For long, a study of law has been associated with a career in the courtroom. Representation in popular culture hasn’t helped much to debunk this myth: (mostly) men clad in black robes aggressively pontificating to a rather mute judge is the vision and understanding one has developed of the legal profession. However, in today’s age, the study of law opens many doors which are not just in the courtroom.
The quest for entry into a law school from the point of view of an immediate lucrative career opportunity is relatively new. Until not so long ago, students graduating from schools across the country were restricted to very traditional choices in higher education: either engineering or medicine, if immediate post-college monetary gratification was their motivation. However, the effects of the increasing rate of globalization and the entry of foreign players into the Indian market were seen in the legal profession too. So much so that as of today, students (and more so, their parents!) view education in law as a viable means to a well-paying job upon graduation.
Having said that, let’s look at some career opportunities that become available to you upon completion of a law school education.
1. A career in Corporate Law
This is one of the most attractive opportunities available to a young law graduate fresh from law school. It is attractive because it is lucrative, offering high-pay packages immediately upon graduation. This involves both, a law firm profession as well as an in-house legal counsel at a corporate.
Corporate law encompasses various fields – Capital Markets & Securities, Banking & Finance, General Corporate, Mergers & Acquisitions, among others. You need to be well-versed with statutory regulations governing one or many of the above-mentioned fields, but you tend to specialize in one of these. You work with a team of lawyers in a particular field and deadlines assume special importance. The interest of the client is paramount, and the work is heavily oriented and informed by the instructions of the client.
As opposed to popular belief, there are avenues of litigation in this field also. Some teams work on Corporate Litigation, Arbitration, and Insolvency proceedings, to name a few.
2. Academics & Research
The advantage (or disadvantage for some!) of studying law is that you read a lot! This prepares you for a lifetime of reading, studying, and analyzing. An efficient way of channelizing this is to make this habit of reading a profession. And that’s where a career as an academic comes into the picture.
An academic is not always a teacher. Based on what area of law, or any interdisciplinary approach to the law you’re interested in, there are various spaces where you can pursue a career in research. This involves research positions in universities (both in India and abroad), think tanks, and policy organizations. Everyone wants someone with an in-depth understanding of legal provisions and issues and that is where an academic’s prowess is unmatched.
3. Judicial Services
If you think the law is a calling for life, then this is a bus you need to board. This is a secure governmental job with all the trappings of a bungalow, car, and other associated perks. If you’re the one who has always imagined the comforts of a government job, then this is the place to be.
The entry into this profession is by way of a judiciary exam which is conducted by every State, under the supervision of the respective High Court. You can appear for this examination fresh out of law school or even in the final year of law school. If you’re successful in this examination, then you become a member of the subordinate judiciary, i.e., you’d occupy the post of a presiding officer of a smaller court, right up to the District Court.
However, one can also appear for a judiciary examination after a few years of practice, usually seven. This one is for the higher judiciary, and upon qualification, one is immediately appointed as an additional district judge.
4. Civil Services
Appearing for the UPSC examination is also a very popular choice among law graduates. Having been subject to a rigorous academic schedule for five years prepares you well for another formidable examination, which is the UPSC examination. A study of law in law school does not only make you well-versed with the law but also subjects like history, political science, sociology, and economics, to name a few. All these subjects are often tested in the UPSC paper as well. Moreover, since the law is such an interdisciplinary area of study, your understanding of issues tends to become very well-informed, which is an important skill from the point of view of this examination as well.
Then, of course, we have the good old courtroom.
A career in litigation, in today’s time, has been radically transformed. Although the adversarial nature of the profession in the courtroom subsists and is a major feature of the same, there are other avenues also. Traditionally, you would join a senior advocate (or an advocate with some years of practice) as a junior in her chambers. You would assist the concerned advocate with research, drafting, briefing, and filing. Earlier, the practice was very individual-centric but now there are dedicated litigation firms, similar to corporate law firms. Till some time ago, one of the major concerns of law graduates who wanted to pursue this line was that this does not pay as well. However, with the establishment of such firms, the salary offered by them are comparable to some law firms.
Another route that a prospective litigator takes is going independent. If you are so motivated and resourceful, you can open your independent practice after having worked with someone for a few years. You can build on the clientele and the goodwill established through years of practice. And with a few more years of practice, the concern of not being so well-paid is also addressed. Lawyers, with a name and a robust practice, are always in demand.
The legal profession has existed for centuries. That is primarily because people have existed for centuries. As long as there are people, there are conflicts. And as long as there are conflicts, a lawyer’s expertise is never out of fashion!