#HerStory with Anjani Raipat
"I am a first-generation lawyer. When I had to decide what I wanted to pursue, I had no distant uncles or aunts or even friends of my parents who were into this profession to guide me. I remember searching for the Indian Constitution on Google and reading it. I may have not understood the Constitution well then but I definitely understood that law was my calling. My love for the Indian Constitution has only grown stronger ever since– comprehensive, ever-evolving, ahead of its time, all-inclusive - a beautiful piece of a living document. However, I don’t have many compliments for our legislators in charge of keeping it up with the times.
I joined NMIMS’s second batch of law to pursue my dream of becoming a legal professional. Shortly after my first year, I transferred to Government Law College (GLC) – a factory of India’s best legal minds, as they call it. It was at GLC that I realized that law cannot be taught. It has to be self-learnt and practiced. And thus began the race to secure internships. When I call securing internships a rat race – I mean it. As an introverted person who had moved from a city as small as Ranchi – I felt like I was left far behind in this race. I saw my peers interning with a stipend at the most renowned law firms and wondered how they got in. My shy first-gen law enthusiast brain from a small city took time to understand the weight-age of ‘references’ and ‘networking’. To either have someone guide you or be good at socializing – otherwise, you are doomed - seemed like a norm. And so, I tried - I tried hard to socialize, but it felt pretentious. I could barely connect. I wanted to go back to my cocoon. And so, I did. I withdrew myself from trying to fit in and vowed to yet make it. I wrote to every single institution in Mumbai that would need a legal intern – big or small. I took up unpaid internships with legal start-ups and small-size legal firms that barely had any infrastructure to work in. Oh, the amount I learnt! While I heard many of my peers earning decent stipends for sitting around all day, I was drafting client-facing documents till midnight without getting paid. Gradually, as my resume grew stronger, those small legal start-ups turned to big law firms with a good stipend – all without a single reference.
Today, as I hear the big debate about paid versus unpaid internships, I want to scream my heart out and tell students, who are privileged enough to not have to earn because of financial compulsion, to compare their options basis the learning opportunities and not the stipend offered. I am not justifying workplaces that take advantage of free labour but focusing on the all-hands-on-learning that a few places that cannot afford stipends can offer. An internship where the senior is invested in mentoring you is priceless. Law school only teaches you theory. It’s all text. Law is a practice. Find places that want to mentor you and treat the stipend as an add-on and not the other way around.
Talking about things that I wish I knew as a law student – the options that open up for you with a legal background are endless. However, at law school, we rarely speak outside litigation and in-house legal support. My first job, thanks to GLC placements, was at the multinational - Ernst & Young. I joined a team that services a mammoth client through contract automation. The services offered are legal tech at their best. To think that I had never heard of the term ‘legal tech’ in my 5 years of law education and then spending 3 years understanding and working on it is bewildering. My first job – an amalgamation of management, technology and law, taught me to look beyond the clichés of a legal job. After my three years of a beautiful stint with EY and a firm belief that the future of law is in its automation, I now work at I.I.M.U.N. under Taking India Forward Foundation, an NGO devoted to sensitizing the leaders of tomorrow about the idea of India. I continue to service contracts as a freelancer while I lead a team of hundreds of future leaders spread across India.
If there is one thing that I could share with law students today is that don’t be afraid of breaking clichés. This field is intimidating. There is a lot of pressure to fit in. The compulsion of networking is terrorizing. The race to add more experience to your resume can be nerve-wrenching. But the good part is that legal knowledge opens more doors than you can imagine. Don’t be afraid to explore this ocean of opportunities. Don’t be afraid of aiming for the stars! The competition may be cut-throat but you must find people who will uplift you. Don’t see law merely as a vocation. It is a means to change society. As lawyers, we are a tool to do good. We are social scientists and thinkers and not rats running on a hamster wheel."
Ms. Anjani Raipat is an alumna of Government Law College, Mumbai. She is the Chief Mentor at I.I.M.U.N (India's International Movement to Unite Nations), the world’s largest youth-run organisation that aims to bring the world closer, the Indian way. She has previously served as a Senior Legal Associate at EY GDS Law. She is an ardent feminist and is extremely passionate about the right to education and prison reforms.