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Modern Day Untouchability: How Law Firms Treat the Students of Non-Elite Law Schools

I came across the blog written by a student from CNLU on the reality of placements in NLUs and I thought how I’d shed some light on how the law firms (most of them) treat their interns/future employees.

Getting In

I think I have more luck climbing Mount Everest twice without oxygen then getting my CV noticed by any of the Top Tier Law Firms. The months of June and July (which are an off for almost all law schools) are when most law students apply for an internship. This is what happens:

I apply, I follow up. I try every trick in the book. The fact that I am from one the top-ten colleges in India (read non-NLU, read the great Outlook rating), the fact that I am one of the batch toppers and the fact that I have some additional knowledge in my interest area does not seem to interest the HRs.

Then my fellow batch-mate’s (who has never come to college, I doubt if he ever made a CV) uncle’s uncle who knows some partner in some law firm makes a phone call and there he has my dream internship.

For one, I’ve always seen them discriminate CVs. I have never understood what do the law firms look for in the CV.

If you need experience, how do I get that when you won’t give me the chance to intern?

According to me, chasing HRs is actually pointless. They’d rather choose a top tier college student with a back paper then choose a batch topper of another law school.

I don’t entirely blame them either because I am sure anyone would fine this preliminary screening easier than going through 100s of CVs a day.

A lot of people I know from my college try applying on merit and the firm which rejects them first suddenly has place to take them if they manage to find a ‘reference’. That’s saying a lot about merit.

Once you are in

Assuming you’ve made it somehow (jugaad or otherwise), this is what happens (based on personal experience).

Many firms have an internal policy of not paying stipend to those who have come with ‘reference’. That’s great except that I worked two times harder than the ‘bright minds’ they picked and I got nothing out of it.

Again some would say this is a one off case but I would say that first they won’t choose my CV and if they suddenly choose it because of my reference then they won’t pay me for the work I do.

The first question that any associate asks you at the law firms is your college. I doubt if anyone has ever asked me my name. But yes once they know your law school they pretty much decide the work you will get.

This one firm where I had worked had an associate who called the interns room and specifically asked for any student from NLS. The least you can do is keep the discrimination discreet.

Getting noticed is another issue. Given that there are at least 10 students in any of the Top-Tier Law Firms at one time; getting yourself noticed is a challenge.

One has to struggle to get work, let alone quality work. Given the limited work available one has to ensure that one’s task is done to perfection. There is no room for mistake. One error and the rest of the summer has you sitting in the corner of the AC room doing nothing.

Lastly, if you intern in months when you believe there is less rush and you believe that you would get noticed (final year, final semester or even the second half of the fourth year), you’ll realise that the placement for the year has closed already given that recruiters now offer jobs to students in their pre-final and not final year.

Post the Internship

Searching for a call back/ interview is always a distant dream. It takes months for firms to revert and I’ve rarely heard of interviews being given at the end of the first internship itself unless and until one really managed to get noticed by the right people.

A 4 week internship rarely guarantees anything.

If we pick up the recruitment done by firms then how many jobs were offered to the students who had previously interned with the firm?

So the recruiters can blindly put their money on someone whose quality of work they do not know off then in a student who is willing to work and prove his merit but all he wants is an interview at the end of the process.

The worst is finding out the difference in pay packages which vary if you were taken on campus, taken off campus but on an interview obtained yourself and taken on reference.

A friend of mine who recently became an associate at one of the leading law firms confirmed that the amount paid to him in the training period was different from his colleague who got the offer on campus (this is specific to this firm as I unaware of the policy followed by the others).

So basically, we may somehow find a job and we would still not be paid the ‘fancy package’.

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