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What motivated you to pursue a career in law? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?
I think I enjoyed the idea of being a lawyer. I had seen my father practice law all my life. The work he did and the way people interacted with him and the effect he had on the life if the people who reached out to him always fascinated me and I always thought it to be a very noble profession and needed a lot of legal aid work itself and it was really exciting as I was growing up. Also, I grew up surrounded by law books so I guess it was but natural to gravitate towards law.
Give us a brief overview of your life at NLSIU. How was the quality of academics and environment there?
Well, college life is pretty interesting and pretty diverse, I think everyone has their own experience. It is very different in different years. When I went there, in first year, it was quite a struggle to keep up with academics and new lifestyle and new environment, there were a lot of things happening in the first year and you struggle to do many things at the same time in your social life, but as you go into second year, third year, or forth year you become more comfortable with the place, you start understanding what you like and what you don’t like and you do things you want to and by the time you are about to graduate, you have figured the whole place out. For me the life was very different as throughout the law school I was teaching in Career Launcher, so I was very busy throughout my time in law school as I had to balance work with studies, mooting, debating etc. So for me the life was tight in terms of schedule but it was fun.
When, according to you is the right time for students to decide which stream to opt for?
I don’t think that first year, second year, third year or even forth year is the right time to decide what you want to do; you are too young. I think these decisions must be made later in your life. I do believe that in these years you should try out different things- you should work with an NGO, a lawyer, a corporate law firm, you should work with someone who researches or writes on law so basically try and give yourself maximum exposure and try to understand what is out there and only once you have seen what is out there can you understand what you might like doing.
Don’t you think that these students would lag behind or would be at loss if they decide this late about their career, especially for those who want to go for Corporate Law?
I don’t think so. Again, I believe that first year is too early to decide that you want to do Corporate law. While I do believe that you should study hard and have good grades throughout your law school because what it does is, it opens up opportunities for you but it is not connected with you deciding to go for corporate law in the first year. You should focus on your studies, try and get good grades but at the same time you should try and do other things. The problem with someone decides to do corporate law in first year is that they sort of shut down the opportunity to do other things they don’t have the exposure to try out other things and a lot of these people, when they finally get a job in the law firm, realize that they don’t like working there and these people are more lost then most people.
Could you tell about your internship experiences? When & why did you decide to create for yourself a career in Corporate Law and did your experience during internship motivated you to go for corporate law?
I didn’t do any corporate internship. I only worked with lawyers, legal researchers and NGOs, I never worked with a Corporate Law firm. The reason why I went for Corporate Law firm was because I got a job in my forth year and not because I wanted to work for a firm. I understood that it would be a challenging experience and I would get to learn a few things, but it wasn’t something that I was actively looking for. It was just that there was recruitment happening in college, I put in the application and got selected and I decided that it might be a good learning experience to go to a new city-Mumbai, and work in a law firm with the big, the strong and the fancy. That is why I went to Luthra.
What, according to you, should a student keep in mind while building a good CV?
For me what worked was that I tried a variety of things. I don’t think that there is a golden formula. But there are a set of things that do not hurt if they are on your CV. Like if you have good grades, it will not hurt you; if you have done good moot or debate it will not hurt you; if you have managed some committee in your college or written some articles, it is not going to hurt your CV. These are things which will not be adverse if they are on your CV. It is advisable that people should try these things but again, I don’t think that they should go about their CV building in a manner as what will be beneficial. I think they should try and experiment with things which they find exciting in the law school because it is a golden opportunity. You won’t get the kind of life you have in college, ever again. There is no compulsion for a person who is studying law to be a lawyer throughout his life. I know so many people from my batch who are doing professional photography or who are studying MBA or who are into politics and involved in election campaign. So people are doing a variety of different things; just because you are studying law doesn’t mean that you have to be a lawyer.
How did your interest shift towards litigation?
I found corporate law to be exciting and a great learning experience. But I did feel that there was something missing in my life. I wanted a more active involvement in the practice of law, that is why I thought that trying out litigation would be great. Also, there was always a sense of duty. I felt that it was something that I needed to do for my society and I realized that what better could it be than doing legal aid work at Patna High Court.
How did you land at Oxford? Which factors do you think play an important in securing admission there?
I did my Masters in Public Policy from Oxford.
I applied against the vacancy and got in. While considering your application their prime focus is on your Statement of Purpose which requires a lot of thinking. You need to tell them why they should take you and what you want to do in life and that requires people to think about how it all makes sense. For any student who wants to study at Oxford they need to make sense of what they have done and how it adds value to their life and lives of others around them. While they do consider marks and other academic aspects, it is not the ultimate criteria.
What makes Oxford better than Indian educational institutions?
Oxford has a university which has 22000 students and it offers 100s of courses. There are people doing physics and chemistry and geology and many other things. Indian Law Universities have like 400 students so that is the thing with Oxford, it has diversity and it has different kind of people coming together and studying. Other than that Oxford is a very rich institution, it has over 106 libraries so the kind of resources that are available to a student at Oxford is much more that the kind of resources that are available to a student in Indian Institutes. The kind of professors they have, and the various seminars and courses that happen there play a very important role. It is wealthy in terms of both money and experience. It is a thousand years old university. However, I would not say that the academic rigor at National Law School is any less than the academic rigor at the Oxford.
How would you compare Indian Education System with the kind of education system followed there?
The difference is that Oxford had a trimester system and each term is very short, it is 8 weeks long term. There focus is not on teaching a lot of things but on teaching few things in a lot of detail. So they don’t want you to learn everything. They want you to absorb whatever has been taught and learn to think about it. At the same time you have to read a lot and you have to study different books. Also, every week they have seminars on different subjects and topics that you are studying in the class rooms and these seminars are basically round-table discussions on each issue that has been taught. So, by the end of the week you are a master of that topic. You might not learn many things but whatever you learn, you learn very well.
How did you come to work with Rise Programme? Your role and experiences there.
One of my professors at Oxford was running this Programme; she still is. While I was there I came to know about it and found this idea of improving system of education in developing countries very intriguing so I decided to apply there and while I was still studying I was working as a research assistant and later on they hired me. RISE is studying the education system in India. We have three projects here-one in Delhi, one in Rajasthan and another one in Madhya Pradesh. So, we are analyzing what is happening in the education system. The way RISE functions is that it studies the system over a long period of time which is 5 to 6 years and then comes up with conclusions. We rely upon evidence based policy intervention we want to find out the issues based on our own research over a period of time and I think that is how there should be intervention in the education system. The problem with Indian Education System is that a lot of things happened because someone felt that these things should happen and these were not based on research or evidence. So, it is important that whenever there is any change introduced in the education system, it is introduced on the basis of research and evidence rather than whims and fancies of politicians and policy makers.
What would be your parting message to law students? What advice would you give to students who are confused between corporate job and litigation?
My message to all student of law is to really explore all the aspects and ask themselves what they really enjoy doing. Don’t pick up a job just because it is giving you a lot of money. I feel that it is really important for people to enjoy what they are doing to be good at it because unless they are good at it, other people would not want to take their services and to find out what you enjoy doing you need to try that first rather than decide first and then go for it.