Rajni Singh is a practicing Media and Entertainment lawyer. She graduated with Bachelors of Mass Media degree from SIES College in 2009. Her interest in law led her to join Government Law College, Mumbai and pursue LL.B. During law school, she participated in various co-curricular activities including moot court competitions, debates, and conferences. She also has a couple of publications to her name. Soon after Graduation she started working as an Associate at Naik, Naik and Co. and has recently joined Hariani and Company.
We asked her to share her experiences and strategies she used over the years. In this interview, she talks about:
- Pursuing Law after Bachelors in Mass Media
- Work experience at Naik, Naik & Co. and Hariani & Co.
- Work opportunities in media law
Most of our readers are law students and young lawyers. How will you introduce yourself to them?
Hi! I am a practicing Media and Entertainment lawyer. I completed my LL.B. from the Government Law College, Mumbai and prior to law school, I completed my under graduation in media studies. Cinema, travel and world cuisine make up for the remainder of my non-work life.
You are a high distinction media graduate, what led you to pursue law?
During my Media School days, I learnt the nuances of the media industry including the movie production process, the television broadcasting, advertising, public relations among others. I also interned at various media houses.
Media provided me with great exposure and I grew increasingly aware and concerned about my immediate surroundings. Issues such as corruption in the private and public space and global warming really affected me. I felt the urgent need to address the problems in whatever way I could. As a result I co-founded the Socio-Enviro Club in my college. The members of the club would make efforts to bring awareness about the impact of social and environmental challenges being faced at a micro level. I was also actively involved in inter-collegiate debating and socio-political discussions these activities taught me how to think on my feet and how to clearly put my point across. In the process I realised that I wanted to take up something with a wider scope and larger social impact.
Further, exposure to subjects like sociology, political science, economics and more importantly, media and press laws and ethics also played a very important role in my decision to pursue law. I recount being one of the very few students who actually enjoyed the legal aspects of Media. I ended up presenting my final year project on the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 with legal precedents.
Towards the end of media school, I had to choose from three available options, working ant a leading advertising agency, a seat at a B-School and confirming my admission for a three year LLB at the Government Law College. I chose to spend three more years into studying the law.
How would you describe your time at GLC, Mumbai? What are the co-curricular activities you took part in GLC?
The years spent at GLC were the most memorable years of my life. Amidst the short comings, the College survives because of its meritorious students and active student led bodies. One of the best things about the College was its inclusiveness. No matter what you wish to pursue, you could. Not only was the college very close to the Bombay High Court and all the law firms, but it also offered the Mumbai advantage. One could pursue non-academic artistic and cultural interests. Especially the South Bombay area is very culturally rich.
I consciously decided to not intern during my first year and be involved in college activities. I participated in more activities than I could take. I was an active member of the Student Council, Moot Court Association and the Legal Aid Committee. I participated in several National and State Level Moot Court Competitions, winning a very few and losing many. I personally enjoyed writing research papers particularly on the subject of Intellectual Property Rights and I also professionally learnt Spanish.
For all the three years, I was associated with an NGO ‘Public Concern for Governance Trust’. I was actively involved with the NGO for spreading awareness across Mumbai about Right to Information Act, 2005 and also the Anti-Corruption Cell. The NGO gave me an opportunity to script and direct plays in Hindi language on the practical application of the RTI Act. The play was performed before a non-English speaking audience and several colleges across the city. The entire process was thoroughly enjoyable and I do not think I could have understood the RTI Act with this clarity if I were to write an exam on it.
You were heading the Legal Aid Committee (LAC) of the GLC for one entire academic year and you were also awarded the ‘Best Legal Aid Worker’. How do you recall that opportunity?
That was by far the best decision of my life. The kind of work LAC does, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to head it. The friendships made while working in the committee will last a lifetime. As a committee, we did some exciting work. To name a few, we started the Annual GLC Legal Quiz which is presently the most loved activity in the College. The idea of the quiz was to test general knowledge of students in creative ways and we consciously decided to un-bore the quiz. To give you an example, we used movie clips in the buzzer round wherein the participants were quizzed on the criminal and civil offences being committed in that particular clip. It was a great learning experience for the organisers as well as the participants.
