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Learn the law

There was a time when only those who came from a family of lawyers joined law schools. It made sense because more than theory it is hands-on training that makes a successful lawyer. Susmit Paul doesn’t come from a family of lawyers but that didn’t deter him from joining National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore. That is because NLSIU makes sure its students intern with the best in the business.

At NLSIU, students have to intern in their third, fourth and the fifth years. Dr Sarasu Esther Thomas, assistant professor at NLSIU, says, “The programme is for 28 working days unless the university notifies otherwise. It is undertaken during the vacation between January and March and is compulsory for BA, LLB (hons) students from third year onwards and for first-year students of LLM.” The students have to note in a diary what they learn during the internship.

The Bar Council of India (BCI), however, has recently ruled that law students have to intern from the first year. Manan Kumar Mishra, chairman, BCI, says, “Every year a student has to intern for at least 16 days. We will direct colleges to make internships mandatory from the first year. After all, exposure to real life situations is a must for a young lawyer.”

Many law colleges have student bodies that arrange internships with law firms and advocates. “Faculty members do not play any role except for giving a reference letter when required,” says Abhinav Harlalka, a fifth year student of National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Calcutta, that too has such a body. At NUJS, first-year students intern with NGOs, second year ones are placed with trial courts, third-year students intern with Supreme Court lawyers and fourth year ones are placed with law firms or companies. In the fifth year, students can intern wherever they want. The same pattern is true for almost all law colleges. NLSIU, however, does not allow students to intern with relatives.

Jindal Global Law School has a career development and placement division, which secures internships for students says Anand P. Mishra, programme associate and assistant dean.

Even in institutions that do not have such bodies, finding an internship doesn’t seem to be a problem. Sudipa Chatterjee, a second-year law student of Bardhaman University, says, “Our professors refer us to lawyers and firms, though not officially. The college too issues recommendation letters.” The students can intern at the lawyers’ chambers or the district or high court.

Manan Kumar Mishra, chairman, Bar Council of India

Voluntary organisations such as Human Rights Law Networks (HRLN), headquartered in New Delhi, too are doing their bit. Smriti Manocha, internship coordinator of HRLN, says, “Students can apply directly to us; we are also in touch with some of the institutes. We offer internships for three weeks to six months.”

However some NGOs are not comfortable taking first-year students as they have too little knowledge. Alternative Law Firm, Bangalore, is an NGO involved in human rights work where students can intern from third year onwards. “Students must first be trained in procedural laws,” believes Arvind Narayan, a lawyer with Alternative Law Firm.

Indian Society of International Law (ISIL) also accepts students as interns after they have completed the international law paper. “The student has to apply, along with a letter of recommendation from the head of the department, at least six months before starting the internship, which is for a month,” says Vinai Kumar Singh, assistant professor and coordinator, ISIL. Interns are given a topic on which they have to do their research and submit a report.

To intern at law firm Praxis Partners for a month or two, students need to apply by email says Matrugupta Mishra, associate with Praxis Partners.

Enviro Legal Defence Firm accepts students after they have completed second year. “We treat the interns as staff members and make them work hard,” says Sanjay Upadhyay, owner of the firm. “We also have MoUs with UK and US universities and they send students to intern with us for 8-12 weeks,” adds he. To apply, send a statement of purpose along with a letter of recommendation. The final step is a telephonic interview. “I prefer students from little known colleges as they tend to work hard,” says Upadhyay who is aware of the problems faced by first and second-year students. He has a trust named Environment Law and Development Foundation where he accepts such students as interns.

So if you are a first-year or second-year law student looking for an internship, try getting in touch with the law firm or NGO nearest you. They may take you on.

Help at hand

Human Rights Law Networks
http://www.hrln.org/hrln/internships.html

Praxis Partners
mail@praxispartners.in

Environment Law and Development Foundation
http://eldf.org