This article is written by Abhyuday Agarwal, COO, Team LawSikho.
Should I go for a corporate law firm or in-house law? Should I specialise in media law or tech law? Should I go for litigation? How can I decide what I truly want to do? The general advice is to try and figure it out by doing different kinds of internships.
I am sure you have received this advice. Keep trying different internships until you like something. Many law students fall into this trap and then towards the end of their law school, they wonder why they are not getting the jobs that they really want to get! Internships are not great for exploring your options.
They are great for creating opportunities once you have a clear goal. When you go for an internship with an exploratory mindset, you usually go unprepared. In which case, you are most likely to get sidelined and kept busy with some drudgery like reading old files, research that will never be put to any use or getting coffee and print outs.
Imagine that you are interning with the investment law team of a law firm.
If you are involved, the lawyers will take you along, and delegate bits and pieces of their work every now and then. You might work on things like minor drafting, proofreading the documents they are drafting before they send those out. They may ask you to accompany them to negotiations and get you to take notes. They want you to research legal issues that they are facing while drafting, negotiating or advising their clients. You will be asked for your assistance in deal compliance or due diligence and so on.
You will know that you are important and relied upon when this happens. You will be explained what is going on and exactly what is expected from you. To get that much exposure and responsibility, you need to come to the table with some understanding and skill. They are not going to involve you to that extent if you are clueless about the work they are doing, and if you are too slow in picking up what you have to do. You being slow will slow the team down and that’s something they can’t afford.
So you need to go for an internship with adequate preparation. Otherwise, you will be made to sit in a corner and kept occupied with some busy work, irrelevant research, fixing some random table of annexures that may never go to the client and another drudgery.
So when you go unprepared to an internship, you do not really get a real glimpse into that world. You form some misconceptions, in fact, about what that work is like. For one, getting an internship that one really wants is itself hard. It requires you to demonstrate a certain level of skill sets and build a track record over time in today’s time to even crack a top-notch internship.
For those who accidentally or gratuitously secure an internship that they want, getting substantial work and proving themselves enough to get a real taste of the work is quite, quite unlikely given how competitive things have become today unless they prepared for months ahead. It was admittedly quite different even 10 years back. But with every passing year, it is getting harder.
If you want to try out career choices through internships, you will neither get to know what the real work is like nor will it be possible to try out many different careers realistically through internships.
What is the next best alternative?
To know what it is like to work as an in-house counsel in a tech company, you have to actually do the work that such lawyers do. Draft tech contracts, prepare advisory notes for your colleagues about the legality of a new product or services, learn the compliances that you have to perform and perhaps understand the kind of issues that you have to deal with in terms of litigation and policy advocacy.
What if you could work on these kinds of assignments in a simulation model?
Want to know if you will like working in IP Law? Try drafting IP related agreements, work with case files, learn the work that IP lawyers actually do in IP law firms.
Want to learn how it is to be a criminal lawyer? Hanging out in a criminal lawyers chamber is not the best way to find out. You need to do the work that criminal lawyers do. Draft bail applications (in simulation exercises, and then get feedback on your quality of work). Perhaps prepare a briefing for a senior counsel. Prepare a strategy on how you are going to recover the money someone lost in a cyber scam, get feedback on how much of it you got right and see if you enjoy doing these things.
Can you do such things in simulation mode? Where?
Let me explain.
At Lawsikho, we have been conducting courses of 3 months’ to 1-year duration to support young professionals in building the careers that they aspire for. We thought this should be enough for you to figure out what you want to do.
After all, at the heart of our courses are these simulation exercises followed by feedback and live training from actual experts. Wil that not give you enough opportunity to figure out what you want to do?
This has not been working…
However, several young students have in the recent past told us, even after taking up a course, that they are not enjoying that area of law and they want to shift to something else.
And we understand their predicament. You start doing IP law and realise it is not evincing any true interest or passion. What can be done? Should you have opted for contract drafting or company law instead? Maybe.
How can we tell for sure?
Many conversations start with something like, “I have been following your work for a few months now, and I appreciate it.”
And then they make a request, such as:
- I have a curiosity to learn more about X subject, and I want to learn more about the subject. Do you have a course that I can pursue?
- I do not have any idea about practical aspects in the area of my interest. How can I learn more about the work performed by an intellectual property lawyer on a daily basis? Or, how can I learn more about corporate transactions? Or, how can I get started with contract drafting?
- I have not made a long-term decision about my career right now, but I want a brief experience in the area of my interest, before making a long-term investment of 3 months or 1 year. Which course can I pursue?
- What if I do realize that I do not have any interest in the subject later?
- I do not have 3 months to prepare for a subject. How can I improve my skills for an internship which starts next month?
- I have exams coming up in 2 months. I am interested in the “X” area of law, but I can only afford to study intensively for 1 month. I will decide about my future career prospects later. How can you help me?
- What kind of progress can I make in one month? How can I maximize my chances to crack an interview next month?
- Your teaching methodology seems very promising. I want to learn more about my area of interest, and I want to try out a course from you. Do you have a short course on the subject?
Basically, the idea is this.
Do you have a shorter course that can help us to figure out if we really like this area of law before we jump into a commitment of 3 months, 6 months or 1 year?
Sure, that made sense to us. This is a fair expectation on the part of a law student trying to figure out what to do with their career.
It takes us at least 8 to 12 weeks to impart skill sets that a practitioner would often learn in 1 year of practice in an unstructured learning environment (primarily observation & trial and error).
