The aspiration to study in a law school is triggered by a myriad of motivations. For some, it is an opportunity for exposure to a hitherto unknown field of study; for some, it is a well-planned journey to a fixed destination; and for some, it is a means to an end. Whatever be one’s motivation, the time spent in a law school affords one ample opportunity to turn one’s aspiration into reality. The aspiration may get modified, re-imagined, or even replaced along the way: but it is important to remember that these are the effects of an institution that are, more often than not, necessary.
The recruitment process of a law school is not very standard and is very institution-dependent. However, that is merely a concerning procedure. The kinds of opportunities available to a graduating law school student are more or less the same, across colleges. The question is: how motivated are you to translate that opportunity into a tangible achievement? The advantage of being in a “better-ranked” law school is that it eases your journey, in terms of the resources at your disposal.
Having said that, let’s briefly touch upon what we mean by “placements” in a law school and what transpires after that.
The recruitment process in a law school usually begins in the fourth year. Until then, one is expected to have worked as an intern at various organizations which include Chambers of Senior Advocates (Supreme Court or High Courts), offices of Advocates-on-Record, Law Firms, Corporate Offices, and Non-Government Organizations, among many others. The work experience, over some time, at any of the above-mentioned places tends to have a bearing on one’s chances of recruitment. The recruitments are handled by a “recruitment coordination committee”/ “placement committee” (the names may vary) which is either a completely student-run body or sometimes has a representative from the college administration.
The modes of recruitment are, broadly speaking, of the following types:
- ‘Day Zero’
This is the most popular and sought-after mode of recruitment. The reason for its name is that it happens at the end of the fourth year, just before the final year of law school. And the reason for its popularity is that the biggest law firms in the country (which are typically the highest payers) come down to law schools for selecting prospective associates. The law firms usually draw a shortlist from the list of students who submit their names for consideration. This is followed by a personal interview and/or a group discussion. At times, there is also an on-the-spot assignment (in the form of a case study). Based on an assessment of the student’s performance in these rounds, the interviewers make their selection and inform the recruitment committee which informs the selected candidates once the entire process has been completed.
The law firms which usually come down to law schools for ‘day zero’ are the following: Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, AZB & Partners, Khaitan & Co., Trilegal, J. Sagar Associates, and Luthra & Luthra Partners. These are considered to be the ‘Big Seven’, due to their size and pay packages. The average salary offered by these offices ranges between 12 and 15 lakhs per annum.
- Pre-Placement Offers(“PPO”)
In addition to being recruited through the Day Zero process, PPOs are another mode preferred by the students. Going by their name, PPOs are made to the students even before the Day Zero process begins. These are offers made to students who have interned at a particular office. Based on the performance of a student in one of her internships, the student is interviewed by the requisite office and if successful, is offered a position in the office. This process takes place a few months before Day Zero.
The law firms which come down to campus for Day Zero also offer positions through the PPO process. In addition to the ones mentioned above, law firms such as S & R Associates, Talwar Thakore & Associates, and Wadia & Ghandy Associates also make PPOs. However, the number of offers made through a PPO process is usually fewer than that at Day Zero. In addition to law firms, there are other organizations also where a student might have interned, that offer positions in this manner.
- Throughout the final year
Once the final year of law school starts, more law firms, companies, and corporate organizations come to campus to select students for various positions. These organizations include public sector undertakings, government organizations, regulatory authorities, etc. Their manner of recruitment also comprises a shortlist process, followed by a personal interview and/or a group discussion. It might also consist of an on-the-spot assignment.
To name a few organizations which fall under this head: ICICI Bank, Deutsche Bank, Securities & Exchange Board of India, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, National Thermal Power Corporation, and Star India.
- Overseas Placements
This avenue presents an attractive (and lucrative!) opportunity to law school students. However, the process for this is slightly longer than a regular job interview. Foreign law firms are the typical employers in this category and usually comprise Herbert Smith Freehills, Linklaters, and Allen & Overy. They accept applications from students with a consistently good academic record. Based on their shortlist, they conduct personal interviews followed by a legal assignment. If selected, the student is offered a vacation scheme which is like an internship at the law firm’s overseas office. This internship is like an assessment, at the end of which one is offered a training contract. It is the training contract that is more like a job offer.
The average salary offered by these foreign law firms ranges between 25 and 28 lakhs (converted in INR) per annum.
The pointers above describe the placement process for firms, companies, and government or non-government authorities. In addition to these, there are various other methods preferred by students which are dependent on their motives, for which there might not be a standard procedure. For example, to build a career in litigation, one student might start an independent practice by herself while another might join as a junior with a practicing advocate. Another might apply for a clerkship under a judge of the Supreme Court. The point is, that there are various routes available for arriving at the same destination.
Life beyond placements starts on a sweet note. Of course, there’s the attraction of remuneration, and a million ways one imagines spending it. But the sense of independence in managing one’s own life accompanied with the responsibility and accountability for one’s work is nothing short of a new chapter in one’s life. There are times when the chapter runs into pages but remember that you can always take a step back, pause and place a bookmark there: just remember to start from where you left.