A career in law has many diverse avenues. How do you choose the right one?
The phrase “I am lawyer” usually brings to mind an image of black robes, regal-looking red-bricked court building, hideous white wigs and naturally rows of intimidating books. Although that image might still hold true in certain cases, it has largely diversified into an image of people wearing business suits working in an office and negotiating agreements, settlements, etc. in a conference room even if the intimidating books still endure.
The two main branches of the legal world are civil and criminal. However, nowadays the branches don’t stop there. For instance, the civil branch has broadened to include specialisations such as real estate, banking, corporate, mediation, international, human rights, securities, cyber, media and intellectual property and many more. It is not necessary to stick to the traditional option of litigation.
In the premier law institutes there are usually courses offering you an insight into these different specialities which should give you an idea of what it may entail as a career.
Nevertheless the best way to experience these areas is to undertake internships during your study of law. It is important to go down this path from your first year and continue to widen the scope of your internships by your final year. Gaining work experience in the lower courts, NGOs and law firms will provide you with a glimpse of how the law and lawyers function on a day-to-day basis. If possible try to shadow a lawyer for a week or so before you begin Law University which will give you a further edge.
It is essential to be pro-active as a student. Have a CV prepared and approach various law firms, NGOs, LPOs, courts depending on your interest and ask for an internship. This will supplement your legal education as well as build your CV so that during your fourth year, which is the placement year at most universities, you will have the opportunity to fine-tune your career options and interests.
Participating in extracurricular activities such as mooting, being active in various societies and presenting or publishing papers of your research is vital. These activities are not only the more entertaining facets of Law University; they also help you develop as a person improving upon your team work, oral skills, research and analytical skills, etc. But all this is followed by an indispensable caveat, which is that your academic qualifications also carry a lot of weight and therefore achieving a delicate balance between both spheres is imperative. In the spirit of the recently concluded Olympics, remember that Law University is similar to the marathon and not the 200-m dash. It requires stamina, focus and dedication throughout your study.
It is only a matter of deciding from one of the numerous options before you on how to put your law degree to the best use. As mentioned before working at court or even a firm is no longer your only option.
Law graduates are in demand in areas such as the civil services, NGOs, LPOs, business management, banking, international relations, and research for think-tanks or even legal journalism. The only necessary factors are your interests and finding the perfect fit between the knowledge of your strengths and potential and the requirements of the job, as the skills gained from your law degree lays the foundation to be successful in most fields.
The writer is partner Amarchand Mangaldas, Chennai (This concludes a three-part series on law education.)
Keywords: law education