We have already shortened the learning timeframe by three to four times through structured teaching. We are able to pack a lot of learning, insights and skill development in a short time. But we can’t really make someone ready for a job or client work at any rate in less than 3-6 months. Some areas of work are vast, and we need at least a year to do any justice.
But that does not mean we can’t come up with a one month course that will effectively introduce you to an area of work, give you some initial skills that you can develop and then enjoy solving some real legal problems!
Could we compress some amazing learning into 1-month courses that will work as introductory courses for law students trying to decide what they really enjoy doing?
Our biggest challenge
For a long time, our courses were 3 months to 12 months long. You had to determine a short-term career goal that you want to achieve in the next 3 months to 1 year, and decide to spend one hour every day, practising to attain proficiency under our guidance.
Would we be able to offer similar value and services in a one-month period as we offer our 12-month diploma course students or our 3-6 month Executive Certificate Course Students?
Would it be possible to train students through weekly classrooms and line-by-line evaluations in a course which is only 1-month long?
Could we prepare students for internships and offer placement support? Would students make enough progress in 1-month?
We had to carefully curate learning that would be most relevant and could be taught very quickly to beginners. It was a really exciting exercise.
We have finally been able to zero in on some really interesting aspects, and nicely compress it into a 1-month program.
In fact, for a limited period, for those who take up the courses earlier, we are even offering a full money-back guarantee as per our refund policy!
Please note that these courses are meant only for law students. We will not admit anyone else to these courses as these are not suitable for working professionals at all.
Before I sign off, I want to say something else as well.
This email is not just about the launch of new courses, but about the freedom to choose.
The freedom to choose must also allow people with different personality types and preferences to choose differently.
Hence, I want to explain how law students with different kinds of personalities can exercise their freedom to choose.
We have created this categorization from our experience of coaching thousands of students.
By no means is this categorization exhaustive.
As you go through the part below, identify your personality type, reply to this email and let me know.
Personality types and life goals
When students ask us for guidance on which area of law to specialize in, we usually recommend that they first discuss their personality type and life goals.
The Perfectionist and the Explorer
The ‘Perfectionist’ person is an idealist, who wants to build his career in an area of his true interest. He wants exposure to more than one area before making a choice, gets some exposure, assesses his level of interest, and then decides which area is best.
The ‘Explorer’ may not be a perfectionist but wants to try out a few things before settling down, just to be sure that he has enough understanding to make a choice and has not missed out on an opportunity that may have been relevant.
Let’s see how this plays out.
Amrita, a law student, decides to learn about corporate law practice for a month. After that, she decides to change the direction of her career, say, to intellectual property laws.
She is not constrained to specialize in corporate laws and can take up a one month course to learn about intellectual property laws if she chooses to do so.
She can, therefore, save a lot of time, and have the freedom to discover her area of interest.
Since one month of learning costs only INR 3000/- (all-inclusive), she can afford to try out a couple of areas and then decide what to specialize in, without investing a very large amount of money and time.
She has the freedom to experience practical work on intellectual property and media and entertainment laws for one month before she finally chooses to commit to one of the areas.
If she decides to continue with intellectual property and media and entertainment laws, she may be willing to pursue a more detailed program for 3 months (such as an Executive Certificate Course in Media and Entertainment Laws or in Trademarks Licensing, Prosecution, Licensing and Litigation) or a one-year diploma program in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment laws.
If she subsequently decides to specialize in corporate law, she has the freedom to do so. Depending on her area of interest, she can take up a more specialized course, such as:
- Diploma in Business Laws for In-house Counsels, or
- Diploma in Companies Act, NCLT & SEBI Regulations, or
- Diploma in M&A, Institutional Finance and Investment Laws, or
- Executive Certificate Course in Securities Laws and Capital Markets, or
- Executive Certificate Course in Banking and Finance Laws.
(If she makes a decision soon enough, she even would have the opportunity to offset the fees for one of her programs while taking the next one.)
The Digital Nomad
Simran fancies living the life of a digital nomad. She wants to travel the world.
She has identified that she can draft contracts remotely for clients, perform editing work remotely for a publisher, produce research for a law firm or ghost-write books.
She wants to validate whether this idea makes sense. To make some initial progress, she wants to explore learning some introductory contract drafting skills, or legal writing skills or general corporate law skills that could enable handling multiple types of assignments.
She doesn’t want to settle on one specific area – she wants to become capable of handling many things and move from one thing to another, at will.
The Independent Person
Manu wants to study for an entrance test, but also acquire skills to be able to meet his living costs while on a part time basis.
He decides to learn, say, introductory contract drafting or legal writing to take up part time jobs.
Ramesh, interning under a senior lawyer, wants to be a litigator, but desires the ability to serve additional clients personally too, to earn a supplementary income. He would take any of the different types of assignments as long as they pay, and therefore seeks the ability to handle any work that comes to him.
Manik, on the other hand, wants to try out litigation, but intends to have a backup career option of working in a law firm or in a company, if it does not work out for him.
He has always had an interest in intellectual property laws, and wants to take up the course on IP and media law practice.
His colleague, Nimisha, on the other hand, wants to work in a corporate law firm. She can explore the course on corporate law practice.
This categorization, by no means, is exhaustive.
While each person has different goals, they have an opportunity to explore further, without making a very big commitment initially.
They do not need to take a leap of faith.
Once they discover their true interest, they can decide what to take up next.
You should check out the courses that are live on LawSikho right now:
You can also get in touch with me and my team for career guidance. Give us a call on 011- 4084-5203.
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