Legally Flawless has started this drive to aware law students and young lawyers to achieve in the field of law through strategies from the achievers themselves.
This blog is in continuation of our sixth blog of the “GYAN” Series. To read the first part of this interview (Click here). In this part, Mr. Naman Anand shares his experience with respect to foreign internships, MUNs, Client Counselling, Summer Schools and Winter Schools, Online Certificate Courses, etc.
Why should law students go for law internships abroad?
Very few people know that I was initially admitted to the National Law Institute University (NLIU), Bhopal – where I stayed for a week prior to joining the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL) in Patiala. Quite interestingly, I also turned down an admission offer from National Law University (NLU), Jodhpur a week after joining RGNUL.
One of the many highlights from my brief experience as a student at NLIU (apart from the amazing monsoon weather, sitting on the upper floor of the Gyan Mandir and staring through the huge glass window, friendly seniors, the tranquillity of Kerwa Dam, the amazing Poha, etc!) was a lecture on Common Legal Methods that was jointly taught by Profs. V. Vijaykumar and Ghayur Alam.
Although most of the things that were said in that lecture went right over my head, one statement that stayed with me for a long while was that “we are not just students of Indian law. We are the members of a Commonwealth with a rich legal system, called Common Law. The more you learn about it and explore it, the more fascinating it gets!”
Thus, I spent most of 2018 devouring a lot of literature about Common Law which also piqued my interest in EU Law and certain Civil Law systems. In January 2019, during my internship at the Centre for Trade and Investment Law (CTIL) in New Delhi, I was fortunate enough to be given the responsibility of assisting Prof. Colin Picker, a very renowned scholar of International Investment Law and Investor-State Dispute Settlement) with his travel and accommodation throughout the duration of the South Asian International Economic Law Network (SAIELN: Co-Chaired by Prof Leila Choukroune, and a must ‘check out’ for students interested in WTO/Trade Laws)’s Panel Discussion of “Shaping the Future of the WTO”. Prof Picker, who was extremely friendly and helpful, strongly suggested me to apply to law firms abroad in order to increase my knowledge and to gain experience. We sat down in the lobby of the Shangri-La Hotel in New Delhi where he very quickly scribbled down a few names and locations where I could apply.
I subsequently went on an application spree, focusing on European cities with Arbitral Institutions that weren’t as popular as the LCIA in London or the ICC in Paris and eventually ended up at Billiet & Co, in Brussels. My internship with Mr. Philippe Billiet and his father Johan Billiet (both of whom have worked on numerous high-stakes arbitration matters, including the Yukos Arbitration) was highly enriching and introduced me to EU Law, Tort Law, Anti-trust and Aviation Law and the world of International Arbitration. I also made a lot of useful connections at the European Commission and the CEPANI through the weekend MFB (Moule-Frite-Biere, French for Mussels, Fries and Beer!) meetups that took place between numerous legal and public policy interns working across Brussels, at the Plac Du Luxembourg.
I went on to intern at the Association for International Arbitration (AIA) in Brussels, and to pursue online internships with Mutune Kinyua Associates, Nairobi (dealing mostly with IPR and NIAC-KIAC Arbitrations) and the Temple of Understanding (more about that below), New York. Who knew that a small piece of advice would change my life!
What are the benefits of participating in MUNs?
MUNs mostly deal with diverse facets of Public International Law. However, International Law cannot be divorced from Geopolitics and Diplomacy. When you go to Model UN Conference, you get an opportunity to look at legal frameworks through the lenses of Geopolitics, Diplomacy and Public Policy. I remember that I used to be extremely shy of public speaking when I was 14, but I’m glad that my teachers forced me to join my school’s Model UN Club. Fast forward to today and I have attended over 50 conferences, in India and abroad- most notably, the HMUN India Conference in Hyderabad and the Elbe MUN at the Saxon State Parliament in Dresden (and I also became the first Indian to chair a session there in the process!). I would attribute my ability to research, draft, and speak my mind in public to the immense amount of guidance and support which I’ve received from numerous seniors, in the MUN Circuit (who were then college students) such as- Varad Choudhary (Associate, P&A Legal), Imran Ahmed Ali (Advocate, P&H HC), and Akhil Raina (Marie Curie Fellow at KU Leuven).
Why should one go for Client counselling?
I mean, why not? (laughs)
Client Counselling is an extremely important life skill which teaches you the most important thing you need to learn in your career as a budding law student – communication. I started off my Client Counselling journey at NorthCap University in 2018 and after winning numerous awards in various tournaments, I’m still yearning for more!
