LAW has a unique selling proposition, says Prof. S. Shantha Kumar, Director of ITM Law School, ITM University. “Only Law graduates can adorn the offices in all the three organs of the Government; namely the Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary. Other graduates may occupy the high offices of Legislature and Executive, but not in the Judiciary,” he says. “This is precisely the reason why it is often said that a Law degree can open the door to a wide variety of careers, which other degrees might not,” Prof. Kumar sums up.
As a profession, Law is not limited to the Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary, either. Since 1991, India has seen vibrant changes in laws covering the whole range of financial activities in the country, including industry, media, Intellectual Property Rights, Information Technology, data protection etc. Moreover, global spend on the legal services has increased dramatically in the last few years, impacting recruitment trends as well. “The paradigms of choosing a career are changing and so are the opportunities in the market. Likewise, Law students are now not wary of exploring non-traditional careers to make a mark in their professional lives,” says Suruchi Maitra, Vice President – HR, UnitedLex Corporation, a global legal and data solutions provider.
Gateway to Law
Getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Law, or LLB, is the first step to make a career here. It can be a 3-year or a 5-year Integrated Degree. “Bachelor of Law (LLB) is a traditional three-year degree, which students can pursue after completing their Bachelors’ degree. Bachelor of Arts Bachelor of Law (BA LLB) is an integrated degree for students whose objectives are very clear. With this course, students will be able to focus more. Besides theoretical knowledge, students are also given practical experience of a court,” opines Dr Thomas Mathew, Co-Convener of CLAT 2014 Committee, Gujarat National Law University. You have three types of institutions to study these courses: Public university departments/colleges; National Law Schools and private institutions.
5-year versus 3-year LLB
National Law Schools follow the 5-year pattern under which a student is awarded BA or BSc Degree at the end of 3 years and after 5 years, an LLB degree. They generally follow the semester system, though the NLSU Bangalore has 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, and Capital Market Regulation etc. By the time the course is over they would have covered roughly 50 subjects including one project in each subject.
The 3-year LLB programme is open only to those with an undergraduate degree. Delhi University, University of Calcutta and many other institutions offer it. Unlike the National Law Schools there is no age limit for this course. RGSOIPL of IIT Kharagpur offers a six-semester, three-year full-time residential LLB Programme leading to the Degree of Bachelor of Law with specialization in Intellectual Property Rights. “Better course structure, pedagogy, internships, exposure and better career options are a few advantages of 5-year courses. Students join them by choice because they know that such courses will lead to their overall development. 3-year degree course is opted by those who want to a career as a lawyer, as an academician or want to join judiciary,” says Prof. Harpreet Kaur of NLU Delhi.
The objective of integrated courses is to give students advantage of knowledge of two streams. “This opens avenues for students to opt for different PG courses if they decide not to have a career in Law. For example, if a student wants to have career in management and wants to do MBA, doing BBA LLB or any integrated degree will be advantageous for him because knowledge of law is a must in the field of management. Management courses taught under BBA.LLB will be an additional advantage for them,” adds Prof. Harpreet Kaur.
Not just mugging-up
Studying Law for three or five years doesn’t mean that you get buried under tomes of Indian Penal Code or Intellectual Property Rights. Internships and moot trials help you blend theoretical knowledge with practical challenges. In the first two years you spend time on conducting mock trial courts and from the third year onwards you work with NGOs, Supreme Court and High Court Judges, companies, law firms, both national and international. “Now my students are defeating moot court teams of Harvard and Yale, Cambridge,” says Prof. (Dr) Faizan Mustafa, Vice-Chancellor NALSAR Hyderabad.
Some premier world-class moots include the Phillip C. Jessup Moot Court Competition, Willem C. Vis arbitration and national competitions include the KLA moot, NUJS HSF moot etc. Another important feature of National Law Schools is the compulsory internship/training programme at the end of every semester. This encourages students to conduct original research and inculcates in them the art of presenting a particular subject before the class.
Higher studies and research
Law Schools as well as traditional universities like Delhi University offer Master’s programme, LLM. This is open to candidates who have passed their Bachelor’s degree in Law. 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 LLM with specialization in Business Laws and Human Rights, while NALSAR University of Law Hyderabad is known for its LLM with specialization in Intellectual Property Law and also Corporate Law.
The profession of Law makes it imperative for you to study deep and wide throughout the career
One-year versus 2-year LLM
Law institutes across the country have started offering one-year LLM, after UGC issued guidelines to run the programme. Rukmini Sinha, who aims to join the Judiciary Services, feels that doing a 1-year LLM programme will equip her to give the judicial services exam with more confidence, than a Bachelor’s course. “You save a year, which you can use to pursue some other course. Also, the law profession is all about study. The more you study intensely, the more benefits you can get,” she explains. Many countries have the one-year LLM programme. “With this kind of programme, students can choose to stay in India and pursue LLM programme,” says Prof. C. Raj Kumar, VC, OP Jindal Global University.
The Bar Council of India is opposing the existence of two-year LLM programe along with one-year LLM programme. “There is one objection from our side. Still there are two types of courses. There should be uniformity. If you think that any institution is fit to impart one year LLM course, permission should be granted,” says Manan Kumar Mishra, Chairman, Bar Council of India.
