In today's issue, I'm going to tell you about my journey as a law student. Choosing the Commerce group in Class 11 is usually the first step towards a goal to study law. However, even after choosing the science group, a career in law can still be on the cards. After completing high school in the science stream, I got placed in Sastra University in Tamil Nadu for BCom LLB (Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Law). These days, almost all colleges admit students based on their Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) results. Private colleges like Jindal Global Law School and National Law University Delhi conduct their own entrance tests. Some alternative degrees which can be pursued towards the same end are BA LLB (Bachelor of Arts with law), and BBA LLB (Bachelor of Business Administration with law).
While five whole years of law school might seem daunting to someone at the outset, law school is structured in such a way as to let budding lawyers explore various fields and dabble in them for the first 2-3 years. I utilised my semester breaks to do internships at various reputed law firms in the city. Every semester break, I took up a different branch of law, like criminal law, civil law, commercial/corporate law, human rights law, NGO related laws and IPR related laws. At the end of my third year of college, I realised that I wanted to make IPR related laws my forte.
Year 4 and year 5 of law school were spent by me reading more and more about IPR laws, writing research papers and attending conferences on this subject and taking up more specialised internships in this area. I did this so that my potential employers would know that I knew what I wanted to do, and was focussed and determined to achieve this.
Another great-to-have factor on a law student's resume is to participate in as many moot court competitions as possible. This is an extracurricular activity at law schools in a mock courtroom, where the participants analyse a problem, research the relevant law, prepare written submissions, and present oral arguments. This is a teaser to what happens in real courts. Moot competitions are conducted both inside and outside India and apart from attending these competitions, networking with the other participants and judges is of utmost importance. You never know whose recommendation you would one day need to apply for further studies or get a job of your choice!
I chose to specialize in "Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)" law. Let me explain the two segments of my job with an example of an IPR - a trademark.
The first segment of my work involves helping my clients obtain IPRs like a trademark. This is often referred to as prosecution of IPR. This involves filing an application with the Trade Marks Registry, answering the Registry's questions while examining the application and responding to the objections which may be raised by it, and following the application through until the trademark gets registered. This would now mean that my client has exclusive rights to use the specific logo or symbol.
The second segment of my work is referred to as litigation. As a part of this, I need to be on the lookout for people or companies who infringe upon my client's rights over a trademark, that is, to identify any unauthorised use of my client's trademark by people who do not have the legal right to do so. Once infringers are identified, legal notices are sent to them to give them an opportunity to stop the unauthorised use. If such notice is not heeded to, I file suits on behalf of my clients to let the matter be settled by the Registry. At these hearings, I argue on behalf of my client against the infringer and seek to obtain an order in favour of my client. Where a ruling is passed against my client, I lodge an appeal with the higher forums such as the court and argue on behalf of my client at these higher forums as well.
On a separate note, if you have ever wondered if a post-graduate degree like a Masters in Law (LLM) is required, the answer would be in the affirmative only if you're looking for a job outside India. Law firms in India do not usually expect an LLM from their employees. On the other hand, if you want to become a professor at a law school, an LLM accompanied by a PhD in a discipline of your choice would be the way to go.
After reading this, if you're confused about whether you have the required skill-sets to become a lawyer, just ask yourself these two questions -
1. Am I a good reader? It is extremely important to be up-to-date with the happenings in the world, be it in current political affairs, developments in medicine and industry, stock prices and everything else. This is because clients from all walks of life and all industries and backgrounds might approach you to be their IPR expert lawyer. To have client conversations which create value, a working knowledge of any given topic is a must.
2. Am I a good listener? Sometimes, all that your clients may need is a person to listen to their problems and give them a practical solution. Only listening would help you to identify a client's needs and serve them well.Based on conversation in March 2019