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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Law as a Profession

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Author : Shelley Mallick

So if you think that law school is the right choice for you? Good.... Now let’s make sure that your reasons are solid and weatherproof. Although the life of an attorney is not really like that portrayed in the television series Ally McBeal but there are aspects of lawyering that can be great fun. Except for those fortunate ones with lawyers in the family, most of us never even contemplated law as a career option when we made those vital decisions of picking careers. However over the last decade the popular perception of the law degree has changed dramatically. Law has become a strong and versatile career option inspired by world class law schools such as the National Law School in Bangalore and subsequently NUJS in Kolkata, NALSAR in Hyderabad, NLU in Jodhpur and NLIU in Bhopal and many more. The older institutions such as the legendary Government Law College in Mumbai and the equally famous Faculty of Law under Delhi University have responded positively and pruned their curriculum to face up to the challenges. The result was the five-year law degree, which has all the ingredients to make it an excellent career option.

The most familiar image of lawyers is one screaming their lungs out in courts of law. Litigating lawyers, as these lawyers are called, represent their clients in court. Litigating lawyers are called upon to argue various kinds of issues, ranging from property matters to criminal matters, Constitutional issues to matters of family law. Black and white and vociferous, these lawyers argue the law to make sure that their clients’ interests are represented in the best possible manner before those that will decide matters of a whole lot of importance to a whole lot of people. Other lawyers work with corporate houses, or in law firms that serve MNCs. Here, lawyers work mainly as facilitators, helping companies work smoothly within the boundaries of law. Lawyers are sometimes also referred to as ‘social engineers’. As you would know, our society, the way we live, and what we do everyday, are all loosely bound by a mesh of rules that we call ‘laws’. It is the job of lawyers to understand these rules, and to help people live their lives most meaningfully.

How does one decide which law school to apply to? Is it the academic standards or the performance in moot court competitions? Is it the reputation of the law school in the industry or the reputation amongst other law schools?  Rankings released by different sources often conflict resulting in a fair bit of confusion. Here are the most important ingredients to decide which law school to pick: (1) Industry Reputation, (2) Reputation amongst Foreign Law Schools, (3) Peer Reputation, Academic Standards / Quality of Faculty, (4) Recruitment Statistics, (5) Location, (6) Student Community / Campus Life, (7) Hostel Quality, (8) IT Infrastructure / Library and (9) Quality of Entrance Process.

In today’s date, there are many law colleges to choose from. Each law college conducts its own admission test and admits students as per its regulations. The details of the entrance exams will be given in the respective college websites. Colleges like Indian Law Society, more commonly known as ILS Law College in Pune admit students on merit. This year the cut-off is 83%-84% for students outside Maharashtra and 76%-78% for students from Maharashtra. Other law colleges like Symbiosis Society’s Law College also has its own entrance test called Symbiosis Entrance Test (SET) ( which is being held on May 2, 2010.
One more way is by giving the Common Law Entrance Test (CLAT), which covers 11 National Law Universities, which are:

*NLSIU (Bangalore)
*NALSAR University of Law (Hyderabad)
*National Law Institute University (Bhopal)
*West Bengal National University of Juridicial Sciences (Kolkata)
*National Law University (Jodhpur)
*Hidayatullah National Law University (Raipur)
*Gujarat National Law University (Gandhinagar)
*Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University (Lucknow)
*Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (Patiala)
*Chanakya National Law University (Patna)
*National University of Advanced Legal Studies (Kochi)
*This year CLAT is being held in Bhopal by National Law Institute University on July 1, 2010. 

The eligibility criteria is, the candidate should have passed Higher Secondary School/Intermediate Examination (10+2) or its equivalent examination with not less than 50% marks in aggregate (45% in case of SC/ST/OBC and persons with Disability). Age of candidate should not be more than 20 years in case of General/OBC candidates and 22 years in case of SC/ST and persons with Disability. This test will be conducted for admission to the undergraduate programme for 11 National Law Universities and also for the post-graduate programme (LL.M). The website for CLAT

There are many options to go for after finishing law. The traditional career path for a lawyer, is to “go into practice”, or join the chambers of a senior advocate as a junior. This option involves arguing in court on a daily basis, and applying your mind to a plethora of different issues in order to win the case for your client. A legal practice is much the same as a medical practice - if one serves the needs of clients well, then the reputation grows by word of mouth. Typically, a junior works with a senior to gain experience, until he is confident enough to start his independent practice. This career option promises the greatest challenges, and the greatest rewards. The most famous lawyers in the country have all followed this career path - K.K. Venugopal, Fali Nariman, Arun Jaitely, and Soli Sorabjee to name a few.

Next option is Corporate Counselling. Several law students opt to work with the in-house legal department of a corporate firm after graduating from law school. Legal managers play a critical role in the functioning of a company, and are responsible for drafting, vetting, and in several cases, negotiating contracts for the company, ensuring and monitoring compliance with laws, and handling legal disputes that the company may be involved in. GE Capital, ICICI Bank, ITC, IBM, Infosys, Satyam, Wipro, Dr. Reddy’s, Biocon, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, KPMG and HLL are some corporate giants that frequently come to law school campus recruitment programmes.

