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It is law school admission season once again, a time when some may have questions regarding the plunge they are about to take.
And those who are more acquainted with the scenario tend to have questions of their own, as the years spent pursuing a law degree go by.
In this interview, we get Tanuj Kalia, Founder of Lawctopus and author of the book Law as a Career to answer some of these queries, and to discuss an array of law school-related topics.
Aditya AK: Who is a career in law most suited to?
Tanuj Kalia: If you have these four qualities, you are suited for a career in law:
TK: One, you should be able to think well, which means, think logically, critically and creatively. Second, you should be able to read well, which means, be able to comprehend tough texts and read between the lines. Third, you should be able to write in flawless English. Fourth, you should be able to put across your point cogently. This doesn’t mean you need to be an ace public speaker, but being able to talk well is important.
All of these skills can be developed with practice. The above four things ‘think, read, write and speak’ might seem very simplistic but if you have these, you’ll do well.
AK: What do you think is better, the 3-year or the 5-year course?
TK: What do you think is better, green tea or salad?
I don’t think a comparison can be made here. The two courses, their advantages and disadvantages are like chalk and cheese.
AK: Would you say that maintaining high grades in law school is all-important?
TK: Maintaining high grades in law school doesn’t harm at all, does it? It only opens doors to a lot many things like foreign LLM programs, top law firm jobs. There are many companies and PSUs which short-list a student on the basis of their marks.
Now, while it’s important, it’s not the be all and end all of law school.
I’ve seen people in the bottom 10 percentile of their batch get great jobs. They did well in their internships, or in high quality moots and ended up doing well for themselves.
AK: Most law schools demand 5 research projects or more per semester. Do you think this is fair?
TK: We had five, 5000 word research projects per semester in our first year. Thankfully, sense prevailed and this was brought down.
In our 3rd year, we were writing three 3000 word projects.
However, if you do the maths of say five, 3000 word research projects per semester it really comes to writing 100 words/day for 150 days (150 days is roughly a semester).
That’s manageable. Lawyers have to write more than any other professionals, even more than journalists and writers, and research and writing skills can only be improved by practice, getting feedback and working on the suggestions.
While I don’t think it’s fair and easy, I don’t think it’s supposed to be fair and easy.
AK: How does one cope with the unhealthy competition that is characteristic of law school?
TK: I’ll sound idealistic here, but it’s by competing with yourself.
It’s also important for first year students to not be overawed by the glib speakers and the genius writers they’ll invariably find in their batch.
In my law school experience I saw many a such ‘talent’ wasting itself in the next half decade and the ‘hard workers’ rise so much that you wondered how the hell they ever considered themselves ‘not talented’.
It’s also important to speak to your seniors and faculty. They know better than you and advice from someone who’s been there and done that helps. Young law students shouldn’t shy away from being the first ones to say ‘Hi’!
AK: At what point does a student have to get serious about building a CV?
TK: From the day of entering law school till the day of passing-out.
Also, one shouldn’t see anything as a CV building exercise but as a self-building initiative. A second position in a moot court competition looks good on the CV, but more importantly, it teaches you how to work on a problem, research and writing, working in a team, winning and losing.
Many law students waste their initial years doing nothing, saying that they are ‘surveying the field’. Similarly, many waste their fourth and fifth years, ‘chilling around’.
Survey for a week, but then get to work. Chill for a week or a month or for certain hours of the day, but then get to work.
AK: What is the best way to go about looking for internships?
But here’s a 101:
AK: What advice would you give students preparing for an interview?
What changes in Indian legal education would you suggest?
We need to make sure that our students are well-versed with the basics of legal education first: Jurisprudence, Torts, Contracts, Constitutional Law, Interpretation of Statues, Property Law, CrPC, CPC and IPC.
When you are thorough with these subjects, you can build upon that and venture into any field. I mean, what does a Sports Lawyer really do? Most of the work there is dealing with contracts of the Sports Industry. Yes, some sports specific issues will surely come, but someone well versed with the core principles of law will surely be able to deal with them.
The problem of good faculty in India isn’t going go away in near future.
But here’s something which could be a good (surely not perfect solution). Get the top faculty members across law schools in India come together for, say, a 10 day seminar (we can put them in Goa or Shimla). Record 40 hours of lectures each on a given subject which are then put online for free viewing.
AK: Did you face any peer pressure for taking a path less travelled?
TK: You face peer and parental pressure till your peers/parents don’t know what you are up to. They are concerned. So one needs to respect their concern and communicate with them.
Absorbing the pressure and going beyond it depends on what sort of a life you want. If the well-trodden path satisfies your vision of an ideal life, that’s great.
But mediocrity is all around us. If there’s a path that is frequented upon frequently, and you see that people on that path are leading lives that don’t inspire you, change the path. Or be a path-breaker, literally.
Get your peers/parents to be a partner in that trail-blazing. If they don’t join in, ekla cholo re! They’ll anyways be alright once they see that you are doing well.