Monday, June 18, 2012

Courting Legal Talent: Announcing Litigation Fellowship

In a rather provocative post around two years ago, I bemoaned the fact that a disproportionately large number of National Law University (NLU) graduates opt for "corporate" careers (defined largely as jobs involving a significant dose of corporate transactional lawyering in some form, either in law firms, companies (in house) or even in LPO's). And that very few think laterally outside of this "corporate" career box, despite the fact that a law degree (and one from an alleged "island of excellence") is pliable in so many different and diverse career directions.

I'm currently co-authoring a paper that touches on this theme; the statistics we've collected so far (over the last 2-3 years) reveal that the number of students opting for the corporate sector are as high as 70-75%. While some of the recruits have a genuine feel for this kind of a job and take to it like a fish takes to water, others succumb to the herd mentality (the prestige that comes with working for a top tier firm, the desire to walk in the footsteps of their esteemed seniors etc). And yet others are financially constrained, necessitating them to take up this kind of a job to pay off hefty bank loans (given that the NLU's now charge a significantly high tuition of Rs 2 lakhs and upwards a year).

In fact, our interviews reveal a whole host of systemic issues at play driving this career choice, not least significant of which is the absolute lack of career counselling at any of the law schools. Further, the recruitment numbers by themselves may be insufficient in coming to conclusions on the latitude of career choices , as there is considerable attrition in and out of the law firms. Many graduates do around 2-4 years in a law firm and then go on to explore a host of other career options such as litigation, academia, research and policy advocacy, government service (after taking the civil services exam), working with international organisations (World Bank, UNICEF etc), NGO's (health/environmental activism etc), legal journalism and the like...in fact, some have been courageous enough to drop their legal sheen and follow their hearts' lateral bidding by whipping up culinary delights in downtown London, kickstarting sports management consultancies or even lighting up the ramp (and now the kitchen) with their elegant frames....

And all of this brings me to what I think to be an excellent initiative designed to solve one of the key systemic issues plaguing us, namely the sheer mismatch between law graduates that desire the thrill of the court and those that end up actually experiencing it (for want of godfathers, money and the like).

The Lawyers’ Welfare Awards
In order to recognize and promote young talent in the field of litigation at the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court Lawyers Welfare Trust (SCLWT) has instituted 2 annuals fellowships, known as the Lawyers Welfare Awards.


Eligibility
 
The SCLWT invites applications from candidates who satisfy the following requirements:
i) Lawyers enrolled with any State Bar Council in India;
ii) Having completed a minimum of 2 years, and a maximum of 6 years practice in the courts of India;
iii) Such practice will not include non-litigation practice with law firms/individuals, judicial clerkships and teaching assignments;  
The candidates must be prepared to commit themselves to a minimum period of 2 years’ practice at the Supreme Court of India;

The Fellowship

Each selected Fellow is entitled to the following:
i) A monthly stipend of Rs.25,000 over a period of 3 years practice in the Supreme Court;
ii) A one-time subscription to SCCOnline® which will be registered in the name of the candidate.

Requirements

Interested applicants may e-mail the following documents in Microsoft Word format to the Trust at scwelfaretrust@gmail.com on or before 15th August 2012
i) A copy of the candidate’s latest CV  
ii) A 1000 word essay on the best case in which the candidate has been involved. Relevant documents relating to the case be annexed.

Process of Selection

A panel of Trustees will shortlist 15 candidates among the Applicants for the final round of interviews.
The final interviews will be held by the Chairperson of the Trust and a few other Trustees in the first week of September 2012. The two selected candidates will be awarded the LWA fellowship, which will be with effect from 1.10.2012 to 30.9.2015.

Kudos to all those involved in setting this up, namely: 
Justice J.S. Verma, Former Chief Justice of India (Chairperson)
Justice Mukul Mudgal, Former Chief Justice, Punjab & Haryana High Court (Trustee)
M.N.Krishnamani, Senior Advocate (Trustee)
V.K.Tankha, Senior Advocate, (Trustee)  
Mamata Kachwaha, Advocate, (Trustee)  
Sadhana Ramachandran, Advocate, (Trustee) 
Gopal Sankaranarayan, Advocate, (Trustee)  
Raghenth Basant , Advocate, (Trustee)

ps: image from here
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