By Pankhuri Agarwal
It was only after I wrote CLAT in May, 2008 that I decided to pursue law. You must be wondering why the cart was put before the horse. The reason is that I took CLAT only because my father had made me fill up the form even though I was bent upon doing engineering.
I thought of becoming an engineer not because I was really interested in becoming one but because being a science (PCM) student, it was a convention to do so. However, after I gave CLAT I was eager to know more about law, an area that I had never thought of.
Five years back, I was a person who had very average communication and writing skills, could hardly muster up courage to speak in public, had little awareness about the happenings around me and had barely given thought to any of the issues that exist in our society.
To be very frank, leave books or magazines, I rarely used to read even the newspaper. My life was largely restricted to studying for the purpose of doing well in exams. After I gathered enough information about the field of law and the law schools from seniors, relatives, friends and the internet, I was convinced to study law.
More than the idea of pursuing law to equip myself to help the disadvantaged, it was the potential of the study of law to bring about the much desired changes in my personality that attracted me.
Since I had not prepared for the 2008 CLAT, I could not clear it. Thanks to my Class XII marks, I got admission in ILS Law College, Pune. The process of change took off from there itself. I met students from all over the country and got to know more about their places and culture.
I liked hearing people talk in different languages and seeing them celebrate different festivals all round the year, wearing their traditional attire and having their traditional food. I got an opportunity to join an NGO called Make a Difference and teach young children in an orphanage.
That marked the beginning of the realization as to how we can make a difference in others’ lives and think about the problems faced by people in our society.
In the second semester, I participated in a Public International Law intra-college moot court competition. I worked in a team of three and for the first time spoke standing at a podium. To my surprise, our team made it to the semi-finals.
This instilled a great amount of confidence in me of speaking in public. Alongside participating in various activities like these, I prepared for CLAT 2009 because I wanted to be exposed to a student’s life in a national law school.
The biggest contribution of that preparation was that I gradually began to enjoy reading the newspaper, the importance of which I have realised over these five years.
Apart from taking coaching which helped me prepare for all the sections for CLAT, there was one thing that proved to be of immense help to me in improving my vocabulary, one of my weakest areas at that time.
Every day while reading the newspaper (for noting down important current events in my notebook) if I came across a word which I did not know the meaning of, I jotted it down at the back of the same notebook.
I used to then look up its meaning in the dictionary and note it down alongside that word. After that I used to read the sentence again in which that word figured so as to understand its usage and remember it well. The repeated appearance of these words in the newspapers used to give me a chance to recall its meaning and if I could not, then, to revise it from my notebook itself. As a result of this continuous process, those words and their meanings got etched in my memory, thereby improving my vocabulary.
In June 2009, when the CLAT result was declared, I was overwhelmed with joy.
NUJS, Kolkata was where I had to spend the next five precious years of my life. The process of change that had taken birth at ILS continued to grow in NUJS.
Over these years, my writing skills have undergone tremendous change.
In school I used to detest writing essays and also scored poorly in them. When I came to know that we have to write essays in law school also, I got afraid.
Fortunately, these turned out to be very different from those in school. For writing legal essays, what was required more was research and analysis rather than imagination and pre-existing knowledge.
Though I enjoyed the research and analysis bit, I initially found putting down everything in words quite difficult. However, with the help of seniors and friends I considerably improved.
A person who once used to fear and hate writing, scored decently in almost all her projects till date, performed well in a national legal essay competition and today, attempted to write even this non-legal piece and share her experience with you. Not only did my writing but also my communication skills got better.
Till I was in school, my conversation in English was limited to teachers. However, when I came to college, since students here hailed from all parts of India, the only common medium of conversation was English.
Consequently, my spoken English is far better now than what it was five years before.
Giving project presentations and speaking during class/tutorial discussions and at moot court internal rounds etc. improved fluency, style, coherence and confidence in my speaking. The results were surprising and I was able to do well in a couple of events as a speaker and even got a best speaker award in one of them.
Since law school involves a lot of reading, ranging from articles to judgments, an enhancement of my reading and comprehension abilities also took place.
In the past four years I got the opportunity to study a variety of law subjects ranging from the traditional ones like Contracts, Constitution etc. to non-traditional ones like Human Trafficking, Communication Regulation, Law and Impoverishment etc.
Internships with different kind of organizations/institutions like NGO, courts and law firms exposed me to a real life application of law in varied situations and ways. It gave me a chance to interact with and be guided by people having expertise in different fields of law.
Law school has enabled me not only to improve the above-mentioned skills and the level of general awareness but also to evolve as a person.
The range of arguments which my college mates display on every possible issue, has made me realise that every topic can be looked at from numerous vantage points and has enabled me to be increasingly receptive and patient to others’ ideas.
But at the same time I have learnt that initiative and sometimes even a little bit of controlled aggression is required to bring about the smallest of change that we want to see around us (e.g. even in the NUJS administration).
The exposure to the culture of the different Indian communities has allowed me to appreciate the beauty of diversity and broaden my perspective. The awareness of the widespread societal problems has driven me to think about the possible solutions to them, legal as well as non-legal, and the way I can contribute to those solutions.
Regret, Regret not
My sudden decision to pursue law was worth it and I have never regretted it. However, I do regret not making full use of the opportunities that law school provided me with.
To name a few, I never participated in debates and MUNs, gained much organisational experience, did a research assistant-ship and gained a firsthand experience at a research organisation, a government institution, a corporate house and an LPO.
Nevertheless, the last five years in law school has brought about a positive transformation in my personality and I wish that this process continues even after my time at law school ends.
Pankhuri is a 5th year law student at NUJS, Kolkata