In conversation with Dr. Vijay Kumar Singh on every facet of his journey as an academician in the field of law

   

Dr Vijay Kumar Singh is presently the Dean at UPES School of Law. He is a lawyer by training with LLM in business laws (gold medalist). He is a certified trainer on “managing disputes and difficult conversations on the board” by Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), as a Course Director, he has conducted training in commercial mediation and negotiation, IBC, NCLT, etc. for senior professionals. He has participated, organised and presented papers in a number of national and international seminars/conferences/workshops. He had been a faculty at Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU) Raipur and has worked with the competition regulator (CCI) for 5 years. 

He has been interviewed by Aditi Sharma, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from UPES, Dehradun.

  1. To begin with, for the interest of our readers would you be kind enough to tell us something about yourself, your journey in the profession and your early years?

It is always a humbling experience when you are asked to introduce yourself or speak about your achievements. However, for the new readers I am a student of law currently discharging the responsibility of Professor and Dean at School of Law, UPES Dehradun.  My journey as a professional has seen many twists and turns and on each of these turns I learnt a lot which makes me what I am.  I had a humble background which necessitated me to work and support myself.  Being eldest in the family, I had many responsibilities as well.  At the hindsight, I think these made me a self-made person.  I had worked as a law clerk, a medical transcriptionist, and many would not know that I have even worked in a security company of my uncle in Nagpur.  I got my permanent teaching break with HNLU Raipur and a lot of honing of my professional skills happened with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) in Delhi-NCR, before I joined UPES.

  1. What motivated you towards the field of legal education? Do you recall any specific episode of your life that made you choose law as a career?

During my college days of LLB 3 years course at Dr. Ambedkar College, Deekshabhoomi, I discovered that I enjoy teaching while I was making my first presentation to an audience at a national seminar on child rights.  For this seminar, I recollect interviewing the children at the streets and their conditions in Nagpur.  Later this thought got further strengthened with my PG at PG Department wherein I discharged the role of contributory lecturer along with my responsibility as a law clerk.  I had a brief stint of professional practice in Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court and tribunals, but ultimately it was legal education which took over.  I had the privilege of teaching information technology law at a very young age to the judicial officers at JOTI as well as to a batch of air warriors immediately after my LLM. I would only say my professors and mentors have been very kind to provide me with best of the opportunities.  I was a BSc student and after my BSc I did medical transcription for a year to support myself.  While doing my job, I enrolled in the LLB course and after attending few classes of torts and Constitution, I made up my mind that I belong to law.

  1. You are a lawyer by training and a doctorate in law with gold medals in LLM and LLB examinations. Could you please enlighten our readers about your college life experience and how law schools have evolved over time compared to what it was 20 years back then?

I studied law through the traditional 3-year LLB format from Dr. Ambedkar College, Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur.  We were the privileged ones to get legal education under the precincts of Deekshabhoomi wherein Dr Ambedkar got his “diksha”.  Some of the teachers like Dr Hema Menon, Dr Varsha Deshpande, Dr Thrity Patel and Dr Gopal Sharma (late) seeded inside me a thought to excel in the legal field and in particular legal education.  There is a difference between the cohort you have in 3-year LLB and 5-year LLB.  In 3-year course, you generally have experienced people doing law.  Along with me there were many of my colleagues who were working professionals.  This provided a different approach to learning law.  In the present day context, the students decide doing law after 12th itself, which is in a way good, as they save one year which they can devote to PG (LLM) if they want to continue.  Standalone law schools with a specialised focus on law have definitely changed the way legal education used to be looked at.  It is no more a part-time education, it has evolved over the years as a separate stream in its own right.  Now Bar Council has come up with India International University of Legal Education and Research (IIULER) which is further raising the bar of legal education in India.  It is now going international.  Facility wise, I envy the young students and wish I could travel back in time to do law once again.

  1. Research paper publications are an integral part of a law student’s career but in the early stages, students often tend to indulge in other co-curricular activities. How important is it for a law student to realise the value of publications as you yourself have published and presented papers in several recognised journals/seminars/conferences/workshops, etc.?

We call it KSA framework i.e. knowledge, skills and attitude.  A law student shall not only earn the knowledge of legal subjects but acquire skills and attitude of a legal professional.  A law professional is a lifetime researcher, research skills shall flow like blood in the blood vessels of a law student.  Developing research temperament shall begin early in the career, it is like developing a habit to read, research and write.  The more you do, the more you enjoy and more skilful you become.  Nowadays law schools mandate project writing and research by students, this is towards the objective of building research culture.  Presenting papers at the conferences and seminar helps not only showcase your researching and oratory skills, but also to network, which is again very important.  I never missed an opportunity to attend conferences/seminars during my college days.  Though initial objective was to visit different places and meet different people, I realised over time how helpful it was in my career.  I became an associate member of Indian Society of International Law very early.  Many conferences sponsor students, I got one to present my paper at IIT Kanpur.  First time I travelled in AC 2 tier sponsored by the organisers for presenting my paper.  If you are interested in higher studies having good publications is an important key to success.  In short, I would say publishing in the life of a law student is a must, either it may be a journal, blog post, book chapter or even twitter posts.  Publish for staying relevant in the profession.  I also feel that any publication project forces you to update yourself, read new things and critically think, which keeps your mental faculty alive and going.  You may like to read more about my publications at <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=1113018>.

