Harikarthik Ramesh and Kali Srikari, students of National Law University Delhi, won the second edition of NLIU-India Foundation Constitutional Law Paper Presentation Competition, 2020 conducted at National Law Institute University, Bhopal.
Harikartik Ramesh a third year at NLU Delhi who is an avid quizzer, IndConLawPhil fan and wishes to teach the law in college someday soon. Kali Srikari is a fourth year student at NLU Delhi. She is passionate about Intellectual Property Laws and was a Student Fellow at Centre for Innovation, Intellectual Property and Competition. She was also an Executive Editor of the NLUD Journal of Legal Studies. They have been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Shruti Srivastava.
- Both of you jointly wrote and presented the winning paper. Was this your first stint at a paper presentation competition or academic writing?
Harikartik Ramesh: I have written in journals before, earlier I co-authored a paper which appeared in the Delhi Student Law Review and have also been featured on the Indian Constitutional Law and Philosophy Blog.
Srikari: Although this was my first time participating in a competition of this nature, I have authored academic articles and papers previously. I have co-authored an article on adultery published on the Oxford Human Rights Law Hub. I have co-authored an article on statutory licensing of copyright that was shortlisted for the 5th Asian IP Works-in-Progress Conference. Apart from that I have also written an article on the interplay between copyrights and free speech that is to be published in the NLIU Journal of Intellectual Property Law.
- There are several kinds of competitions students get to participate in, in College. Srikari, you have participated in several moots. Hari, you have competed in quizzes growing up and you still organize them in college. How is academic writing different from other activities one undertakes during law-school?
Harikartik Ramesh: Academic Writing is the activity most close to the work we have to do in the course of academic studies as the projects we are made to write are a form of academic writing. It’s different from mooting to the extent that in a moot the limit is set by an external person, the problem designer but for academic writing, you are the person who gets to set the limits when it comes to areas of law you want to work on, or choice of subject.
Srikari: I agree. Additionally, academic writing by its very nature is permanent unlike other activities in law school. Another difference I have noticed is that academic writing gives you more room to frame arguments as opposed to activities like mooting. Since the purpose of a moot is to simulate a real life court or arbitration proceeding, you are limited in relation to the nature of arguments that you would be able to put in your memorandum and/or plead before the bench of judges. I have noticed from personal experience that the expectations/outcomes from both activities are starkly different although the skills acquired from one activity might be useful in doing the other.
- Writing the manuscript and paper presentation are two parts of the process of getting the article published. How are the two different?
Harikartik Ramesh: While writing the manuscript you are attempting to make a detailed argument in a manner which flows comfortably, you are not necessarily aiming to be brief during the writing stage. However when presenting, being able to get the most detail briefly in a short time period is the most important factor, therefore the ability to summarise becomes incredibly important at the presenting stage.
Srikari: The purpose of the two can be different. Paper presentations are forums to walk individuals through your thought process and arguments in such a way as if they have not been able to go through the paper. You want to make sure to touch up on the central ideas and arguments unless you are questioned on the details. Paper presentations can be a great way of putting your ideas across to a larger audience and starting a dialogue. On the other hand, when you are writing a manuscript, as Hari said, you would not necessarily hesitate on how detailed you want to be. The purpose here is to basically put all your arguments, explanations of provisions, analysis of existing literature, and conclusions in one place for people to use and rely on in case they want to develop the research on that area further.
- There are also journals which publish the manuscripts without requiring a paper presentation first. So when you know you are not going to have the opportunity to defend your arguments, do you think you think then the way you draft or the process of writing changes?
Harikartik Ramesh: Personally it would not change the way I draft because I think the manuscript should be a whole argument by itself, it should not necessarily need supplementing or clarification through a presenting stage, even though that may be given to you.
Srikari: I would not change the way I draft my arguments either. I have noticed that when I write a paper, I am in a way arguing and pleading the issue in my own head to make sure that the argument sounds as convincing as possible. Bouncing ideas I have off of my peers/professors would also help me with this. So, I really would not change this process irrespective of whether I have to defend my arguments in a formal paper presentation or not. I consider the manuscript the most integral part of the process since it will be accessible in the form it is in permanently. As an author, I would want to make sure that my writing is as exhaustive and as convincing as possible to help foster future discussion on the issue I am writing about.
- For people who have not dipped their toes in academic writing, and want to, what do you think the ideal plan to go about it should be?
Harikartik Ramesh: Make sure the subject area is something you are incredibly interested in. Even if a major publication is accepting papers but it is an area you are not comfortable or loathe, it will be difficult to motivate yourself to finish the work. In academic writing you need to be motivated because there is no external source which can force you to participate, it is completely on your terms.
Srikari: Choosing a topic or theme to write on can be difficult initially. I would highly recommend looking at recent developments and see if you could provide your own critique on it no matter how small or insignificant you think it is. This will help you move in a direction, somewhat streamlining your research. Knowing what you are looking for can be tricky in legal writing sometimes. When framing arguments, ask yourself why something is the way it is at all junctures. This will help you be as thorough in your research and understanding of the issue as possible. Also, do not hesitate in asking your friends, seniors, and teachers that specialize in the area you are writing about for feedback. The debates you have with them and the comments you receive are what will make your paper be truly convincing.
- Would you have additional pointers if students are drafting manuscripts for a competition?
Harikartik Ramesh: Avoid making articles which simply quote a series of judgements without any conclusion or observations regarding the judgement. An article quoting all the cases on reservations since Champakam Dorairajan without any commentary on the decisions or observations regarding the path taken by the court may help students before an exam but does not contribute anything to the existing literature because one could pick up a dukki for the same list of cases.
Srikari: I agree. I believe it is better to be as creative as possible with these competitions, even if the argument sounds bizarre at first (but at the same time, please back it up with good research!) to grab the judges’ attention. You do not want to give them a wikipedia page in a paper format. Also, pro tip, do not take drafting the abstract for your paper lightly. It sets the stage for the rest of your article and could be what sets you apart in the judge’s/editor’s mind.
- How do you think academic writing contributes to your career? Both in terms of the value it adds to your CV and the development of skills.
Harikartik Ramesh: Academic Writing is a skill which is important no matter what field of law one works in, as the skill of tackling a complicated topic, breaking it down and restructuring it in a manner where a person who is not as knowledgeable about the area can follow, is something that all of us will repeatedly have to do in our lifetime.
Srikari: Academic writing helps you develop strong research, drafting, and critical thinking abilities. It is a common misconception that it is only helpful for those that want to venture into academia. As an individual who has chosen to pursue a career in commercial law at a law firm, I found myself relying on these skills whenever I was at an internship or even preparing for an interview. I also noticed that having publications on your CV gives your potential employer the confidence that you have the ability to peruse lengthy legal literature, frame sound arguments and draft the same in a clear and concise manner.
It was great talking to the two of them, and the insights they have given for academic writing would certainly be helpful to anyone who is interested in writing articles or blogs, for competitions, publication, or otherwise.