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VoiceTAP Careers and Colleges Series – North Campus vs South Campus (Delhi University)

The ‘colleges’ bit of VoiceTAP’s careers and colleges series was kicked off yesterday with the call on DU – North Campus vs South Campus. Experts on call were Natasha Bhan (BA Eco Hons from Miranda House, currently working as an analyst with ICF Consultants), Arpana Chaturvedi (B.Comm. Hons graduate from SRCC), Anita (second year student at Lady Shriram College), and George (second year student at Bhagat Singh). But before starting off with this contentious debate I thought it would be good to give a short guide to Delhi university admissions. This was something which was not covered in the call – well, the expectation was most of the VoiceTAP users tuning in would be Delhi students. Anyway, if you are a Delhi student or from outside, this short primer should help you get started.

Delhi University North Campus and South Campus location
Delhi University North Campus and South Campus location

Basic Guide to Admission Process in Delhi University

University of Delhi has a rich history behind it. It started in the 1922 and has grown today to a university which has more than two lakh students on its rolls. With so many colleges, filling up forms for each one used to be a big headache earlier. To simply this procedure, Delhi University adopted a common admission form which students can fill up. The catch here is that two colleges – St Stephen’s and Jesus & Mary College. Most other colleges also have their own individual forms, in case you don’t want to use the common application form. Download a specimen Delhi University common application form for undergraduate applications here (PDF, ~1.3 MB). This is an OMR form so in case you are not familiar with filling these up you can practice with this dummy copy. The list of colleges and courses on the second page of this form is also a handy quick reference to information regarding which college has which course.

The next thing that you need to do is to get the common admission form. These will be sold at at all colleges using that form starting from 1st June 2009 till 15th June 2009, which is also the last date to complete the submitted form. You should also go through the prospectus – click here to download complete Delhi University Undergraduate Admission Brochure 2009 (ZIP file approximately 12 MB in size, containing PDFs of the DU information brochure in parts). You can download this from the University website too (that’s where I got it from), but their server is notoriously unreliable; when I was downloading the speed was extremely slow and the download often got disconnected (not due to any in my connection).

Aspirants living in Delhi have the option to get first-hand knowledge from university officials and student volunteers during the open days, which started today. Click here to download Delhi University Open Days 2009 schedule to see which is the college closest to your place holding an open day. Note that this is about college admission in general and not the specific colleges as such, so it’s not held at all colleges. DU has also set up helpline numbers which you can call for any assistance.

Admission is done on the basis of Board marks. Students of Boards outside Delhi / ICSE are also accepted, but your percentage may be scaled up or down (depending on whether the board you gave you exam in generally give inflated scores or lower scores) to make it equivalent to CBSE. This done on the basis of an equivalence table that a university has. Apart from that, many colleges also admit students through their extra-curricular quota and sports quota. A small fraction of seats are reserved for these two, and each university which offers these hold their own tryouts to see how good candidates are. So if you haven’t got that good a score but are good at some extra-curricular activity (most colleges only consider debating or dramatics) or at some sport then you still have a chance of making it into a top college. Do note that competition is fierce in the tryouts. St Stephen’s and JMC have their own form, so criteria for admission at those places is different; Stephen’s for instance has interviews too. For some courses such as BA English (Hons), an entrance exam is going to be held from this year onwards. More details for this will be available from the college you want to join.

When people use the term ‘Delhi University colleges’, they are generally referring to colleges in North Campus and South Campus. West Campus (which consists of DU Faculty of Technology colleges DCE and NSIT) and East Campus (which has University College of Medical Sciences) are considered ‘separate’ because admission to these is on the basis of their own entrance exam. I’ll stick to North and South over here. Here’s some basic information on them.

North Campus

DU North Campus map
Delhi University North Campus map - click on the image to see full-size map

North Campus is the ‘original’ location where Delhi University started functioning. North Campus is a dense cluster of colleges with practically all colleges right next to each other. The list of colleges (with link to their official website) is as follows: St Stephen’s, SRCC, College of Business Studies, Hindu, Hansraj, Delhi School of Economics, Kirori Mal, Daulat Ram, Miranda House, Ramjas, Indraprastha College for Women, Rajdhani, Shivaji, Satyawati, SGTB Khalsa, Lady Irwin, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. Pardon me if I’ve missed out any.

