Academics, Researchers & International Organisations

Amrit Subhadarsi, Assistant Professor, KIIT University, on experience in academia and legal education system of India

Amrit Subhadarsi is currently an assistant professor at KIIT University. He completed his BA LLB from School of Law, KIIT Deemed to be University, and his masters in Corporate Law from National Law University, Odisha in 2017 and was nominated as LLM student representative to Prof G.V Ajappa, a leading expert on jurisprudence in India. He has written a book on Standard Essential Patents and abuse of dominance in the global telecommunication industry, which has been published by Laxmi Book Publications. He regularly engages with institutions and regulators alike to provide a platform for students to learn practical insights into the workings in a particular industry in corporate law. Before joining the academia, He has also worked as a trademark analyst in legal consultancy wherein, He has engaged extensively in analyzing and preparing reports on trademark case laws from the European Union and Commonwealth.

In this interview we speak to him about:

  • His interest in academia
  • His opinion on the Indian legal education system; and
  • His experience as an Assistant Professor at KIIT University.

 

 

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO OUR READERS? PLEASE TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR PRE-COLLEGE LIFE?

I am a soft-spoken and amicable person, with a passion for reading and writing. I am a native of Odisha and belong to a non-legal background. During my higher secondary schooling in Kolkata, I was a shy kid, a major obstacle in a society which considers shyness as a demerit. I was fortunate enough that I had good friends to guide me during my tough days. I was and still am a voracious reader. I never had much inclination towards pursuing commerce or science and I felt like I had a calling for arts subjects. Particularly, subjects like political science and sociology became my favourite. While reading newspapers, often I came across legal articles and interviews which I used to read with great interest and thus began the quest for having legal knowledge.

YOU HAVE DONE YOUR MASTERS IN LAW. HOW WAS YOUR LLM EXPERIENCE AT NLU ORISSA. WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU HAD FACED WHILE STUDYING AT NLU ORISSA?

The introduction of one year LLM has turned out to be a bane. One year LLM does not allow the student to explore research avenues effectively. For instance, if a person wishes to be a member of a research center, or take part in moot courts, then such avenues are not there. Further, it does not allow the student to make any one particular area as a specialization because many subjects have to be studied in such a short span of time. There are few institutes that encourage LLM students to take part in moots. But, this needs to be institutionalized, because more than mooting skills, research in moot courts can help the LLM student to make it a specialization later. I was fortunate enough, that despite the one year LLM, I managed to be an active member of the Center for Corporate Law, be nominated to represent the institution in a lecture series by Professor G.V Ajappa, a leading authority on jurisprudence in India. Also, my dissertation secured the highest marks which I have converted into a book slated for a release in March.

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE INDIAN LEGAL EDUCATION SYSTEM?

At the moment there is a large vacuum in the Indian legal education system. Systematic changes need to happen across three levels: students, parents and institution. At the student level, they need to understand that five years of legal education is not to just to train them with skills for the corporate sector but to equip them with analytical skills prerequisite for the legal profession. This brings me to the other two levels: parents and institutions. It is here that a paradigm shift is required. Many parents look forward to a well-paying job after graduation, but not necessarily quality education. In India therefore, the focus is on to generate placements and not delivering quality education. Fortunately, KIIT School of Law has emerged as an exception to this trend as among other laurels it has now secured the most innovative law school award in 2018.

HOW HAS LEGAL EDUCATION SYSTEM CHANGED OVER THE YEARS AND WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES AS WELL AS DISADVANTAGES OF THIS CHANGE? WHAT CAN STUDENTS OF TODAY LEARN FROM THE OLD SYSTEM OF LEGAL EDUCATION?

The legal education system has undergone a sea change over the years. Some advantages include many institutions like KIIT School of Law and a few others providing excellent infrastructure and resources to students. The new legal education system is also incorporating emerging trends in society, through classroom innovation, developing legal clinics, practical training for mock trials and moot courts, corporate and business laws being part of the curriculum more frequently. The advantage is that the students get the opportunity to learn practical aspects apart from theory at a very young stage, unlike in the earlier system, where such skills were taught only in the final years. Besides these advantages, the demerit is that students are no longer researching from books and journals as they used to before and this is inhibiting their development of analytical skills. Students must go beyond the ‘Google it’ mentality to ‘original research’ mentality.

WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO CHOOSE TEACHING AS A CAREER?