The next most widely chosen option is joining a law firm. A law firm is usually a partnership between lawyers who have come together to offer their expertise to clients under one name. These partners share the profits of the firm as well as the risks, and engage other lawyers to work with them as associates. Work at a law firm involves dealing with a wide variety of problems that may or may not be restricted to a particular area of the law depending on the specialisation and nature of the firm. Major law firms have separate litigation and corporate departments. The litigation department deals with the disputes, which the firm’s clients are involved in. Working in the litigation department of a law firm or in a firm that does mainly litigation includes drafting as well as going to the court. The corporate departments of law firms advise companies on the corporate deals such as acquisitions of companies, important inter-company agreements, investment in India by foreign clients, financing of massive projects undertaken by clients and so on.  Major law firms, both Indian and foreign, recruit from the top Indian law schools. Among the major recruiters from the domestic legal schools are top law firms such as Amarchand Mangaldas, Suresh A. Shroff & Co, AZB Partners, J.Sagar & Associates, and Luthra & Luthra Law Offices. Foreign law firms that recruit from Indian law schools include the UK-based Linklaters Alliance, the Singapore-based Khattar & Wong, and others. Recruits join as junior associates and are promoted based on performance.

Law schools often include several courses designed to address relevant social issues in their course curriculum, including gender concerns, caste-based discrimination, employment working conditions, environmental protection and the marginalisation of various peoples. A sizeable number of law school students join Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that work for these issues. Graduates from law school are also offered opportunities to work with international organisations such as the United Nations and crime tribunals. This line gives tremendous job satisfaction if you are passionate about working with socio-legal issues.

A graduate of a good law school takes away skills that are applicable in almost any walk of life. Skills such as good communication, problem solving ability, risk identification, and dispute resolution are priceless in the world of business. Masters in Business Management is one of the ways to enhance these skills. For a business management job immediately after law school, the best way is to enroll yourself in a good B-school. One can also try for a management job after law also but it’s difficult to steer away from law and enter the field of management.Generally people looking for managers in their company don’t take law graduates into consideration at all. They think that how would a law graduate make a good manager. But they forget one very vital point that a law graduate is well equipped with all those qualities, which are needed in a manager. If one decides to go in this line then a degree in management would be an added advantage.

The most recent development in the legal field is the commencement of Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO). This is one of the growing fields now days. Law graduates who are not interested in that ‘typical’ form of legal work can venture into this option. An LPO is an offshore unit, undertaking legal work assigned by companies in mostly U.K and USA. These companies outsource work to India. The work in an LPO can be in any form. Starting from High-end legal research and drafting briefs, memorandums and commercial contracts to Litigation support work like evidence-related work and first-level document review. Salaries, for fresh graduates, start from Rs20, 000 – Rs 25,000, but easily touch Rs 70,000 in a span of 5 years. Work Hours: Mostly 9AM to 7PM. There are a few LPOs that do night shifts but this is an exception rather than the rule. For a young legal professional a career with an LPO is an attractive option.
Lastly, getting into academics as a teacher is one of the most enriching experiences. National law School Alumnus form the part of countries best faculties throughout the Top National Law Schools of the country. Research in a law school is not just confined to a specific field. Today an average law student has to conduct studies and examine issues on diverse fields ranging from Intellectual Property Rights, Environment Law, Space Law, to International Arbitration. This career option gives you more flexibility than any other stream. A lecturer of law is paid on hourly basis. The remuneration being directly proportionate to the experience you carry and the credibility that you gain during your stint as a teacher. Delivering lectures upon any issue and not just matters related to law come easy to law students given the fact that through out their law school life, they are constantly in touch with the issues governing the society and not to forget their hold over a subject which is omnipresent in the world we live in. The Law Graduate and Internationally Acclaimed Leadership Guru and Author of “The Monk who sold his Ferrari” Robin Sharma is a living example.

There are various specialisations, which one can take up. Areas of specialisations like Business Law, Criminal Law, Family Law, Health Care Law, Intellectual Property Law, International Law, Public Interest Litigation, Admiralty Law, Environment Law and many more which can be pursued according to the interest of an individual.

In conclusion, we can say that being a lawyer is one of the most interesting and exhilarating professions one can be in. It includes the utmost use of your brain cells. Tasks such as preparing for a trial, defending a client, prosecuting an accused criminal, or putting together a business deal can give you a rush of adrenaline. The interpretation of existing law can be both intellectually challenging and exciting in itself as you participate in the continuing evolution our legal system. But one has to exactly know whether he/she has the required potential to get into this line. It’s a very tough line to survive but at the same time you get the kicks out of it. So if you think you have it in you then definitely go for it.
Source : The Career Guide

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