It is very important to understand that regardless of the type of job (let alone arc of law) you work in, or the jurisdiction, you will always have clients whom you will have to deal with – day in and day out. The sooner you get used to effectively handling it, the better.
When there are different propositions based on different types of law, you have to learn about them, and it increases your knowledge as it allows you to become the ‘jack of everything’ (mastering it, of course, is up to you!). I would prefer a Client Counselling Competition over a Moot Court Competition any day (some people have disagreed with me on that, but that’s cool – each to his own) as I would like to learn about 5-6 different arcs of law per Client Counselling Competition (and I can participate in up to 8 of every year) rather than 1-2 areas of law in a Moot, which takes up to 3-4 months to prepare (and honestly, it’s tough to do more than two of those a year). In some Client Counselling Competitions, the propositions are given on the spot which really enhances your critical thinking and logical reasoning skills. All in all, it’s an activity that every law student should partake in!
Please, tell our readers about summer schools and winter schools. How should one apply for these?
THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO SUMMER/WINTER SCHOOLS
Summer Schools and Winter Schools are basically Short (I know, the term is a bit vague as it may range from less than a week to over a month) Courses which are hosted by numerous Universities and Foundations across the globe. They cover arcs as diverse as Fashion, Food and Maritime Law and are a great way to connect with fellow students, professors and professionals from across the globe. It also gives you a chance to visit a new nation, get acquainted with new cultures and languages, and most importantly- adds a few ‘credits’ to degree and to your CV, which goes a long way in making a positive difference towards your LLM and job applications. I’ve attended 3 Summer Schools (Solidarity in EU Law by the University of Pisa, The CLISS Summer School by the University of Sarajevo & the Bahcesehir Cyprus University and the Advanced School on ICSID Arbitration by the University of Cologne) so far and have been shortlisted for another 3.
Here’s my 4 Step Checklist as to how I apply for a Summer/Winter School
1. The Nine Questions about your ‘Comfort Equation’
This one’s the first and the simplest step, but it can be the hardest one too! Ask yourself these 8 questions (More than enough I guess) and if the answer to any one of them is NO, stop here-
- Do you have the mental capacity to go to a foreign nation, all alone?
- Can you do a little bit of ‘adulting’ (Washing/Ironing Clothes, Cleaning Up your room, Using Credit Cards and Travellers’ Cheques, Checking into an Airbnb, Changing Foreign Currency and SIM Cards, Cooking, hailing a taxi, etc.)?
- Would you be cool sharing your room with a ‘complete stranger’ (p.s.: I’ve had friends who’ve had to share a common sleeping space with a person of the opposite gender – remember, it’s considered acceptable in quite a few countries) who may or may not become your ‘friend’?
- Would you be cool with taking a shower and changing clothes with many other people of the same gender? (Remember: The bathrooms and changing rooms of most of the American and European Universities you’ll go to for a Residential Summer/Winter School do not have the facility of separate bathing and changing cubicles that is commonplace in India)
- Do you have a ‘flexible’ diet? Can you try cuisines and dishes you’ve never heard of before? Okay, let’s make this simple by asking you an ‘unholy’ question – Are you open to consuming beef, pork or any other types of meat? (Remember: I can tell you from personal experience that Food made purely out of vegetables is uncommon in numerous Central and Eastern European Nations and all of Russia apart from certain major cities. If they’re available, they go north of 950 INR per meal which isn’t really affordable considering that there’s a ton of other things to pay for. So that leaves you with two choices- Cook food on your own or start eating meat)
- Can you learn (at least the basics of) a foreign language and manage doing that with your studies?
- Will your institution exempt you from attendance or exams for doing this? (Trust me, doing this during your internship break is not worth it unless you really want to specialise in something super niche, like Polar Law Research)
- Are you an extrovert? If not, do you know how to socialise effectively?
- The most important one: Will your parents be okay with all of this?
2. Planning and Applying
Well, you got through some BIG hurdles there – but it’s far from over! Here’s how you should get to work now-
- Make a budget: Talk to your parents and set a total budget for your Summer/Winter School. Stress on the fact that it’s an educational trip and convince them about how their hard-earned money isn’t being wasted on wander-lusting. Alternatively, you can start investing some money and then spend it here. (Pro Tip: I read Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss before talking to my parents for funding some part of my expenditure and it worked quite well. I’d recommend it for all types of negotiations!)
- Identify your prior commitments: It’s extremely important to make sure that your plan doesn’t clash with exams, internships, moots, or anything else that is important and cannot be shifted or cancelled.
