This article on the practical learning for law students is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, Co-founder & CEO at iPleaders.
Practical learning for law students – how can you get started while you are in law school?
Ok – for quite some time, I have been harping about learning practical skills over here. But how can you get started? How can you take safe, baby steps towards learning practical skills while you are studying in a law school or a law college?
I really don’t believe in baby steps when it comes to learning. What really pays off is taking a plunge and immersing yourself in real life situations that require a response. I believe in consistency and commitment when it comes to learning any skill at all – the people who persevere will always win in the long run. In long run, consistent tortoises almost always beat lazy but talented rabbits. There is no difference when it comes to practical learning.
There is one mantra when it comes to acquiring practical skills – expose yourself to real life situations on a consistent basis. Jump off the cliff – take risk and get into handling some real life legal problem. Then do whatever you can to solve it- talk to fellow students, get with touch in the uncle in the law firm, stalk your teachers, hunt for information in national archives if needed – you’ll be amazed by the results. You’ll be amazed at how fast and how effectively you can learn.
Anyway, as promised at the beginning, let me give you a simple blueprint to follow. The blue-print is simple, but not the tasks necessarily. The point is to take up difficult challenges and make things happen. Decide as soon as you read them as to when you are going to try them out. Marking your calendar and planning out is very crucial – or it is likely that you’ll never try these awesome things.
Get someone a bail
No matter what law you are planning to practice – doing this will open up a new world for you. If you ever visit a jail, you’ll come across people who do not even know why they are in jail. Many of them are there just because they could not pay the bail money. Some have been booked for bailable offences – but just don’t have anyone to look after them and don’t know what needs to be done to get out. Help at least one person like this to get a bail.
Yes, it sounds very strange, and probably you want to practice corporate law. However, doing this will require you to completely get out of your comfort zone, and it will teach you more lessons about our criminal justice system than any one person can. It will probably completely change your outlook towards law. It’s a must do. And trust me, it is not as difficult as it seems to be before you do it. Take it as a challenge and figure out how to do it.
Go to any courtroom and listen to the arguments
This is another thing that every law student should do. Many do it while they are interning. I did it during the one internship I did under a litigating lawyer. The best part of being in Bombay High Court was getting to hear some of the top lawyers in the country argue about commercial matters. I particularly remember a case where a top lawyer argued passing off and trademark infringement.
When you watch consummate litigators and novices argue before judges – you’ll see the difference. The practice of law and the mystery of court craft will suddenly start to make sense.
Apply for an internship with a registrar of any court
This is an internship that no one thinks of – but I did this once – to figure out the mysteries of a court registry. It’s not as difficult to land as other internships – because very few people want it anyway. You can even go meet a registrar and tell him that you want to intern in order to learn how the registry functions. I dare say most of them will be happy to accept an eager hardworking intern. You can even write a paper on it while you are at it – I regret not doing that when I had the chance.
Figure out how to do a property search
This is really interesting. Property and real estate cases are bread and butter for more than 50% of the lawyers in our country. However, law colleges never teach anything even remotely connected. Understanding the land registry, property search and connected matters are building blocks of the practices of young lawyers – this is how most young Indian lawyers build their first client bases. In any case, even if your eyes are on top corporate law firms, they will certainly have some real estate practice and knowing how to do a property search and how to look into records are going to make you quite special even there. It’s totally worth doing just to get out of your comfort zone and for the thrill of figuring out the legal bureaucracy on your own.
Help someone to get their minimum wages
I bet there are lots of people around you working in the organised sector who are not getting minimum wages. Top suspects are security guards, construction workers, sweepers and canteen workers on your own campus. If nothing there will be some upcoming commercial constructions in your area. Get hold of the people working there, find out the minimum wage they are entitled to, and if they are not getting it, take up the fight on behalf of them. Report violations you may find to the labour officers in your district. You’ll not only learn a lot about labour laws and the labour law machinery – this would again have the effect of getting you out of your comfort zone and building up confidence.
Work for a startup
All start-ups need lots of legal help and most can’t afford any. Help them, especially if your area of interest is business law. Help them to incorporate, assist them to enter into an agreement between the co-founders, get them registrations for their trademark, help them with their business contracts etc – they may even pay you for it. Working with early stage start-ups while I was still in law school was one of the most enriching experiences for me learning wise.
And I still regret not doing what I preached here in point number 1. Make sure you don’t regret not doing these when you graduate and get busy with earning a livelihood.