South Campus

Delhi University college locations map
Delhi University college locations map showing North Campus and South Campus colleges - click on the image to see full-size map

South Campus was set up by DU in 1973 to cope up with the high demand for seats. Colleges falling under South Campus are lesser in number and spread out over a wider geographical area than North Campus. The list of colleges falling in South Campus (with link to official site) is as follows: Sri Venkateswara, Lady Shri Ram, Jesus & Mary, Kamala Nehru, Gargi, Maitreyi, Delhi College of Arts & Commerce, College of Vocational Studies, Acharya Narendera Dev, Motilal Nehru, Ram Lal Anand, Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Dyal Singh, Deshbandhu, Atma Ram Sanatan Dharma. I hope this list is complete, pardon me if I’m wrong.

North Campus vs South Campus

The debate on whether North Campus or South Campus is better has raged for a long time. On both sides we have alumni and current students of both who forward in support of their side. VoiceTAP decided to lay down some basic facts by speaking to the students themselves. I would have given a comparison table, but the the topic is just to broad to compare in a tabular fashion. Having said that, colleges in North Campus are considered to be ‘more prestigious’ by many people; South Campus does have a colleges which are also considered prestigious such as Sri Venkateswara, LSR, JMC, Kamala Nehru, etc. Many say that the fact that North Campus colleges are so close together also helps in inter-college bonding between students – more of a ‘university’ atmosphere so to say. At both campuses you’ll find enough places to hang out.

Traditionally, South Campus has been considered to be better in this aspect but Delhi Metro’s extensive network in north / west / east Delhi has meant that a lot of commercial development has taken place in those areas too. You know have lots of malls, shopping complexes, and cineplexes – all within easy reach because of the Delhi Metro – in the North Campus. In South Campus there has already been such commercial development since a long time, but with the Delhi Metro starting by next year in South Delhi too, I guess this distinction between hangout joints will be blurred further. Prices are also slightly cheaper in North Campus because of the multitudes of eating joints / shops catering to the college-going crowd.

Certain courses like journalism are only available in South Campus colleges – this is the case mostly with girls-only colleges. Otherwise the list of courses available and their contents are standard across all colleges, since they are all under University of Delhi. The difference lies in faculty, your college batchmates – and for later on when you near graduation, how good the college placement cell is at its job. An important piece of advice given in the VoiceTAP call was that if you are sure about which course you want to go for, then go for whichever college you’re getting the course in. However, if you’re not sure of which course you want to take up then it might be a better idea to join a better college. The latter is also true for cases where a student might want to do a degree like an MBA after graduation where the bachelor’s degree won’t matter, so in that case too choosing college over course would be a better idea. (I’m sure I’ll repent typing this out in my blog post because I’m certain that a lot of students will convince themselves that they are not convinced about which course to take up – when they actually do have an idea and got swayed by a college brand name.)

Accommodation within a college is available in hardly any colleges. The best way to go about whether college accommodation is available is to go through the details of a college as listed in this complete list of DU colleges and then look up within that – scroll to the bottom of the page for each college profile. College accommodation is harder to find for boys than girls because demand is much more. ‘Paying guest’ accommodation is available near almost each and every college so this is probably where most students seeking accommodation will end up in. Staying alone in PG is a costly proposition; it makes sense to find some room-mates to split the cost of rent, bills, etc. When you go to buy your college forms you’ll find lots of PG accommodation hostel people handing out pamphlets with details, so that could be your starting point for a search. You should also get in touch with student union volunteers for guidance regarding this matter.

Infrastructure for sports – and for everything else in general – is considered by most to be better in North Campus. Stephen’s and Hindu have strong sporting traditions. As for other extra-curricular activities, again, North Campus is considered to be better and also performs better. To be fair, the fact that there are so many colleges close to each other a) makes it easier for students to participate in events b) promotes a strong sense of competition between those colleges. Stephen’s for debating / quizzing, Miranda / Kirori Mal for dramatics, LSR for choreography etc are well known in their fields. Having said that, competition to get into South Campus clubs can be intense too, and South Campus is certainly not lacking in talent. It’s just that the level of energy isn’t the same because of the spread-out campus.

