In conversation with Aklovya Panwar on being selected for LAMP fellowship

Aklovya Panwar is a graduate of the Institute of Law, Nirma University, and has recently been selected for the LAMP fellowship. LAMP fellowship is one of its kind in the country where the fellows are provided with the opportunity to be guided by a Member of Parliament and witness various processes of policy decision. In this interview, he talks about the application process/selection criteria for the LAMP fellowship and some do’s and don’ts of legal writing and research. He has been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Akshita Totla who is currently pursuing law from ILNU. 

  1. Please introduce yourself to our readers.

I am Aklovya Panwar, a graduate of most talked about batch in this Pandemic, Batch-2020. I am from a small lively town of UP named Khurja which is famous for its ceramics (literally, it is quite historical) and Khurchan (a sweet that doesn’t quite agree with my taste). In a family of four including me, my father is a lawyer, a wise-man with abundant humour and my hero; my mother is a housewife, the sweetest person with highest values and my lifeline; my younger brother, an intelligent person and my dearest. These people have taught me to be a good listener, an avid reader, and an ever-ready learner. In sum, I am trying to grow myself as a philomath who seeks to reach close to a polymath.

  1. What does LAMP fellowship mean to you and how excited are you to begin this journey?

It is a moment of absolute delight for me that I am going to be a LAMP fellow. I heard about the fellowship in my 2nd year, and it fascinated me right away. It is a perfect platform to explore yourself post your college if you are interested in research and public policy. You work under a Member of Parliament (MP) and aid them in drafting bills, speeches, etc. with your research. Whole law-making process is in front of you. You carefully observe the public policy process out of the textbook, and you will be guided by ‘THE PRS’ (see their work, you will understand the feeling) – it is a bumper package of learning, re-learning and honing your skills. Considering all these reasons, I am very excited to begin this journey.

  1. Tell us about the LAMP fellowship. What are the eligibility criteria and advantages of this fellowship? What type of work a LAMP fellow is expected to perform?

LAMP Fellows are mentored by an MP and work full-time with the assigned MP during a given year. The primary role the Fellow is to provide extensive research support to her/his MP for their parliamentary work. This includes drafting parliamentary questions for the MP, preparing the MP’s speeches for zero hour debates, raising matters of public importance, drafting private members’ bills etc. It is open to candidates (Indian citizen) who are 25 years of age or below and have at least a Bachelor’s degree in any academic discipline.A Fellow’s primarily provides research support to the MP to whom they have been assigned. The research undertaken by the Fellow will be related to Parliament, such as inputs for bills, parliamentary questions, policy discussions and standing committee meetings, research for the conferences and media events MPs attend in their official capacity.

  1. How should an aspiring student go about the application process? Is previous work experience in policy-making or internships necessary? What according to you made your application stand out from other applicants?

The application process involves two stages. In the first stage, the applicant has to submit a Statement of Purpose (SOP) and an Essay analysing any policy or law which will be reviewed by the experts from PRS. When you clear the first stage, the second stage of the interview follows.

I sat four hours before the application deadline and started with my SOP (disclaimer: it is not at all suggested to stretch it to the end moment). In my case, I had the clarity of one thing as how LAMP fits in the puzzle of my career, considering my interest in research and public policy. Hence, I knew what I was writing. It was nothing superficial, nothing out of plan. It was just sheer logic which I put into words. It might be due to the previous experience in policy projects or research-based internships that gave me a clear picture of what to write, but it is not the only reason. If you are interested in policy-making and see yourself as a LAMP fellow, you can become one.

I answered two questions in my SOP – Why LAMP is perfect for me? And why I am a perfect candidate for it? [As I told before – the puzzle]Similarly, for my essay, I chose the topic constitutional challenge of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on which I was researching upon from quite some time. As soon as both my writing pieces were ready, I got them reviewed from my senior aka roommate aka brother, Vatsalya Vishal – my go-to editor and guide. I passed the first stage, and as soon as I got the confirmation for it, I called our alumni Mr Sarthak Sonwalkar who was a former LAMP fellow. He gave an overview of the working of LAMP fellow, his experience, and some tips for the interview. I started to read on the functioning of Parliament, the constitutional provisions, etc. One day before the interview, my peer and friend, Ms Ashwini Gehlot, helped me with the mock interview which saved the day. The questions of the interview were primarily based on what I wrote in the SOP and essay. You have to ace them to ace the interview.

