Law students are equipping themselves to tap avenues less explored - here's how the next generation of lawyers are adapting

From freelance writing to starting legal podcasts, how law students are adapting to this phase of the pandemic.
Upwork, Fiverr, YouTube
Upwork, Fiverr, YouTube

The unprecedented health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has witnessed law students across the country starting various initiatives in a bid to upscale themselves. A host of law students have joined freelance platforms like UpWork and Fiverr, started their own YouTube channels to discuss the law and more, and some are even engaging in paralegal work for clients overseas.

Bar & Bench spoke to some law students who have taken up such initiatives during this phase of the pandemic.

Boom of law students' participation in the gig economy

Jalaj Jain, currently a fifth year law student at Gujarat National Law University (GNLU), started a podcast called Fun With Law. He has also donned the role of analyst at a RegTech start-up and is associated with a Berlin-based think tank.

During the initial month of the first lockdown in March last year, Jalaj thought of starting a podcast where he invites guests he’d be interested to learn something from. A curious individual by nature, Jalaj utilised the lockdown as an opportunity to reconnect with his seniors, mentors, friends and alumni through the podcast.

Speaking about the idea behind the podcast he mentioned that it was inspired by Sheldon's (of Big Bang Theory fame) ‘Fun with Flags.’ Jalaj said,

“In my 22 episodes so far, I have focused on specific themes that I am personally curious about - so I’ve got guests from litigation and corporate backgrounds, people from Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge and Stanford, and people across countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistani and Europe.

Proclaiming himself to be a technology law enthusiast, Jalaj admitted that it was in 2018 when he identified that law and technology would experience a boom in the near future. He said,

“Back in 2018, there was barely anyone speaking about cryptocurrency or TMT as a field with scope. I knew that I need to be the first to discover a field less explored and devote time and energy in understanding the field and be as good as I can get. It would just be a lot easier for me to be early in doing something than trying to compete with contemporaries at a later point in time."

Speaking about his thought process while associating with The Regulatory Genome Project (a transformational initiative led by University of Cambridge) as an Analyst, he said,

“I believe sustainable integration of technology is the future and it will uplift the people who have never been uplifted. My aim for the next decade, in terms of the problem I want to solve, is rural poverty. I want to aid in uplifting the rural poor through technology and specifically through microfinance. Inevitably there will be data privacy concerns that come into play when building systems, that’s where I want to contribute and play my role.”

On his association with the Berlin-based Institute for Internet & the Just Society, he mentioned that he is part of their anti-trust group, where he engages in research on big data.

As a suggestion to fellow law students, Jalaj said,

“Opportunities are everywhere. Especially if one chooses an emerging field of law, the scope to contribute will be aplenty. You only need to make things happen with a proactive approach.

“Always try to think about the big picture - what is it that you want to do in the long run, and devote your time to it. There is a lot of compounding that will happen over the years which will really help in the future,” he added.

Samridhi Jain, a first year BBA.LL.B. student at MS Ramaiah College of Law, Bangalore, speaks about her journey as a legal content freelancer and generating client leads through LinkedIn. As someone who wasn’t sure of taking up law to begin with, to now managing a constant influx of national and international clients for legal content writing, Samridhi has had a good head start into the freelancing space with clients paying up to US$70 per project.

After completing junior college in Commerce with Psychology as a subject, she had a special interest in management studies. While she knew she was interested in business development roles in the future, by combining this interest with studying the law, she looks forward to expanding her freelance services in the years to come.

On generating client leads, she said,

“Though I have set up my profile on freelance platforms like Upwork, most of my client leads have come through queries on LinkedIn. Consistently posting content on LinkedIn with the target audience in mind has worked wonders for me. I have written legal articles, blog posts, newsletters, white papers and e-books for clients based out of the US, UK and Australia, all of whom have approached me via LinkedIn.”

