Considering a legal career but don't know where to begin, then you would be any other law aspirant in a country where law graduates are increasing by thousands if not by lakhs, every year. The legal fraternity is exploded with a set of fresh graduates every year, who cross the threshold with numerous expectations accompanied with the fear of not knowing the practical approach or say, diffidence to seek guidance. This situation can be both disheartening and daunting.
But there are ways to inculcate simple habits and regimes to turn this scenario to your advantage and give your career a boost over your peers. Below I have catalogued various tips to kick-start your career as an Advocate. Whether you are a student of law evaluating career opportunities while interning at several forums or whether you're a qualified law professional transitioning into the professional legal world, this check-list will not only provide you the key elements to ponder upon before you begin your journey, but will also be your ready reckoner during various stages of your career as a Law Professional.
- Indoctrinate Yourself
One of the best ways to put your legal career in drive is to advance your education. To excel in a specific field of Law, you may need an advanced degree or professional certification. For example, if we consider a job opening in a law establishment dealing with criminal litigation, a fresh graduate who has either a diploma in criminology, or has worked upon criminal cases as an intern or had the opportunity to witness a criminal trial in the court of session would secure an edge over others.
However, this tip does not conclude that only formal education or internships in the legal profession are essential in order to be relevant. Rather the idea is to keep educating yourself, to keep increasing the horizons of your knowledge. Reading latest judgments, going through drafts prepared by eminent advocates, enlightening yourself with all the new amendments in any given act, most importantly being aware as to what is happening in the field you are or want to indulge into. As tedious and time consuming as that sounds, it is one of the most cardinal steps towards the making of a Law Professional. Especially in the current scenario, constantly augmenting your legal knowledge and technical skills-set by way of online courses and engagement by way of attending trainings, webinars, etc. would go a long way in keeping you ahead of your peers.
- Leverage your expertise
If you have experience or background in another field such as accounting, engineering, physical sciences etc., you can leverage your expertise into your career opportunities in Law, either through consulting or through specialization in your niche. For example, a strong foundation in engineering or similar sciences may give you an edge in the field of Intellectual Property Laws, a background in accounting may open doors in the area of Taxation law.
This tip can also be interpreted as choosing a field in Law in which you want to specialize. For example, If you follow sports and you have a workable knowledge about it, it can be turned as a specialization and you can start as a Sports Attorney. This would not only make your job less monotonous but also would prove to be less strenuous as you would be working in a field which speaks to your interests.
- Perform a Self-evaluation
Before embarking on a career path in Law, it is important to conduct an honest self-assessment to determine if a career in law is a good fit for you. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses and objectively review your experience and credentials to determine if a career in law is for you. Skills required for all legal professionals include strong writing and communication skills, strict adherence to deadlines, organizational ability, multi-tasking, attention to detail and strong technology skills. Also, make an attempt to understand how different fields of law may affect you. Say, litigation lawyers may require to expend more physical labour as compared to corporate lawyers. Similarly, corporate lawyers may have to spend days at stretch at the time of finalization and signing of a deal. Different branches within law have their own peculiar nuances and a self-assessment will come in handy for you to realise your own potential.
This tip is not an effort to demoralize aspirants but an attempt to give a reality check as the legal profession is very demanding and challenging; if you are not cut out for this profession it makes more sense to understand it initially.
- Investigate the Sphere
Career disillusionment is not uncommon in the legal profession, particularly among lawyers. Therefore, it is wise to read literature and explore websites for information relating to the qualifications, duties, educational requirements, salaries and job outlook relating to the legal position in which you are interested. You might also visit Career center of your Law school to learn more about the legal field. Talking to Advocates, Lawyers, law students and other legal professionals about the nature of the profession will also increase your knowledge base.
- Foster professional contacts
One of the best ways to learn about the legal profession in general and job opportunities, in particular is through word of mouth. You should network feverously to gain professional contacts and learn about the profession. Contacts are law firms, corporate legal departments, and legal placement agencies. Attend local chapter meetings, conferences, seminars and luncheons and talk to people who work in the field to learn more about the profession and available job openings.
An adequate networking tool provided by the law school itself is the exercise of Internships, it not only gives you a practical hand at the profession but also can be used as a tool for networking. You can build your contacts in form of your seniors as well as fellow interns which would undeniably help you professionally and might even prove to be a consequential step in the start of your career.
Participating in or organizing activities like Moot Courts, Legal Writing Competitions, etc. give will you a chance to interact with experienced lawyers who can give you valuable insights regarding the practical functioning of courts, law firms, counsels' chambers, etc. This will give you a window to get a glimpse of the professional world post college.
- Become Tech-Friendly
As technological advancements revolutionize the legal industry, it is important to habituate yourself with the technology applications pertinent to the field you wish to enter. Tech-savvy lawyers, litigation personnel and other legal professionals have a significant advantage in today's legal marketplace. Moreover, technology is a useful tool for multi-tasking, which is a skill sought in every professional. You can use technology in legal practice while researching, managing deadlines and most importantly while accessing electronic files, which will give you the comfort to tend to your work anytime, from anywhere.
- Search out a Mentor
Finding a mentor with experience in the legal profession you would like to enter is a great way to boost your career in that field. A mentor can educate you regarding the benefits, pitfalls, job prospects, employment outlook, salary and daily tasks of the profession. A mentor can also guide you through the start of a legal career, arm you with knowledge about the field, refer you to new clients and point you toward new opportunities. To find a mentor, make connections and build relationships. Look out for young achievers, college alumni and even contact your bar association. Many mid-size and large law firms also have an established mentoring program in which they assign summer interns, law clerks and junior associates to an experienced associate or partner, under a 'buddy' or 'captain' concept.
- Shadow a Legal Professional
Job shadowing is a useful career tool that involves following in the footsteps of another professional for a short period of time. Job shadowing allows you to learn the realities of the legal industry by observing a professional on the job. Shadowing gives you the opportunity to ask questions about the job, gain a glimpse of a typical work day and make connections in the field. Shadowing also benefits the employer, allowing them to scout new talent and also enables them to give something back as a token of gratitude towards the legal fraternity.
I would conclude with timeless and golden words of a profound Lawyer Abraham Lincoln - "The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for to-morrow which can be done to-day."
Thus, it is evident there is no hard and fast rule to succeed, rather it's a concoction of the abovementioned skills and habits which are grown and inculcated in oneself overtime. All of us need to let go of procrastination and learn through application of hit-and-trial techniques until we achieve the perfect amalgamation of skill sets which we strive to obtain.
About the Author
Mr. Lakshya Parasher has been working as an Advocate with Prosoll Law Inc., a firm known for phenomenal expertise and path-breaking matters pertaining to Criminal Law, especially cases related to Anti-corruption, Trap cases, Bank frauds, cheating, forgery, Disproportionate Assets and other economic offences.
Primary area of his work relates to Criminal Litigation and he is also adept at handling cases from diverse fields of law including Commercial Dispute Litigation, Recovery Matters, Writ Petitions, Family Law Matters, Property Disputes. Apart from this he has also been assisting the firm in a diverse variety of matters which range from representing the firm's clients in the Court for Persons with Disabilities, NCT of Delhi; to cases related to the Wildlife (Protection) Act.