tier one firm in that field to earn your keep and network like a diplomat.
For further details on any opportunities, websites like Lawoctupus, Memo Pundits and Lawsikho often have articles, blogs and even classified for upcoming opportunities. With the age of the internet, searching for opportunities is quite simple and easy to approach.
Prospective internship/work experiences plan for law school
Focus on at least one or two months of litigation to see the courts inside and out, work with NGOs and their legal teams to see how they handle the legality of their organization. The idea is for you to see what the law looks like in operation yet not jump in too deep. Write and publish blogs with reputed websites, journals, and other such platforms as they help you sharpen your researching skills whilst also introducing drafting into the mix. Work on your research skills and prepare yourself for mooting and other mock legal events. This can be done with the help of your seniors or even on your own.
Focus on participating in your mock law events. By now, you should have a solid team that you can continue to work with in the future. If you find yourself drawn to litigation, then continue through with similar firms and places of work. However, many students by now should try going into the corporate side, editing and publication of articles and research papers and also even contracts and agreement drafting. This is important as it is at this time when you will often see the introduction of Indian law into your syllabus.
By now, you should have a decent idea of where you want to go and where you see yourself in the future. Note that this doesn’t mean a clear-cut idea, but more on general classification. Do you want to do criminal or civil, corporate, or otherwise, international or domestic laws? However, if you still feel lost, then you could try internships in multiple fields on a one-month basis to further help you make a call. For those who know where to go, this is where the real game begins.
Using sites such as Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, try to identity the law firms that you see yourself wanting to work for. Go through their corporate profiles, see their website and determine which institutions you believe are the best for your skills as a person. Whilst doing this, as most tier 1 and 2 law firms only take penultimate and final year students, your goal would be to prepare yourself for that institution/field. If you are going into a firm that specializes in contract negotiations, then you best be sure how to draft a good contract without any hiccups.
4th and 5th year
The final years of law, ones with the most amount of opportunities, these two years will decide your canon into the field, lest you do your masters. Spend most of your time publishing articles with reputable journals, scoring big internship opportunities with reputed people in the field of your choice. These two years must be dictated by your experience in the field and not in your class.
Coming from a personal perspective, being a first-generation lawyer can be tough but possible. It all boils down to how much you can work and for how long you can keep at it. Think of it this way, all you need to do is prove that you are the better option and lucky for you, every experience counts as one tally against your competition. Outperform and you’ll do just fine.
A student’s toolkit is their set of skills and experiences that they can and must have to climb the industry ladder. It is understood that these skills often take time to work on and improve, considering – “Perfection is an art form of patience and persistence.”
Students of Lawsikho courses regularly produce writing assignments and work on practical exercises as a part of their coursework and develop themselves in real-life practical skills.
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