Internships, Practical aspect of law life
Written by: Arvind Kumar, Student, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law
While joining law stream students believe that their law life is going to be same in terms of curriculum of other streams, seeing the old process of joining a firm through campus placement and thus being trained by the firm as well as getting a job. However changing times have seen a great change in the nature of events; Law firms & Advocates which used to provide training to so called newbies passing out from law institutions are now more inclined towards getting a readymade job material from law colleges.
Seeing the change of trends in the market various institutions like IIM have adapted according to the situation by equipping their students with the desired type of skills required by their industry, However one can argue that it isn't the same in case of law colleges, where institutions like Jindal Global have tried to modify their curriculum, other law schools are still lacking the required changes in their curriculum to comprehend with the same, that’s where the importance of internships come in to save the day.
Part I - Internships - All to know
Knowing the fact that - Bar Council of India in its updated regulations has made it mandatory for a law student to at least have 12 internships for students from 3-year course and 20 internships for students from a 5-year integrated course,
Conventionally, the following method was followed by students in doing their internships –
· 1st Year - Trial Court (criminal/civil) or NGOs
· 2nd Year - Appellate court, High Court/trial court (civil-criminal)
· 3rd Year - Supreme Court/firms
· 4th Year - Corporate firms/judges
· 5th Year - Professional/ career placement
However, with the development in above mentioned rules, scenario of events has changed a lot, as law students who was aiming for one internship during vacations can now aim for two or more in a single time vacation (Summer or winter), with the concept of “internship breaks” during summer and winter vacations.
As availability of time has increased and rules have been amended, the question which comes to one’s mind is how to achieve their internship goals in the best possible way.
General patterns to be followed and answer to why they should be followed? (Have explained with regard to 5-year course but 3-year students may also take reference)
The change in curriculum as mentioned above has provided law students with ample amount of time to invest in the practical aspect of their law journey, students can bring variations according to the career aspect they wish to follow for their future.
The general curriculum can be explained in the following way. (keeping in mind a student wants to devotee his maximum amount of available free time towards learning)
I - 1st year the beginning –With high hopes in eyes students wish to utilize their law journey from the beginning year itself, kudos to those who wants to and to those too who wish to take some time to grasp and relax and plan out the pressure of beginning, however it is highly recommended through my own experience that one should never relax throughout the class sessions. Let me tell you something from under the table “Yes, you may relax a bit in the beginning but the answer to that is- relaxation should be compensated with utmost concentration and focus in the daily curriculum”, apply it and you will know that just by focusing in classes alone how much you have gained, coming back to the practical aspect as it was mentioned above that generally students used to aim for NGO’s in their beginning year, while the idea is true, the narrative won’t help you a lot in your journey.
- After talking to various co members of my journey, I can tell you with confidence, that don’t aim too high, but don’t aim too low too, hence the solution is – Lower Courts.
- Why one should join lower courts in their beginning year?
Let me tell you something, you feel that you have enough time, but the truth is you don’t, spend some time in searching for your interest and the best way to do is by spending time under advocates from lower courts, as to why - because it will hep you to learn the daily work ethics of various departments from courts, as well as you will get a chance to visit various places like – mediation centers, arbitration courts etc.
Do remember wherever you work, you will become an advocate someday, thus begin from knowing the beginning, if someone doesn’t want to pressurize themselves by working in lower courts then trust me, they will give and provide as much you want to learn and only as much time you devote and if still one doesn’t want to go for the same you may apply for institutions such as Legal Aid Services for your very first internship.
II - 2nd Year, The base year – The idea behind calling second year as “The base year” is that, by now you have already gone through four internships or at the least three and have learned about the work ethics of law society, now the time has come to build up your skills while still searching for the interest that will stick with you. I would personally recommend students that through out their law career aim for mix internships, so that by the end of second year, you are sure enough to know or at the least you have developed certain interests in specific subjects.
Mix internships -
i) National Company Law Tribunal or Advocates handling corporate affairs
Many are unaware but corporate matters are also dealt by advocates, so search for some advocate online to intern under, or aim for National company law tribunal from Delhi or some other state, as to know about corporate affairs.
ii) Civil or Criminal Litigators – Explore the stream or civil and criminal law and their work ethics by working under them, to know whether those fields interest you or not.
iii) Judiciary – Apply for internship under a judge from High Court or Lower Court, to know whether judiciary might grasp your interest.
iv) Legal Advisors – Students may apply for Legal consultancy firms that provides legal consultancy to various organization, by becoming a part of these organizations you may know the scope of working as a consultant in future.
Someone of you might be thinking, why he hasn’t mentioned law firms here – The answer is they wont take you, even if you do get a internship in law firm through some second means or contacts – The following internship wont help you much in your career, as with your level of skills the only tasks you they would allot you, would be either labor work or research work.
Go step by step, save your sources for future, be patient and it will deliver the fruit you are wishing for.
III – 3rd Year, A year before the penultimate year – Students of 3rd year should understand that with the above curriculum by now, you have grown an idea of interest along with the work ethics of your field, now comes the time to take the first step towards your goal, If you have missed out on the above set up, I highly recommend for you to start devoting your time, as it wont come back and work double time to close the gap.
