Bright, young minds today are taking up law as a career. but choosing one specialization over another is a tough judgment they have to arrive at
By Jui Mukherjee
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”
These words could well sum up the dilemma facing fresh graduates from India’s law schools. Should they go in for LLM (Master of Law) or garner work experience? Dabble in corporate law or litigation? As these youngsters step into the real world of tough decisions, stiff competition and strict opposition, the choices are many and the final decision, confusing.
The questions plaguing them are numerous: “Will I be able to support myself during the initial struggling years of litigation?”, “Will I be happy in a sterile corporate setting, away from the hurly-burly of courtrooms?”, and “Will my LLM be of any value sans a solid work experience?”
In a bid to understand their motivations and choices, India Legal spoke to a few law graduates who have stepped into the world of cut-throat competition.
Krithika Sundaraman, 23
Landing a job in a law firm in Mumbai and living away from family seems like the ultimate dream for many youngsters. So it was for Krithika. But when the opportunity arose, she found herself in a difficult spot. “I studied law in Pune and had been living away from my parents for four years. So, when, in my final year, they decided to move from Hyderabad to Pune to be with me, I was overjoyed. But when I began looking for better job opportunities in Mumbai after my fifth year, my family was a little disappointed,” she says. Her mother wanted her to stay in Pune for another year or so in order to keep the family together for a while longer.
“I even received a job offer from a firm in Pune, making matters worse. I was torn. It took me days to come to a final decision about moving to Mumbai and it was very hard to explain it to my mother. But she understood and supported me completely,” adds Krithika.
Besides debating over which city to work in, there was also the question of the type of work she would take up. “I was very confused about whether to take up corporate law or litigation. While litigation work was appealing, I was also aware of its demanding nature, where it takes at least 6-7 years to become an established advocate with a desired clientele. On the other hand, pay scales in corporate law were attractive too. I couldn’t pick,” she says.
After a while, Krithika started leaning towards corporate law, as she realized that litigation would cause hardship in her personal life. “In litigation, people put in 14 hours a day for years without making much money to reach a respectable position. I knew I would want to settle down in 4-5 years,” she says.
Her decision was met with criticism from her peers, who knew her to be “the perfect fit” for litigation. Being an active participant in several national-level moot courts and debates, her love for arguing was not a secret. “People would tell me: ‘Kaka (her nickname), you are crazy to go into corporate. It will be a big loss to the field if you aren’t arguing in court.’ And it would confuse me even more.”
Finally, her love for litigation and everyone’s encouragement caused her to take up a job in a law firm in Mumbai with a starting salary of Rs. 20,000. She shifted to another law firm in the city after nine months, where she worked for four months before the next big choice caught her off-guard. “I was offered a very attractive job in a good corporate firm in Chennai. The perks included international travel, township accommodation, free food and a salary of around Rs. 45,000 per month. I almost took it up, but then came another job offer at a bank in Mumbai, which paid me Rs. 10,000 less, but was interesting.”
After thinking hard and following endless discussions with family and friends, she took it up. “I am happy with where I am right now. I plan to stay here for a long time and gain
experience. Who knows, I might just want to set up my own practice in a decade or so,” she says, giving a hint about her future plans.
Oscar Varghese Abraham, 24
Being a commerce graduate and having an affinity for economics, Oscar decided to pursue chartered accountancy. It was only after his German tutor advised him to pursue law as a career that he thought it might be a more interesting option. “I thought it would be less monotonous of the two. My mother was completely against me taking up law. “However, when I told my family that I was firm about my career choice, they supported me.”
Oscar knew from the beginning that he wanted to get into corporate law. “It seemed more exciting than litigation, which involves using the same procedures to achieve similar objectives in court…” he says.
However, the path to success wasn’t easy. “It wasn’t until my final year that I realized I wasn’t sure what I would do after college—whether to take up a job or pursue LLM. I got through the London School of Economics and National University of Singapore. But when I decided an LLM wouldn’t hold much value without work experience, my friends were shocked,” he says. They warned him not to let go off a “once in a lifetime opportunity” in these colleges. Many felt he was making a big mistake, but he was clear. “My parents were extremely supportive of me. An LLM is an advancement in a career as a whole, but minus work experience, it would be like a softy without the cone,” he explains.
Oscar is now working in a well-known corporate firm, where, after initially handling contracts, he is now looking into intellectual property. “It gets a little frustrating, not being able to use my economics education, which I loved. But I know it will kick in sooner or later,” he says, adding that he will soon be shifting jobs to handle capital markets and financial instruments.
Bhakti Dhorey, 23
Bhakti is the oddball. While all her peers were dabbling either in corporate law or litigation, she found herself drawn to a completely different field—photography.
“I wasn’t very active in my law college in the first two years. I made good friends in due course and started exploring what my interests were. It was then that I discovered my love for photography, but still didn’t think of taking it up as a career,” Bhakti says.
In the fourth year, Bhakti took up an internship under a family court advocate. “My experience there made me take the decision to shift my line of work. Every day in that court, all I saw was families fighting, children crying and being asked difficult questions like ‘Does your father hit your mother?’, ‘Does your father come home drunk?’, ‘Do your parents neglect you?’It started getting to me.”
Bhakti then took a course in photography and landed a job involving candid photography at high-profile weddings with a top-notch photographer in the country. “I was the first among my friends to land a job, and they were all very happy for me because they knew where my passion was,” she says.
Bhakti now works on an assignment basis out of Pune, travelling across India to document lavish weddings, charging around Rs. 25,000 per day. She, however, is grateful for her education in law. “Knowledge of law helps when I have to negotiate the rights of pictures clicked by me and their use on websites and my own portfolio. Also, if someone were to threaten me with legal terms, I can always strike back and tell him I have a law degree,” she exclaims.
The future is, indeed, bright.