For those who were unfortunate not to make in to the college of their choice, transfers between colleges can take place after the first year is over. Of course, a certain minimum percentage is required – and not all colleges accept transfer students. Details regarding this can be obtained from the DU helpline or at volunteer help counters when you go to buy forms from a college.

Further Reading

  • List of all Delhi University colleges: This listing links to colleges profile which gives a quick reference to basic details about each college – address, courses available, contact numbers, accommodation available or not, link to official websites, etc. In many cases though, the data is outdated. Don’t bother emailing. Nobody answers. Go to a college to get your doubts cleared.
  • Delhi University undergraduate admission FAQs: Answers to frequently asked questions regarding admission to Delhi University. Answers to more general FAQs can be found here.
  • Delhi University admission cutoffs 2008: DU releases multiple cut-off lists for admission to colleges. The list on this page is in reverse order – you need to scroll till the end of the page to get the link to first cutoff, then work your way up to later cut-offs. Now this is a fine balance that you have to walk. Should you take admission in the first cutoff of some college you don’t want, or wait for the second/third cutoffs to land your preferred college? These are tough decisions, but can be made easier by looking at how last year’s cut-offs in DU progressed. Cutoffs change each year, so take this as a ballpark figure. Sometimes, waiting pays off – first list cutoffs for popular colleges go higher since almost everybody applies to those even when they know they’ve a marginal chance of getting through.
  • Yahoo! India Maps: You are advised that when you go to buy the common DU pre-admission form that you get it from the college you want to join. This gives you an opportunity to the check out the college. Finding your way to the colleges can be tough task – for both Delhiites and non-Delhiiites. Yahoo! India Maps is the best mapping / routing service for this purpose because it provides direction for driving by car, bike, walking directions – and even using buses! Once you get narrow down on the type of directions you want you can take a print-out, or have it SMSd to you for free. Just keep one thing in mind – try to enter college / source / destination name as accurately as possible. For instance, use ‘Shri Ram College of Commerce’ insted of ‘SRCC’; in general, avoid short forms. It’s not that short forms don’t work – because Y! India Maps also pulls from user-generated databases – but using full names ensures that you get the location. Yahoo! India Maps will also estimate travel time, distance, autorickshaw fare / bus fare etc for you. And in case in a false fit of bravado you walked off without getting directions beforehand from Y! Maps, install Google Maps for Mobile.
  • DU Beat: Unofficial student newspaper on life in Delhi University. Read the articles here to get a feel of how student life is DU and in specific colleges.
  • JAM Magazine: Somewhat cluttered-looking website, but content is top-notch. JAM is always buzzing with activity and good quality content – thanks to dedicated writers such as Rashmi Bansal who’s the driving force behind this venture. Rashmi has often spoken out against college rankings like those brought out by India today, but for the DU college rankings JAM agrees with ‘mainstream’ lists. There some quite interesting sections worth checking out on JAM Magazine, such as Campus Buzz (new about happening in college campuses), Fest Zone (details and reviews of college fests), Unofficial Prospectus (tongue-in-cheek take on various colleges; use the dropdown box somewhere down the left sidebar to switch between colleges), and U Know U Are In (along the lines of Facebook memes on te traits of different colleges).
  • NDTV / CNN-IBN features on DU admissions: CNN-IBN DU Admission microsite and NDTV Mission Admission provide videos, news stories, advise, and important links on University of Delhi admission process.
  • Education Times / HT Next: Special supplements from Times of India and Hindustan Times respectively focussing on youth issues.
  • India Today ‘How to choose between a course and a college’ by the principal of Miranda House, Delhi University.

Bottom Line

North Campus or South Campus – whichever one you opt for or end up in (depending on your way of looking at it) – both offer exciting academic, extra-curricular, and ‘other stuff’ opportunities. What you do with that is up to you. You’ll be studying the same things whichever college you join, extra-curriculars is something you can take the initiative for (if it’s not strong in the college you join) – and the best thing is that with Delhi Metro coming to South Delhi by next year, geographical barriers between the two will be effectively reduced. Best of luck with your admissions!

