Judicial Services, Law Firms most popular career goal: Findings of the Law Student Survey

The second Law Student Survey has seen some extremely interesting responses.
Judicial Services, Law Firms most popular career goal: Findings of the Law Student Survey
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

The second Law Student Survey has seen some extremely interesting responses, with participation from more than 500 students (516 in total) spread over more than forty law schools all across the country.

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Now, with a study set as diverse as this, it is difficult to draw any accurate conclusions; nonetheless there are some interesting findings along the way.

But before that, a short recap: students were asked to fill up a survey that sought details on their year of study, university, and provided them with eight options in terms of career goals.

These nine options were:

  • Corporate Law Firm

  • Civil Services (excluding the judiciary)

  • Judicial Services

  • In-house Legal Team

  • I don’t know yet

  • Litigation Practice

  • Legal Academia

  • Public Policy

  • None of the Above

The big picture

The perceived dominance of the corporate law firm when it comes to career aspirations is only somewhat supported through the survey findings.

Close to 22% of all respondents wanted to end up at a corporate law firm after completing their law. However, this is not the complete picture. The very same number were inclined to enter the judicial services.

Litigation practice was next in line with the "I don't know yet" coming in at number four.

Three-year versus Five-year

While the sample size and sheer diversity of the group means that it is hard to define sub-groups, what we have done here is to broadly compare the career goals of students enrolled in the traditional three-year LL.B. course with those enrolled in the "integrated" five-year undergraduate law course.

What is interesting to note here is that the number of five-year law students seeking a career in a corporate law firm is nearly a third less than those enrolled in the three-year course. Also, the number of five-year students who want to enter the judicial services is nearly double that of three-year students.

The Five year Course: A deeper look

Although (rather conveniently) panned for catering largely to the needs of corporate law firms, the five-year integrated course is one of the most interesting experiments in the history of Indian legal education.

It has also become one of the most rapidly growing courses in terms of popularity, so much so that the Bar Council of India had to issue a 3-year moratorium on the establishment of any new law schools.

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Be that as it may, the findings of the survey do point to some interesting trends. For one, a corporate law firm is not the most sought after career goal; the top post is taken by the judicial services. Two, there is a significant portion of the student population that is either unsure of their career goals (16.3%) or has narrowed down on an option that does not fit within the survey questions (2.6%).

If you dive deeper into the survey findings, more specifically the answers provided by first-year students, this is what you will find.

As for those in the final year of their studies, these are the findings:

First year versus Final year

Five years, as any law student will tell you, can be a rather long time. What the graph below is meant to reflect is the change in career aspirations through the length of the five-year course. After all, a first-year student may have completely different career goals when she reaches the final year of her studies.

Surprisingly though, this does not seem to quite be the case here. Except for the “I don’t know yet” section, where first-years are nearly double that of final-years, there does not seem to be too much variation.

Now, let us take a look at the three-year course, the more traditional avatar of professional legal education in the country.

The first surprising bit about the findings is the dominance of corporate law firms as a career path, with nearly a third of all respondents indicating their preference in this direction. In fact, if you look at the preference of first-year LL.B. students, then the fraction rises to nearly 60% which is quite an astonishing leaning.

The other unexpected finding related to those who were unsure of what they wanted to do after law, with more than 20% of all final-year students and 17% of first-year students undecided as to their career goals.

When it comes to those in their first year of the LL.B. course, more than half of all respondents have indicated a preference for corporate law firms. That, by itself, is quite an interesting finding and definitely merits a relook as to just what are the motivations of the Indian law student at the postgraduate level.

The drop in interest in corporate law firms is quite noticeable when it comes to final-year LL.B. students, with roughly a quarter falling into this category. What ought to be a worrying factor is the fraction of law students are unclear as to what their future career is going to be.

Final thoughts

Like I mentioned at the start, the data here is suffers from being too diverse and spread out; it need not be an accurate reflection of all law students studying in every law school in the country.

Having said that though, this is indeed a welcome start towards identifying just what are the aspirations of the Indian law student.

(The author is the co-founder of legal education research and consultancy firm, Amicus Partners)

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