LAW as a profession is becoming an ideal choice for many youngsters. The primary reason behind this is the changing economic and social scenario coupled with the ever-increasing regulatory role being undertaken by the government.
The liberalisation of the Indian economy during the Narasimha Rao regime opened the floodgates for many foreign companies that wanted to invest in India and this also led to a boom in practice for many Indian firms dealing with business law.
Since 1991, when India began to liberalise its economy, the country has seen vibrant changes in laws covering areas like banking and finance, capital markets, taxation, telecom, insurance, power, civil aviation, ports and shipping, media, intellectual property rights, foreign direct investment, real estate, special economic zones, information technology, data protection etc. This is a far cry from the pre-liberalisation days when the profession of law was considered by many as an unattractive option.
Law Schools: Then and now
Several Indian statesmen have been lawyers. Legal education however, was never given the care and attention it deserved. In most cases it was taken care of by central and state universities as one of their many departments. Where the government lacked in initiative, private law colleges stepped in. A number of them affiliated themselves to these universities.
While India created IITs for engineering, IIMs for management and AIIMS for medial sciences no such institution was created for legal education in the country. This apathy led to the proliferation of numerous law colleges, affiliated to universities without having basic infrastructure and/or qualified teachers.
This eventually led to a large number of law graduates passing out each year and damaging the credibility of the degree being issued to such graduates.
New-age law schools of the ’90s
|QUALITIES OF A GOOD LAWYER
- Drafting skill
- Team player
- Communication skill
- Logical Thinking
With the establishment of National Law School (NLS) in Bangalore by the Bar Council of India in 1998, law education entered a new phase in the country. The law school was a runaway success. Predictably, various state governments established law universities on the NLS-Bangalore model in Hyderabad, Bhopal, Kolkata, Gandhinagar and Delhi. These law schools are full-fledged state universities established by the respective state legislatures.
In almost all these law schools the Chancellor is either the Chief Justice of India or Chief Justice of the respective High Courts and in this way it differs from other state universities where the Governor of the state is the Chancellor. Very recently in 2006, the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur established the Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law (RGSOIPL), mainly for students who have graduated in engineering, biotechnogy and pharmacy. RGSOIPL has a tie up with George Washington University Law School, Washington DC for formulating curriculum, faculty and students and faculty exchange programs
TYPES OF COURSES
All the National Law Schools follow this pattern under which a student after completing a specified number of courses at the end of 3 years is awarded BA or BSc degree and after 5 years, an LL.B degree. In most law schools there is an upper age limit of 20 years. The national law schools across the country generally follow the semester system though the National Law School Bangalore follows a unique trimester system.
Under the semester system a student undergoes 10 semesters of study and each semester has 5 subjects each. In the last 2 semesters the candidates may be allowed to take some electives of their choice. Some of the most popular electives include Advanced Intellectual Property Law, Corporate Finance Law, Capital Market Regulation etc. Thus by the time the course is over he/she would have covered roughly 50 subjects and in each subject there is a project which the student has to do and present in the class.
Internships and moot trials go a long way in helping the student blend the theoretical knowledge with the practical challenges which results in legally correct solutions. In the first two years students spend time in conducting mock trial courts while from the third year onwards they work with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Supreme Court and High Court Judges, companies, law firms, both national and international.
The 3-year LL.B programme is only open to students who have done their graduation in any subject. Delhi University and the University of Calcutta offer this type of programme. Unlike the law schools there is no age limit for this course. RGSOIPL of IIT Kharagpur also offers a six-semester, three-year full-time residential LL.B Programme leading to the Degree of Bachelor of Law with specialisation in Intellectual Property Rights.
The Masters programme (LL.M) is offered by law schools as well as traditional universities like Delhi University. This is open to candidates who have passed their bachelor degree in law. The most important feature of this course is that it enables a candidate to specialize in his/her area of choice like constitutional law, labour law, human rights law, international law, intellectual property law and corporate law.
In most universities this is a 2-year full-time programme divided into 4 semesters. The last semester is devoted to writing a dissertation under the supervision of a professor. NLS Bangalore offers LL.M with specialization in Business Laws and Human Rights, while NALSAR University of Law Hyderabad is known for its LL.M with specialization in Intellectual Property Law and Corporate Law.