PS – Want to share the link to this page with you friends? Use this short URL for remembering easily – http://tr.im/northvssouth!

PPS – Do check out VoiceTAP website for college vs college comparison calls that have just started. These will have more in-depth discussions done on two colleges at a time. It’s a free service!

PPPS – If you have any interesting link which you feel would be beneficial to DU aspirants, please leave them in the comments below! These could be forums, blogs, websites giving comparison, information on accommodation..anything at all that could be helpful to others.

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VoiceTAP Careers and Colleges Series – Banking as a career

One of the most interesting calls till now in the VoiceTAP careers and colleges series was yesterday’s call on a career in the banking sector. Ambuj Chandna, Head (Western Zone) of ING Vysya Bank was the expert in call. He has over 16 years of banking experience and has previously worked with Citibank too. No wonder he was such well placed to answer queries succinctly!

Banking industry in a nutshell

This was by far the most interesting bit of the call, where Ambuj summed up the part so the baking industry and different career paths so lucidly. Banking industry can be divided in to the four distinct parts:

  1. Retail banking: This consists of credit cards, personal level loans, savings / current / fixed deposit account etc. It’s the face of banking which most of us get to see during our transactions with banks. High quantity but possibly low volume.
  2. Corporate ‘wholesale’ banking: Handling the banking needs of large corporate firms at various levels. There are certain types of customers which would fall on the borderline between retail customers and corporate customer who placed in either one of the categories depending from bank to bank for management purposes.
  3. Private banking: This involves giving investment advice and managing the portfolio of high value assets (i.e., people with net worth more than Rs 5 crore – in the Indian context). Customers at this level are given much more personalized care by the bank.
  4. Investment banking: Sometimes this is clubbed with corporate banking. It involves managing portfolios of big corporate firms, trading large volumes in the stock market, et al.

Another criteria of classification is according to functional areas in the banking setup. The major ones are sales / distribution, operations, and risk management; with smaller areas such as IT, HR, treasury, etc. The most common entry path is to do an MBA and then get into one of the first two main areas; the MBA route is a ‘safe’ option because it also leaves the chance to migrate to other industries. While those with just bachelor’s degrees (BBA / B.Comm) are not excluded from joining as such, the preferred route is to do a professional course like an MBA. If a candidate is sure that they want to go into a vertical like risk management then they have the option to do specialist programmes on that (which are not very easily available in India, but there are quite a few international certifications). Doing actuarial science or statistics for bachelor’s could also be a first step towards moving into the risk management vertical. Candidates aspiring for private banking are could do courses in chartered financial accountancy – again, a course which is more easily available abroad than in India.

Typical career paths are different for different functional backgrounds. If you get into sales, then you’ll start of as a customer relation manager, work in that role for few years and then move on roles of team manager, branch manager, cluster manager and so on. Alternatively, your title might remain the same but you could grow in terms of the affluence of the client you’re dealing with, so you could move from mass market retail banking to private banking for affluent customers. On the other hand, those who get into the operations side of the business move from being a process analyst to senior process analyst and eventually to head of operations.

Those aspiring to rise to higher managerial levels are advised to work in both sales and operations, as a premium is placed on those who have done both. Sales is more valued out of the two, so even though you might not have hands-on experience in operations you can still rise.

Private banking sector prefers to take in freshers with a professional degrees (like MBA) or ones with certifications. It’s best to start off with this as a career because banking it’s difficult to switch in to banking later on in career. Public sector banks on the other hand have no such preference for professional degrees. They take in plain graduates through exams they conduct and then train them on the job. Hiring over the past year has been slow due to recession in both public and private sector banks, but this is expected to rectify soon.

Bottom Line

If you have a knack for numbers (being good at mathematics is essential) then banking is an exciting – and potentially windfalling – career for you.

