Friday, 21 August 2015


Lawyers have been the pre-dominant force in Indian politics since the freedom movement days. Gandhi was a lawyer, Nehru, Patel, Jinnah and of course Ambedkar; the list goes on. In fact, research shows that lawyers dominate politics all over the world. One does not find it difficult to make sense of this dominance of lawyers in politics. But we can’t stop wondering, why is it that lawyers make good politicians? Or is it just that it is convenient for political parties to have lawyers?

The answer is rather simple. Political parties in India have always been very closed and unapproachable for the general public, they conduct various rallies across the country to expand voter base, but seldom do they indulge in public discourse on critical issues. There is a conventional manner in which they function and they are in no mood to transform anything. Arguments on behalf of political parties are made by spokespersons who are lawyers- mostly, and the issue at hand is discussed in television debates which are of no consequence- essentially. Law is often used as a tool to shoot down critics and dissenters. It has proved to be a potent weapon for political parties appointing lawyers into key party positions. Although these appointments cannot really be questioned, one needs to look at the pattern meticulously.

For instance, let us look at the Vodafone case- highly controversial in nature and many thought may have cost the UPA government the elections in many ways. It may have been the final nail to their coffin. Corporate India was said to have given up on the government after the retrospective amendment. Our current finance minister was one of the advisers to Vodafone in his capacity as a lawyer. He was also the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha. He was a vehement critic of the government’s decision to bring about a retrospective amendment. Now whatever the case may be, one cannot help but notice the clear case of conflict of interest, although now as finance minister, he is said to have recused himself voluntarily from looking at the files, why is it that the government has still not reversed the amendment? We have another example of the former telecom minister who was also a lawyer. He examined the policy that directly impacted his former client-Reliance Communications. He later went on to claim zero loss in the allotment of spectrum.  The concept of conflict of interest was clearly on display.

In a worth welcoming initiative, the Central Information Commission proposed to bring political parties under the purview of Right to Information Act. Unfortunately, these political parties have opposed the decision with unity and unanimity. We need to enact a conflict of interest law like the United States wherein declaration of any possible financial interest in any company or organization or even with an individual would be a prerequisite for all MP’s. It is desirable to transform the system to bring in transparency and accountability as it will establish a much needed trust between the legislature and its electorate.

The problem is not with lawyers dominating the political scene. The problem is with what happens as a result of that.
Friday, 7 August 2015

Thinking of Studying LLM?

Higher Studies can be tempting. But do you need that extra degree? We try and help you find out.

1.  Is LLM for Professors Only?
Please understand that LLM is not only for those who wish to get into academia. LLM is for all those who wish to ‘master’ a particular stream of law.

2. Should I work before I take the course?
Many students opt for LLM immediately after their law degree. There is no requirement for any work experience to study LLM. However, we strongly recommend that you should give yourself some time before jumping into another course. Here is why:

i.      You may want to try a couple of work streams like litigation, corporate job, social work, human rights etc to understand what really holds your interest.

ii.    You could also work in the field in which you wish to pursue your Masters degree. This will help you to have a better clarity on whether you want to pursue this line of work.

iii.    Previous work experience has many benefits; it strengthens your career record, builds up on some financial aid, supports your decision and gives you a practical understanding of the course that is to be taught.  

iv.    Once you are aware of practical implications, theory becomes simple.

3. Two years or One?
Traditionally Indian institutes have been offering two years LLM course. Whereas everywhere abroad the course can be completed in one year. This difference in duration has been one of the reasons for students to prefer studying abroad and save up on a year. The year saved can be utilised to acquire other skills, or gain work experience or to undertake another beneficial course. 

Since last year the UGC has issued guidelines permitting certain Indian institutes to run one year LLM courses. Yet there is no uniformity in the course structure. Presently both the courses are operational and recognised by the UGC.

4. Should I Go Abroad?
Studying LLM abroad has been alluring young law graduates for many years. Recent years have seen a considerable rise in the number of students flying abroad for higher legal studies. Some of the factors that boost this trend are: varied areas of specialisation, easy education loans, fee waivers, scholarships, teaching assistance provisions, earn while you learn opportunities, advanced technology that reduces issues of distance and international exposure that these countries offer.

Besides, there is a popular notion that a foreign degree helps you stand out and provides better job opportunities back in India.  

5. Where to Study?
The United States of America and United Kingdom have been the most popular destinations for higher studies among Indians. However, with all the technicalities and visa regulations, there is little scope to acquire legal jobs in the US with your base Indian degree. Para legal jobs are comparatively a considerable option in the UK to gain some international work experience. Canada and Australia have also been attracting a lot of applications with promising work opportunities. In recent times, Singapore has picked up the study scene on the grounds that it is closer to India, it is much cheaper than UK and US and the process is substantially easy.

6. How is it in India?
Most of the Indian institutes offering LLM have very limited areas for specialisation. Whereas universities abroad have opened up a huge arena of specialised fields. Recognising this loophole, some of the law schools in India are working hard to fill in this gap through a few innovative and in demand courses. However, presently such new courses are usually in the form of certificate or diploma courses with just a handful of institutes offering LLM in varied topics.

7. What is the difference between MPhil and LLM?
MPhil is Master in Philosophy. It is usually a shorter version of PhD and can be the first step towards PhD. MPhil is a two years full time taught course with dissertation, whereas PhD is mostly pursued by one self with guidance of supervisor/s over a period of 4 to 5 years with a thesis. Some institutes offer integrated degrees in which if the supervisors are satisfied; the Mphil degree can be integrated with the PhD to save time and research.

8. Which Area Should I Choose?
Recently areas like media, entertainment, maritime, arbitration are picking up. While other popular streams are IPR, international commercial law, economic law, trade law, investment law etc. Before you choose the area of specialization, please ensure that you have studied the market for job opportunities and career growth aspects. Talk to a few experts, it helps. Talk to your own firm/ company and see if they can assure you some work on return.