LAW ENTRANCE IN A NUTSHELL
Regular preparation. Newspapers & magazines
Know your word, Wren & Martin
Mathematics and Logical Reasoning
Focus on arithematic and learn speed solving techniques
Look out for hidden, seemingly innocuous facts
Very few universities in India offer M.Phil degree in Law. However NALSAR Hyderabad has a one year M.Phil programme with special focus on teaching and research. PhD programme in Law is being offered in many universities including Delhi University, Madras University, Calcutta University, Bombay University, Nagpur University, National Law School Bangalore, NALSAR Hyderabad, NUJS Kolkata and NLU Jodhpur.
The minimum qualification is LL.M with 55% marks. Generally this calls for 3-5 years of original research by the candidate under one or more supervisors on an unexplored area in law.
Classroom excercises add value
The law schools also give ample importance to moot courts/mock trials/client negotiations etc., which are very important in moulding the analytical and argumentative skills of the budding lawyers.
Another important feature of the law school is the compulsory internship/training programme which every student has to undergo at the end of every semester. This system encourages students to conduct original research and inculcates in them the art of presenting a particular subject before the class.
This exercise will be very helpful in honing the articulation skills of students who may otherwise be very shy while presenting before a group.
Cracking the entry barrier
All law colleges until recently conducted their own individual entrance examination. But with the advent of Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) from 2008 this problem has been solved and any candidate desirous of joining can just give the law school of his/her choice as part of the CLAT. Every law school now accepts the newly formed National Law School Delhi is part of the CLAT system.
Since the admission for the national law schools is governed by CLAT there is a uniform format with total marks of 200. Subjects include English with comprehension, General Knowledge/current affairs, elementary mathematics, legal aptitude and logical reasoning. For LL.M courses CLAT has a different format. It contains objective type, short answers and essay with total marks of 200.
General knowledge: Read newspapers and magazines regularly. Never bunch your GK preparation to a crash course of 15 days. It has to be built over a period of time. For example, there is continuous change in the way government functions, political scenarios, new amendments in the laws, etc. Instead of piling it all up it’s better to study this on a regular basis.
English and comprehension: Since interpretation is a major part of a lawyer’s career, the test basically examines your ability to comprehend the correct way. Build your vocabulary and grammer the old fashioned way, by using the language at every opportunity you get. Word power books do help, but Wren and Martin, still rules the roost.
Mathematics and logical reasoning: These two are most strenuous of all, as they require relatively more analytical understanding. Do problems in the sections that are simple and enjoyable like speed, work, ratio and permutation or calendar sums.
Legal aptitude: It is not your understanding of law that they check here, but your ability to process a rule any apply it logically to any set of given facts. So while it is important to have a basic understanding of law, and have some knowledge about the changes over the years, develop a keen eye to spot the non –obvious. Say if you are reading about the 26/11 incident, focus on the name of boat that ferried them here, the small restaurant that was the first one to be fired at, number of people killed at the Taj, the co-accused to Kasab and so on. Remember attention to detail is the most important asset of a lawyer.
The good schools in india
Going by the perception of students, recruiters and members of the bench and bar, the National Law School in Bangalore can undoubtedly be rated as the best law school in the country. NLS Bangalore has tie ups with many of the premier law schools around the world including University of California, San Francisco, Duke Law School, York University Canada, National University of Singapore, Georgetown University etc.
Law schools nearly as good as the one in Bangalore are NUJS Kolkata, NALSAR Hyderabad and NLU Delhi. NALSAR based in Hyderabad was established in 1998 and in the past decade has won several laurels and has established academic exchange programmes with some of the leading law schools in the world including University of New South Wales, Kings College London etc. NUJS Kolkata established in 1999 has also made its mark in the field of legal education and research.
NUJS is very strong when it comes to faculty and research. The newly established NLU Delhi at Dwarka has already made its mark though it is just one year old. It has state-of-the-art infrastructure, excellent faculty and a very vibrant and experienced leadership.
