By Suvesh Subramanyam
It’s that time of the year again. The results for CLAT are out for this year and I am more than certain that the latest batch of ‘aspiring lawyers’ are ready to get to law school. Most of you, I’m sure have the impression that life here is going to be all about many sleepless nights, pouring over endless pages of case law and treatise, and the likes.
This does sound rather clichéd, but sadly, a large part of it is true. But one thing you freshers should keep in mind is that there’s a lot more to Law School to just this. So here’s a ten point guide to most of what you can expect to be part of the Law School leg of your lives.
1. Cases, Books and the Library Life
When you’re new in Law School, and you start classes, the first thing you’ll notice is that most teachers and professors teach through case law. Now reading cases is something that as a fresher, you will find quite challenging. Easily identifying what the operative part of judgments comes only with practice. But with time, and as I mentioned, with practice, this will get easier.
So do not get flustered if you find it hard at first. (A word of advice though is that you guys should try and be timely with your readings. It does you a world of good at the end of the semester!)
That said, you will also be asked in some cases to refer to books that are thicker and bigger than any you’ve seen in your lives. (Unless of course you did Science under the CBSE in your 11th and 12th Grades and used ‘Comprehensive Chemistry’ by Dr.N.K.Verma)
A third thing that you will observe as a fresher is that you will have a strange fascination for the library in college when you join. In some cases, people camp in the library to avoid getting ragged by your seniors in the hostels. In some others, there are the extra-studious kids in each batch who like to put in long hours of work in the library from day one.
My advice to the former kind is that hiding out in the library is not going to help you as far as ragging is concerned. You’re seniors will find you, and they will rag you (Read this in Liam Neeson’s voice from Taken). My advice to the latter is to go slow. Not that being hard-working is a bad thing, but you really don’t need to be that cut throat from day one. Take it easy.
2. Hostel Life
While some of you might be coming from a boarding school background, for most of you, this will probably be the first time you’re living in a hostel. Yes, initially you will find it a little weird. Most colleges have a twin sharing basis for the first few years at least, while some others offer the luxury of single rooms for all students.
But living in the hostel I guarantee will be one of the most memorable experiences of your lives. Don’t expect the cleanest bathrooms. And don’t expect a tremendous amount of privacy. Hostel makes you forget all or most of these notions of cleanliness and hygiene. (Don’t worry too much. It isn’t all that bad. But it just isn’t the best.)
Life in the hostel is marked by a sense of interdependence, sharing of practically everything under the sun, and loads of other things you wouldn’t have imagined yourselves doing. It’s only a matter of time before you adapt to life in a hostel. These five years that you will be spending in the hostel, I guarantee will leave you with memories of a life time. Just make it a habit to keep your valuables tucked away in a safe place.
This is probably what freshers hear about the most and dread the most before coming to law school. But let me tell you, we’re not going to make you strip naked and do a cheesy James Bondimitation like a certain Bollywood movie depicts (Okay we seniors might make you do the latter, but definitely not the former!). Most first years, during ‘ragging season’ as I like to call it choose to hide either in their rooms or be holed up in the library till the time it closes and then hide in their rooms.
Honestly, you’re missing out on a lot if you don’t ragged. It may sound clichéd, but ragging really does help you develop friendships and relationships with your seniors that go a long, long way. Out of personal experience, some of my closest friends are my seniors in law school, most of who, if not all, ragged me in my first month in college.
The reason seniors rag, at least I’d like to believe is firstly, to have some fun, and second, to try and get to know you better. After all, at the end of the day, it’s the same seniors who are going to end up in various law firms across the country. Keep that in mind, because in most cases, they play a big role in getting you internships there, and in some cases, even take your interviews during Recruitments!
Be it a big international moot like say, Jessup or Vis, or a smaller national one, moot courts are always a lot of fun. Yes, in most cases, they are challenging and involve long hours of work. But at the same time, they are also a tremendous amount of fun.
There’s an exclusive feature on Mooting and learning the ropes of mooting in a March article on this very website, by Karan Talwar. Refer to that for more on mooting. Most of you will be ‘bitten by the mooting bug’ sooner or later. So make sure you make the most of it, and enjoy it!
Parliamentary debating is almost as fascinating and as big in law schools as moot courts. To most first years, the concept of Parliamentary debates is something that is almost entirely new, not to mention extremely interesting.
The format in which it is conducted is probably what draws most people who have done debates in the past in their schools, to parliamentary debates once they join law school. That said, ‘PDs’ as they are called in the college circuit are an amazing blend of analysis, argument, skill, oration and entertainment (not only for the ones debating, but also the ones who choose to sit and rather watch the proceedings).
There are two parts to a Parliamentary debate – The Speakers, and the Adjudicators, both of whom are marked by the other. While this may seem strange at first, it’s only a matter of a few debates before one grabs the nuances of debating. Like Moot Courts, PDs help develop one’s sense of teamwork, as well as analytical skills, and at the same time, offer the chance of travelling to other colleges and meeting new people, some experienced and seasoned debaters and some others who are novices like you.
Not to forget that most debates have ‘legendary’ break night parties where all pretenses go out of the window and everybody has a good time. Also, PDs offer a golden opportunity at fine-tuning your skills at debating and oration by watching experienced debaters, some of whom have been around for eons, and in some famed rivalries, which have in turn been around for years. So if you see a group of around 10 people bunched up in one corner of the campus, while one argues and the others listen, do not be surprised. You’ll probably find yourself doing these practice debates sooner or later.