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VoiceTAP Careers and Colleges Series – Civil Services as a career

For the ‘Civil Services as a career‘ call in the careers and colleges series of VoiceTAP we had Pradeep Mishra (Additional Secretary, Ministry of Personnel) who is an IAS officer himself. This was a really interesting call – probably the most interesting one so far!

Listen to VoiceTAP Civil Services as a career call by clicking here

Civil Services in India – In a nutshell

Civil Services in India can be divided into the following categories on basis of the kind of work that a civil servant would take up, exams for which (for central level) are conducted by the UPSC:

  • Indian Administrative Service (IAS): Most well-known out of all the Indian civil services, also probably the toughest to get into. Only around a 100 people are inducted in a year’s batch. Postings are done all across India.
  • Indian Police Service (IPS): IPS cadre takes care of administrative functioning of police at various levels.
  • Indian Forest Service & Indian Foreign Service: IFS & IFS are concerned with taking care of India’s forests and India’s foreign relations, respectively. The former requires you to be a science graduate to be eligible.

There are many other different cadres, which are assigned to a successful candidate by UPSC on the basis of how well they perform in the entrance exams. Getting is tough – candidates are advised to start preparing three years in advance! Evidently, selection is difficult because just a handful of candidates are chosen out of the hundreds of thousands who give the exam. Considerable grasp of general knowledge, government functioning and structure of society is necessary. Some papers are mandatory, but among the optional papers you’re advised to stick to subjects which you’re familiar with – rather than get taken in by talk of ‘X subject is easier’.

Once you pass the gruelling Civil Services Examination you’re allocated to a state cadre at village level. Yes, you have to start right from the bottom. This is considered necessary to give a good grounding on the harsh realities of India. After that, you progress on to district magistrate level, state secretary et al till the highest position of Secretary in some ministry at the central level. (A Secretary is just one level below a cabinet minister.)

Starting salary is around Rs 35000 (per month) and scales up to Rs 1 lakh for IAS officers in the senior most positions. Perks are also given, such as (almost) free housing, telephone, transport, etc. But more than financial remuneration the reason why most people join the civil services is the amount of respect they get in their position (that’s a lot of respect they get) and the ability to actually effect policy decisions that change a common man’s life for the better. That by far is the biggest job satisfaction factor involved in being a civil servant. A small minority of civil services officers also move on to join at senior management levels in public sector undertakings, or even private companies.

Bottom Line

In the current atmosphere of youth charged up to bring about reforms in the country, being a part of the system and making lives better as a civil servant is a career path which can bring you a lot of job satisfaction.

PS – I’m not even going to try assuming that I can suggest ‘further reading’ for civil services exams.

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VoiceTAP Careers and Colleges Series – Journalism as a career

voicetap-logo4Journalism as a career‘ was the topic of yesterday’s call in the careers series on VoiceTAP. The expert on call was Kanchan Kaur, the head of Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media.

Listen to VoiceTAP Journalism as a career call by clicking here

In a nutshell

Journalism is career where you can enter from multiple backgrounds, so this discussion was more free-ranging – focusing mostly on journalism in general. There are courses that you get started with, but there are hardly any that are specifically for journalism. The most common route these days is to do a course in mass communication, though that doesn’t preclude that other academic backgrounds are not allowed. Institutes such as Symbiosis and Asian College of Journalism (apart from IIJNM mentioned earlier) offer courses. There are various verticals within journalism such as tech journalism, automotive journalism, business journalism, TV / radio journalism – in each case some kind of training or qualification in the field you want would help. Those thinking of going into, say, business journalism could do their undergraduate degree in economics and then moving into journalism. If you’ve already got your bachelor’s degree and are looking to get into journalism then doing a one-year diploma course in would be one way of going about it.