Apart from above there are many similar law schools established by various state governments at Jodhpur, Gandhi Nagar, Bhopal, Patna, Raipur, Lucknow, Kochi which are also reputed. Then there are many law colleges which have a good name like ILS and Symbiosis, Pune, Amity Law School, New Delhi among others. However they are not part of CLAT and admit students based on their own entrance test. Another new development in the field of legal education is the establishment of Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) in 2009 by the O.P. Jindal Global University in Sonepat, Haryana.
Best global law schools
There are many reputed law schools around the world like Yale, Harvard, Cornell, University of California-Berkeley, George Washington University, New York University, Oxford, Cambridge, University of London, National University of Singapore etc. Many Indian students go to US for doing their masters programme in Law. Good law schools abroad cost around Rs. 25-35 lakhs for a 9-month LL.M course. Many of the graduates s from the top law schools go abroad to do their LL.M with full scholarship or partial scholarships which may be in the form of fee waiver.
Skill sets of a good lawyer
Knowledge: Some people have said that a good lawyer reads the law, but the truth is that good lawyers do more. They comprehend the laws and know the law inside and out. This is crucial to being a successful lawyer, since your prime objective is use laws in your clients’ favour, without, of course, breaking any law.
Memory: Law is not cast in stone and is open to multiple interpretations. Remembering the various interpretations of the law, in previous judgments is always an asset. Since invariably judgments seek precedence, a good lawyer assists the court by drawing attention to appropriate precedence. An elephantine memory is a big asset to any lawyer.
Drafting skills: Every case requires a brief, and lawyers often take on many cases at the same time. Consequently, they need to be able to convey their ideas quickly and concisely so that anyone reading the brief can quickly understand the laywer’s argument. You must learn to integrate data and opinion in such a way that they complement each other and communicate exactly what you intended. Any loopholes would invariably be exploited. So excellent drafting ability is what segregates the best from the rest.
Team player: As society gets complex, the issues coming up to the court also invariably straddle different aspects of law and sometimes draw upon diverse fields to arrive at a solution. A case like the Supreme Court of India judgment on CNG conversion of public transportation in Delhi, drew upon expertise in urban planning, voices of civil society, medical fraternity, political economy experts in addition to transport authorities. And it is the lawyer who effectively must weave their contribution together to assist the court. So being a team player is very crucial for a successful lawyer’s career.
In addition to the above core skills, a lawyer must also be able to think quickly and logically, should have tremendous perseverance. Law is a demanding profession. Barring exceptions, most of the budding lawyers invariably work for a few years under a senior advocate to learn the ropes. Even when you join a professional law firm, the partners rule the roost, and the first few years are exceptionally gruelling and demanding.
Openings for law graduates
Unlike the earlier days the opportunities available for a graduate who passes out from any of the top law schools mentioned above is phenomenal. With the liberalisation of India’s economy there exists a huge demand for highly skilled lawyers who are adept in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, banking and finance, infrastructure contracts, debt restructuring, FEMA regulations, IPRs, corporate governance, private equity deals, WTO law etc.
International as well as domestic law firms regularly recruit such lawyers in large numbers. Same is the case with companies like TATA, Reliance, Infosys, Wipro, TCS, ICICI Bank, Dr. Reddy’s Labs etc. Students who do not like joining the world of business law can still find greener pastures in environment or human rights law in reputed organisations like CSE, ICRC, UNHCR etc. For the LL.M students passing out of these premier law schools Business Laws and IP Laws are the branches which offer excellent career opportunities.
Most of the magic circle and silver circle law firms like Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, Herbert Smith, Simmons etc visit Indian campuses to recruit students for their various offices across the globe. Almost all the Indian law firms like Luthra and Luthra, Amarchand Mangaldas, AZB Partners, Nishith Desai Associates in recent years have begun recruiting from the law schools to cater to the ever-expanding needs of the profession.
Legal education in India is slowly coming of age. Though at one stage it was in a completely neglected state the establishment of the National Law Schools has changed the system for the better. The plethora of opportunities which are available to a bright lawyer is simply amazing and it is high time that more and more students seriously start thinking of law as an attractive and satisfying career option.
The moot court exercises and internships are very helpful in honing the articulation skills of students who may otherwise be very shy while presenting before a group