Despite all of the changes that have taken place over the last three decades or so, the common perception is that a career in law means one that is confined to the courtrooms alone. And that the study of law necessarily means that one will become a courtroom lawyer. Both these perceptions, as I will demonstrate through this article, are not really of the accurate kind.
How can one study law?
But before going into that, let us run through the basics of a legal education. Broadly speaking, the study of law in India can be done via two means: one, a five-year undergraduate degree (often referred to as an “integrated” BA LLB degree) or two, via a three-year postgraduate LLB degree. I don’t want to go into the pros and cons of each method; all I would like to add is you can study law right after Class 12, or you can complete an undergraduate degree and then enroll for the law course.
By and large, admissions for both types of courses are through entrance exams, with admissions to the five-year course being more competitive. In fact, the five-year course has gained a fair bit of popularity over the past two decades, and is now quite a popular option.
One last point I would like to make here is that non-Indian law degrees can also allow you to become a lawyer in India. Thus, if you would like your child to study law outside the country, and then come back to India, you can look at law courses across the world. Bear in mind that these law courses must be recognized by the regulatory body that is the Bar Council of India.
Alright now that we are done with how you can study law, let’s get to what the study of law actually entails.
What is the study of law?
If you look at the five-year integrated course, then what is important to note is the BA (or BBA, BSC) component of the BA LLB. It is this component that is meant to differentiate the five-year course from the three-year one. So, typically in the first two years, you will study subjects such as political science, history, sociology and other subjects in the BA stream.
The purpose behind this is to encourage an interdisciplinary study of law, allowing students to critically examine laws with a base in the social sciences. This also means that if your interests are only tangentially related to law, you could still end up enjoying the course. It also means that you may be better suited for a non-legal profession or one that straddles more than just the discipline of law.
Typically, the integrated course also benefits from “internships” where students are meant to get practical insights into the legal profession. This can often be a crucial part of the learning experience, one that could well help in identifying one’s course of action after graduation.
The three-year course, on the other hand, provides for a more focused study on law. Given that the student already has an undergraduate degree, the study modules are largely limited to legal subjects. Now, two of the benefits of this course is that you already have a degree to fall back upon should law not interest you. And two, with a grounding in a non-law discipline, you are better equipped to understand the inter-disciplinary aspect of law. These courses also offer internships, although they are often not as well organized as the ones in the five-year course.
What is the future of law?
The traditional understanding has been that a student of law goes on to become a lawyer. Which remains partly true even today. Law graduates have gone on to work as litigating lawyers, transactional lawyers, legal advisors, and members of the judiciary. All these are fairly competitive fields, and come with their own set of pros and cons. Transactional or corporate lawyering is a relatively recent development in India, and is usually the preferred route amongst today’s law students.
Having said that, there are innumerable people who have used the law degree as a foundation for a career in a completely different field be it policy research, academia, entrepreneurship and everything in between. After all, skills such as analytical abilities, coherent and persuasive thinking, and research – these can prove to be immensely beneficial in multiple fields.
Looking ahead, I don’t foresee any decrease in the demand for good, competent lawyers in the country. At the same time, I also think that the law students of today are no longer going to restrict themselves to traditional employment opportunities. And that is the way it should be.
(This article was contributed by Anuj Agarwal. Anuj Agrawal is the co-founder at Amicus Partners, is an educational consultancy firm that works with Indian lawyers and law students interested in pursuing higher education outside the country. They help applicants choose the ideal course, walk them through the application process, and assist them in finding scholarships. Amicus Partners is the brainchild of Priyadarshini Shetty and Anuj Agrawal (both lawyers). If you have any queries you can always reach out to Anuj at firstname.lastname@example.org)