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Of Fear and Hope

This article was written by Geetha Hariharan (Batch of 2013) and was part of unpublished articles from the Quirk archives. She can be contacted at geetha.hariharan@gmail.com.

In school, we were told that growing up is about responsibility. It’s a tricky word, responsibility. My earliest understanding of it comes from watching my parents: the primary job of providing for a family and being sincere to one’s chosen work. But definitions are meant to expand, and fourth year is certainly a tumultuous time for that reason.

In the first three years, life in Law School (in any college, for that matter) is fairly simple. You study, you interact with people, you learn the intricate (or otherwise) workings of the college system and try to do that for a system of law. Alternatively, you come to the painful realisation that an involvement with the law is probably not what you want to do with your life. Sometimes you get out, sometimes constraints force you to reconcile to five years here.

But for all that effort and pain, in the first three years, you are totally free to design your life.

In the holidays leading up to the fourth year however, there is a sense of seriousness that finally, forcibly, dawns. Only two more years left, and it is much closer to a choice of career.

For fourth year is the time (though now it has begun to infiltrate third year as well) recruitment begins. For many of us who lived uncaring as to our employability in the first three years, this is a slightly rude shock, and a burdensome responsibility. Suddenly, resumés, corporate internships, and grades become more important than they ever were. As if confirming this sudden commodification of our education (it is necessary here, no doubt, but that is no reason to not lament it), every fourth year class forms the Recruitment Coordination Committee (“the RCC”) to regulate and manage mass-class recruitments.

The RCC is the batch-specific body that manages all forms of recruitments for every class of law school – and this is largely restricted to law firm recruitments. Rules differ for each batch’s RCC, but it broadly entails that recruitments are to go primarily (sometimes exclusively) through the RCC. Of course, they will tell you that you can choose to apply on your own as a non-member of the RCC, but you will appreciate the odds: here is a committee that works to ensure recruitment; it is natural you have a greater chance of a job as a member than otherwise. The flipside is that the RCCs have historically had a bloody and frightening record. Many stories of ruthlessness populate the RCC-grapevine. You can say it’s justified, perhaps: everyone needs a job, everyone wants a certain job – and that basket of options is not bottomless. In the last three years, I have heard stories that remind me of the inhumanity of war: forgetting those around you and forsaking compassion because you are blinded by your need.

Perhaps I sound accusatory. I do not mean that we, as students or as people, are bad. Only that we exhibit long established weaknesses of the human (and animal) condition: in the face of the need for survival, almost everything gives way.

It will make us trust our batchmates less, look for and find ulterior motives in everyone’s actions, suspect that people are trawling, peeping at, changing, and seeking to undermine our achievements and abilities. Do I deplore that? Yes, I do. But it is clear to see where that comes from: the fear that one will be left without a job (or a career or future or life, because that is how much it means), that in a world as competitive as this (for trite as it may sound, it is true), one will lose out if one does not fight within the tide. We all need jobs. We all need and want the money, for whatever reason we may have or can justify.

Nevertheless – and I speak only for myself here – I believe we demean ourselves when we do this. Many of us have no idea what we want to do with our lives or whether a certain kind of job is what we want. I have heard scores of stories of seniors who have taken jobs with prestigious firms and are either unhappy or have left in the space of a few years to chase rainbows. In internships we do, from seniors we meet, we hear of long work hours that reflect drudgery, dissatisfaction, and lack of direction that is similar to what we face right now in law school. These jobs are, perhaps, back-ups for many of us; an opportunity to earn while we figure out ourselves and our dreams. But they are seen and felt as a necessity, and so we exert our demands, fight for our rights, seek to outdo each other.

I am not critical of jobs, or of competition, or in any manner of wanting a prestigious job. Nor do I think that all of us who choose well-paying corporate jobs are selling ourselves out or are, as the term goes, ‘corporate whores’. Nor do I believe that litigation or academia are fields with greater integrity or inherent greatness as to create a rigid hierarchy of nobility.

While I believe that the latter two create or provide greater leeway and opportunity to influence and effect necessary social change, possibly the most important thing is what we want ourselves, as individuals. Our chosen fields should be where we can work continuously without bitterness and with increasing passion for the rest of our lives, and not a short stop towards something else. If a corporate firm job is that, then there we will contribute our best.

The bottom line is: most of us don’t know what we want. That is all right; it is almost inevitable. But along the way, I wish we could refrain from displaying callous scheming and mistrust of those around us. I hope we will, even in competitive surroundings, find a way to create mutually helpful frameworks of learning and opportunity. I hope, as we were told in our Alternative Dispute Resolution class in third year, we will realise that our horizons do not end with this one job.

My class formed an RCC last week. I hope we can all keep our heads, though all about us may lose theirs.

Published in From the Archives Life in Law School

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