A career in Law is exciting, challenging, tiring, demanding, enriching and rewarding all at the same time. We have long moved away from the times where getting a law degree was directly equated to sitting in a black coat in front of a Court, with a typewriter and fishing for clients. Depending upon how you see it, a law degree now is just a starting point as you can choose from varied career options. To name a few, a law graduate you can go into legal journalism, academics, judicial services, social work, law firms as corporate associates, or litigation, etc. Not to forget, eminent personalities right from the likes of Barack Obama to the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi have had Law as a stepping stone to all that they went on to become.
It is important to understand that Law can be both proactive and reactive, but it does not exist in a vacuum. Law is a part of the society we live in and is a reality for any human civilization. Law, as a properly legislated code, becomes an instrument which dictates almost all major and even minor activities of the people in a society. In India, as of January 2017, the number of laws that are enforced are more than 1200. These include laws relating to marriages, taxation, labour law, etc. etc .However, no matter what career you choose for yourself after completing your law degree depending upon the inspirations that let you choose law in the first place, there are some things that you can try to imbibe so as to sharpen your intellect for a career in Law.
1. While having a career in law, the most important thing is your understanding and knowledge of the law. It is very important that you try to keep in tune with the contemporary happening as almost everything has a legal angle. Being a lawyer (by the using the word ‘lawyer’ the intention is to refer to anyone with a law degree) you should be able to understand the legal aspect of the developments in the country and also the world. There are a lot of reasons which lead to the formation of law. It can range from an international treaty obligation, to simply catering the political ideologies of the ruling government. This is also very important since the laws are not set in stone and go through amendments every now and then. Therefore, with your knowledge of the contemporary issues, you can possibly even foretell a change in a particular law is likely. Plus, if you are well aware of the new changes in any field of law and have a functional understanding of the same it can greatly enhance your value at your workplace.A very relevant example for this would be the rolling out of the new Goods and Services Tax regime in India. While discussions around GST date back to 2012, the complete understanding of the GST law and all its practical applications are still an ongoing process as the Government has been trying to streamline the enforcement of the law through multiple notifications, circulars, and amendments.
2. In order to develop just an understanding and knowledge of the law and the contemporary happening, the most important instrument is reading. Try to read about any and every issue which interests you and keep yourself updated in your topics of interest. This does not only help in gathering knowledge on the subject but it also gives you a better understanding of the subject which you can use while analysing something related to that subject or just applying it to any issue in hand.Reading should not be incomplete in that you know all the information, but you should also try to understand how that information is relevant and can be put to use. Similar to how any legal provision requires not just the knowledge of the legal provision but rather a deeper understanding of how it is relevant and how is the legal provision put to use.A voracious reading habit can help you a lot in your career in law. Reading helps build awareness in you of the surroundings you are in. For example, it might interest you that when traveling in a train in India, the Indian Railway Commercial Manual provides that if you have a lower or middle berth, the sleeping accommodation is provided from 10 pm to 6 am in the morning. So you can legally ask a fellow passenger to leave your berth post 10 pm and let you sleep in case they are sitting on your berth.
3. While you are on your path of reading and gathering knowledge and developing your understanding of everything old and new, another important part is to try and balance your knowledge on both sides of an opinion. It is a big part of learning law that you understand that for every view that is expressed there is a view contradicting the former. This may have led to the formation of a third view which comes from both the prior views held, or it may be that both of the contradicting views still exist with no solution. As a lawyer, it is a part of your job to hold a balanced view of whatever you express your opinion on and try to paint the entire picture. Moreover, if you decide to become a defense counsel, you this is the thing that is most imperative. As a defense counsel, you are actually looking for a counter-narrative based on almost the same facts that have been set before the court to favor and help your client.
4. As a lawyer, it is important all your opinions and judgments are backed up by relevant facts. The importance of knowing all the facts and of being able to properly articulate them cannot be stressed enough in law. You are required to absorb a large amount of facts and figures, and analyse them in a way that is most coherent and bring out your point most clearly. This actually means that you develop your researching and analysing skills in an efficient way that caters to your needs. As a lawyer, your reputation is based on your credibility, and your credibility will depend on the facts you rely on. Moreover, it is only if you have the knowledge of all the facts necessary that you can use them to your advantage and also prepare for all possible counters.
5. Another important habit that can sharpen your intellect for a career in law is to keep an eye for the details. In the legal profession, the details of any relevant fact can make or break the case for you. A simple ‘or’ or ‘and’, whether read conjunctively or not will lead to major consequences. Depending on whatever your career choice is within the law, having an eye for detail by remembering the name of the relevant case or the relevant section of the relevant statute can actually go a long way in establishing your credibility. As an advocate, it can help you identify the grey areas or the loopholes that you can use for your client. On the counter side, missing a minor detail can actually end up costing you and your client too.
While these skills will help you build an intellect of law, another important thing that will help of establishing yourself in your career communication, both written and oral. It is very important to be fluent in your language of practice. It is the medium of expression after all, and if you have the intellect yet you cannot express yourself fluently it will be problematic.