Law as a career option is an enabling choice in a way that it gives you an option of choosing what environment of work you would be most comfortable in. To name a few opportunities that as a law graduate, will be open for you : you can work in the research field, applying for fellowships and research fellowships in all major universities and even government functionaries, i.e. the Law Commission of India, etc. where you work on the policy framing and implementation, or you can even choose to become a litigator after clearing the Bar Exam, where you are looking at either working under a senior advocate or going solo and establishing your own practice on your own terms, or you can work as a Corporate Associate with the Law Firms. However, when you talk about completing a five-year law programme from a National Law University, due to the structure of the course and the exposure to opportunities, along with inherent interest of getting a valuable return attached to it, a major portion of the students look to work as Corporate Associates with major Law Firms of the country. Now given that there are more and more students who are eyeing the same opportunities, the competition in the job market when it comes to these jobs in top Law Firms in the country is immense. The reason being the kind of packages these Law Firms can offer to a fresh graduate. The top five Law Firms as per the RSG Ranking 2017 have been reported to offer a package of anything between 16-10 lakh per annum, to a fresh graduate. So here are a few things that you can do when in a Law School to get a comparative advantage over other candidates:
Academics and Grades
Your grades are important and there is no other way to say this. Even though practically it isn’t the best reflection of the talent of the student, yet being in the top 10-15% of your batch gives you an advantage when it comes to getting hired by a top-tier law firm. The firms are looking for people with consistency and drive. Therefore, they prefer students who have an academic advantage over other students. Depending upon the NLU, the Law Firms often have a ‘cut-off’ grade point that they demarcate when looking for candidates. The higher NLUs have an advantage when it comes to this, but the top Law Firms do hire the top students of the batch in mid-tier or lower NLUs also.So it is important to give grades their share of importance when eyeing a job with a top-tier law firm.
Pick up a Specialised Field of Interest
A degree in itself will never be enough. It is most advisable that in the due course of the five years, you develop a speciality in a particular field of study which you would like to work in. This special field of study could be anything relating to the Corporate and commercial laws which the law firm you are looking to get employed in, works in. For example, you can study and specialise in corporate taxation for a firm that is reputed for taxation.The more important question in this context will be, how you let your CV reflect that you would like to work in that specific field. This has to be taken care for by writing research papers in the field and getting them published, attending certificate workshops and seminars in the field, and by interning with places which deal with that field and getting first-hand experience.This highly increases your chances of getting into a law firm of your choosing. However, finding that one field of interest can be a cumbersome process, but it is immensely rewarding as once you have found that field of study, you can concentrate all your efforts in that direction rather than working on different things all at once.
Work experience here essentially means internship experiences. As a law student, you will have to understand that as a student of the first year or third year, what internship should be most suited for you. Depending upon if you have decided on your interest area or not, you should choose your internship keeping the greater goal in mind and not undertake internships randomly. Try to build a progression. This means that start with a research organisation or an NGO with some legal background from your first semester going on to a small law firm in the fourth semester and thereon from your fifth or sixth semester start aiming for internships in mid-tier firms where you can learn and explore.This kind of a progression is natural and advisable rather than jumping into big firms through contacts in the first few semesters of the law school when you have hardly learnt anything.For your fourth year and fifth year internships you should be able to intern at top tier firms. The firms themselves will in fact favour you only when you are in your fourth/fifth year of study only. At this time, if you like working for a firm, try to get a call back from them, and then maybe even get an assessment internship so that you can get hired through a PPO, Pre-Placement Offer. (Caution: there is a great chance that the firm says that they don’t have the policy of giving a PPO, in which case try to intern with them again and familiarise yourself with the associates, senior associates, etc. Whom you can contact in case you want to get hired with the firm and who can probably put in a good word for you)
Research Skills and Achievement Highlighting the Same
Even as an associate/junior associate in a firm, your initial work will more or less be clerical and research-oriented, and that is what the firm will look forward to while hiring you as a fresher. It is important that your CV reflects editorial positions held, or research papers published because that gives an indication that you are well versed with the basics of research. Other than that, moot competition awards are important and reflect the same. So, it is advisable that as a law student you hunt for opportunities that help you hone your research skills. Publication in reputed journals is a great asset that for your CV when considering get hired for a top tier firm.
Business Acumen and Mind-Set
Having the right attitude and behaviour is as important as having the talent, skill and experience. As a hirer, a law firm will look for people who can work in teams, work sincerely and produce results. It is imperative that you practice professionalism while interning at any place of internship, even if it is not a big firm. Being punctual, reporting back with the work in a proper manner, dressing up professionally, behaving properly with all your co-interns and the associates or senior associates, etc. at the place of the internship, etc. are some of the things that are necessary at the workplace. The firm while deciding to hire you will do so only if they know that you can fit in their work environment and imbibe their work culture. You should nonetheless be confident and sincere, and try to network. But your person behaviour is very important while you are interning with a firm you want to get placed with
Preparation and Research
While looking for placements in top-tier firms, it is better if you gather information regarding all the firms that you want to get placed with. Starting from how the firm has been doing recently, their different offices and the different teams and what partner heads what team to if they are even hiring freshers or are on a hiring freeze. This step is very important as you should know what firm, what city you would want to be placed in, and in what team of the firm would you want to work in. It is highly recommended that you keep abreast of the new developments in the firms and that can be immensely helpful in finding the best-suited opportunity or yourself. In the end, getting placed at a top-tier law firm is a process. You have to understand the steps and the conditions involved and direct your efforts in the same direction.