I always had an inclination for reading, writing and researching on my areas of interest. I never found research as boring as many in their student days often complain. Quite frankly, I was confused for quite some time even in my final year as well and still remember how my friends tolerated my constant changes in decisions. Eventually, as I was delivering a demo lecture during one of my post graduation classes, I realized this is something I could do passionately, not feel like work and not be bored. When you come out of class fully satisfied, that is when you know that you are in the right profession. These coupled with my patience for research and writing help cement my decision for academia.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR TEACHING METHODOLOGY.

Depending upon the subject, the teaching method varies. For instance, a paper having a mix of theoretical and practical knowledge ensures that I adopt lecture and Socratic Method along with practical training such as classroom simulations, or activity based class assignments, etc. For theory subjects, I usually adopt a mix of lecture and Socratic dialogue method. Before beginning the class, I regularly ask the students about the discussions in the previous class so the next class commences from where we left off. Reading assignments for the next class are also given.

HOW IMPORTANT A ROLE DO YOU THINK LAW SCHOOL PLAYS IN SHAPING ONE’S CAREER?

It is common knowledge in legal fraternity that teaching standards in Indian law schools have come down drastically. That does not mean all law schools should be painted with the same brush. Both the institution and student complement each other for laying down the foundation for future development. The current crop of students comes with a ‘fixed mindset’, whereas what is needed is a ‘growth mindset’. The same standard for any law school also. Based on their mindset, the student shapes his or her formative years at law school.

All law schools may not be perfectly equipped to provide practical training, but they do provide opportunities for learning them through moot courts, internships, training courses, among others. Law schools are platforms for a vibrant mix of theoretical and practical training. But to learn them, the student has to navigate his way through networking. It is not a one-way street. Both students and institutions when complement each other, it leads to holistic development. What is needed therefore is a way to engage with students and institutions holistically. For instance, KIIT School of Law is one of the few institutions where because of engagement; many of our students have excelled in national and international moots, publications, higher academic research, among others.

YOU ARE NOW WORKING AS AN ASSISTANT PROFESSOR AT KIIT UNIVERSITY. HOW IS YOUR WORK EXPERIENCE SO FAR?

The experience of working at the school of law, KIIT Deemed to be University has been very comforting. When you start working at a place that is unfamiliar to you, there are some challenges you need to encounter, for instance, blending in with new people, with the work culture. But KIIT has been special for me for a number of reasons. Firstly, working at your alumnus provides me with a sense of pride when viewed from the other side of the table and working alongside many of my faculties who are always there to guide me. This helps increase your productivity manifold and sense of belongingness. Secondly, KIIT School of Law has been awarded the most innovative law school in India for 2018 and KIIT University has also earned a place in the Times Higher Education rankings. Working at a prestigious institution like this has given me exposure like never before and has definitely added to my professionalism traits.

COULD YOU GIVE OUR YOUNG READERS CERTAIN TIPS ON EXCELLING IN ACADEMICS?

Firstly, it is imperative for the faculty to reach class not on time but five minutes before time as it allows the faculty to prepare mentally. Students also would know that time must be maintained and consequently, the flow of teaching will not be disturbed. One should understand that excelling in academics not only means being a good teacher, but also a good guide, a good writer and researcher. If writing, lecturing and researching fascinate a student, then academics can be given a shot. Hence, prioritization is critical.

Preparing the agenda of the class a day before leaves room for actual preparation for class. One should also accept the fact that not all students will have equal levels of aptitude and curiosity which is why regurgitating whatever preparation was made before class is not going to be enough. Students expect innovativeness in teaching and hence the teacher must be updated about subject content (hard skills) and an effective orator and communicator (soft skills). Also just like the student, once in academics, the individual must not stop reading. Effort must be made to make the teaching as interdisciplinary as possible so that both students and teachers have scope to add value to classroom discussions. Lastly, research and writing must be at the highest level. For instance, I have successfully converted my dissertation, which secured the highest marks, into a book which is slated for release this March.

 

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO STUDENTS WHO WISH TO PURSUE CAREER IN ACADEMICS BUT ARE CONFUSED BETWEEN LITIGATION AND ACADEMICS?

Both litigation and academics have their own set of desired skill sets and perks. There is a common misconception that a job in academia means a comfortable lifestyle. This fallacious attitude leads many to take up academics as well. But I believe, as a student, one should first prepare a list of do’s and don’ts. For instance, the latter can include not succumbing to peer pressure and herd mentality. This will allow the student to take a realistic approach.