Broadly, there are there major lines of journalism – print, TV / radio, and online. Print has been around for a long time and is considered to be much more respected because of the sober view that newsprint is supposed to carry. TV journalism has been around for a few decades but has often been accused of sensationalizing news reports in the thirst for 24/7 news coverage. TV journalism requires good writing and directing skills as a reporter has to distill down a news report into significantly lesser words than a counterpart article in print media – and at the same time lay down how the story is going to be presented on air. Radio journalism is not that big in India because the government only allows All India Radio to broadcast news shows. Everyone else (i.e., FM channels) can only give short news bulletins. If the spoken word is what you really want to be in then you can look into using Internet radio and / or podcasting as your platform. Which brings me to the newest kid on the block – online journalism. Online journalism is a different beast to tame altogether. It is important to understand that online journalism simply doesn’t mean taking a print media article and publishing it online. Online inherently is much more interactive and readers demand such interactivity. Being tech-savvy is a must; again as I said, trying to make online an extension of print and end it there results in disaster. Also unlike other forms of media, readers are spoilt for choice and have low attention spans – writing in an engaging style to keep them on a web page is tough. (Entry barrier for getting into this is so low that it takes a lot of effort to stand out from the crowd.) And why just web pages? With lowered cost of distribution of media, online allows for niche content to be produced more easily, and far more easier for the reader to consume. This includes video shows put up online which might not have a cost-benefit ratio if made for TV, but could make profits online. Online readers consumer content piece-meal, so content presentation is also important to keep them navigating on to related articles. Having said that, online journalism also presents significant challenges right now insofar as the quest for a business model more robust than advertising is concerned.

To become a journalist it is essential that you are curious about the world around you and that you can write well. (It goes without saying that you must buy a jhola. You know, for notepads and stuff.) The desire to find out things sets a good journalist apart from a bad one. A common myth is that if you’re into TV journalism instead of print media then you don’t need to be good at writing; far from it, you are expected to write your own anchor scripts if you are an anchor or if you’re working behind the scenes in copy-editing. The knack of getting a story across effectively in the least amount of words / visuals is a must.

Typical career trajectory is that you join as a sub-editor or reporter – or even as a trainee – and then move up the ranks depending on whether you can deliver compelling content within deadlines. Starting salaries are currently similar to those of lower-end IT professionals but on the basis of your work the potential to scale is large. This coupled with the fact that once you’re a journalist you might end up as an instrument of change makes this a lucrative career option. Journalists also have the option to switch over to allied fields such as public relations, marketing consultancy, advertising, editing in publishing houses, etc.

It is not always necessary to go through HR departments of media organizations to get a job. HR departments are primarily looking for freshers at college campus recruitment, so if you don’t fit the description but you think you’re good enough then you could probably set up an appointment with an editor to show samples of your work. This applies equally to photographers too who want to get into journalism. Current situation is a bit bleak with salaries being lowered due the recession (bonuses for Times Group employees were kept on hold this year) but as the economic situation improves on the whole this is expected to go away. It’s the best time to take up a course for the profession right now and then by the time you’re done things will be back to normal!

Further reading

  • Inverted Pyramid structure of writing: I’m not sure how many of you know this, but in journalism you are expected to write your reports in the ‘inverted pyramid’ structure. This basically means that most important details of a story are put at the top with paragraphs coming later on having less important details. This allows for easy editing out of less important bits if needed simply by lopping off a section of the end of an article.
  • Medianama: Good example of an independent online news media website. This whole operation is primarily run by just one person but the site still commands a lot of respect in the business journalism circle.
  • Stephen Glass incident: Finding respectability for online journalism has always been a hard task, with many print media journalists looking down upon it. Way back in 1998 a watershed event occured that shook American print media by its roots – a reporter from a reputed Washington magazine was exposed as having concoted stories multiple times by Forbes Digital. This event broke the myth that getting published in print meant there was no chance of oversight and that its easier to print crap on the Internet. It showed that online journalism could do hard-hitting stories too.
  • Pulitzer Prize winning entries: You’ll need to click around a bit – on the page to which the link leads, click on a category. It will show you a yearwise lisiting of winners in that category. Click on ‘More Details’ and then ‘Works’ to see the prize winning entries. This only works for winners from 1995-present, rest all are not available for online viewing.
  • Radioverve: I’m not aware of any Indian Internet radio news stations, but here’s an example of one Internet radio station which plays music. As the expert on call said, there’s no reason why this platform can’t be used for news media too.

