A career in Law, especially Criminal Law, isn’t easy when you are a first generation lawyer. But your determination to carve your own path in the field makes up for the lack of guidance.
Prerna Deep, our next pathbreaker, British Council’s GREAT Scholar and Senior Associate Editor at the Indian Society for Legal Research, works with a team, researching and developing content related to criminal law.
Prerna talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about her internship under the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights, working at the grass-root level, that made her realise the importance of the legislative framework of law in real life that spurred her towards a career in criminal law.
For students, we all have different journeys and different expectations from life. Know your expectations and make sure you meet those expectations !
Prerna, tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi everyone! I am Prerna Deep, and I hail from the capital city of India, New Delhi. I am a British Council GREAT Scholar who recently graduated with LLM from The University of Edinburgh. I did not grow up dreaming of becoming a lawyer, but law found its way to me.
When I was younger, I thought I would grow up to be a Doctor. I completed my schooling at Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park, and took science in my XI-XII to further my interest in being a doctor. It was not until after I gave the 12th boards that I realised that I was not interested in making my career in medicine. Law had not struck my mind yet, and I chose to pursue the one subject I loved, English, at the university level. I got good grades in my 12th CBSE boards and made the crucial decision of not going with medicine but English literature. It was the most challenging decision of my life, and I am so thankful for my 18 years old self that she had the strength to believe in her choices when no one else did.
What did you do for graduation/post-graduation?
I completed my undergraduate in LL.B. from Campus Law Centre, the University of Delhi, after finishing my BA. Honours in English from Miranda House, the University of Delhi from India. After my LL.B. I was awarded British Council’s GREAT Scholarship to pursue LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice from The University of Edinburgh in the UK. The prestigious scholarship covered my full tuition fees abroad.
What were some of the influencing factors that drove you towards a career in law?
Studying English honours at Miranda House was the turning point of my life. My classmates and professors were terrific and supported my aspirations. I learned to be independent and understood what I wanted in life. I became conscious that I never wanted to be a doctor but to work in a profession that would serve people and make a significant difference in their lives. I then chanced upon law. My literature academic coursework included ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by William Shakespeare, ‘The Trial’ by Franz Kafka, and ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, to name a few, which fortified my profound convictions to study law.
Driven by my instinct for community service, I worked at the college unit of ‘Leaders for Tomorrow,’ an organization where I was in charge of conducting donation drives, analysing primary problems of the society, and helping organise events with professionals across the nation. It drilled into me the ways and mannerisms of formal communication as I interacted with eminent lawyers and jurors.
I also spoke to some seniors from school and college who went to pursue law after graduation, and towards the end of my final year, I knew that law was my true calling, and I wanted to be a lawyer.
What brought you to where you are today? Tell us about your career path
After I got into law school, the next question was to choose my specialization and the work sector. Most people around me were sure about their trajectory; the top choices were corporate law, litigation, judiciary, or UPSC. I entered the field without any former experience or preconceived notions. I had no legal role models growing up, and I knew I was carving my own path as I moved ahead in life. I became a member of the legal aid society, moot court society, and worked as senior editor of the University of Delhi’s first magazine. I gave myself ample opportunity to experiment with all choices to develop a firm decision of where I wanted to be.
To summarise my legal experiences, I have interned under various state organizations, advocates of the Supreme Court and High Court, and Judge of the Delhi High Court, and Law Firms. I worked as a paralegal under the Delhi State Legal Aid Authority Services for three years during my undergraduate in law. I provided legal assistance, worked on different law fields and gained experience in drafting, negotiation, and arbitration. I worked as a judicial intern under the Hon’ble Justice of the High Court for three months. The Judge was allocated a roster on Arbitration and Conciliation including but not limited to Commercial Laws, and Execution petition. My primary role included making case notes, drafting the cases scheduled, and researching various contents raised in the petition. The research contributed by me was also used in writing judgments and framing legal propositions; it taught me the art of attention to detail.
