What I Wish I had Learned Better While I was Still in Law School

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This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, LawSikho.

There are many regrets I have about how I did not use my time optimally while I was in law school, due to lack of perspective.

Do not get me wrong, I was very very productive in law school from 2nd year onwards. I worked very hard, and I used to say that I work in 3 shifts. One shift was academic work, and I did fairly well academically. This included preparation to make my dream come true, which is to join a good law firm at a top salary. I achieved that. I had multiple offers from top law firms, and technically got the highest salary package (it was just a few thousands more than the 2nd highest) from an Indian law firm during the day 0. 

The second shift was my work as a freelancer, which I did to earn money. I mostly worked with a law entrance coaching, managing a team of about 20 freelancers, creating content, offering classes and delivering promotional campaigns to increase enrollments. It worked really well, and I was the best in business. I made some serious money every month from this. I could afford to pay my college fees on my own, afford a good lifestyle and even travel abroad once a year thanks to my earnings.

Apart from this, in the 3rd shift, I worked on building a company. It was just a blog at first, iPleaders blog. Today, of course, it draws over 1 crore unique readers a year, but back then I didn’t even get a thousand readers!

Nonetheless, I didn’t only blog, I also went and met entrepreneurs, attended events, tried to land speaking gigs and paid work. It sometimes worked, though it was hard to convince people to give you professional work when you are only a student. Nothing deterred me though, I kept at it.

Overall, my college days were very productive, instructive and full of learnings and opportunities for growth. It was one of the most productive periods of my life and set me up for bigger success later. When I was working insane hours at a law firm, later on, I did not feel the same thrill, didn’t experience that level of growth or intellectual satisfaction, which was a major reason behind me jumping ship to start my own venture after 12 months in a law firm Trilegal.

However, even then, I regret not learning something that I wish I had learnt while I was in college.

There are 3 subjects I wish I had spent more time and effort learning, which would have really helped me a great deal in the future. All these 3 laws are massive in scope, and I am not talking about learning a few sections and case laws. I passed these exams with flying colors, and definitely, have a functional knowledge of all 3.  

But I am talking about a deep, practical and expert level understanding of the subjects. Knowledge of these 3 subjects can help you a great deal no matter what you do in life, including being a startup entrepreneur like me. On top of that, if you are a lawyer, these 3 subjects will make you stand out amongst your colleagues, and earn their respect, whether you are into M&A and transactions, or dispute resolution and litigation, or even IP law for that matter.

I want to tell you what and why of these 3 subjects, so you do not make the mistake I made. Also, in case you are already a lawyer with significant years of experience and still do not have absolute clarity on these subjects, you need to pay attention, too.

Company Law

Company law is like an ocean. It cannot be covered in one semester in college. Even 2 or 3 semesters cannot be enough for this humongous subject. However, it is an extremely important and very rare skill. It is incredible how many lawyers are practicing in big law firms or in-house legal departments of top companies without having a comprehensive knowledge of company law. 

And this is why those colleagues who have mastered company law are sought after. Want to impress someone in an interview? Tell them that your favorite area of law is company law and you have written over 10 articles on various aspects of company law. They would first be suspicious about it and definitely test you. This is because very few people know company law well. If it turns out that you are actually really great at it, you would earn their genuine admiration and respect.

It is no different when it comes to corporate clients. Directors, CEOs, promoters of companies, all of them are forced to learn a lot of company law and corporate governance. The first thing that they test a lawyer about is their knowledge of company law. If you are knowledgeable about company law and you can guide them about the practical problems they are facing, it will go a very long way for you.

It becomes even more critical for all those who work in in-house roles. I would say that how fast you progress in in-house teams depends a great deal on your knowledge of company law. Even if you are great at your work, and your work does not involve much company law, I humbly request you to make sure you take out som2e time to get expert-level knowledge of company law.

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CPC

Another gigantic and very daunting subject is the Civil Procedure Code. When in college, I found this subject incredibly boring though it was taught by a very sweet retired judge. While we understood the concepts, I never acquired a thorough understanding of the hundreds of sections and orders stuff the way, say, I mastered contract law or even the IPC or CrPC. I was so bored and scared of CPC that I usually used to write poems in CPC class. Some of those poems went on the become famous in the Bengali cyberspace of the day, but that did not at all help my knowledge of civil procedure.

