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I remember a time in law school, back in my first year when a friend told me that I need to let my hair down more often. I was walking back with him from class and this was not the first time we were having that conversation. A particular bunch of solicitous batch-mates including this friend of mine had taken it upon themselves to tell me to stop being so studious and to spend some time doing what 19 year-old college students do, i.e., spend the better half of their time mingling with their peers.

Fresh into law school, I loved attending classes and I would spend a good number of hours after class in the college library. I think that one of the reasons why I enjoyed spending my time as a bookworm was that I was a very shy 18 year-old when I joined college.

On this particular occasion, however, my friend added, “People think that you are boring.” This statement although uttered out of concern for me affected me deeply and it was not long before I became tearful; although I have learnt to develop a thick-skin in law school, at that time it was important to me what my peers thought of me and I wanted to be accepted by them.

While I was reflecting on what my friend had told me and started feeling miserable with every passing moment, a teacher who taught me in the first semester was passing-by and stopped to ask what the matter was. When I told him why I was feeling upset, he told me not to be affected by what people think and to do what I have come to do in law school. What my teacher said to me that day really helped me and it brushed aside the self-doubt that I had felt after speaking to my friend.

Although quite a few things changed in the five years that I studied in law school and I became less reserved than I was earlier, I would never let my studies suffer. I can’t boast of being as sincere towards my studies as I was back in the first year but throughout college I was careful to not compromise on my grades.

While people often decry the “CGPA” as making a place overly competitive, demanding that the ‘5 point some-ones’ should also get a chance, I speak more from the perspective of those for whom being a bookworm is something that they are most comfortable with. There are so many people whom I have met in college among my juniors, batch-mates and seniors who genuinely enjoy spending time alone with a book and I grudgingly respect them for having that unwavering focus towards their studies (I use the word ‘grudgingly’ because I recognize the value that ‘sincerity’ holds in one’s professional life. I don’t think that anybody is “gifted” with academic excellence and it requires all of one’s will-power to not be distracted from one’s work. I still struggle every day to get a day’s honest work done.)

Of course it is important to engage with one’s peers and there is so much that one learns from engaging in activities outside academic study. That is why people debate and moot in college, because they teach you skills that you can’t possibly learn in law school. Further, one cannot emphasize enough the value of soft skills in a lawyer’s life such as the ability to network and communicate with others. I have a problem when people start trivializing the importance of academics in a law student’s life, often misguiding them in the process. I have known seniors to give glib advice about how moots should take precedence over everything else and the first thing that starry-eyed juniors ask me even before joining law school is about the mooting scene in a college.

The internships that I did in law school have been mostly research-based, involving largely an academic study of law; a sound understanding of the basics of law helps immensely in internships of this nature.

While I agree that academics are not everything in law school, I believe that they played a critical role in the kind of opportunities I got in college. I applied successfully for LL.M. programmes abroad; having a high CGPA increases one’s chances of getting admission in a foreign university along with scholarship.

Luckily for me, I also had the opportunity to interview with a leading law firm in India, which invited those persons to apply from my college who were in the top 5% of the class.

I wish I had studied and read much more, for it pays to be a nerd in law school. While I appreciate that career prospects in law school may depend on a variety of factors such as the contacts that one makes and the internships that one does, it is important not to lose sight of the importance that academics play in a law student’s life.

The blog was first published here on ‘Who Moves Your Cheese in a Law School’.

Tagged in: academics cgpa
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