Anjuli Marwah on Law School and Life, beyond Grades

Anjuli Marwah graduated from NLUO in 2016. She is currently working as Associate at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas. She has been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Avinash Gautam who is currently pursuing law from NLUO. 

  1. Please introduce yourself to our readers.

I graduated from National Law University Odisha in 2016, and thereafter worked at Wadhwa Law Offices, Gurgaon with the general corporate / M&A team for about a year. Subsequently, I joined the labour and employment team at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, New Delhi.

  1. How was your time at NLUO and what approach did you take for academics?

I would be lying if I said that I was excited to join NLUO back in 2011. NLUO was a fairly new law school with modest amenities and I was part of the third batch that would graduate from NLUO. For the better part of our five-year long journey, we did not have the best campus,adequate library facilities or even air-conditioned classrooms. However, we did have an impressive faculty and motivated bunch of students,full of creative ideas to take NLUO to great heights.Add to that the trademark zeal of the underdog, it resulted in a truly vibrant campus culture.

Even though we lacked infrastructure, the student body and college administration played a pivotal role in developing a culture which balanced respect to academics along with co-curricular activities for future students. Being part of the first few batches, I witnessed many ‘firsts’ of NLUO – be it the first national moot/ fest/conference organized by the college, a big win at an international moot court competition or the first PPO at a Tier-1 law firm. I may have missed out on a few opportunities being from a young law school like NLUO, but I would not trade that experience for anything else, because my time there made me the person I am today. It made me understand the importance of hard work and working relentlessly towards your goals despite everything else pulling you down.

As far as academics are concerned, I did not try too hard to fare well. I used to study only before the exams from photocopied notes. My grades were average. Consequently, my resume was not shortlisted for the recruitment drive organized by the college, but I did manage to secure a PPO from a New Delhi based law firm on the basis of my performance during the internship.

  1. What motivated you to specialise/join practice in labour and employment law?

During law school, I was interested in making a career in competition law and most of my internships were in that field. In addition to that, along with a few of my batchmates, I also co-founded a blog focussing on competition law called Decoding Competition Law, which is not active anymore due to work constraints.However, having a CV focused on a niche practice area, does not always translate to a job offer from that sphere, so I found myself starting work in the field of ‘general corporate’ which included both advisory and transactional work.

During this time, I got the chance to work on employment and labour law related matters and developed a keen interest in the field. I realised that focusing on one interest area would help me become a specialized lawyer which was my ultimate goal. In comparison to corporate laws, dealing with legal queries in labour and employment law is extremely research oriented and I personally find that invigorating.

 

  1. Do grades really play a decisive role in profession? Please share your personal experience about the same.

Nobody wants bad grades, right? Everyone dreams of being top of their class and getting a gold medal. Well, even though I did dream so, I don’t mind admitting that I did not necessarily work to achieve that particular dream back in college. In hindsight, I realise I was not as hard working or career-oriented in college as I am today, but it’s a realisation that now motivates me even more.

I would say that grades play an important, if not decisive, role in one’s profession.My CGPA was 5.4/8 and I did not have any job offers lined up in my final year. Although, I managed to secure a PPO based on my internship performance but the real struggle began when I started working and I could barely make ends meet. I realized that grades and allied academic activities would have helped me secure a better job immediately after graduating from college. I worked extremely hard for the next year, published a few papers, started networking, and read up on areas of law that I actually wanted to pursue. I gave around 3 rounds of technical interviews at a Tier-1 firm and I still could not make it. I did not give up and worked relentlessly towards getting a job that I wanted. After 8 months of looking for a better job, I made it at a Tier – 1 firm. I would say that although grades may be important to get your first job, however, once you gain some experience, it’s your hard work and job profile that matters the most, which would help you get better opportunities.

That being said, it is very important to work hard during those 5 years of law school to reduce the struggle after college. However, if you are unable to score good grades, I’d suggest the readers that they should focus on other avenues to further their objective. For example, if you want to work at a law firm after college, I’d say focus on internships and networking; if you want to study further, focus on grades and activities like publishing research papers and participating in moot court competitions. It is important to figure out exactly what you wish to do  a corporate job, judiciary, civils, masters degree, or something completely different. But make sure that you make the most of your law school experience and exhaust every possible avenue that you can think of.

 

  1. Extra-curricular activities are on the rise, more than ever. What role do the extra activities play in shaping someone ‘personally’ and ‘professionally’?

My approach towards law school was to try my hand at everything, including moots, academic publications, sports activities (although I failed miserably at that), as well as being part of various committees. I made sure that I volunteered to be a part of organizing committees for various events that were being held in college. I was a member of the Recruitment Committee, Internship Committee, Cultural Committee and the Library Committee at NLUO. Being involved in all these activities helped me learn skills which have contributed to my legal career as well. Working in a team along with people of different mindsets and outlooks, meeting deadlines, and multitasking are some of the skills I learnt while working with various committees in college. Additionally, I feel that co-curricular activities play an important role in the overall development of one’s personality as well. Apart from this, I suggest that everyone should participate in atleast one moot court competition during their law school. I say this not because it might add value to your resume, but because these competitions help in honing your skills of research, drafting and oral argumentation which are the most important skills any lawyer needs to possess.

  1. What should be one’s approach for taking career in corporate law especially with internships?

I believe that networking and informational interviewing are the foundations for internship/job search. All of us know that it is not easy to secure internships unless done through the internship cell or references,which is a luxury not everyone can afford. Hence, it becomes extremely important to network and put yourself out there. At present, I feel LinkedIn is an extremely important platform to network and connect with people. Students should make a list of target contacts and use LinkedIn to try to identify someone in their network for an introduction with the target contact.If that’s not possible, one can reach out with a personalized message too. While people may not always respond to LinkedIn messages/connection requests, they might definitely respond to well drafted and personalized emails. I have contacted a lot of people through LinkedIn for career advice and it has worked well for me so far. Apart from this, students should ensure that they try and make an impact during their internships. This will always come in handy later. Students can even ask for a recommendations from their seniors at work for securing internships at other law firms.

Additionally, stating the obvious, the employability of students depends on their hold and expertise in the subject area of interest. Therefore, if you are aiming for a career in corporate law, the Companies Act is your Bible and you would be expected to know everything about it, including the latest developments.

  1. What qualities make a good intern (what do top tier firms expect)?

There are a lot of qualities that make a good intern. In my personal opinion, I feel that what sets an intern apart from the rest is if they are eager to take work and do a fair job with the work assigned. In addition to this, punctuality, professional etiquettes and formal demeanour always make a good impression. For tier- 1 law firms, where every team sees multiple interns every month, it is important to make yourself memorable with a good impression.I still remember a few interns who made a good impression with their hard-work, eagerness, and sheer professionalism. I can particularly recall the intern who assisted me on a massive diligence exercise in which his work was to summarize labour law licenses/registration documents.To be honest, it was one of the most boring assignments ever and most of the interns shied away from that work.However, this intern was more than happy to assist me and did a decent job because of which, while filling out his feedback form, I recommended him for another internship. In short, howsoever big, small, boring or interesting the task maybe, interns must do it with utmost sincerity.

  1. What is the recruitment process at your firm?

The recruitment process at my firm is fairly simple, however arduous. Typically, students are offered a 2 week internship slot, and based on their performance, the slot may be extended for another 2 weeks. Post the internship, the supervisor is required to fill out a feedback form in which the intern maybe be recommended for another internship or for a PPO. The PPO process includes a technical round of interviews, and then an interview with the recruiting partner. The firm also has a campus recruitment programme which is only limited to certain law schools.

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