Law School: Reflections and Parting Thoughts of A ‘Soon-to-be’ Alumnus
This is a guest post by Dibyojyoti Mainak. Dibyojyoti Mainak graduated from National Law School of India University, Bangalore this year. He wrote this article on the occasion of the XXIII Annual Convocation of the NLS, held on 30th August, 2015. Though it was essentially meant for the University notice board (hence some specific references to the life in NLS), the relevance of this piece extends far beyond – to the generations gone and the generations yet to come of the premier law school of the country.
As I write this, I am less than 24 hours away from graduating, once and for all, from this place that has been my home for the last five years. And if someone asked me right now, ‘what is it that you learnt in law school?’ , I’d have to say: “I learnt to have fun!”
It’s ironic that my first ever post on 19(1)(a) will also be my last one. But if I didn’t post on this typically law school forum once before I left, I’d probably regret it for a long time to come. And God knows, I already have had a few significant ones in this place!
To be honest, sentimental hand washing is not something we are used to seeing on this august forum (which is usually reserved for the far higher purpose of entertaining cat fights!). However, I would be lying if I said I won’t miss this place…a lot. And, for a lot of time to come, possibly… forever.
Soon, we shall be lost to law school. Another set of alumni. And while, there seems to be no prima facie ‘rational’ reason to explain what connects law schoolites through generations; it probably is the knowledge that, like it or not, we chose to be here. No matter, if it was our first option, whether our parents forced us to write the CLAT, or foreign admissions just didn’t happen; in the end, we did nail that one two hour paper…and in doing so, became an unmistakable part of this place.
I know, a lot of things aren’t the same as they were before. And when I came in, we were systematically taught by some of our seniors that those changes were proof of falling standards of law school.
In the last 5 years, I have been witness to and, more importantly, lived through quite a few significant moments. We won Jessup, Man Lachs, made finals of Vis, helped poor farmers in the remotest of areas, won an international debate and kept getting our jobs. We also fired our best professor, vandalized the acad, mismanaged funds and never fixed the damn internet. Mostly though, we (or at least some of us) drank a hell lot, smoked like chimneys and abused illegal substances that so deserve to be legal (:p).
And yet, here we are, after around 3000 hours of class with over 90 exams in 60 courses with 58 projects down the line…just as abnormally normal as the ones who have gone before us.
Are law schoolites of today failing at life more often? No. Are some of them losing their way abysmally? Yes. Are some of them poised to change the world? Hell Yes!
So…where is the fall? Maybe, just in our attitude towards this place.
What is often ignored in the cacophony of negatives is that there is still ample learning for those who want it. Ample opportunity for scam for those who want that. And, in my opinion, that’s been the best and the most unique thing law school has had to offer: The opportunity to do what you want and be who you want to be. (I believe debaters have a term for that stuff :p)
Because college, for me, is the ideal (and probably the only) time for experimenting and learning new things…about the world and yourself, without serious repercussions. We can be stupid without fear. We can and should make mistakes.
And as long as NLS continues to remain the same open, all-encompassing society it has been in the past, law school and law schoolites will not fall. For the one thing that has not changed (and I hope never does) is that, no matter what and how many attempts at the opposite, law schoolites have remained zealous guardians of their own liberty.
My parting two cents: Guard it with pride, flaunt it, experience it, and most of all, strive to be worthy of it. This freedom is really hard to come by anywhere else.
Maybe, law school was, once upon a time, a more ‘classroom-oriented’ rigorous place. However, I think today’s law school is rigorous for those who want it to be. There are more academic activities outside class, more opportunities for learning the law there.
It is also true that some of our best professors today happen to be ad-hoc faculty. But, for a professional course, it is naive to expect otherwise. The focus has shifted and needs to continue to shift to learning from the best professionals in the industry, coming back and teaching us in short bursts. Single-credit courses, seminars, special lectures, even teaching one or two modules out of a course characterize the way forward. Gone are the days when the best professionals in the legal area decided to shun work and become permanent faculty for peanuts. And while, some of us may choose to whine about it and make great romantic arguments about money-mindedness and what not, the smarter (or atleast the more dynamic ones) ought to adapt.
We need to create space for the above, either by combining some of the existing courses, reducing class hours for some ones or figuring other alternatives. That classroom learning has better substitutes is undeniable (and I think project exemptions are one of the many ways the college already recognizes this). Our aims have changed too. While some of us love the law, many of us see learning the law as ancillary, and as an instrumentality, to other aims. (I am not sure which part of that divide I fall in personally!)
That said, it true that our lead on the top has narrowed. Or more accurately, the top tier now has some non-schoolites and does not have some law schoolites. My guess is, that’s only natural.
In any case, maybe, when a national shooter, a female footballer who nails almost all males in her batch at it, a steadfastly driven Rhodes scholar, two of the sharpest logical minds with the eloquence that could put Obama to shame on most days, a perpetual convener who has arranged for more courses than can be counted, a politician whose heart very literally beats for anyone who is screwed and many many others get together for five whole years and work, sometimes in their self interest, sometimes for the greater good, mostly just discovering themselves without realizing it, the results are…well, pleasantly unexpected and unexpectedly grand.
My aim is not to paint an overly rosy picture of law school or the world. However, this happens to be the only place in my experience where one can pick up a conversation with 350/400 students (and quite a few MPPs too :p) and learn something utterly new and interesting.
I cannot end this post without mentioning the administration and our VC once. And, while I will be hard pressed to say that I agreed with all decisions made by the admin (I have reserved my strongest disagreement with some measures) however, on the whole, I am glad I was a student here during his tenure. He has, and at various points most others have, been encouraging to say the least and assiduously liberal to say just a little more.
As far as I am concerned, I think I grew as a person in law school. For that, I have a certain sense of gratitude towards this place. It allowed me to prioritize things my way and live on my own terms. It was a conscious decision from me to not consider classroom academics as very important. It allowed me the time to try out various different things, but mostly, after a somewhat checkered school life, college was, for me, a phase of life where I just wanted to ease out. NLS allowed me that, and for that it will always have my thanks.
In the end, as we walk off into the sunset and face the ‘real’ world (a phrase that continues to confuse me more and more each day)…new challenges, new friends, new experiences await. For now though, there are the old memories which bring about a satisfied smile and a few tears of nostalgia.
And if I might take just another moment to preach to the choir, I’d say:
‘Always hate losing, I hated it with all my heart. But the only thing I hated more…was to not try for the fear of losing.’
Goodbye my fellow law schoolites and good luck!