Associates, In-House Counsels & Advocates

Fatima Quraishi on application and work of the post of a judicial clerk at Supreme Court

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Fatima is a graduate of 2013 batch of RMLNLU, Lucknow. She has extensive experience of the Supreme Court atmosphere and has worked as a judicial clerk just after graduating.

In this interview we asked her in depth about her experience of working as a judicial clerk under Justice T.S. Thakur, the application procedure and the future prospects of her legal career.

 

How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers who are mainly young and aspiring lawyers?

I’m a 2013 Batch law graduate from Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University, Lucknow (RMLNLU). I recently completed my contract as a Law Clerk to Hon’ble Mr. Justice T.S. Thakur, Judge, Supreme Court of India. A first generation lawyer, I am very enthusiastic to join the development sector.

 

Do you feel that there is a bit of resistance towards legal education in India? How did you incline towards a career in legal field? Do you reckon any specific incident influencing your choice?

Engineering and Medical studies were sought after because our parents were brought up in that environment and they have continued to have that mindset until now. They could only picture traditional litigation in their heads and were insecure about letting their kids, especially girls join that community.

Currently, there has been a wave of change in which parents have encouraged this profession because they see dispute resolution in a different light. The working conditions are much more civilised and there is scope and variety in the different roles a lawyer could play. This change has been brought about by the zeal of our generation who was genuinely interested in the profession and took it upon themselves to change opinions. There are Law Firms, Companies, Think Tanks, Non-Government as well as Government sector that absorb the major chunk of law graduates. The most crucial insecurity about the profession is to a great extent addressed with an improvement in job security. For example a litigator who mainly deals with civil/criminal matters has a retainer client for a regular source of income.

I belong to a family of doctors so law was never on the cards until class 11th where I got introduced to the profession by Mr. Sachin Malhan who visited my school, Loreto Convent to promote LST. Thereafter, things just took shape with my family being ever willing to let me follow my calling.

 

fatima-s3How would you describe your time at RMLNLU? What kind of co-curricular activities did you participate in?

Frankly speaking, I was a very laid back student who just enjoyed the ambience that Law School provided. I had a small bucketlist of things to do in Law School. Moot-check, conference-check, publishing-check but never pursued one thing for long. I hated monotony in my work which has trickled down to my career objective too. I was always inclined to venture out and do different things. I was part of the Placement Cell initially and then switched to the Legal Aid and Welfare Committee. The only thing I was very particular about was internships which provided me a great opportunity to learn and network. I thoroughly enjoyed RMLNLU for its independence, flexibility and facilities.

 

Which are the law firms and other places where you interned? Which internships would you consider to be right at the top and why? Tell us about the variety of work you were given during your internships?

In my first year, I interned with U.P. State Legal Services Authority and Greenpeace which was a very good social sector introduction. Subsequently, I moved on to law firms like Anand & Anand, Remfry & Sagar, JSA,  M.V. Kini & Co., Vaish Advocates Associates and Khaitan & Co. where I mostly worked on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues which was my interest area then. The kind of work I got at each firm depended upon who I was directly working under. It’s always a good option to use every opportunity to directly interact and get work from the partners. I did quite a lot of drafting at Remfry, infrastructure related work at M.V. Kini and prepared presentations on law governing video games in India at Vaish. The rest of the work at my internships was research based.

 

Interning at a top-notch firm is a dream of every law student. How did you procure your internships? Can you throw some light on the application and follow up process?

Although, all law firms have an internship portal or email ID displayed on their website, in reality it’s difficult to get through, considering how all law schools have vacations practically at the same time. I got most of my internships through contacts. Importantly, most of these networks were my own that I had managed to form during my previous internships and conferences. It’s a good strategy to be referred and one can very well ask alumni and seniors for help.

 

You have a Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration & Business Laws. Tell us how helpful these courses have been in your career? Why did you choose to pursue diploma in corporate laws?

