Few weeks back my good friend and popular CLAT mentor, Ramanuj Mukherjee, wrote an excellent piece on the 'Truth and myth about law school recruitments'. I would recommend this as a 'must read' to all CLAT aspirants and law students.
I don't intend to go on a popular rhetoric, on the emptiness of a corporate or a law firm job and the obligation of a law student to endeavour to uphold the nobility of the profession and serve the society and add to the quality of the Bar. Ultimately what one wants to do and what one likes to do is something for each individual to figure out during his five years at law school. I advocate that one should do what one loves to do and what makes him/her happy; no matter what others say! In this column, I will share my thoughts on how to secure a job in a law school. A very sad fact is that, it is something which most law schools don't prepare you for or guide you on! None of the law schools make a professional out of you; instead make or endeavour to make you a mere knowledge bank.
There is no elixir of life to get a job after you graduate from a law school. You need to focus on your career, do diverse things to ensure that your resume stands out and catches the eye of those whom you want it to strike. It would be apt to quote Robert Frost over here, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference".
Darwin's theory of 'survival of the fittest' applies universally and a law school is no exception. One will be facing cut throat competition in law school even from 'so called friends'. The fact is that others won't be happy when you are doing something good or something thing gives your career an upward spiral. There are very rare exceptions. You need to understand the realities and try to be independent as much as you can. This would be tough but one would not have many choices.
You need to set short term and long term goals for yourself and consistently work hard to achieve them. The importance of this is that, once you start achieving these goals, it's an incentive and motivation to work hard for the next one. Please be realistic about this and don't set your eyes on something which you cannot achieve. Doing a research paper and getting it published, pursuing a research assistantship with a Professor, writing guest posts for reputed legal blogs, joining diversity initiatives like IDIA and other allied things are a few things which can lend your resume an extra edge. Make sure that you don't endeavour to do too many things and end up doing nothing.
Don't do something just because all others in your law school are doing. Believe in your talent and do not lose your heart just because your friend in law school is doing too many things. Ensure that at least by the mid of third year in law school, you have explored all the avenues of a law student. You should have interned with NGO's, Lawyers, Corporate houses, Law firms, Legal journalism portals, etc. By this time, you should be able to realize what your true calling is and from then your only focus should be on that.
Suppose you have made the decision that legal journalism is your cup of tea, intern with media houses and other legal journals from then on. While pursuing your internship, you need to build up a good rapport with the people in the workplace and impress them with your hard work and dedication. Even if you don't have great grades they may be willing to give you a Pre Placement Offer (PPO) owing to the quality of work you do. I am sure no employer, in any sector, would want to miss out on a good prospective employee. The mantra is to 'stay focussed' and be clear as to what you want in life.
In my third year at law school, I interned with a law firm in Chennai. The Partner at the place used to be very friendly. He would ask me to go out, hang around, visit places and even not to come to office daily. The internship culminated well and he gave me an attractive certificate with an exaggerated work experience. I was very happy! Lately I knew, another intern who interned there along with me got a PPO. He used to be very hard working and used to ask the partner to give him work; I never bothered to do this and nor did the Partner. I lost out on a good job. Moreover I never learned anything. All that I got was a certificate which I don't think will ever help me. The point is that a law student needs to take his\ her internships very seriously and ensure that he\ she learns from it. Do not do anything for the sake of a 'certificate'. Internships will teach you lot of things, which law school will never teach you. Internships bring out the professional in you.
An important thing that you need to be careful when you apply for an internship is to tailor your covering letter to suit the needs of a particular firm or an institution. Do not 'copy paste' what you get from the internet or your friends. Not to mention, your resume should be error free in all ways. From my experience of handling and recruiting interns for Bar & Bench, I can assure you that, if your covering letter is genuine, your application is half successful. I see lot of applications on a daily basis and I can easily mark the difference between a 'copy paste' letter and a genuine one. I will explain on a separate post in the coming days on how to draft a covering letter and prepare your resume for internships. Stay tuned to GyanCentral till then!
By doing diverse things I meant to think beyond internships and moots. For the do's and don't of mooting, please see Ramanuj's two columns on 'Taming the mooting beast' and 'My mooting mistakes'.
There will be good professors in your law school, go to any one of them and put a research proposal or request him to include you as his research assistant in any of his projects. Be polite and sweet, tell him that working with him, rather than any other Professor, will give you valuable insights and experiences (He would love some flattering). Attend good summer schools and winter schools, present papers at reputed conferences, join the editorial team of your law school journal, etc. You can not strictly define what the diverse things are; even your internships can be a diverse factor. Do not lose out on an internship just because you don't want to go to a new place and city all alone. I have seen lots of good students letting go an internship, because they don t have the company of a friend there. This can cost you badly.
Doing a bit of volunteering in Law School can help you much or at least it will be a great experience. You can join movements like Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access or an NGO like Make a Difference. Volunteering can be for two reasons; one is the passion for it and second, this can help you when you apply for Master's abroad. Your experience in volunteering for social causes can help much in your application. I am sure many people are volunteering for NGO's for this reason alone and not for the passion they have in serving the under privileged.
Law School is not just about studies. The only moot I did in my whole law school life was moot held near Dharwad in Karnataka. The sole reason for me to do this was that I could go to Goa. I had an awesome time in Goa after the moot. Wherever you go to intern, make sure that you visit all the good places nearby on weekends or as and when you get free time! Go for movies or outings with co-interns at evenings and network with people. Take the lead to organize fests in your University or don't miss to participate in fests organized by other Universities. Visit all the places you wanted to in the name of some Conference that's happening there! Make sure that at the end of five years in law school, you lived a great life!
Just do what your heart says and trust your capabilities. Wishing every CLAT aspirant and law student all the very best in all their endeavours.
In the second part of this column, Raghul Sudheesh will write on how to structure your Resume and how to secure an internship.The author, has also filed a petition for the creation of a permanent CLAT body for the benefit of law aspirants.
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