- Applying: Once your budget is set, go surfing online for Summer/Winter Schools which match your dates and budget (presume that you’re not going to get a scholarship or any financial aid, because you usually won’t and that reduces the agony), area of interest (don’t do one just for the sake of it- if you like something specific such as Comparative Common Law in African Jurisdictions, target that), ECTS or other credits offered (do not opt for courses without credits, they suck just the same way doing work with no ‘credit’ given to you does!), etc. Checking your eligibility is extremely important, too. Make a Google Document and keep all the application dates on your calendar. Make sure you prepare a good, crisp CV (3-4 pages with stuff that’s relevant to the Summer/Winter School), and nail your SOPs. Try to get a recommendation or an LOR from an academician who hails from the same continent – it’s a huge difference maker. (Pro Tip: Volkerrechtsblog, ELSA and Summerschoolsineurope are excellent websites to start off from. Alternatively, going to LLMGuide and searching top LLMs for x practice area and then searching if the same University also has a Summer/Winter School in that area is an equally good idea)
3. (Only for In-Person Summer/Winter Schools)
- (i) Passports and Visa(s): The obvious stuff. Always make sure that your passport is valid for 6 Months – and if you haven’t got yours till now then what are you doing? Also, prefer applying through VFS if possible (Pro Tip #1: If you’re a regular traveller, viz.- 3+ international round trips a year, the VFS Premium Membership is a blessing; Pro Tip #2: Always make sure you ask your host institution for a ‘Visa Assistance’ Letter, especially if you’ve got a poor or non-existent immigration history, as it speeds up the process by a huge lot. In my case, I got a ‘Gratis’ Schengen Visa within a week + a 17,000 rupees refund from VFS)
- (ii) Flights: A major spoilsport in case you’re on a budget, Use the following tips for an effective flight search-
- (a) The obvious one: Do not opt for non-refundable/alterable fares.
- (b) Use a VPN to search the same site from multiple jurisdictions as the rates are varied. Incognito mode also makes a difference at times.
- (c) Google Flights and Skyscanner are always the best options to book from.
- (d) Always opt for a student discount and travel by Economy Class. If they’re not available, join in the loyalty programme of the airline you wish to travel by. For example, Miles & More by Lufthansa offers good student discounts for even basic level members from time-to-time. (Pro Tip: Sign up for a membership with Avianca, LATAM Chile and Korean Airlines in case you’re travelling by a Star Alliance, OneWorld Alliance or SkyTeam Alliance airline respectively – the points you earn are transferrable across partner airlines and these ones have the best reward, in my experience of visiting 25+ countries, which will help you save for future trips!)
- (e) Opt for ‘red-eye’ flights and try travelling ‘mid-week’, such as on Wednesday.
- (iii) Accommodation: Do not opt for hotels, and always go for the University-advised/arranged accommodation as that’s where you can get to know your classmates the best. If that’s not available, Airbnb and the Couchsurfing App are your best friends (I would not recommend women to use Couchsurfing in developing nations, though). Pooling in and sharing the accommodation with your fellow classmate(s) is an amazing experience – so, if you can plan that beforehand just go for it!
- (iv) Ancillary Things: Always google the best local brand and grab their SIM Card from the airport itself. Pack light and don’t carry a lot of cash. Also, going there 2-3 days early is always better as you get some time to explore and settle down (Pro Tip: If you just can’t live without Indian food, purchasing a few MTR ‘ready-to-eat’ packets will hold you in excellent stead).
How should one go about applying to law firms abroad?
Don’t apply willy-nilly. Having a structured approach is extremely important. Look at your specific practice area and then study the market. If it’s Arbitration- look at Singapore or London, for example. Now, check the rankings and see if the listed firms accept Undergraduate Students for an internship. This will usually make sure the process is very easy as half of them don’t. Make your CV as per the requirements of the jurisdiction you’re applying to and tailor your SOP for every firm rather than just copy-pasting it sending it across. BCC mails and Word Format CVs, regardless of domestic or international applications, are a big no-no.
Needless to say, convincing your parents about all of this (especially if it’s an offline internship) is equally important and (sighs) tough.
Please tell our readers about the Temple of Understanding?
The Temple of Understanding (ToU) is a United Nations-affiliated NGO, just like the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. They have an observer seat at the United Nations and work for Interreligious Harmony and Secularism. Veteran Congress politician Dr Karan Singh is the Chairman of its India wing.
The selection process is very competitive. There are 1,000 applications and only 20 odd fellows are selected for a one-month internship at their office at the UN headquarters in New York (sadly, that was not the case for me due to COVID-19) where you get to meet different types of delegates, participate in the assembly sessions and create your own reports. I got to work with a lot of agencies like UNODC, UNFPA, worked on many amazing research projects- such as one on how can we promote interreligious harmony through the idea of food grains.