We also worked towards the mental rehabilitation of the Juvenile delinquents. My initial years at Law School were spent at the Dongri Remand Home and the Juvenile Court which made all aspects of theoretical legal learning come alive. Members of the LAC also regularly visited the Byculla and Arthur Road Prisons and filed Bail applications for under trails who could not afford legal representation. These bail applications were either for release of the under trails on cash bonds or personal bonds. Can any internship or any law firm give a first year law student this level of exposure? I do not think so.
What sort of internships did you do while in law school? How instrumental were these internships in helping you decide what field of law you wished to specialize in?
To be honest, I was always clear about pursuing Media Laws transactional or litigation. Therefore, I chose my internships accordingly. However, there is no doubt that internships really open your mind and help you understand what you like to do or sometimes by law of elimination, what you do not enjoy doing.
I wanted to understand court practice and procedures first, that’s why my first internship was in the chambers of Sr. Counsel S. Venkiteshwaran I was exposed to Maritime laws and various matters related thereto. Pursuant to that, I interned with Vidhi Partners in their Media and Entertainment team, Anand and Anand in their Trade Mark team and thereafter I was selected to work as a long term intern with Naik Naik and Co. throughout my final year and concentrated on Media and Entertainment Laws. I learnt a lot under my seniors at each place of work. I must mention the learning involved both active learning as well as passive. It merely involves observing the seniors deal with clients or appear in the courts. The dedication and toil they put into their work was amazing. There was just so much to learn.
What do you feel about the perception that students of certain ‘elite’ NLU’s have a much easier time in kick-starting their career as compared to law students from other colleges? Is this true at all?
I feel it is more to do with the person. Unless you put in effort, irrespective of which college you are from, one thing is sure, you will not succeed in the long run. I commend GLC for its encouraging attitude towards Counsel Practice (litigation) which is sadly not a very popular option in other law colleges in the Country any more.
To answer your second question, unlike other professions, in the legal space, kick starting a career does not guarantee a long lasting one. I see law as a big equalizer in that sense.
What brought you towards Media Law?
I have been asked this question a number of times and every time I end up saying I don’t know. I will be wrong if I say it is the only aspect of law that excites me. Law is so multi-dimensional, it is impossible to choose a favourite subject. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Constitutional Law, IPR, Law of Crimes, Torts and Contract laws. Therefore, I chose a field of interest in which I could apply all of my above said favourite subjects and cater to the industry I feel I belong and have been exposed to from a commercial/ non-law perspective as well. It really helps me as a Media and Entertainment Lawyer to better understand the industry needs and problems that clients face.
Tell us something about this new and emerging field of law that you practice?
You chose your words correctly. It is both considerably new and very emerging. Traditional media was disorganised and rather a close knit emotional lot. I say emotional because till date members of media are very cautious of the words they use. The entire industry at one time and to some extent even today, functions on trust and oral arrangements. In fact, in the earlier days, there was hardly any transaction on paper.
However, the landscape has changed considerably. With corporate houses and studios setting in and with the digital boom, the complexities of the industry, in terms of commercial exploitation of creative content, has grown enormously. With emergence of new platforms, formats and mediums, the dissemination and reach of information is unimaginable. With intermediaries playing an important role, there arising questions such as profit share, royalties and of course the global favourite piracy.
Media Law includes several statues such as the Copyright Act, 1957, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997, Cable Television Networks Act, 1995, Trade Marks Act, 1999 and nodal agency of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and other self-regulation guidelines such as Advertising Standards Council of India, Indian Broadcasting Foundation and so on.
You have been involved in a few pro-bono matters. What is your opinion on advocates taking up pro-bono matters?
“Maybe after 35 when I have enough money” is what most of my friends say when we discuss the possibility of taking up pro-bono matters. They are not necessarily wrong, it is their way to look at it. For me, I think it is more selfish, I do it for the satisfaction it gives me.
The Legal Aid Committee of the GLC always looks for advocates willing to take up matters pro-bono and there are several NGOs and independent practitioners who do take it up.