I think I managed to read through the bare act once, and thanks to good class notes scored the maximum possible GPA in the subject. But what one requires is a deep understanding of the subject to really help clients, not only in litigation but also in arbitration or even while drafting contracts. If you do not fully understand the cost and time involved in enforcing a contract, can you really do justice to your clients while managing a transaction? This is a big problem with many transaction lawyers that they do not fully comprehend the impact of the clauses they are putting into a contract.

If you knew a clause will take 10 years to litigation to implement, will you really fight tooth and nail to get it into your transaction documents? That’s a call you need to take based on the size of the transaction as well as the importance of the clause, but when you do not understand enough about civil litigation, I would say that you are not really ready to lead a transaction.

And of course, not knowing CPC is suicidal for a litigator or arbitration lawyer. You better spend time to learn the ins and outs of civil procedure to really stand out as a litigator or arbitration lawyer. The ability to get relief for your clients will depend a great deal on your mastery of CPC.

Even now I try to learn as much as I can about CPC because it has a bearing on almost every dispute. As the business grows, so does various kinds of disputes, and knowledge of civil procedure can make a great deal of difference in planning and execution. 

Corporate Tax 

Death and taxes are unavoidable, everyone has to pay taxes. However, for corporates, it is a very big deal. With one tweak, they can save millions or even billions on taxes. Companies cannot afford to screw up on their taxes. They spend millions of dollars on tax advice, tax litigation and tax structuring. 

Tax law is also one of the best areas of practice with the least competition. And really good pay.

Not everyone is meant to be a tax lawyer though. The rest of us still need to learn about tax, because our clients will always ask us all kinds of questions about tax and our won work often get affected by tax implications.

Ask any M&A lawyer or investment lawyer, can they ever structure a deal without knowledge of tax laws? Would a divorce lawyer not have to advice her clients on whether tax is to be paid on alimony? For example, did you know that you need to pay income tax on alimony that is paid on a monthly basis, but not on lump sum alimony received in lieu of monthly maintenance? Can you truly make the right call without knowledge of this small piece of law? 

It is no different for any lawyers, we all need to have some understanding of tax laws, but especially about corporate tax if you want to work for lucrative corporate clients. Pity be upon those IP lawyers or tech lawyers who are clueless about the tax aspects of an IP assignment or technology transfer agreements! They are almost certain to fall into one trap or the other from time to time.

So yeah, having a good knowledge of tax law goes a long way for all lawyers, even though tax law is not their mainstay!

Make an effort to learn more about it, and you will not regret.

Do you find it too hard to learn these subjects?

It is hard to read from a bare act or a commentary that just explains sections. It is hard to study company law, CPC or Tax laws because you do not get the perspective. We have been asked to memorize sections and case law! That doesn’t help.

What if you could learn based upon practical assignments that are designed as per real-life matters that arise frequently? Neuroscience suggests that you can learn faster and remember things much better when you learn experientially.

We have created courses that can teach you these subjects in a fresh new way, in a very limited time, through practicing simulation exercises of different kinds.

Just check out the syllabus and weekly exercises and you would understand how much you can benefit from these courses. Check out these links below:

Company law course

Civil litigation course

Tax law course

Also check out these other courses in which we are taking enrollment: 

DIPLOMA 

Diploma in Companies Act, Corporate Governance and SEBI Regulations

Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws

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Certificate Course in Real Estate Laws

Certificate Course in Arbitration: Strategy, Procedure and Drafting

Certificate Course in Securities Laws, Insider Trading and SEBI Litigation

Certificate Course in Media and Entertainment Law: Contracts, Licensing and Regulations

Certificate Course in Legal Practice Development and Management

Certificate Course in Advanced Civil Litigation: Practice, Procedure and Drafting

Certificate Course in Advanced Corporate Taxation

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Judgment Writing and Drafting Course for Judicial Services

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