Law degree: Opens various career options
Legal education in India has really arrived in a big way with NLUs at the forefront of change
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.
Prof. S Shantha Kumar
ITM Law School, ITM University
Other graduates may occupy the high offices of Legislature and Executive, but not in the Judiciary. A Law degree can open the door to a wide variety of careers, which other degrees might not
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.
Prof. Harpreet Kaur
National Law University, Delhi
Better course structure, pedagogy, 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
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.
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
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.
Prof. (Dr) Faizan Mustafa
Vice-Chancellor NALSAR Hyderabad
Q. What challenges do you face as a Vice Chancellor?
A: Heading the country’s best Law University is itself a challenge because there are 15 others who are in a close competition. These islands of excellence are getting the best students and to teach the best students we do need the best faculty. Even though NALSAR has good faculty and I am proud of my teachers, still like any other professional course, we are also not getting the quality of faculty that students now-a-days demand.
Q. Why is it so?
A: Indian Universities do not have good teachers because my students of fourth year will get a package of Rs 30 lakhs or so today so they will not do Master’s. If they will not do so somebody from not that great a law college or department will do Master’s and teach future Law students. So is the case with institutions like IITs and other good universities. So, it is a challenge to get the faculty who can deliver.
Q. How do Indian Law Schools compare with global players?
A: Now we are not only competing in India we are thinking how to compete with the best Law Schools in the world. Now my students are defeating moot court teams of Harvard and Yale, Cambridge, etc. It gives me satisfaction that the education we are imparting at NALSAR is at par with the best Law schools of the world. Legal education in India has really arrived in a big way. But, mere moot court performance does not make us a Harvard or Yale. Their faculties are entering into specialization, new courses are being developed on a routine basis and new frontiers of knowledge are conquered on a daily basis. In India we are not getting people even in the core subjects because academics is not an attractive option because of the packages students get from the corporate sector. We need to enhance the salary of teachers three to five times.
Q. Any unique academic practice being followed at your University?
A: When I took over in 2012 out of 50 courses 47 courses were compulsory, I introduced large number of electives. I introduced MBA specializations like Court Management, Corporate Governance, Innovation and Sustainability Management, Master’s in Aviation Law and Air Transport Management. Similarly I introduced an innovative Master’s in Telecommunication Laws. We also revamped our project system.
Court Management started in US in 1969 but nobody in India thought of having a Court Management course, High Courts are recruiting Court Managers but they are ordinary MBAs, you need MBAs who understand Indian Judicial Process. So that’s why we introduced this course.
Q. What are the key future initiatives at NALSAR?
A: We have introduced several new courses like course in Telecommunication Law, which it is not taught anywhere. We are trying to explore new areas. We have arrears of cases yet we do not teach Court Management.
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.
Most of the magic circle and silver circle law firms like Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, Herbert Smith, Simmons etc visit Indian campuses to recruit students for their various offices across the globe. Almost all the Indian law firms like Luthra and Luthra, Amarchand Mangaldas, AZB Partners, Nishith Desai Associates have also begun recruiting from the Law Schools.
www.vahura.com, Legal recruitment and talent consulting firm
While the most popular options remain law firms or corporate in-house legal departments, we also see private-sector litigation emerging as an option of choice. LPOs too provide excellent opportunities
Skill sets of a good lawyer
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.
What employers look for
Organizations place a premium on good teamwork skills, business etiquette, negotiation skills, a sense of responsibility and a willingness to learn.
Pattern of CLAT (Undergraduate Programme)
Number of multiple-choice questions of one mark each
Duration of Examination
Subject areas with Weightage
English including Comprehension
General Knowledge and Current Affairs
Elementary Mathematics (Numerical Ability)
* Note: There shall be a system of Negative Marking wherein 0.25 marks will be deducted for each of the wrong answer.
In addition to the above core skills, a lawyer must also be able to think quickly and logically, should have tremendous perseverance. Law is a demanding profession. Barring exceptions, most of the budding lawyers invariably work for a few years under a senior advocate to learn the ropes. Even when you join a professional law firm, the partners rule the roost, and the first few years are exceptionally gruelling and demanding.