Very few universities in India offer MPhil degree in Law. However, NALSAR Hyderabad has a one-year MPhil programme with special focus on teaching and research. PhD programme in Law is offered at 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 LLM 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.
Just a handful of universities including NLU Delhi, Nirma University Institute of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia University, Jammu University and Damodaram Sanjivayya NLU offer PhD programmes in Law. India has a long way to go as far as doctoral studies are concerned, laments Prof. Faizan Mustafa. “The quality of PhDs in India over the years has gone down. So the quality is the main concern. In order to have quality we are over-quantifying,” he says.
National Law entrances
If you want admission to National Law Schools for a UG degree, you will have to appear for the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT). Most other Law colleges give you admission through Law School Admission Test – India (LSAT-India) or institute-specific tests.
To apply for CLAT, you should have a 10+2 or equivalent qualification from a recognized Board. Minimum cut-off is 45% marks in aggregate. There is a 5% relaxation in marks for eligible categories. You can also apply if you are awaiting results. But at the time of admission, you must submit proof that you have passed the qualifying examination with necessary marks.
You should not be more than 20 years of age as on July 1 of the year of admission to 5-year Integrated LLB course. There is a relaxation of two years in age for eligible categories.LSAT-India doesn’t have any minimum eligibility but the candidates must check the eligibility requirements of the participating Law Schools and fill the admission form accordingly. There are also institute-specific entrance tests like the All India Law Entrance Test (AILET) for admission to National Law University, Delhi and Symbiosis Entrance Test (SET) for admission to Symbiosis Law School. The admission to PG programmes at NLUs is done through CLAT, just as it is done for the UG programmes.
HOW TO CRACK NATIONAL-LEVEL ENTRANCE EXAMS
|Highly competitive atmosphere at top Law schools enhance the learning experience to a great extent|
Cracking the national-level entrancels like CLAT, LSAT, AILET and SET is the first step to a rewarding career in this challenging profession.
Prof Hema Raman, Director, Sri Ram Law Academy, Chennai advises students who are juggling their preparation for Board Exam as well as CLAT, to balance the two. “The focus should be on studying all components of CLAT right now, as they will have only one month’s time after the Boards,” she added.
On preparation strategy, experts say that for English, one should focus on grammar and vocabulary. For Math, all elementary chapters such as Time and Distance, Time & Work, Profit & Loss etc., are important. For GK, both current affairs as well as static GK deserve attention. For Logical Reasoning, one should focus on critical reasoning and for Legal Aptitude, focus should be on legal reasoning problems.
CLAT has introduced 0.25 negative marking from 2013. This has knocked out the ‘luck factor’, says Prof. Hema. “It has not had any adverse effect, on the contrary, luck factor has been eliminated and only the truly deserving ones make it to the Law Schools,” she says.
Akshi Rastogi, who got the 6th rank in CLAT 2013, says it’s important for the aspirants to devise their own strategy.
“Firstly never to get intimidated by the number of hours someone is putting in or when others tell you how much they are studying or how many books someone is referring to. This is an aptitude paper and not a descriptive one, and everyone is different. So the amount of hours and books will be different for everyone. As long as you are performing in mock tests and are confident with the way you are preparing, it is OK for you,” she said.
“Developing your own strategy is essential. Develop the habit of time management every time you attempt questions. Remember to keep revising your preparation,” advises Rastogi.
Rajendra Khadav, a Law Entrance coach shares that aspirants should concentrate on revising their concepts and take a re-look at their knowledge base. “They must start taking mock tests and previous years’ question papers. They should focus on increasing their speed while taking these mock tests. Since time management is a very crucial factor in the exam, they must take care of attempting the questions correctly, tracking the time,” advises Khadav.
LAW AS A PROFESSION
The Bar Council of India regulates legal education in India as thousands of lawyers graduate every year from almost 900 law colleges spread across the country. But a Law degree alone is not enough to become a practicing lawyer. After completing Law School, one must pass the All India Bar Exam (AIBE).Eligible persons are admitted as advocates on the rolls of the State Bar Councils. Those admitted as advocates by any State Bar Council are eligible for a Certificate of Enrolment.
Earlier, the profession of practicing law was limited to criminal and civil litigation. But now, the opportunities available for graduates from any of the top Law Schools are phenomenal. After the liberalization of India’s economy there is 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. Law firms, both international as well as domestic, regularly recruit such lawyers in large numbers. Same is the case with big companies like TATA, Reliance, Infosys, Wipro, TCS, ICICI Bank, etc.
Students who do not like joining business law can find greener pastures in environment or Human Rights in reputed organizations like CSE, ICRC, UNHCR etc. For LLM students from premier Law schools, Business Laws and IP Laws are the branches, which offer excellent career opportunities.
Apart from sound legal knowledge and good grades at Law School, entry-level lawyers are expected to have good analytical, research, drafting and oral and written communication skills. In addition, productive and focused internships, moot court achievements and publications, often make the difference when several candidates are shortlisted for interviews.
Qualifications that are especially relevant to an organization, such as business administration, economics, or science or expertise in a foreign language such as Mandarin or French can, in some cases, give students an edge over their peers.