The National Law School of India University, Bangalore (NLSIU) yesterday held its 21st Convocation. The ceremony had Law Minister Kapil Sibal deliver the convocation address, in which he reportedly encouraged lawyers to take up pro bono activities, and was presided over by Chief Justice of India, P. Sathasivam who is also NLSIU’s Chancellor. Bar & Bench spoke to Namrata Shah, NLSIU graduate, who received 16 gold medals.
Bar & Bench: 16 gold medals. That must be a record of sorts? How does it feel?
Namrata Shah: When I was told that I would be receiving 16 gold medals I was stunned. While I was expecting a few gold medals, 16 was certainly not the number I expected. After I received them and walked off the stage, the attention that I received overwhelmed me. However, it was the pride that my family felt which made the journey all worthwhile.
The haul of 16 gold medals is certainly a record as it is the highest number of gold medals awarded to a student in NLSIU. However, I am the second student to have managed this feat.
B&B: From backbencher in the first year, to "second row in the second year". What pushed you to make the change? More importantly, what kept you going?
NS: In the first year, I was still adjusting to the change and to law school generally. However, after recession hit in 2008, opportunities were dwindling and that made me realise that unless I pull up my socks I am not going to be able to achieve the goals I had set for myself or the ambitions I had. Accordingly, the first move in that direction was to be attentive in class and take notes diligently. I supplemented that with choosing to participate in extra-curricular activities different from others like being the Convenor of Finance Committee, accepting membership of the Disciplinary Committee for women and joining the Exchange Cell in college among others.
Once I moved ahead, my results also started reflecting the shift and my grades improved drastically. With the results improving, a lot more opportunities opened up and this kept me motivated. Since school, I was always hardworking but it was the recognition for the same that I received in law school which motivated me to keep going till the end.
B&B: Did you have much of a social life? Be honest.
NS: (laughs) Of course I had a social life. I did enjoy the occasional night outs with friends. I travelled back to Mumbai quite often to meet my friends from school. Further, I was a part of the organizing committee for quite a few college fests which was also enjoyable. While I went for conferences, I ensured that I could see parts of the world too which worked out perfectly for me. Finally, in my 5th year, I went on exchange to National University of Singapore which was certainly quite an experience in terms of boosting my social life. So to tell you the truth, it was finding the right balance between studies, extra-curricular activities and my social life that helped. If I had only studied without enjoying a social life, it would be quite a dull life to lead and certainly not one that is expected from NLSIU students.
B&B: The trimester system followed by NLSIU is known to be demanding, particularly in the first year. Is there any form of institutional support?
NS: The trimester system is absolutely demanding in the first two years actually and not just the first as you have to submit four research papers, write mid terms and end term examinations for four courses in a mere stretch of three months. However, the Student Body in NLSIU and the administration provides quite a support system for us to adapt to the change and the hectic schedule.
On the academic front, we had project guides to help us get the hang of writing research papers, library guides to assist us with accessing the huge library and the academic support programme to deal with subjects that were new and difficult for us. On the personal front, to ensure a smooth transition to the new environment and life, we had mentors assigned to each student who were our go-to people in case we had any issues. The administration has set up bodies to ensure that there were no instances of ragging on campus.
Therefore, with the support system in NLSIU and from back home, the hectic schedule was not too difficult to cope with.
B&B: You have expressed a desire to work in the field of financial regulation. That is quite a specific goal. How did that come about?
NS: One of the primary reasons that motivated me to do law was to make an impact with the power that lawyers enjoy. Along with the motivation to do law, I come from a commerce background and a business-oriented family so an interest in economic matters in general and corporate law in particular developed instantly for me. I also realised I had a flair in the subject therefore, combining my interest to make an impact and my interest in the subject, I narrowed down on the regulatory agencies which would help me achieve my goal just utilizing the abilities I have.
Accordingly, I have chosen to work in a law firm currently so that I can understand first, the implications of the laws made when put into practice and then the shortcoming that exist in them. The opportunity to liaison with the regulatory agencies as well as to analyse the laws with changing times can only be available if I started right at the bottom. It is not that I wish to work in the regulatory agencies only since change can be made through working with them as well externally. However, this is a long term plan so let’s see how it goes down.
B&B: Lastly, any words of advice for those who have just joined law school?
NS: The only advice I can give law students is to work hard, ensure that you stay motivated since there are no short cuts available and finally to believe in yourself as these three things can help you succeed in the highly competitive environment that exists in law schools currently.
Finally, we have the tendency to go down the same road as our seniors or peers without necessarily figuring out what we wish to do or what suits us the best. As a word of caution, I would advise against it as a lot more opportunities have now opened up for lawyers and would encourage law students to have a goal in mind that they can work towards, even if in the end it seems to be the same old well-travelled path.