I. Why a career in law?
Legal education is just not about memorizing hundreds of legal maxims and cases. Rather, a good legal education enables the cultivation of personal autonomy, intellectual independence and the development of critical life skills beyond the traditional goals of teaching/training/learning of specific skills. History has shown how an education in law has served as the nursery of great judges, statesmen, even revolutionaries – it has thrown up or produced, relatively speaking, the largest number of great men in public life in all ages and countries.
The legal profession is not only one of the oldest but also one of the most respected. From time immemorial, advocates and judges have had the unique privilege of being in a position to wield a great deal of influence on society’s affairs and individual lives. Simply put, legal education is self-education and self-development. It is about the acquisition of valuable life skills. For example, the study of law teaches one the art of persuasion. Whether one wants to persuade his parents to borrow the bike at home or persuade the tribunal to rule in one’s favour, people commonly use the techniques of advocacy and persuasion to accomplish their goals.
Our own country’s movement for independence, if impartially written, will be replete with instances of the valuable contribution lawyers have made and will undoubtedly “devote more pages to lawyers than to the votaries of any other vocation” . There is no other profession in the world that can open the doors to so many different avenues of employment as law. Thus, if you are an ambitious and adventurous student who is willing to experiment, law is your ideal career option! In addition to the popular image of a lawyer in flowing black robes practicing in court, there are endless opportunities for a graduate of law to exercise his/her skills/training. Some of them include working in law firms that advise national and international clients, working as an in-house legal counsel for a company, joining banks such as ICICI, working in PSUs such as the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), working in an international organization like the United Nations, International Labour Organization, World Bank, etc., teaching at universities, joining the judicial services, working with NGO’s including organizations that work on human rights issues, environmental issues, innovative organizations in the social sector such as Ashoka (Innovators for the Public), Acumen Fund, Inclusive Planet, etc., actively pursuing policy-making or advising the Government of India on legal policy or the drafting of statutes.
Law offers a wide variety of subjects, spanning diverse areas such as family law, environmental law, intellectual property law, international law, constitutional law, contract law, etc. It is easy to move from one area of law to another according to one’s interests. After all, a truly multi-disciplinary discourse pre-dominates the legal profession where one area is threaded to the other seamlessly. Moreover, the latter half of the 5-year integrated course in the prestigious National Law Schools is designed to give the students the opportunity to specialize in specific areas of law such as gender and law, corporate finance, advanced intellectual property law, law and poverty, marine law, etc. A good mix of compulsory courses and optional papers ensures that students are trained in an eclectic array of courses with expertise in certain subjects as per their interests and inclinations, particularly useful when graduates seek employment.
The list of fascinating opportunities of self-development for law students does not end here. Studying at a top law school gives one opportunities to interact with students around the world by way of participating in moot or mock-trial competitions, student-exchange programmes, internships, conferences, debates, etc. and opportunities to also work internationally with some of the biggest names in the legal field.
II. Thinking like a lawyer…
Legal training imparts a specific manner of thinking – one may call “thinking like a lawyer”. Challenges in law school lead to excellent analytical thinking, communication, and writing skills that are valuable for life and can prove useful in a wide variety of contexts. In addition, extra-curricular activities – such as mooting and debating, help lawyers think on their feet, in addition to being persuasive, skills that are envied and in demand in any workplace.
Law school provides the best opportunity for students to gain innumerable fulfilling and satisfying experiences both academically and otherwise. Mooting is the primary extracurricular activity in law school. Even when they are on a break from academics, law school students are busy with moot court competitions – an exhilarating experience that according to many ‘mooters’ – is extremely addictive. Moot courts are simulated court proceedings which require researching legal problems and submitting written and oral arguments from sitting judges. Opportunities are provided in law schools to participate both in national and international competitions which might be on the basis of a rigorous internal qualification process. Many law students in India have participated in prestigious competitions such as the ELSA Moot Court Competition, the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition and the Bar Council of India Moot Court Competition among others. The joy of anticipating the judges’ questions and the opponents’ counter-arguments, the challenge of preparing memorials within challenging deadlines, and burning midnight oil to conduct speaking practice sessions; in the end, mooting makes the overall experience all worthwhile. In addition to mooting, there are various other activities such as debating, writing for journals, presenting papers at conferences/seminars/workshops, taking part in Model United Nations competitions, etc. Law school students travel throughout the country and abroad, taking part in all these activities.