The plethora of opportunities available to a lawyer in India is amazing. “Young lawyers these days enjoy an unprecedented range of options. While the most popular options after graduation remain law firms or corporate in-house legal departments, we also see private-sector litigation emerging as an option of choice. In addition, LPOs have shed the stigma they once bore; today, they provide excellent opportunities with global exposure to law graduates,” says Arpita Singh, who focuses on mentorship programmes at law schools, and works out of the Delhi office of Vahura (www.vahura.com), a premier legal recruitment and talent consulting firm.
Legal Talent Management,
It’s an undeniable and interesting fact that top tax-paying lawyers are all
While Law firms and LPOs induct associates, corporates induct legal executives. “Specialized concerns such as IP, research and arbitration consultancies are also picking up graduates, with skills in those areas. With Law schools mushrooming across India, we see strong interest in the academic sector for Law graduates as well as transferability of skills across disciplines,” Arpita added.
Among Law firms, those like Amarchand Mangaldas, AZB, Luthra & Luthra, JSA, Trilegal and Khaitan & Co remain highly rated. On the corporate in-house legal department side, opportunities at organizations such as HUL, ICICI, ITC, Ernst & Young and PWC are prized. Among more specialized organizations, Anand & Anand, Remfry & Sagar and Lall & Sethi are considered the top IP firms in the country. Others like Karanjawala and Oasis provide great opportunities for lawyers considering a career in arbitration and dispute resolution. LPOs have proven themselves to be strong employers who provide global exposure to lawyers who join them. Pangea3, OSC, CPA Global and Clutch Group are known as excellent organizations in this space. On the legal research front, Lexis Nexis and Manupatra provide great opportunities to candidates interested in legal research.
Within the legal industry, pay scales vary widely. Graduates from top Law Schools can expect a package that ranges from Rs. 3 to 15 lakhs per annum (fixed and variable inclusive) if they get employment at most Indian law firms or organisations. Those at top tier Indian law firms can expect a pay package between Rs. 12 and 15 lakhs per annum.
Those placed with top corporate houses can expect a pay package between Rs. 6 and 10 lakhs with an exception of few corporate houses which offer a pay package at par with top tier Indian law firms. At the upper end, a training contract with a UK law firm can be compensated at between Â£36,000 to Â£38,000 (approx. Rs. 30 – 32 lakhs per annum).
“It’s an undeniable and interesting fact that the top tax paying lawyers referred to above are all litigators - litigation is undeniably the most lucrative stream though it is equally undeniable that it takes a fair amount of time and effort to reach that level of practice,” says Rishabh Chopra of Legal Talent Management Pvt. Ltd.
Internship under a lawyer, litigation chamber or a litigation practice group of a full service law firm, is an excellent step towards a career in litigation. The experience will help the student a lot in career options.
Even abroad, Indian lawyers are making a mark. So, wake up to the realities and prepare well to get a head start in this challenging profession.
Top Law courses
Bharati Vidyapeeth University
BVP CET Law Entrance
Nirma University Institute of Law
National Law School of India
National Law Institute University
Gujarat National Law University
NALSAR University of Law
National Law University
West Bengal National University
Rajiv Gandhi National University
Hidayatullah National Law University
Tamil Nadu National Law School
University of Delhi
DU LL.B Entrance
Jamia Millia Islamia University
BA. LL.B/ LL.B
Gitam Law Admission Test
Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University
KIIT University, School of Law
Sri Venkateswara University
Government Law College
Merit in Qualifying Exam
BA. LL.B/ LL.B
Symbiosis International University
SET Law Entrance
University of Petroleum and
BA. LL.B (H)*
Jindal Global Law School
Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia National
National University of Advanced
National Law University
National University of Study
National Law University and Judicial Academy
Government Law College
* These colleges have more than one option for their basic degrees like B.A/BSc/ BBA LLb amongst others