There are specific‘what not to’ and ‘what to’ as I experienced in the whole process.

What not to –

  1. Don’t write your application on the day of the deadline. It blurs your thinking and imagination.
  2. Don’t write anything (have sympathy for your readers and be genuine).
  3. Choose your topic pre-hand and patiently research upon it as you have to suffice it in 500 words.
  4. Don’t hesitate before the interview. Whatever you have prepared is enough, if you can demonstrate it.

What to –

  1. Get it reviewed (What you think is right, does not make it right).
  2. Prepare questions and give mock interviews. It gives clarity.
  3. Have a strategy.

I seriously don’t have an answer on how my application stands out – you can call it luck, strategy, the help of people around or the blend of all – I prepared a strategy and was lucky enough to have people (there are many) who helped me with it.

  1. As LAMP fellows are mentored by a Member of Parliament, who is your preferred choice for the mentor, and why?

My preferred choice for the mentor was Ms Meenakashi Lekhi as she is a lawyer and heading the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) studying the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019. I am very much interested in Technology, Media and Telecommunications Law (TMT Law) and want to work upon the legal implications of future technologies like AI, Blockchain, etc. It would be a privilege to work under someone who is leading the drafting of that law you are in love with. (My MP is not final yet, fingers crossed)

  1. The fellowship usually starts in June with 1-month training. Has there been any arrangement for your training considering the current situation?

This year, due to the pandemic, there have been changes to the working of fellowship.  The fellowship will begin from mid-July, and there could be a shift to work from home for the initial training. The form of engagement with Members of Parliament may also change depending upon the trajectory of new norms over the year.

 

  1. You were the head of Student Research Council (SRC)and Centre for AI and Law (CAIL) at ILNU and you have also published articles in reputed journals like Oxford. So, tell us how a law student should go about legal writing and research?

I was blessed enough that our Dean, Ms Purvi Pokhariyal had shown faith in me and gave me enough responsibilities that pushed me towards the understanding of research. Before SRC and CAIL, and during my time as the secretary of Nirma Institute of Law Student Activity Association (NILSAA), the student body for managing college activities, she gave me opportunities to work upon call for research proposals and to work with research centres closely. With all these opportunities and my personal writings efforts, I can suggest that:

  1. One should always keep trying as perseverance is the key in research.
  2. Keep reading incessantly.
  3. Target a well-known journal for publication and give it your dedicated time because it is not just about getting published, but to create a literature that can contribute to the existing knowledge.
  4. Do a pre-emption check of your writing. You have to check whether the paper is repeated; if there is literature available on the same issue you are dealing with, it will have fewer chances of publishing, let alone contributing.
  5. Take the help of the experts, ask the faculties to review your paper. Also search for people on google scholar, academia and LinkedIn who can guide you with the reviewing of paper. Try to reach them (only when you have given enough time to your paper and seek final comments on it) because a good review is a key for an excellent publication.

8.What are your plans as a LAMP fellow during this year? What opportunities are available after this fellowship and what are your future plans?

These are uncertain times, and I am waiting for the fellowship to start. I am not planning anything yet and wish to use this time for exploring such a fantastic opportunity.

Over the years, the LAMP fellows have impactful careers in the World Bank, Foreign Embassies and top public policy organisations. Some have joined the civil service as Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers.  Many have also pursued advanced degrees from institutions like Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Oxford, London School of Economics, etc. Some have continued to work with their MP, political parties or other political consulting organisations.  I have not planned anything yet; I have kept a lot of options open for me and will choose whatever time will permit.

  1. Your journey at Nirma has come to an end. Tell us about your experience at ILNU.

My college has taken me from rock bottoms to sky highs. I was fortunate enough to experience and endure all these phases, which helped me grow. During the five years of college, I have been blessed with opportunities that enable me to be a better version of myself, found the most exceptional people who are family now and have the best memories that always put a smile on my face. In short, it was all worth it.

Personally, these five years are like a storybook which you write for yourself and can feel all the good and bad moments by looking inside, and that’s what is special about it, you engrave these memories within you – within your heart and soul.

  1. Based on your 5 years of experience, any key piece of advice you would like to give to law students?

It is okay to fall, but do not forget to rise. It is okay to falter, but do not forget to revive. It is okay to fail, but do not forget to survive. At last, it is okay to paraphrase but never plagiarise.

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