III. How does one get a law degree?
At present, legal education in India is being imparted in around 900 institutions at 4 levels i.e. University, Government colleges, private colleges (government aided) and private colleges (unaided), producing about 2.5 lakh graduates every year. There are two ways to obtain a law degree:
1. A 5-year integrated Arts and Law course (typically a B.A./B.Sc. – LL.B. (Hons.) degree with some specialized electives including Finance, Law and Economics, etc.) in any of the National Law Schools or other law colleges. Some national law schools provide a BBA – LL.B. programme as well;
2. A 3 year LL.B. degree after the completion of a Bachelor’s degree in any subject.
With a view to standardize and to bring uniformity in legal education, throughout the country, the Bar Council of India has issued guidelines to gradually abolish the 3-year law course and introduce in its place the 5-year integrated law course with a uniform semester system throughout the country. The best law colleges in the country offer only the 5-year integrated programme. It offers a focused study of the law with the overarching goal of providing professional education – the liberal Arts courses such as Sociology and Political Science are designed to complement the core Law subjects.
IV. How to get into a law school?
The Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) is one’s passport to get into any of the top law National Law Schools in India. Till 2007, each National Law School conducted entrance tests separately in different centres spread all over the country and thousands of students after their 10+2 examinations took those multiple admission tests at considerable inconvenience and expense. In order to prevent such hardship faced by students, 2008 onwards, the CLAT examination has been conducted annually in May each year throughout the country.
The CLAT is intended to test aptitude and is based entirely on English, Mathematics, General Knowledge, Logical and Legal Reasoning, which implies that all candidates appearing for the examination need to brush up on school (CBSE equivalent) English and Mathematics, and regularly read newspapers and magazines such as Competition Success Review, Pratiyogita Darpan, etc. to remain well-versed with current affairs! Unlike other entrance examinations, doing well in the test does not primarily depend on one’s capacity to memorize complicated names, figures or formulae. Even the legal component is based more on analytical skills than the ability to memorise large amounts of data. This also reflects the way law is taught in universities – with greater emphasis on the application the law rather than just legal theory.
CLAT forms are available on the official website, at certain designated banks, the participating law schools and by post. The age limit for writing the CLAT examination is 20 years in case of General Category and OBC students while for SC/ST and Persons with Disability Category candidates, the age limit is 22 years. There are several other state-run and private universities that, while not a part of CLAT, are reputed. These universities have their own admission process, which sometimes includes an admission test. These tests are more often than not similar to the CLAT format so that one can study for various entrance exams simultaneously.
V. Life at a law school
College life is one of the most exciting and memorable periods of one’s life. At the various law schools, there are many activities to keep one busy. Each law school is both a microcosm of society and one in its own right.
On the academic front, there are opportunities to present research papers in conferences, interact with associates and partners of internationally-reputed law firms, and publish articles in journals that have the potential to reach members of the highest echelons of the legal fraternity. Moot court competitions simulate advocacy and offer opportunities to argue before sitting judges of Indian and international Courts and practicing lawyers, and to meet some of the participating students’ brightest contemporaries in other law schools.
Most universities have active sports and cultural societies and organize annual inter/intra college festivals. Typically, the universities that come under the CLAT are residential and are equipped with a library, 24-hour internet facility and access to several Indian and international digital research databases. Living away from home definitely has its advantages – it provides an environment to learn outside the classroom and pick up different skills otherwise not possible. Students at the top law schools include foreign-nationals, locals and students on exchange programmes. Growing diversity in these institutions makes for a relevant, world-class education.
VI. Financial Stability and Job Security
A good legal education can guarantee a well paying job and a secured future for the graduate. An indicator of the average expected monthly salaries in rupees (Rs.) per month (pm) provided by some of the emerging opportunities of employment discussed above is as follows:
Rs. 50,000 – 1,00,000 pm
Corporate In-house Counsel
Rs. 40,000 – 80,000 pm
Rs. 30,000 – 40,000 pm
Rs. 20,000 – 35,000 pm
Rs. 10,000 – 30,000 pm
Rs.1000 – 30000 pm
VII. Download previous CLAT question papers.
We take no responsibility for wrong or mismatching answers, this is put as is available on the public domain.