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Legal Training: A Beginner’s Guide to Litigation in India

A tough realization awaits pass-outs of integrated law courses in India who choose litigation as their career, i.e. they discover that not much of what they had been taught is immediately useful to them. And this is just one amongst many others. For example, they also discover that the legal drafting and the legal research that they did in law school isn’t exactly the same out there in the real world. Then, most of the lower courts have their own idiosyncratic procedure. Another task is to figure out what types of forms are required to be filled while filing various types of applications. Because of this, to become a litigating lawyer (an advocate), one must first be prepared to put aside some “gestation” period, i.e. the time it would take to just learn the procedures. To be able to do that, the first step would be to join an advocate who regularly practices at courts. Knowing some background about the advocate before joining would help; that way, you could learn from advocates who practice in the field that’s an area of interest for you when it comes to legal research.

While learning, one also has to be great with networking – how else would you land clients, eventually? Unless, of course, you come from a family of lawyers, which could be a major advantage. As time goes by, one must network, continue learning the legal drafting and work for the senior that they have joined. It will be difficult to balance life. The first few months will pass in a daze. The transition from wearing a t-shirt and jeans to uncomfortable suits on hot summer days will get to you. The need to learn the local language will annoy you. The lack of money despite all the hard work will frustrate you. Often, you will also feel like an errand boy because of all the photocopying work you’ll be given. Nonetheless, soon enough, your legal training will come to your rescue as you begin taking files from your boss.

This is one of the first steps, actually (to take a file). Take a file home. It will, most likely, be in the local language. Read it. Patiently. As you do, you will first feel lost but eventually, bits and pieces will come together; the instinct you’ve developed in law school because of all the law lectures and legal research will soon kick in. Then, you will develop familiarity with the local laws that govern the procedure of your court as well as the administration of the executive bodies. You will soon find out which local legal publication you should be updated with. You might be used to online legal research. Litigation will bring you back to feeling the paper because the information available on the internet about local laws may not always be the latest. Nonetheless, the one constant with regards to legal research that you will have is judgment reading – this will be relevant even when you are in law school and will be so even when you practice. The more judgments you read, the better. To summarise, you will have to do a few things constantly over the course of a few years to get a grip over litigation. These include learning the local language, familiarizing yourself with the local laws, figuring out how legal drafting works, forgetting that you have a personal life, remembering what types of forms to fill while filing applications, and finally, networking with people you may have found unpleasant all your life. After about five years of that, your career as a successful advocate will begin. The tough realization, indeed, isn’t it?