I completed virtual internship experiences in commercial, corporate, and finance in the UK, learning the subtleties within business law and the purpose behind comprehensive legislation. I have worked as a Campus Ambassador for various legal platforms and firms in India and the UK. My role included creating awareness on social media platforms, writing content, and posting relevant material. I also worked on campus increasing brand value and brand awareness.
I have also worked as a researcher at the Indian Society for Legal Research on a short-term International project with special emphasis on Criminal Tribunals and performed exhaustive research work on ‘The Military Tribunal for the Far East.’
After three years of law, I knew nothing piqued my curiosity like criminal law. I absolutely loved my criminal law coursework and internships and decided to study the subject in depth before taking a full-time legal role. Hence, I chose to pursue LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice. Applying for LLM abroad is a challenge in itself as it is a time-consuming and intense process. I gave substantial time and consideration to my University application and scholarship applications. After multiple rounds of applications, tests, and interviews, I finally made it, and it was worth all the pain.
How did you get your first break?
In my first semester, I was suggested to check Lawctopus for legal opportunities; at the same time, they were hiring campus ambassadors from law schools across India. My application was successful, and I became the Campus Ambassador for Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi.
I was sure that I did not want to miss my college lectures for the internship; hence, I only applied to advocates and firms who would hire interns on a part-time basis during term time. I kept following websites for vacancies and applied online, and that’s how I landed my first internship.
My first legal internship was under a Supreme Court Advocate who ran his own law firm. I interned for a month with four other interns from different parts of India. After my college hours, I went to the internship and mainly worked on matters pertaining to family law, property law, and consumer laws. I also attended sessions in District Court, High Court, Supreme Court, and different Tribunals. I also attended client meetings, did research work, and prepared briefs. The internship was my perfect introduction to the legal world, and by the end of it, I knew I needed more exposure inside courtrooms to have a deeper understanding of the functioning of our legal system.
What were the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
I faced many obstacles from the inception of the idea that I wanted to pursue law as a career. The first challenge was deciding I was going to be a lawyer. It is a common conception that law is a suitable profile for someone who has prior connections in the field. I come from a family that does not have any legal links, and I was asked several times if I was sure I was ready to take on the challenge of being a first-generation lawyer. I won’t deny my apprehension, but I was certain that I would instead work hard to be something I am passionate about rather than drown in contemplations of what-ifs in the future. I am an ardent follower of the philosophy that if you believe in something, you must truly give it a chance.
The next challenge was finalizing criminal law as my specialization for my masters. Unfortunately, criminal law is still considered by many as a field dominated by men. The notion of criminal justice was close to my heart and a cause I felt deeply passionate about. During my internship under the Additional State Prosecutor of Delhi, I was under the guidance of two strong women in my office whose work in criminal law inspired me. My other criminal law internships gave me the courage to take the specialization I feel deeply connected to. In the end, I decided to study the subject that I actually loved.
When I decided to pursue LLM from the UK, securing a full scholarship was the hardest part. I applied to the universities of global reputation in the UK that offered LLM in criminal law with scholarship. To secure a scholarship, I not only needed an exceptional academic record but an extraordinary co-curricular record. I worked hard to bring diversity to my cv with internships, research papers, and activities. It was a long and tedious process from the application process to the result, but the key is to take a break but not give up due to rejections because, in the end, all you need is one acceptance to change your life.
What are you doing currently? Tell us about your work.
After my post-graduation in the UK, I worked as a legal content writer with the Legists in London. Due to the pandemic, it was work from home and pretty flexible. I created legal content for the website on legal topics; I would choose a topic that I would like to write about and speak to my senior editor about it. After approval, I would do intensive research on the subject for days, and when I was satisfied, I would write the blog. The challenge was to deliver substantial information in limited words, as the content was in the blog format, the word limit was between 500 – 1000 words. I often found myself swayed way beyond the word limit and cut short pieces to provide valuable information crisply. I also wrote opinion pieces for the careers section of the website.
