Diplomacy, an analytical approach and precision are some of the elements you get to imbibe during your study of law.The legal profession also demands commitment, discipline and intensive time management skills.
Now that the counselling session is over in the leading law colleges, aspiring students should know that there are two ways of pursuing a basic law degree in India — a three-year course for which a graduate degree in any stream is a prerequisite, or a five-year course after high school at the end of which one gets an LL.B. degree — the Latin acronym for Legum Baccalaureus .
According to the Bar Council of India (BCI), India has one of the highest number of lawyers in the world — at least a million. Around 80,000 students graduate every year from 900 registered law schools.
India has a family of 14 national law schools across different States affiliated to the BCI, which conduct admissions based on the results of the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT).
CLAT is an all-India entrance exam conducted by these institutes and is taken up by nearly 25,000-30,000 students, annually. Students who have finished high school are eligible to apply for CLAT until the age of 20. The 200-mark paper is of two-hour duration and tests the student in English, Logical Analysis, Legal Reasoning, General Knowledge and Maths.
“Every year, an increasing number of students are appearing for CLAT. This trend indicates that law will be the pick of the lot among discerning students irrespective of their academic background,” opines Hema Raman, who also runs a CLAT coaching centre.
The All India Law Entrance Test (AILET) of National Law University, Delhi, and the Symbiosis Entrance Test (SET) of Symbiosis Law School in Pune and Noida are two other important entrance exams for law. The LL.B. degree is not formally recognised until accompanied by under-graduation in any discipline. Thus, students largely pursue the five-year B.A. LL.B degree programme. The course syllabus for the first three years is a mix of the under-graduate stream subjects and law subjects.
A curriculum in law involves subjects such as jurisprudence, contract law, Constitutional law, Indian Penal Code, company law and other fundamental laws. Methods of evaluation include experiments called CREs or courtroom exercises where one learns to draft a case and argue it before a professor or senior posing as a judge of the court.
Drafting is an indispensable tool for a lawyer. Structure, length, style, fluidity and comprehensibility along with excellent language and judicious use of words are essential attributes for articulating cases.
To make strong and foolproof arguments, a situation must be perused objectively through multiple dimensions, and this comes only with thorough research. Research includes gaining in-depth understanding of legal concepts and is one of the bulwarks of a good law career, involving excellent reading skills, knowledge of current affairs and infinite hours of work.
Co-curricular activities such as moots, debates and MUNs are excellent platforms to showcase and hone the art of public speaking, which is one of the trump cards for a lawyer. Interactions with students and professionals through these competitions, transcending social and intellectual backgrounds, unfold new horizons of thought and opportunities of learning.
Internships, an integral part of law school education, expose one to a smorgasbord of work environments and sets of colleagues, helping the law student acquire the formula to build social relationships — a very healthy habit, “especially when the work profile of the field is very people-oriented,” says Kritika Bairavan, a final-year student at NALSAR, Hyderabad. NGOs, government organisations, judicial clerkship and international bodies are some of the myriad options available to students in a course where text and truth don’t often meet. Journal writing is another challenging exercise for those who wish to invent an academic mix of legal research, literary skills and creative brainwork.
“Following instincts and not being swayed by the herd makes life both in and after law school interesting,” affirms Geetanjali Sharma, who recently graduated from NLU, Jodhpur.
To standardise the differences in legal education in all the institutions across the nation, most countries, including India, hold a separate bar exam for students after their graduation, without which they are not allowed to practise.
Many pursue a Master’s degree abroad or take up a job or work for a few years and then return to studies depending upon the circumstances.
LL.M. is a postgraduate course opted by students who wish to specialise in a specific area of law of their choice.
It equips them with extensive knowledge in terms of both depth and breadth which becomes important for further research and jobs in international organisations. World-class practitioners as professors and high-calibre peers accentuate the experience of further studies in law — bridging the gap between one’s domestic syllabi and its international counterparts.
“With a combination, like the one I have, many people go into media law. However, I plan to pursue an LL.M. in International Law in Switzerland,” says Christopher, who holds a Master’s degree in journalism, a Bachelor’s degree in law, and is currently preparing for his bar examination. “I have worked for the in-house legal counsel department of an MNC and have considered working for the UN, WTO and the World Bank. There are many different types of jobs that a law degree allows you to do.” he adds.
Job-wise, law covers a lot of ground and is dynamic. The conventional paths are litigation, solicitation, corporate clerkship and the like.
With the increasing population, relations and conflicts, many people ply for alternate dispute resolution (ADR) methods over traditional and time-consuming judicial procedures such as arbitration, mediation and conciliation.
Globalisation has engorged the impact laws of one country make on another, thus increasing the demand for lawyers to act as negotiators, lobbyists, trade facilitators, peace makers, social reformers and civil servants. “Only you can decide in which direction you will use your talent and skills of persuasion, research and analysis,” declares Ramanuj Mukherjee, an alumnus of NUJS, Kolkata and founder of iPleaders, a legal education startup which teaches law to people through online courses.
“A career in law has a high potential for commercial success. But more importantly, the legal profession provides the ability to guide individuals and corporations to steer through the nuances of the regulatory system, help resolve issues or secure justice. That is self-motivating and rewarding,” Vandana Rupani, senior counsel at Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, says.
Following instincts and not being swayed by the herd makes life both in and after law school interesting as it offers tremendous opportunities to discover one's true calling