An ode to my law school West Bengal National University of Legal Sciences Calcutta
Sreerupa Chowdhury, Co-Founder and CEO, Flywork.io; The co-founder of Lawfarm.in and alumnus of WBNUJS reflects on her time in law school and her life after.
What was your personal college experience like?
I still remember the day the CLAT results were declared and I achieved an All India ranking of 194.
NUJS was my first choice program. I had a fascination with the school since I came from Calcutta and had seen the beautiful sandstone-colored facade several times. Would I get there with my rank? It could be touch and go, I thought.
After a nerve-wracking few days, a paper letter from NUJS arrived in the mailbox. And that sealed my fate.
The early days at the National University of Legal Sciences of West Bengal in Kolkata (NUJS) were, however, something of a reality check. From kindergarten to high school, the only student diaspora I had come into contact with was a mixture of Marwaris and Bengalis. It was my first time meeting students from across the country and learning about the ambitious world of debating societies and mock courts!
In the first two years, a lot has grown – both inside and outside the classroom. Any arrogance I may have had from my previous life was tempered in the presence of far more talented people. Credit also goes to the exchange of thoughts in a medium that encouraged me to critically question all ideas and make me the person I am today.
I also landed in the most socialist of all societies – the Legal Aid Society, which, although not as glamorous as some of the other student clubs, became my home for a few years and molded me into wanting to bring the law to the masses—a thread that I carried with me long out of law school.
From learning to create 5,000-word projects overnight, to making my best friends at the eponymous Biju Da canteen, to throwing cultural nights at decadent parties, and learning to accept the world as a melting pot of beautiful people with different personalities – I thank my alma mater for giving me a bittersweet taste of the reality outside his gates.
After spending many good years in the profession, what do you think our colleges need to focus on to cultivate the legal minds the country needs?
Our country’s law schools are places where bright young minds enter, often not knowing what they really want to do with their lives, but with a keen curiosity to find out. In my opinion, it is the responsibility of educational institutions and graduates to give these young people a taste of the different options available to them – some traditional, some non-traditional and some completely outside beaten paths. No choice is inherently good or bad, it’s what you make of it for your own life. In law school, we are often given a glamorous image of some of these options while not enough is said about others, leading to everyone clamoring for the same goals whether they are or unsuited to their behavioral traits.
Future of legal education in India: what needs our immediate attention and how can we improve?
I am not in favor of a five-year model of classroom pedagogy and I believe that, like the medical profession, we must ensure that students have full-time practical training for the last year or last two of their courses. Four-week internships are not enough to give students the full breadth of professional rigor expected of them later on, and also lack sufficient investment from organizations in the students’ learning curve. The only way to mitigate this is to provide the option of full-time internships for the final year or the final two courses, to students who wish to opt for the same instead of electives, and to assess students against the feedback from the organization and practical skills acquired. I am also in favor of removing the ban on law professors from practicing law. In my opinion, this hinders their ability to train their students on real case studies that they can work on.
And finally, I think it’s important for us to realize how important a law degree is. The skills one acquires in law school are not only useful to the legal profession, but equally useful to any other profession. Many professions require determining the right questions, finding answers through research and investigation, learning quickly, dealing with people, negotiating, reaching agreements, collaborating, working on sampling ideas, working with regulations, making presentations, absorbing volumes of information, examining data and interpreting it – all of which are learned in one form or another in law school.