  1. Please tell us about your book titled Corporate Power to Corporate Crimes: Understanding Corporate Criminal Liability in India which is an enhancement of your PhD thesis and your journey to this accomplishment.

My book on corporate crimes is an updated version of my PhD thesis.  I had always in mind that your publications shall not be kept in a closet rather shall be made available to the interested readers at large.  Foreword to my book was written by Justice Sirpurkar and was launched at NLU Delhi with the blessings of Prof. Ranbir Singh and Prof. Srikrishna Dev Rao.  This book is a comprehensive literature on corporate criminal liability in Indian context and contains copious references for scholars who want to do further studies.  My work in this area allowed me to further advise on corporate frauds, ponzi schemes and securities fraud, which goes on unabated.  Update of the book is due which I intent to take up as my next project.  You can find more about the book at <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2973719>.

  1. With a humongous increase in the number of applicants for law entrance exams in India, the practice of law has become very competitive, and the competition for jobs has intensified in recent years, what advice would you like to give to the law enthusiasts who find it difficult to cope with such competition.

Law as a career options has indeed seen an increase over the last few years, especially given the multifarious opportunities a law graduate has, students are now opting it over plain engineering or plain graduation.  Though the competition is stiff for getting into the few top law schools, students ultimately are able to get admission in private institutions of repute, some of which are better than the last rung law schools which are yet to come up with their own infrastructure or have good permanent faculty.  However, competition is in every field, this is due to the population of youth we have.  While young population provides us with a demographic dividend, on other hand an unskilled and unguided dividend becomes a cost later.  My suggestion for the youngsters is that they shall not limit themselves in acquiring skills and attitude.  Standing out in competition is important and this can be done by thinking innovatively.  Youngsters should think about entrepreneurship as an option, where they become “job givers than job seekers”.  Serving rural India could be an option.  We still do not have good law professionals in hinterland.  There are plenty of opportunities, it is about crafting your own journey towards one of them.  Plan early and execute the action plan.

  1. What recommendations and guidance would you like to give to students who wish to make a career the same as yours i.e. academia and what do you think are the factors which should be taken into account before pursuing postgraduation (LLM)?

It is heartening to know that many youngsters are attracted to legal education as their career.  Life of an educator is a service and the job is that of a passion, if the mindset is to earn money, it is not the right profession.  Anyone interested in academia shall have a temperament of patience and empathy.  Continuous passion of learning and teaching and research is a must.  My suggestion would be to spend some time in industry/practice before one does their postgraduation.  Nowadays legal academicians are expected to know practical dimension of theory they teach.  Working with a law and policy firm could be a great asset.

  1. What is the significance of doing proper legal research and how should law students equip themselves with legal research skills? Also, what is your view on the concept of “exhaustion of a search” as many people are not aware of it?

I think I have already elaborated upon the importance of research in legal profession and especially for legal educators.  As regards status of legal research in India, I find still a lot has not changed and legal research takes a backseat, especially when you compare them with scientific and social science research.  Legal research as a domain has not progressed well.  The concept of “exhaustion of a search” is very important, as until you complete your review of literature you cannot find something new.  In my role as a PhD supervisor and during my guidance on projects, seminars and dissertations, I observe, the students often take the shortcut and do not consult the original literature.  Often, they do not read the original judgment, rather rely on the headnotes.  Headline research may not be the right approach to research.  In-depth understanding of literature already available is important to lay down a new theory or perspective.  It is also important to save oneself from falling into the traps of plagiarism.

  1. What is the most challenging part of your job as an academician and how do you overcome it?

Challenges make your work exciting and interesting.  As an academician there are few challenges than an administrator.  In fact I would say there are no challenges for a true academician, every challenge is a learning opportunity and also an opportunity to contribute something to the existing body of knowledge and academic practice.  In terms of students and scholars as well as introduction of technology has changed the role of an academician.  It is no more about providing information, rather it is about engaging in critical analysis and evolving tools to deal with the technological challenges posed by the information burst.

  1. Any advice you would like to give to the readers of the SCC blog? Or is there anything you would like to share with our readers?

SCC blog is a reputed blog in the area of tracking legal developments and also providing a platform for its readers to engage and network with professionals. As it tagline goes “bringing you the best analytical legal news”, readers of SCC blog shall enjoy the benefits of this platform by contributing and commenting on the threads and engage in a discussion with the author.  Also readers are encouraged to contribute to the platform as sustainability of a blog depends upon good content, analysis and engagement by its readers.  My best wishes to SCC blog for continued success.

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