Bottom Line

Those who love writing will love journalism, but before you plunge in you should be aware that there is a lot of stress involved because of the constant pressure to meet deadlines. Having said that, journalism can provide an exciting and fulfilling career – both in monetary and job satisfaction terms. You could always turn novelist.

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VoiceTAP Careers and Colleges Series – Law as a career

voicetap-logo3Third in the VoiceTAP series of calls on careers was Law. There’s more to go so do check out the VoiceTAP website for more advice on careers and colleges that you want to join. The experts on call for law were Vedantam Seshaiah Shasthri (Assistant Dean and Professor at National Law University, Jodhpur) and Avishek Prasad (Associate at Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co) – a nice combination of experts because you had both academia and industry professionals.

Listen to VoiceTAP Law as a career call by clicking here

Law as a career – in a nutshell

If working for a company with incredibly longs names & ampersand symbols gives you a high, law is definitely the career to be in. ;) There are routes to get started with law in India. The first is an integrated BA, LLB degree of a duration of five years that undergraduates can join; second is a postgraduate degree which is of a duration of three years and can be done by someone who already has a bachelor’s degree in some field. There are no other options available because Bar Council of India (no, it’s not a group of autocratic bartenders – oh dear, am i going to get sued for this?) lays down strict rules on the hours / years of teaching that a candidate must have to be qualified as a lawyer.

At the undergraduate level, the top rung is occupied by the 14 autonomous National Law Schools – of which National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore is the most reputed. As far as law is concerned these are considered to be as prestigious as IITs or IIMs. Admission to these was a harrowing process earlier because each one used to conduct its own separate entrance exam. However in 2008, the NLS decided to adopt a unified entrance exam called Common Law Admission Test (CLAT). Below these are university law colleges, government law colleges, and private law colleges. The ones I linked in the last sentence are the most popular alternatives in Delhi, but there are others. At the postgraduate level, you have a bit more flexibility as law colleges allow you to choose specializations to go in for such as corporate law or criminal law.

Once you are done with an undergraduate degree, you can join a general law firm, or opt to go for a job in a law firm dealing with specific areas such as intellectual property law, insurance law, et al. The latter option is suggested only if you are really sure of which line to take up; otherwise it is advisable to join a general corporate law firm and then branch out from there. Now all this was for corporate law. Criminal lawyers ususally as individuals at the trial court level so there are no criminal law firms as such. If you are interested in criminal law then you can join in on the team of lawyers which assists a major criminal lawyer and then proceed from there.

If you join a corporate law firm you join at the level of an ‘associate’ in the firm. As with any profession your rise in the firm is determined by how adept you are in law and how well you play in a team. Typical rise to the next level – that of ‘senior associate’ – takes around 4-8 years on an average. At this level you are given a bit more freedom in dealing with clients. Further up you have ‘principal associates’ and ‘salaried partners’. Salaried partners get pay almost at the level of partners in a law firm but don’t get their name added on to the firms name. The highest level, of course, is a partner in a law firm. This is the case in a large corporate law firm but trajectories can be different for other specializations in the legal industry. Also note that although job title might remain the same for many years, within that same job title there are multiple ‘levels’ – so your seniority and salary will increase according to performance. Criminal lawyers are dependant more on their own skills while ones with an entrepreneurial bend might contemplate starting their own law firm (given that capital is available) after working for a few years.

Further reading

One of the major challenges that you will have in finding out information about careers in law is that no lawyer on law firm in India has a website. This is not due to any of them shying away from technology but because of Bar Council of India rules that prevent lawyers from advertising their services in any medium or in any form. (To get in touch with lawyers, the best you have are third-party lists.) To circumvent this issue what many in the legal profession do is to set up websites giving information on Indian law in general. (Most of these are terribly designed.) Let’s have a look at some of these resources. I haven’t included any ‘worldwide’ resources simply because that wouldn’t make sense – you’ll be dealing in Indian law after all.

Bottom Line

A career in law is an exciting career option for those who have good analytical ability and the ability to work well in a team. Entrance tests are primarily designed to check a candidate’s prowess in logical reasoning, English, and basic law. Offers career prospects of working both as an independent lawyer or in a law firm, depending upon your preference. You can always decide to become a judge too after working as a lawyer!