I moved to Delhi from London a few weeks ago. As I wait for courts in Delhi to start physical hearing, currently, I am working as a Senior Editor for the Indian Society for Legal Research. I am working with the team to create a book on a criminal law topic. The details of the project cannot be discussed at this stage, but my role began with the conception of the topic, researching from literature, creating alliances between organizations and authors to final copy-editing, and ensuring a fine piece of work is published. Every day at work is different depending upon the stage of the book we are at. On a typical copy-editing day, I have to proofread the work, fact-check the references, and edit the submission. It takes a lot of concentration, and you have to pay attention to every little detail.
Good research, writing, and editorial skills are needed apart from a firm grasp of legal topics for my day-to-day work at the moment. I have always ensured that I am honing my writing and editorial skills as I believe these are indispensable skills for any person who wants to succeed in law. While attending law school, I devoted considerable time to my literary pursuits and worked as an editor and content writer. I have been award holder in essay writing competitions on ‘Women and Laws,’ ‘Marital Rape,’ ‘Extrajudicial Killings, and the Jurisdiction of ICC.’ I believe reading, researching, and discussing is imperative for a scholar’s growth in the International fraternity. Therefore, I authored research papers and articles which have been published in both National and International Journals. The key to developing these skills is by regularly reading and practicing. Starting writing small pieces, applying to write for student-run blogs, and seeking guidance when needed. Do not hesitate to reach out. My current role helps me bring together my two passions, law and literature. Literature gave me as a forever bibliophile the wings to follow her heart, and law gave me the strength to believe that I, too, can change the world. I perceive writing as an instrument to disseminate knowledge that enables us as a society to coexist in harmony.
How does your work benefits society?
In the summer of 2018, I interned under the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights. Working at the grass-root level of society made me realise the importance of the legislative framework of law and its application and implementation in real life for the citizens. I spent days as part of my project at observation homes, juvenile courts understanding the genesis of crimes and criminals. I worked for children who were unaware of their sexual harassment. During my internship, the most challenging task was to communicate with the victims. During my tenure, I helped victims whom atrocities were committed and assisted them in fighting the legal battle with the utmost sensitivity. I felt very close to this internship, and by the end of it, I was sure I wanted to make my career in criminal law, fighting for the rights and justice of people.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
In my first semester of law, I participated in an online national-level essay writing competition online on ‘Women and Law in India.’ It was my first national-level essay competition. The competition results were to be declared in an offline ceremony that chaired esteemed lawyers and judges from India. I was sitting in the audience when my name was announced as I stood second on the national level. The best part was that Late Shri Ram Jethmalani awarded me. He was the former Union minister of law and justice in India and a prolific criminal advocate who practiced law for seven long decades. He congratulated me and asked me to continue writing, and it touched my heart. From that day onwards, I gave legal writing significant importance in my life. Today, I have authored several articles, research papers, and book chapters published in both National and International Journals.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
We all have different journeys and expectations from life. If I have to sum up, I would say it is equally essential to know what you don’t want in life. When I decided I did not want to pursue medicine as a career, I was unsure what I wanted, but I chose to believe my instincts and leave because I did not want to be a doctor. If you are not sure where you want to be in life, it is okay; make sure to leave the place where you don’t want to be. Believe in yourself, especially when others don’t believe in you; they don’t know you like you know yourself. Fight for causes that are important to you. Choose a career not only on a monetary basis but one that feeds your soul. Above all, never stop dreaming; you have one life, you have to go all in.
If you have particular queries, pls feel free to contact me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/prernadeep/
Criminal law has inspired me to be the voice of people at the global level. I comprehend law as an awe-inspiring interdisciplinary and normative tool capable of promoting justice and enriching lives. I aim to practice law at an international level and carve my niche in the legal field.