As you have done some online certificate courses. So can you recommend some online courses which could be beneficial to law students?
There are two courses by Harvard University over EDx that are a must for all law students, in my opinion- The first one is ‘Justice’ and the second one is ‘From Trust to Promise to Contract’, and both of them are available on edX. Certificate Courses are an excellent way to explore a new area of law and get some good professional experience. However, I would request students to only opt for institutionally affiliated courses and not pay for courses organised by private educational groups.
EDx, Coursera, World Bank’s OLC and numerous UN sites have a lot of good options to choose from. Always keep an eye out on LinkedIn for any updates on Courses conducted by NLUs, foreign Universities and other reputed law schools. Some of them are instructed by counsels from leading firms and are a great way to network, learn and enhance your CV.
Can you please enlighten our readers about IBA?
IBA stands for the International Bar Association. It’s the world’s largest association of lawyers from over 170 countries. It conducts approximately 60-75 conferences a year (if not for COVID), in which people from numerous law firms deliver lectures and talks. They also have numerous research publications in which all kinds of members can participate. It also conducts an annual conference called the IBA annual conference (with over 20,000 working professionals taking part) and it takes place at one major city across the world. The sad part is Indian students do not give value to the IBA. The beauty of IBA is that it is for all kinds of law. There are over 200 different networking sessions for different areas. You can become a student member for just 20 GBP per annum (+10 GBP if you wish to join their Human Rights Institute too). They offer internships for 5th Year and LLM students too!
How do you balance academics despite being involved in so many things?
So, I’m very proud of my country. It taught me ‘jugaad’. Jugaad, for me, is the art of finishing the task right before the deadline. It is very important to understand the right thing to focus upon and when. There are two ways as to how you can do this, firstly keep a personal diary of your own choosing the areas in which you have all the major tasks of the day which are arranged according to priorities. You can also use an app called Any.do to create your priority list. It really allows you to structure your day very well. Try to maintain a solid work-life balance. Take the weekends off, go for short trips, have a few cheat days, et al. – having fun is equally important!
What would be your final advice for law students?
1. Stay positive and believe in yourself: Make yourself so strong that you don’t need anybody to do your things and you can survive on your own.
2. Stay self-motivated: If a place has rejected you, it is their loss. Remember that the Tier 1 firm which has rejected your application today started off without a Tier and gradually rose up from Tier 5 to where it is today.
Why don’t you join a tier-three or four law firm and make sure that because of you it reaches tier 1 or 2? Seize every opportunity that comes your way!
3. Start working on yourself: Start reading, researching, and writing. Fine, if you\’re not getting that internship then learn do a webinar or seminar or apply for a winter/summer school. Every minute you’re scrolling through LinkedIn and Instagram, cribbing about others’ achievements and your ‘your lack of opportunities’ (read: phooti kismat) – someone is quietly knocking their socks off.
4. Start Saving and Investing Money: Many law students are unable to pursue their dream LLMs or other academic ventures because of the lack of financial resources. Thus, it’s extremely important to start saving your money and putting it in the right places (Fixed Deposits, Non-Convertible Debentures, Equity, etc.) so that it can grow and be used when it’s needed the most. Let me give you my example: My financial journey started off when I bought 20 shares (900 rupees each) out of my savings of an IT company called NIIT Technologies (now, Coforge) – within a year, they’re worth 3,000 rupees each (60,000 rupees). You might say that your parents will do this for you, but a little bit of independence and picking up the right financial habits never really hurt anyone, eh? (smiles)
5. Pick up a sport: I play golf. One should pick up some sport and pursue it passionately. Law is a sedentary profession and many lawyers have spinal issues, diabetes, heart problems, so it is very important to stay healthy.
6. Respect your parents and teachers: There will always be somebody who is senior to you, the earlier you learn how to respect your seniors and elders it is better. It will really help you in your profession.
7. Learn foreign languages: The art of effective communication is a lawyer’s biggest strength. So, it is very important to learn foreign languages. You can learn so many different languages online nowadays – German (Goethe-Institut), French (Allaince Francaise), Urdu/Arabic (Jamia Milia Islamia), Mandarin (Mei Yu), Spanish (Instituto Hispania), Italian (Embassy Cultural Centre), Hebrew (Manasseh) and so on and so forth! It would also boost your chances to gain foreign internships.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Mr. Naman Anand and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Legally Flawless or its members.
Tags: law School, Foreign languages, law school opportunity, International Bar Association, IBA, Summer Law School, Winter Law School, Client Counselling, MUNs