A stellar career awaits law students, know how to build yours


Now is the time for entrance examinations and admission for students who completed Class 12. Many might be wondering about what course to pursue. Here, Advocate Chacko Simon explains everything about the profession and the qualification course.

An excerpt from an interview.

Role of a lawyer
The primary role of a lawyer is to secure justice for his client. So whether you are a lawyer drafting an agreement for your client, whether you are giving a legal opinion to your client or whether you are appearing before a court of law and arguing on behalf of your client the objective remains the same: to secure justice for your client.

Now, why is this important? There is a statement engraved in some of the federal courthouse buildings in the United States of America and right outside the Attorney General’s office in Washington, DC. And it says: “The United States wins every time justice is done to one of its citizens.” Now, nothing of this sort is engraved in our court buildings here in India. However, that principle is squarely applicable to India and all the other nations in the world. Justice is the foundation stone upon which a civilized society is built and lawyers endeavour to secure justice.

To give an example of how crucial the role of a lawyer is – let us take the case of our country itself. The greatest movement that this country has ever witnessed is the freedom struggle. And the freedom struggle was led by lawyers such as Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Jawaharlal Nehru – to name a few. And after India became independent, it was Dr B R Ambedkar, a lawyer, who was most instrumental in drafting our Constitution. The first Prime Minister of our country, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a lawyer. The First Deputy Prime Minister of our country, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, too was a lawyer. And the first President of our country, Dr Rajendra Prasad, was also a lawyer. So, one can never exaggerate the significance of the role of lawyers in society.

When should a student start preparing for the course?
People often joke that the ones who eventually take up law are the ones who could not get through to any of the other courses. Probably, that could have been possible back in the day. But now, if you decide to take up law only at the last minute, you might find it extremely difficult to get through to any law school, let alone a good one. Because nowadays, the entrance exams to get through to law schools have become much more competitive than they used to be.

For instance, around 60,000 students take the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) which is the entrance exam for admission to around 3,000 seats in the national law universities.

The syllabus for the entrance exams to get into law schools mostly comprise English, General Knowledge, Current Affairs, Legal Reasoning, Logical Reasoning and basic maths.

The ideal time to start preparing for these exams would be when you are in the 11th grade. Having said that, some students crack these exams even after starting the preparations when they are in the 12th grade or even after they have completed the 12th grade.

Best colleges and courses
If you want to study law in India, you could either do a five-year course after your 12th grade of school or a three-year course in law after completing your Bachelor’s Degree. The most reputed institutions for law in India are the National Law Universities. At present, there are 23 national law universities in the country. The one in Kerala is in Ernakulam and it is called The National University of Advanced Legal Studies. There are a lot of other government as well as private colleges which are also good and renowned including the Symbiosis Law School, Pune; School of Law, Christ University, Bengaluru; St Joseph's College of Law, Bengaluru; and Jindal Global Law School, Haryana.

What ultimately matters
The one thing that you should keep in mind about this is the fact that the laws – for example, whether it is the Indian Penal Code or the Indian Evidence Act or the Indian Contract Act, that you learn in all of these colleges, are the same. And therefore, your success as a lawyer will mostly depend on your ability to learn the law and interpret the law.

Another thing to be kept in mind is the fact that law is one of those professions where what you are taught in college is only the tip of the iceberg of what you ought to do once you start practice. And therefore, the fact that you were the topper of your batch in college might give you a head start as compared to the others, but it is not a guarantee that you will succeed in this profession. Similarly, a poor or below-par academic performance in college is not a hindrance for you to succeed in this profession.

Career opportunities
There are a lot of career opportunities that await you once you graduate in law. Some of the popular options are writing the Bar exam and enrolling at the Bar Council and practising as an Advocate before the courts, or joining a law firm or the in-house legal team of a company or a bank, or doing a Master’s Degree and getting into teaching, or writing the UPSC Civil Services exams, or writing the judicial services exams and being a Magistrate.

Legal journalism, i.e. reporting about legal matters in the media or on legal portals, is also becoming a very popular option nowadays. There are some wonderful career opportunities for law graduates in the armed forces as well. So some law graduates join the Army, the Navy or the Air Force after doing law. And last but not least, some legislators recruit law graduates to assist them in drafting and critically evaluating the laws that are passed by the Parliament and State Legislatures.

Scope for higher studies
To practice as an Advocate in India or to take up any of the career options mentioned above, one only requires a Bachelor’s Degree in Law. However, if one wants to take up teaching as a career option, he/she would have to do a Master’s Degree in law and it is called an LLM. Some students pursue their LLM in universities abroad and get recruited by foreign law firms.

The salary range for a beginner
The range of income for a beginner in law is very subjective and it varies depending on the career option that one has chosen and the office in which he has joined. Some beginners get into litigation and unfortunately end up getting paid something as less as Rs 5,000 a month. And some beginners get recruited by top-tier law firms and end up getting paid as much as around Rs 18 lakhs a year.

Having said that, let me not dishearten those who want to take up litigation as their career option. Your initial days could indeed be difficult. But once you establish yourself, your income would grow exponentially and when you look back, you will realize that all the struggle that you put in was worth it.

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