6. Inter-batch sports
Inter-batch activities always hold a special place in law school, whether they are cultural events or sporting ones. Law school is full of intra-collegiate sporting events where batches compete with each other for bragging rights within college. The most common of these are in football, cricket or basketball, but there’s almost always even a tug of war, and in some schools, even kabaddi.
But the beauty of these events is that, while people from opposite teams fight tooth and nail while on the field, and things might even come to blows sometimes, right after the contest ends, you’ll see the same people sharing beers at the nearby pub. All in all, it’s an experience you will love to the fullest. At least I do, and so does almost everyone I know.
College fests are a time when everybody gets together for three days and helps out, in order to put on a good show for everyone who is visiting your college for the fest, and has a good time at the end of it. This happens when it’s your college that’s hosting the fest. When on the other hand, you’re visiting another college for their fest it’s all about enjoying the journey to and fro, enjoying the place and as always, having a good time. But either way, fests are about food, fun and a ‘little’ alcohol.
Fests in Law School are of two kinds – Sports Fests and Cultural Fests. Sports fests, are a lot more competitive, with the various college rivalries being showcased for all to see. Invicta, hosted by NUJS, Spiritus – NLSIU and Yuvardha – NLU-J (which happens every two years) are the premier sports fests. Cultural fests are also many in number in the Law School circuit.
Le Gala, made famous by Strawberry Fields, their Band Night is probably the most well-known Cultural fest, along with Symbhav, hosted by Symbiosis Law School Pune and Outlawed, by NUJS, Kolkata. Popular Indian bands like Thermal and a Quarter, Raghu dixit Project, Junkyard Groove, Advaita, Indus Creed, and Pentagaram among others feature at these fests and entertain the college crowds. All in all, these fests, will make you want to go back.
Exams. The dreaded five letter word that students across the board hate. While they are as taxing and as strenuous as anywhere else, exams also add to the Law School experience. In most schools, exam time is when Libraries are open all night and are normally packed to the brim. But exam-time is also the time when you’ll notice a lot of caffeine, a lot of ordering in and a lot of cramming of however much you can before you write your paper.
As I said earlier, it helps to be regular with your readings. That makes ‘exam stress’ a lot lesser. But even if you aren’t and are left with practically your entire course before the paper, the key is to study smart. Now some people learn the art of doing this a lot sooner than others. But nonetheless, I am told that by your fifth year, everyone knows their way around the papers. That said, I guarantee that you will rememberthe ‘all-nighters’ that you pull off while studying for exams, especially when you soak in the first rays of the morning sun, with a cup of black coffee in one hand and a set of photo-copied notes in the other.
Travelling with friends is one a different experience altogether, and is always memorable. Law school plays its part in giving you countless opportunities to visit a number of lesser known places in and around the city which you are in, which you wouldn’t have visited, or even heard of otherwise. Most law schools have a plethora of destinations that are best described as way off the beaten track, and in almost all cases these places are beautiful.
I’ll give you the example of NUJS here (Out of personal experience of course). NUJS is situated in Kolkata, and Kolkata is widely acknowledged as the ‘Cultural Capital of India’. There are a number of places to visit in Calcutta itself, starting from the Victoria Memorial to the Howrah Bridge, both of which are iconic landmarks that have stood the test of time.
There are however, a host of other intriguing things to do in Kolkata, starting from a boat ride along the Hooghly at the crack of dawn, to taking a stroll down Esplanade, New Market and the surrounding areas.
And it doesn’t end there. Kolkata is also called the ‘gateway to the North East’, and most people are lost for words when they have to describe the North East, because it is so spectacularly beautiful. While Darjeeling, Shillong and Assam are the more well-known places and are not more than a day’s journey away, there’s also Kalimpong and Mirik, tucked away in the hills, which offer a quiet and peaceful getaway.
It doesn’t end there. Orissa, which is about 5 hours away by train, has some spectacular attractions too. Puri has some pristine beaches, but is again a more well-known tourist destination. But there’s also Chandipur, with its ‘infinity beach’ which I’ve heard is simply breath-taking.
Likewise, all other law schools too have similar destinations in and around the cities they’re located in, and there’s no better chance to visit them, than while in college. Like I said earlier, travelling as group with your peers and friends will always leave you with fond memories. So my advice to you, make the most of these opportunities!
10. Parties, parties, and more parties.
The Law School calendar is marked by a large number of parties. Parties here normally mark the end of an event. The end of exams, the end of fests, the end of moots and debates too are all marked by huge parties, some of which have even acquired a ‘legendary’ status. But then there are also people’s birthdays, or other days when you and your friends would just like to take a break from the rigours of everyday college and would just like to go out and have a good time.
We at law school honestly just need an excuse to party. There’s nothing more satisfying than a night of good music, some dancing and some (read lots) of intoxication. (Well to be fair, it usually starts off as ‘some’). This part I’ll leave for you to experience for yourselves.
I hope this helps you freshers get a decent idea of what to expect once you enter the system. Welcome to Law School.
Suvesh Subramanyam is a 5th year law student at NUJS, Kolkata.