It’s a fantastic course. It’s as good as a senior mentoring you at a law firm without any howler. It’s a study at your own pace program which explains practical aspects of business law lucidly. Career wise, I’m still to use this skill set which I have had no opportunity to use during Clerkship where I was mainly concerned with Criminal and Service law matters.

 

Considering the fact that most of your internships have been in corporate firms, what drifted you towards the career of a judicial clerk?

Clerkship was not my first career option. I was interested in IPR throughout my college days and somehow my law firm PPO in IPR did not work out. Alternatively, I had applied for Clerkship where I got through. I am extremely glad about the way things transpired. It’s an excellent first job experience which I would recommend all recent graduates to pursue.

 

How did you obtain the Judicial Clerkship? What is the standard procedure to do so?

The Supreme Court Registry annually publishes an advertisement inviting all final year National Law University students to apply. I applied through my Internship & Placement Committee at College wherein all applicants were required to send their application form, CV along with attested documents to the Supreme Court Registry.

Thereafter, short listed candidates were called for an interview and results of the first list were declared within a month from the date of the interview. The list of successful candidates is not published and all selected applicants get individual phone calls from the Registry. As and when a vacancy for clerks arises, calls are made to the rest of the people on the list in accordance with merit. Once one confirms his/her availability for joining, the Registry asks them to report to the Supreme Court at a certain date wherein the person completes all paper work and then is informed about the Judge one is to assist for a term of roughly 10 months. Clerkship can be extended for a further period in consultation and by the approval of the Judge one works with.

 

Tell us the daily routine of a judicial clerk? What is the kind of work you come across? How different is it from the corporate field?

It will be patently wrong on my part to generalize my Clerkship experience as it totally depends on the Judge one is assisting, which continues to be a surprise till the last minute of joining. Speaking for my own self, I had flexible work timings and attending Court proceedings was not mandatory unless there was an important matter for which His Lordship required me to take notes. The office staff was extremely friendly and co-operative and provided me a conducive environment to work. I mostly worked on reserved matters or part heard matters as His Lordship was not inclined to let me make briefs only. The USP of the job was the daily discussions with His Lordship on nearly all matters that came before him. There were also other perks attached to the job which I think are part of the experience if you’re lucky to get a Judge who accommodates it.

The experience can’t be compared with anything close to what one does as a lawyer, let alone exclusive corporate practice. Since you work for a Judge, your perspective on every matter is very holistic as you have the unique opportunity of weighing both sides of the matter and not be prejudiced. Your aim is the dispensation of justice rather than getting relief for your respective client.

 

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Tell us about your work mantra? What do think are the most essential things required to excel in clerkship?

I have never followed a rule book but patience, hard work and optimism has worked well for me. For law clerks at The Supreme Court of India, one has to make the best of whatever one gets since there is no certainty. Generally speaking, I feel it will be sensible if one could be flexible enough to mold himself/herself according to the work requirements of the Judge, be cordial to office staff and impeccable with the research notes submitted to His Lordship. Half-heartedly done work is easily detected. It is also helpful if one keeps a track of the Judge’s recent pronouncements, part heard and reserved matters. One will hit solid gold if he/she is fortunate to share a similar passion/hobby as His Lordship because then one will be able to interact with His Lordship on an informal basis.

 

Do you consider pursuing an LL.M abroad? A lot of LL.M aspirants opt for judicial clerkship before higher studies; what is your thought on this?

Writing a recommendation letter is completely the discretion of the Judge. One should be prudent not to bank upon it. Clerkship experience independently is very enriching and has no causal connection towards higher studies except in cases one is pursuing Clerkship only to be referred.

In my case, I am inclined to go for a Masters Program for Fall, 2015 after working for another year.

 

What will be your suggestions to our readers who wish to be a judicial clerk?

Judicial Clerkship is a privileged short term contractual job that gives you an insight into the way the Bench works, that one can never hope to get otherwise at this age. It’s an opportunity to be mentored by one of the finest fraternity in the Country. No matter how clerical things seem initially, it does inculcate life skills. The experience provides an optimum amount of pressure, moulds, evolves and prepares you to be better equipped on the other side of the Bench.

 

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