Now Students of 3rd year should invest in all 4 months of internships available for them, as it will place the root for their penultimate year and career, thus the internships are divided in 4 months
1 month/ 1 internship – Join an online internship to grow your soft skills such as writing or research work or speaking, try searching for internship or course that can help you to grow with the same.
2nd month – Work toward your interest – By third year, as you are now aware of your interest, start working in some organization other than the one you previously worked in, in the field that caught your interest or to be sure whether you want to keep growing in that field in future too.
3rd month - By now one should be absolute certain above the field he wants to work in – Students may apply for internships such as– Law firms, under Civil or Criminal Litigators, as a research analyst or in any other field they had their bend of mind towards.
4th Month – Do some course and intern along in the same field that you working in, to grow and to be recognized in that respective organization.
IV – 4th Year or Penultimate Year - As the heading says “Penultimate Year” which literally mean second last year, now you have two options either to keep working in the same organization in turn to get a PPO (Pre Placement Offer) or change the organization in the respective field to move further up on the ladder, according to your demand or need.
Penultimate year poses as one of the most important year, because now you are seen as grown up and its time to develop your network with the employers, spend longer time with your internships (6 weeks - 8 weeks), try to build a network within the organization you want to work in, try to know whether the organization is flexible according to your need, it’s not always going to be the way you want, but make compromises too at some places, understand your need to know better for yourself., as many employers complain that 4 weeks period is too short to know an intern.
V – 5th Year, The final Year – By the time you reach in your 5th year, there are high chances, that you would have a clear view or certainty of future in front of yourselves, spend the pleasant time with your peers as well as keep brushing up your skills, for your future endeavors.
In your last year of law, it would be best to keep working with the same organization or you may aim to grow further, but best would be to stick with the same. As I have seen multiple examples of people beginning at one point of T to reach the other, the higher end of success.
Part II – Pandemic & Challenges
Pandemic and its effect of working culture for students – 2020 saw an unexpected change in events, with world being hit by a global virus known as Covid-19,
Effect on internship culture of Students -
Pros for students
I) Saving oneself from hush and rush of daily life – Before pandemic times saw an early morning rush of interns to courts and various legal offices exhausting oneself just to reach before the respective senior or set an image of oneself, while that forms a part of work culture, the pandemic hit has saved an intern from being effected with meaning less nuance of daily life such as – travelling, stressed up environment etc. Now an intern can just work from home, while learning from home itself.
II) Investing greater hours in productive work – An intern can invest more now towards making his day more productive, by using the saved time to invest in more productive activities.
III) Chance to be with family – Work from home internship will secure a chance for students to be with their families amid pandemic times.
Cons for students –
I) Unable to understand the work ethics of the organization – Whether one accept or not working in an environment always help you to get friendly with the culture of that environment, students doing work from home internships would hardly be able to understand the culture of the organization.
II) Unable to form contacts – A contact/bond is formed by working in working space of an organization, however work from home internships would limit one to only work and there wouldn’t be much of an interaction with other cp-employees other than work.
Major Challenges –
I) Expectation v. Reality – It takes students time to understand the reality of an internship.
Expectation – Internship is a place where my senior will teach me.
Reality – Internship is a place where you would have to learn by yourself while working in the organization.
Yes, the reality is harsh but it is the truth one has to understand as soon as possible in his law life.
One can achieve this by making a chart of the productive skills learnt by one during an internship.
II) Not taken Seriously – Law students often complain that they weren’t provided with much of real work and they did spend their time going from court room to court room, now as a student you got to understand the point that nobody is enough free to teach you, a lawyer can’t provide more then 15 minutes of his time to you in a day. However, you can still learn a lot by going through the files that are around you and by sitting in court rooms, though if you wish to change the process then –
i) Make sure that you stand out from the rest in the beginning.
ii) Always be eager to learn more and deliver results.
iii) Don’t expect them to teach, but deliver while learning by yourself.
By doing the 3 above mentions tasks, you can save yourself from being the regular intern at any organization.
Key takeaways/Things to keep in mind –
i) Before aiming find what to aim at – law students should always remember to spend ample amount of time by interning at different type of organization to know their career interests
ii) Working at a organization – If you have joined an organization and no one is seem interested in teaching you, then learn by yourself, try to grasp as much, read till you don’t understand the concept and never be afraid to ask, it’s possible that the senior isn’t free at the moment, but wait till he has time to answer your questions.
iii) Don’t be afraid to stay late- Invest ample, make sure its productive and if there is a need to stay for longer then average working hours then stay, that will help you to learn as well as show your employer that you really are here to work and help the organization to grow.
iv) Plan up your internships – Plan up your career aspect and then follow that plan to achieve that goal, its simple just decide and then know how you going to achieve it and then don’t look back.
v) Take action from the very beginning – Don’t be late, start taking actions and investing towards productive skills from the very beginning and keep an account of those by making a “Skills Chart”.