INTERVIEW: Varun Marwah, Bar & Bench: On Law School, Legal Journalism and More

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Varun Marwah is a graduate of the Class of 2015 from ILS, Pune.

He has worked as an Associate with the corporate team of Verus, has studied public policy from Takshashila Institution and is pursuing company secretaries as well.

Currently he is working as a Policy Analyst at legal news website, Bar & Bench.

 

1) What made you decide on pursuing law after school?

To be brutally honest, law remained the only sensible option after eliminating all others during my +2. Having said that, I certainly didn’t go to law school to ‘become a lawyer’ but I went to law school to develop and acquire the skillset that lawyers possess, everything else was just a byproduct.

On some level, it was of course driven by the common perception of lawyers being a wealthy lot of people, but that certainly wasn’t the deciding factor.

The skills that you develop in law school as well as,  as a lawyer, are those which stay with you forever and are easily transferable in nature.

We see a lot of lawyers quitting mainstream law to pursue different entreprenruial ventures, and yet they assign a lof of their success to what they learnt in law school and their years in the profession.

To that extent, law as a course was something that interested me and everything else just continues to follow.

2) Tell us about your 5 years at ILS, Pune? What interests did you have?

I had an absolute ball during the 5 years I was at ILS, as most of us there do.

On a more general note about ILS- the good and bad thing about this college is that, it just lets you be.

With very little mandatory requirements in terms of academics and co-curriculars, it provides all the right opportunities to those who wish to pursue them. There is a stark contrast in the way students, within ILS, pick their path through those 5 years.

Although, one must always bear in mind that an ILS student would only know something or be good at it, simply because of sheer interest, and not because it was enforced upon them.

As for myself, I was more inclined towards the athletic side than the academic, during my years at law school. While I tried my hand at mooting at the beginning of law school, I realised soon enough that it wasn’t my cup of tea, but had a clear intention or pursuing Company Secretaries.

I was an infrequent member of the football team and frequent member of the athletics team where I faired decently well in my penultimate and final year. But of course, I was simultaneously interning throughout my vacations wherever an opportunity would arise, which is extremely important.

A little tip here for those pursuing CS would be to try to get it done while in college- I had only one unfinished group and haven’t gotten back to it ever since I started working.

While this course may not necessarily add more value to your ‘CV’, it certainly adds a lot to your knowledge pool which is helpful in the long run for those wishing to pursue corporate laws in any manner.

A missed opportunity for me, though, was not having done any litigation. I strongly recommend all those who’re in law school to certainly get a hang of litigation- it’s important.

3) How did Takshashila come up after working as an Associate at VERUS?

Takshashila didn’t come up after working at VERUS as much as it did while working at B&B.

Being designated a ‘Policy Analyst’ at B&B, it only made sense that I actually develop a firm foothold in that field and get to know what it means.

Policymaking is, to my understanding, an intersection of law and economics. It is an exciting field and the Takshashila GCPP is a primer of sorts on that, since it teaches you the basics of policymaking.

Public policy is still at a very nascent stage in India and hasn’t culminated into a full-blown profession as yet. This course in particular,is a three month course with weekly webinars, and two workshops, one academic and the other that requires the students to draft policies on contemporary issue(s).

Although I must add that this field has a dearth of professionals; and lawyers, in my opinion, would do a great amount of justice to this profession.

4) Many would consider joining legal media website Bar & Bench, an unusual choice for law graduates. How is Bar & Bench different from working at other places?

Bar & Bench is quite different from mainstream law jobs in the sense that it offers you a great degree of intellectual freedom which, in my view, is missing in many other places.

On the virtue of being associated with B&B, you get access to people you would never otherwise have access to.

I am fortunate enough to have had insights from various leading lawyers from several domains; and any insights from them at an early stage of one’s career can have a meaningful impact in the decisions taken in the long run.

Being able to meet and speak to people with different mentalities and thought processes allows you to get a great mix of views.

It’s not always about the tangibles, sometime we must account for the intangibles that some jobs have to offer.

5) Can you tell us about legal journalism? What role do you think it’ll play in the near future?

Legal journalism is, as the name suggests, news for lawyers.

We essentially only serve this niche audience of lawyers and of course, the few others interested in reading and learning more about the laws and the legal developments. We try to cover the legislature, executive and judiciary.

Needless to add, it requires you be updated with the latest happenings. It’s actually a very dynamic role without being limited a particular field of work.

It gets increasingly difficult to keep up with all the developments at all times, and we’re a small bunch of people trying to handle it all, so we do miss out on some things- but that’s just the opportunity cost  we have to pay.

And more often that not, with the limited outreach we have, it gets difficult to source primary information and are sometimes dependent on mainstream media for sourcing our information.

But of course, the legal community has been immensely helpful towards our work we’re grateful for that. With continued support from the legal industry, we are sure to grow.

Just like finance journlism grew and started requiring finance professionals, legal journalism too requires lawyers and not ‘just journalists’.

No matter how many years a journalist spends covering the legal beat, a lawyer will always have that edge and ability to deliver content which is more suited towards the legal community. I certainly do believe that this field will continue to expand, since it’s all the more critical for lawyers to stay updated.

6) Lastly, what would you advice students interested in this field? What kind of opportunities do you think are available for them?

Start writing! Don’t wait till you actually get the opportunity to write for one (like I did). Pick up any topic of interest and start writing on it, speak to your seniors, try connecting with lawyers and just get different opinions (by hook or by crook), and eventually have your own.

For students interested in this field, they must keep themselves updated at all times with the latest legal developments-  be it litigation or regulatory or policy.

As it stands today, there aren’t too many opportunities available but it’s growing rapidly and we hope that someday freshers see this as a real alternative to law firm/ litigation jobs.

But irrespective of what path students chose for their careers, it is important they don’t stress about what’s in store for them post-law school. You’ll get a another job interview, but you won’t get those five years back, so – work hard and play hard!

 

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