The former can include watching out for signs where the student can develop skills. If the student has the inclination to research, write, loves to speak on a platform, and just loves to read, teaching is ideal. However, if the idea is to use the aforesaid to practice and argue before a judge, he or she must be prepared to struggle for years in litigation before making decent money. Of course, such choices do get affected by scenarios like mounting student loans or other financial burdens, in which case choosing litigation instead of a well-paid job is a pursuit in a fool’s paradise.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO WRITE YOUR FIRST BOOK COMPARATIVE LAW RELATING TO PATENTS AND ABUSE OF DOMINANCE IN THE GLOBAL TELECOMMUNICATION INDUSTRY? WHAT WERE THE CHALLENGES YOU FACED AS A FIRST-TIME WRITER?

I was already interested in this topic during my LL.B and got familiar with this topic when our team secured the approval for participation in our second moot court after clearing the intra moot court stage. However, at the same time, our final year placements were about to commence and I did not want to miss my shot at placements. So I had to leave this opportunity. But, I knew someday I would engage in research in this area, though not definitely knowing that I would publish a book on it someday. Broadly there are two sets of challenges for a first time writer like me. The first is to not get carried away by believing that merely because one is skilled at writing a good journal article, one should also be equally good when writing a book. The time invested, the patience utilized and the numerous proofreads that goes into one chapter for a book is a herculean task. A seasoned writer will, of course, know how to vary his or her strategy regarding publication in a journal and a publication as a book. The second challenge is that in a topic as specific as Standard Essential Patents in Telecom Industry and Competition Law, where the scope in India is ever increasing, it is very difficult to write within established regulatory rules, as the same is changing very quickly. Plus, due to lack of jurisprudence in India, I compared US, EU, UK, China and Japan, which are the other jurisdictions where such cases have had the most prominent impact during my research, and have written India’s first of a kind book on linkages between Intellectual Property and competition law in the telecom industries in major jurisdictions.

HOW DOES ONE GET THEIR BOOK PUBLISHED?

Being a first-time writer, I did not have contacts with established publication houses. However, I took my chances and made contact with few big publication houses, where my work was rejected because the market demand is for books catering to general subjects like Intellectual Property or Competition Law, but not an amalgamation of both. This is understandable because of the demand by students and also the fact that with a first time author the publication houses will be a little apprehensive. It’s important therefore that one uses professional networking sites such as Linkedin to use it to find and connect with publishers who can take a chance with first time choices. In other words, an open mind has to be kept. So, I approached another publication house as I believe that one needs to start somewhere regardless of the size of the publication house. I was initially apprehensive but I must give credit to them as they did their job professionally and meticulously changed the content, the font, the footnote font, page borders, book design and covers.

 

HOW DID YOU MANAGE THE TIME TO WRITE A BOOK?

Frankly speaking, this book is actually my dissertation in corporate law, which secured the highest marks during my post graduation. I never started with the intention to write a book, but I knew I had to give it all. So instead of working on projects which were given to us, I started working on my dissertation, a herculean task when six jurisdictions had to be comparatively analysed. I knew I had to maintain attendance for exams and could not pull all-nighters (which personally I love). So, I skipped some of my classes, sat throughout the whole day, and engaged in back-breaking research work and compilation. But, I am glad it was worth it and the hard work paid off.

 

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO SEE YOURSELF FIVE TO TEN YEARS DOWN THE LINE?

Legal academia is no longer confined to just imparting quality education. Faculties are also engaged in consultancy and advisory work. So in five to ten years, I would love for myself to be an established academician in my chosen field of specialization and create value through new avenues. It could be through publishing books and papers, value generation through consultancy for the institution and most importantly creating a conducive classroom learning atmosphere where students yearn for my lectures.

WHAT WOULD BE YOUR PARTING MESSAGE TO OUR READERS WHO ARE PRIMARILY LAW STUDENTS AND YOUNG LAWYERS?

My advice would be to never stop exploring. There is a no bigger teacher than one’s own curiosity. One should always be on the lookout for ‘unlearning’ as it helps to widen understanding of how a system works. And lastly, students must accept that the legal job market is not what it used to be decades ago. There are tons of options and it is but obvious that they will be confused. So trust your instincts and find avenues which match your desired skill sets. The path will follow.

 

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