Law has appealed to me as a career path for as long as I can remember. It is, to me, an ideal intersection of my interests in literature and politics. The analytical skill one acquires through a passion for literature is an essential trait in law. Meanwhile, the fundamental purpose of law, in my opinion, is to address social and economic inequity by delivering justice, a purpose which is shared by politics. Law is the logical progression of my academic path, a field which integrates the elements I will have learned from courses in government, my major, as well as my minor in English.
Although I had a pre-disposition of what a career in law entails before I enrolled at Cornell, I acquired a far more consolidated understanding of the field through several courses I attended during my time in Ithaca. These include a course detailing the history of international laws relating to war, as well as an introductory course at the Cornell Law School, which highlights the fundamental tenets of major legal documents and seeks to explain the reasoning behind legal doctrines, relating to both civil as well as criminal law.
Interning at a Law Firm in India
During the summer of 2018, I sought to further progress my understanding of law by interning at NAS Chambers, a boutique law firm in New Delhi. The firm specializes in patent law, and was recently established by a group of lawyers previously working at Cyril Amarchand, one of India’s most prestigious law firms and the largest in revenue-generation terms. Although I was aware of my far more limited knowledge of Indian legal practices as compared to other undergraduate interns at the firm—a law degree is obtained in India at the undergraduate stage itself, whereas one can only specialize in law at the post-graduate stage in the United States—I was determined to experience working at a corporate law firm before I began definitively pursuing law as a career.
“The analytical skill one acquires through a passion for literature is an essential trait in law.”
During the initial phase of my internship, I was tasked with reading several documents, which are considered salient in Indian law, especially patent law. These included the national constitution, the Indian Patent Act, and several crucial cases regarding patent-based disputes from the past. The documents provided me with a fundamental understanding of Indian patent law, as well as the key overarching elements present across the Indian legal system.
The majority of my work comprised assisting lawyers in formulating briefs for our clients. These briefs consisted of an overview of the case, the potential arguments the opposing party would make, and our suggestion for the client regarding a fair settlement offer for the dispute. Naturally, estimating a fair settlement is never straightforward, and several elements are factored into the decision, with the most decisive being the amount of time and money the client is willing to commit to the case. Furthermore, in cases which our team felt we would have to settle for less than what the client was expecting, it was crucial to communicate the reasoning behind our suggestion to the client; this is where a thorough understanding of relevant legal doctrines would often prove useful.
The Real World
The most surprising element of the firm’s operations, for me, was the sheer volume of cases, which were settled out of court. I had imagined that most legal disputes are settled in court, but in fact, only a fraction of the cases a law firm receives actually reach that stage. Arbitration functions as the primary method of settling disputes for most cases. One of my assignments involved accompanying senior lawyers to arbitration meetings and observing the technical arguments they would posit to secure the best possible settlement for our clients.
Whereas the courses I undertook at the Cornell Law School provided me with the fundamental elements of law from an academic standpoint, working at NAS chambers over the summer gave me a taste of working in the corporate legal sector.
I am currently undertaking a semester abroad program at University College London, a consequence of my desire to absorb as wide a range of political philosophy as I can from around the world during my undergraduate years. I’ve always felt that experiencing a wide range of academic environments will serve to develop my understanding of geopolitical issues and how people throughout the world interact with their local political and legal systems.
Following my undergraduate degree, I plan to work in the legal sector for a couple of years before I begin pursuing a law degree.