I personally feel we should do these matters while we are young, with minimum liabilities and maximum learning curve. I have been fortunate to meet partners of law firms who are willing to spare time into taking up matters pro-bono. I have contributed to a matter on RTE for a minor girl and a few domestic violence matters among others.
What should the students who look for internships actually look for?
- Small teams: From personal experience I would recommend one must go for a smaller set up or a firm which has team structures. This allows maximum exposure and learning because one gets to do actual work and be involved in the process.
- Court exposure: I also strongly recommend Judicial Clerkship and at least one litigation exposure as an intern preferably the first internship.
- Term: Lastly, even though I know it is not always possible, but the endeavour should be to keep the term of your internship as at least for three continuous months so that it is mutually beneficial.
Many law school students aspire to secure a job. What do you think most are doing wrong, from your observations?
While securing a job is very important, I must mention it is not everything. I see students who start interning as early as 17-18 years of age and from day one, work towards securing a job with top tier law firms and the big pay package, I feel the approach may not be correct.
Students must realise that they have to work all their adult life so they must pause and take it easy. Spend college time in developing skill sets, friendships, play a sport, learn a language, Moot, even if you lose (you will), even if you are embarrassed (you will be) and even if you do it all wrong (you may), but please Moot. Mooting will teach you the Law, in a way it can never be taught. Framing arguments, research on a moot point and tedious drafting (including formatting) are very critical for ones development as a practicing lawyer.
Finally, chose a field of law not because it is lucrative financially, but because it interests you and you feel like waking up excited to go to work each day. I remember so many of my class mates took up Corporate Laws because it was “the big thing”. Two years into it, many of them realise that they don’t enjoy it as much they thought and find it rather dry. So think personally, what kind of law you would like to practice and then take it up.
What are the three things a law student should keep in mind while facing an interview or applying for a job?
From my limited experience, I can say the following:
- Comfort: Be comfortable, take it easy, be reasonably confident and strike a conversation, if possible. Also, you can disagree with the interviewer humbly if you don’t agree to what he/she is saying and it’s alright to say ‘I don’t know’ if you don’t know an answer to a question asked;
- Keep your CV short and to the point: Know your CV. You need to sound like the same person whose CV you have submitted, so the endeavour should be to keep it in tune with your actual significant achievements and experiences;
- Structure your CV in line with the job that you are applying for: For example: if you have a lot of Litigation experience in your CV and you are applying for a Corporate Job, you need to build up your CV accordingly to show that you are actually interested in Corporate Laws. Maybe supplement it with a research paper or a moot on the subject and be ready to face questions accordingly.
What is your take on LLM?
Right now I am learning my subjects of interest from some really learned seniors at Hariani and Co. and I am not willing to trade that, even for a year. Also, LLM for me is an expensive affair and needs planning. It does excite me a lot, because I enjoy reading the law, however, right now, I think I need to work and improve my craft. Maybe, after a few years I may look at a professional LLM.
I must add, if any student wishes to pursue academics, LLM becomes a necessity and plays a very important role. The sole determining factor while choosing to pursue LLM should be what you personally want to do in your career and at what time.
How important is scoring well in Law School?
I think there is no taking away from the students who are academically inclined and are consistently high scorers. I have consistently scored well myself. Law as a field is very academic. One has to spend considerable time reading and therefore, you need to have an academic approach towards the profession. However, I think the profession requires more than just high marks. You have to be increasingly interested in what you are doing beyond answering a mere exam.
What do you think is your way forward?
I frankly don’t have a conclusive answer for you right now. However, I definitely want to be a good lawyer in my field of practice and currently I am in the pursuance of the same. Having said that, I have a strong liking and inclination towards legal writing, pro-bono litigation and academics so may be a combination of all.
Do you go back to College?
Oh yes. Very regularly, I look for opportunities to go there. So whenever I am invited for judging debates, moots or Quiz, I am there.
Lastly, what would be your parting message for our readers?
Be open minded about law. There is simply so much that law has to offer. There are academics, research, NGO, policy making, think tanks, litigation and firm practice. Therefore, take your time (you have 5 years) and thereafter but be open to trying and failing and again trying. If you go wrong it’s okay, you can always join the dots backwards and it will all make sense.