Career in Law: Skills Required to Become a Lawyer
Is your child interested in pursuing law for a career? Here’s how to plan her career path.
By R K Sudha
On a lazy Sunday morning, Swathi (name changed) is keen on visiting her grandparents. But, Sameera (Swathi's mom) is so caught up with household chores that she declines the request with a promise to make it happen the week after. A persistent Swathi pushes her ‘case’ forward and her mom is left with no choice but to give in. Well, while arguing her case, Swathi sure exhibited all the traits of a lawyer-in-the-making. At an age when most other children would choose career options like engineering, medicine, etc., Swathi is very clear about her career path. She wants to become a lawyer and play an integral role in upholding the constitution of India. And, why not!
There might be a Swathi in your child too. Watch out! Does she launch into the ‘gazillion-question session’ each time you try to spur her into doing something? Does she always come up with creative ways of pleading with you or convincing you? Then, you’re surely in the esteemed presence of a budding lawyer!
Here’s how you can chart your child’s career path in law:
Course to pursue: Bachelor’s degree in Law (LLB)
Duration: 5 years (after completing higher secondary school) / 3 years (after graduating in any degree)
Eligibility: Clearing an entrance exam after obtaining 50% in higher secondary/graduation
Entrance examination: The Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) is a test that is conducted for the undergraduate programme in eleven national law universities. It tests a candidate’s English language skills, general knowledge, numerical ability, legal aptitude and logical reasoning. Apart from CLAT, there are other college/university-specific entrance exams.
Higher education: LLB may also be followed by a postgraduate degree in law(LLM), which is of two years’ duration. Students may also go abroad to other popular law institutions for further education in law.
LLB being a professional degree, most universities give practical legal training to students during the course itself. The students are exposed to seminars, tutorial work, moot courts and other hands-on training programmes. An increasing number of law schools, paralegal programmes, legal secretarial schools and other legal educational institutions require the completion of an internship as a prerequisite to graduation. Such internships provide students with an opportunity to increase their knowledge of substantive areas of law while gaining exposure to the real environment. This training also helps students to opt for a particular area of practice keeping in mind their aptitudes and interests.
Enrolment with the Bar Council
After graduating in law, your child (adult by then) will have to join a particular State Bar Council to be able to practice in the courts of law. This is a standard procedure for lawyers to get sanction to practice anywhere in the country. No person can be enrolled in more than one Bar Council.
The Advocates Act, 1961, empowers State Bar Councils to frame their own rules with regards to enrollment of advocates. The Council’s Enrollment Committee may scrutinise a candidate’s application before declaring him eligible for a Certificate of Enrollment.
All India Bar Examination
Since the year 2010, the Bar Council of India has introduced the All India Bar Examination (AIBE), designed to test an advocate’s ability to practice as a lawyer in India. All students graduating from the academic year 2009-2010 need to clear the All India Bar Examination in order to practise law in India. This examination assesses the law graduate’s analytical abilities and knowledge of law. It sets a minimum standard for those intending to practise law. It should be noted that a law graduate can take the All India Bar Examination only after he has enrolled himself as an advocate with a State Bar Council.
There are a variety of career options available to law graduates. Here are some of them:
- Specialising in one of the various branches of law namely civil, criminal, corporate, insurance, tax, etc., and taking up private legal practice.
- Joining the Judicial Services of the state as a Magistrate after passing an entrance examination and working as a Civil Judge or Judicial Magistrate.
- Taking up consulting and advisory positions in various government and non-government organisations like law firms, business establishments, banks, etc.
- Joining the Bar Council of India or State Bar Council to serve as its office bearer.
Skills that a lawyer needs
You need to be aware of the skills that a lawyer should possess to help you identify them in your child and groom her to become a successful lawyer. Here are some essential skills:
- Willingness to work hard: R N Kothandaraman, a senior Advocate at Madras High Court, says, “If you have chosen law as your career, you must not shy away from burning the midnight oil as it requires long and intense hours of reading and researching. You must have a good reading habit, maintain a library and keep yourself updated with current happenings.” The ability to juggle competing priorities and meeting tight deadlines is a prerequisite to good legal practice.
- People skills: Regard for your client is the most important quality needed for a good lawyer. You need empathy, patience and the ability to gain your client’s trust as they must be willing to openly disclose their personal information with you. Justice V R Krishna Iyer, who reformed the Indian criminal justice system, championed the cause of the underprivileged, and was a crusader for human rights, social justice and civil liberties, placed people skills above all else. His life’s motto was: “I am a human being and nothing which affects any human is alien to me.”
- Observation and focus: R Vasudevan, Advocate, Madras High Court, talks about the important skill of focus. “As a lawyer you have to assimilate and analyse the facts quickly. You must possess the ability to concentrate completely on the issue at hand and block out distractions. This helps you to impress upon the judge the crux of your case and do away with being superfluous, thus saving precious time for both the court and the counsel,” he says.
- Research, analytical and logical reasoning skills: Research skills are essential for a lawyer - to look up the laws and precedents that govern a case. You have to distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant, separate the grain from the chaff and apply the law to the situation under scrutiny. You need the ability to put facts and arguments in logical order to develop a convincing case. When you go to court, you must find the flaws in the opposing arguments and refute them. Research comes in handy in times like this.
- Oral and written communication: Fluency in spoken and written language, and excellent presentation skills are essential to present your case in the court. The interrogation and cross-examination must be to the point - precise and concise. You should avoid verbosity. Persuasiveness is a key trait that a lawyer should possess. Legal professionals must learn to write organised, concise and persuasive briefs and legal documents.
- Teamwork: Lawyers need to coordinate and share information and knowledge with other lawyers in order to be more effective. Attending and participating in seminars, meetings and conferences hone this skill.
Being a lawyer isn’t simply being a part of a client service industry; it’s an honour and a responsibility.
Abraham Lincoln, former President of the United States who was also a lawyer said, "The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence.” Let your child follow this simple rule and dedicate herself to this career. After all, there’s no better feeling for a parent than to see a child stand up for justice.
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