Presentation on Career Guidance Law as a Profession ( For D A V Group of Schools, Chennai) Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan

A Presentation on Career Guidance
Law as a Profession
( For D A V Group of Schools, Chennai)
Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan

Now read the famous letter from Justice Felix Frankfurter to a twelve year old student Paul, aspiring to go into the legal profession.

May,1954

My Dear Paul:

No one can be a truly competent lawyer unless he is a cultivated man. If I were you I would forget about any technical preparation for the law. The best way to prepare for the law is to be a well-read person. Thus alone can one acquire the capacity to use the English language on paper and in speech and with the habits of clear thinking which only a truly liberal education can give. No less important for a lawyer is the cultivation of the imaginative faculties by reading poetry, seeing great paintings, in the original or in easily available reproductions, and listening to great music. Stock your mind with the deposit of much good reading, and widen and deepen your feelings by experiencing vicariously as much as possible the wonderful mysteries of the universe, and forget about your future career.
With good wishes,
Sincerely yours,
Sd. Felix Frankfurter

Read the two together, you get a perfect recipe for success in law as a career.

Let us deal with ‘success’ in a profession. What is it? Is it the fame and/or moolah you make? Or is it the name and reputation you achieve? Or the legacy you leave behind as a lasting imprint? Or a bit of each and all. My view is that it is ‘to thine own self be true’ as William Shakespeare said. What you ‘think’ and ‘aspire’ is what matters. Not what you are told. Equally, parents should be conscious to avoid imposing their dreams on the children. Let the flower bloom normally. It would be far more colourful and beautiful.

Firstly, you ‘should not aspire to law as a course to just make a living’ – as Justice V R Krishna Iyer said. You should join because you have a passion for it- as lawyer Mahatma Gandhi said. What is passion? Is it liking? Joy you derive? Money you make? Fame you embrace? It is simply this- as Robin Marlar the cricket critic said- “Mine is possibly the only profession where I am paid to watch what I love”.

I morph it, “ Legal profession is possibly the closest to it, to let you live, breathe, earn what you love to indulge in viz. read, read, read, write, write and write. And then more of it. To speak, speak and speak or address the lowest to highest courts in the land-and incidentally get paid for it. Mind you 365 days and 24×7. Do you need more in life”. I surely didn’t and don’t.

Twenty or thirty years ago, if you had asked a successful and experienced lawyer in our midst – he would have responded differently than Frankfurter- “ No way. Not this thankless profession. It is too demanding. A jealous mistress. Work like a mule. Get paid peanuts like a monkey”.

Not anymore my young friends. It is good. You can make it great. That is the beauty, it promises. You can make a mark very early. In which other profession can you get to tangle with the likes of K Parasaran or Harish Salve or K K Venugopal, if you have the brief, even as a rookie. No where else. It is a huge privilege.

You need to be disciplined, dedicated and determined – as 3 Ds. Mind you,Nanabhoy Ardeshir Palkhivala a.k.a. Nani Palkhivala was an accidental lawyer like Sam Manekshaw was an accidental soldier (this should trigger an innate curiousity in you to read Courtroom Genius & Sam Manekshaw and his Beloved Armed Forces to explore why ). They set put to become an English professor and a medicine doctor. Ended up as the greatest lawyer and soldier India had seen . That was then. It is a different ball game altogether today.

You have the world at your feet. You can pick and choose. The gateways are aplenty. You need to be eager, willing, able and passionate. Bend your back, sacrifice the present for a bright future. You can make it. Have all the time in the world to travel and ‘enjoy a swell life’ as you may desire- as Sir Neville Cardus, a cricket writer summed up his life.

Do not get distracted. It is not possible to live in a ‘World Without E Mail’ as Prof. Cal Newport titles his book. But do not succumb to the ‘wiles and guiles of Dopamine, triggered with the beneficent yet wretched Mobile’ as Optimist Simon Sinek talks. The ‘Social Dilemma’ of Tristan Harris, a documentary on Netflix ( while binge watching whatever you like) is a must see, hear, learn, acknowledge, absorb and adopt in life, if you want to progress.

Law is today a lovely profession. No longer the words ‘ Kill all the lawyers in the world’ as William Shakespeare said needs to be told. It is true that Lawyers ooze a negative perception in society as ‘parasites living on others misery’ as C Rajagopalachari conceded. Not any more. There is good, bad and ugly in any profession. You go for the good, better and best by the company you keep and the goals you set for yourself.

Two or three decades ago, law was the last resort. The gestation period to make it, was too long. Seniors’ concluded you must aim to ‘learn’ and not ‘earn’. Now it is different. Candidates get picked up in Campus Calls. Absolutely unimaginable,when we were students. You can pick a corporate firm,tax law firm, civil or criminal practitioners’ and you can expect a decent package to start. Then it would up to you to advance.

Mark McCormack wrote ‘ What they don’t teach at Yale Law School’. You can then imagine the plight of some of us as students. If we could make it; with a far better environment and infrastructure, you can easily make it, if you are focused. Dream Big as President Abdul Kalam write.

Imagine this. Yuval Noah Harari the Hebrew University professor who wrote ‘Sapiens’ and ‘ Homo Deus’ talks of – exponential growth – Moore’s law – in digital technology which may leave an ‘ Useless Class’ behind. Fear not- Law takes to technology last. And with Prof. Google Swami- you can research at ease ( not plagiarise on the cut and paste plane please).

We had to go distances to pick up ‘authorities’. They are now available at the end of your finger tip. Unbelievable aid and assistance you can only dream of in high tech movies.

Law can today be the first profession to embrace. And if you are sincere, hardworking and avoid ‘ethical illiteracy’ as a lawyer, as Nani Palkhivala counsels, you are assured of success. Law is no longer a profession of last resort. You can be a successful legal advisor in any institution, or pick up the civil services or become a practitioner or even float a firm of your own. The opportunities are humongous, unlike at any time in the past. India is a litigious nation, you see.

And picking up a law seat is also not tough these days, with so many institutions abounding . You can study anywhere in India, even if not the best university. For your career begins only after you acquire a degree. Not before or during study as the opening quote suggests.

You can dictate terms to yourself. You are your own master. Provided you cultivate the discipline. Read books as James Clear’s Atomic Habits and practise concentration as the key ingredient.

I have deliberately and consciously referred to multiple names and works as Justice Felix Frankfurter would want you to read. Read anything and everything if not law , when a student. Then you learn Law while in Practice.

Law is all about Practice. The Malcolm Gladwellian Ten Thousand Hours. If you want to achieve- do not look to drop outs as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs’.

But to those who sacrificed early and practised, practised and practised like a Roger Federer or a Messi or a Tendulkar. We did not see their sacrifices in Practice. We only partook in their successes.

Now, I want you to read and learn about the sacrifices the successful made, behind the scenes. Therein lies the secret potion. It would be magical.

So that you may emulate to succeed. Success is assured . And for sure.

Good Luck. God Bless.

( Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)

Thanks

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