Samarth Chaddha on Life as a Law Student
Being a law student can be one of the most rewarding periods in one’s life. This is your time to explore your interests, do internships, take part in moot court competitions, and write research papers. In India law is offered either as a three or a five-year course. The three-year course is done after graduation in another discipline, whereas the five-year course can be pursued immediately after completing high school. Both courses follow a similar trajectory in terms of the law classes that are mandated by the Bar Council of India (BCI).
The first few years of law school start with taking basic courses such as criminal law, property law, and legal methods. These are taught to every law student. The idea behind these first few years are to have every law student understand the areas of the law in which one is expected to be basically competent. Later, one takes courses such as jurisprudence, constitutional law, and many such other subjects, so that you can understand the depth and breadth of the knowledge that a lawyer is supposed to have. Every law student’s experience is different, and your interest areas may be multiple as you progress through the years. What helps in the latter part of your law school career is that you can take elective courses around your areas of interest, and these can be extremely rewarding. It also gives you some creative freedom to design your own curriculum that the earlier years do not offer.
Schools may only have a mid-term and final exam which will make up your grade. Often, you will be expected to apply the law to hypothetical case scenarios, using your knowledge learned from these courses. The exams may even have essay questions that involve taking a stand and then defending it with principles from case law.
Many law schools allow students opportunities to write research papers and give presentations. I enjoyed the opportunity to research a particular area and write a paper. For this, I would read other scholarly articles on the topic and find books in the library to support my position. These would help bring in different perspectives from different sources. This exercise, in particular, helped build my research skills. For my torts class, I remember even creating a skit to enact a case law, and have fond memories of rehearsing with my classmates, which was a lot of fun.
Moot Court Competitions
Law schools often allow students to team up and go for moot court competitions. These involve arguing in front of a judge to rehearse one’s oral advocacy skills. Keeping your nerves under pressure against a judge (often an expert in the field) can be a very rewarding experience. Also, these competitions, and the experience of traveling to another location, allows you to bond with your teammates and creates some lasting friendships.
Internships, Teaching, Societies
One often does many legal internships in law school. By the time you graduate you may have done between 6 to 10 internships. These can be at law firms or under individual lawyers who have set up their own firms. Since Indian law students have the luxury of doing so many internships, they get to experience many various areas of the law (arbitration, litigation, corporate, and so on) and can later boost their understanding by taking elective courses in these areas. It is also common to see final-year law students become teaching assistants to professors, which can help you decide to see if teaching can be a viable option for you upon graduation. Students will also be a part of many societies (such as the sports society, and debating society) to ensure they become well-rounded human beings upon graduation.
Challenges of Law School
All of this is not to say that law school is always hunky-dory. Often, the time to participate in extracurricular activities can be limited, as law subjects are challenging and take time to master. There is also a lot of competition between law students, as everybody is trying to outdo each other (much like other professional schools) to secure that coveted internship or attain the highest grade in class. Some external opportunities such as semester exchange programs and accolades within the law school are linked directly to academic performance, and hence working hard and earning good grades is incentivized. But all of these experiences help you prepare for the real-world and also push you to deliver your best. It also helps you see how people react to success and how to deal with a range of human emotions. Just don’t get too bogged down by it, and yes, caffeine may be your best friend for a few years!
I look back at my years at law school fondly. I grew as a person during this time. I made some excellent friends, who are all doing some very wonderful things as they have moved out into the professional world. The skills I developed as a student, such as legal research and the ability to multi-task, are part of my professional arsenal that I have carried forward with me into my professional life. Law school is a fun but challenging ride. Someone once told me it was like being on a fast-moving treadmill. Just don’t fall off!