As a suggestion to fellow law students trying to set up their freelance services, Samridhi said,

“There is a general notion that we need to know it all before we start working, but that is not the case at all. You learn while doing the job. For getting client leads through LinkedIn, make sure to have a professional photo; a banner that showcases the services you offer; a strong headline; keep your messages open for people outside your network to connect; and daily posting. All of these will help your profile get noticed when someone is looking to connect with professionals in your particular field.”

Samyuktha Banusekar, a fourth year law student, speaks about her ongoing research assistantship stints and volunteering with international organizations based out of the UK and US while being in law school.

Speaking about how she goes about securing these offbeat opportunities she said,

"Generally, I connect with people on LinkedIn and offer to help professionals. I share with them my goal of pursuing an LL.M. in Human Rights from the US or UK and how my engagement with them would help me reach that goal. Another approach is looking for international volunteerships online and customizing the geographical areas to where I see myself few years from now."

Samyuktha has delved on niche opportunities that adds value to her story and her larger goal of being a human rights and criminal lawyer.

Apart from this, she has also started an organization of her own by the name 'Branded and Labelled Community' through which she intends to create safe spaces for individuals who have faced discrimination in their lives.

Samyuktha was also associated with an organization in Chennai where she assisted with legal drafting related work, and she now gets approached by several start ups for work around contract drafting as a freelancer.

Speaking about how she manages all of it with law school, she says,

"I keep a mental time table for myself and the engagements I take up don't require a daily time commitment. I generally work on monthly deadlines. I also make it a point to inform everyone I am working with about all my ongoing engagements."

As a suggestion to fellow law students, she said,

"Ideally, stop following the crowd, because the chances of getting through opportunities shared widely will be bleak. But if you take charge of your own life and try to find opportunities less mainstream and pursue them passionately, you will get in for sure. It also helps to speak to people who are currently doing things that you see yourself doing in the future, and people are generally very willing to help."

Riya Panwar, a fourth year law student from Lloyd Law College, Noida, speaks about her journey as a freelancer and working full time with a company as a content writer.

On the aspect of getting started, Riya said,

“I’d taken part in a legal essay writing competition conducted by Shastra Law College last year. I’d written four articles in a month as part of the competition and won the same. That is what got me started as a writer. Ever since then, I kept getting assignments on academic writing and legal content writing."

In addition to working full-time with the company, she also takes up freelance work when she has the bandwidth and easily earns anywhere between ₹10-15K as a freelancer.

Another law student making a mark as a freelancer is Harshil Vijayvargiya, a fifth year law student at GNLU. He started his journey as a freelancer in 2017 when he started law school with the aim of being financially independent during college.

Speaking about how he set foot on his freelance journey, Harshil said,

“I joined Facebook groups where people were looking for content writers and posted about my availability of providing legal and other content writing services."

Harshil tapped into the market of boutique foreign law firms in the US this year, and is writing content for their websites.

He also has his own YouTube channel which serves as a ready reckoner for students who are trying take the freelance road. Of late, Harshil has started outsourcing freelance work to his juniors. In the future, he looks forward to building a pool of law students interested in earning a side income and widening his freelance practice.

Speaking about generating clients, Harshil said,

“I believe there are 3 stages of freelancing - First, you make an entry into the market, second stage would be retaining the client and third stage is upselling your services to the client.”

Harshil also spoke about the importance of reaching out to people outside the law domain to develop connections with future potential clients. To act on this thought, he has decided to spend a month at Isha Foundation to engage in community service with a group of people across the globe from varied industries. He said,

“If I introduce myself as a law student to businessmen, young entrepreneurs, doctors, marketers, etc., in the future there is a good chance that they will reach out to me for legal support.”

As general advice to law students, Harshil stressed on the importance of developing skill sets and not chasing fame or recognition that one may get by winning a moot court or any other competition. He said,

“If you chase skills, money will follow; but if you chase status or recognition, that will be very transient in nature.”

Gone are the days when the presumption that a first class or distinction would set one up for a good future. Rote learning and formal exams have taken a back seat during the pandemic. The increasing trend of students engaging in side gigs apart from law school is indicative of the fact that GenZ lawyers are equipping themselves with unconventional opportunities.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news