Prachi Shrivastava is a lawyer-turned-journalist, with no career examples to borrow from her family of engineers and architects. She is currently working with Legally India. You can follow her on Twitter @Prachi
What were your aspirations during your school days?
Aspirations were focused on the single-point agenda of reaping maximum popularity in school while getting away with minimal avoidance of the book-couch – an unrealistic goal in a school as competitive as Amity International Noida.
Which factors do you believe shaped your decision to pursue law?
I wanted to defend my inability to ‘make it’ in the science streams, by making an example out of the perceived ‘superpower’ of impeccable language play. Journalism or mass communication courses were initial targets but law seemed to make a better case – so to speak – on the lucre angle. But look how that eventually played out – re I am a lawyer-turned-journalist!
How was your experience at Amity Law School?
I can’t say that Amity Law School, back in my time, offered the most aspirational atmosphere academically or even from the point of view of extra-curriculars. But there is a certain advantage to a law school in Delhi with students who simply cannot afford to put all their eggs in the law-firm-career basket (because it is not a top NLU) – you start thinking laterally in terms of things to do and the capital makes them far more accessible than a village in the outskirts of a small town.
I enjoyed mooting, and in my final year I attempted to establish a print magazine – Collawquy – for our law school. Those were high points.
What sort of internships did you prefer to law students?
Two words – Be proactive. Getting through a shiny, or battered, law firm or chamber is not even half the battle won. Be clear about what you want to learn from it and chase constructive work like a bloodhound, even at the cost of looking silly. This is what I wish I had known.
It seems you had not thought of becoming a journalist even in your last years at law school.
Last years of law school are a lot about validation from the perspective of a 22-year-old, aren’t they? And a placement with a BigLaw job is that, I felt in tune with the feelings of a lot of my contemporaries. So that was the aim. Even interned for a long stretch at the (then) biggest of them.
Then promptly realised it was not my cup of tea.
Share with our readers a few actionable tips on managing high grades.
Who me? I never had high grades! But well, retrospectively…. Umm I still have no idea.
What were your areas of interest during your graduation? How did you go about developing expertise and knowledge in these areas?
During my under-grad I was quite interested in public international law, which is why three of the moots that I participated in during law school, and one paper I wrote for an academic journal had elements of it. I remember purchasing (and leafing through) Brownlie on PIL in my fourth year, which was not a requirement from the point of view of the end semester exams.
How important it is for a lawyer to pursue higher studies? You have a masters degree in corporate law?
My reporting experience tells me that getting recruited straight from campus puts you on a faster law firm partnership track, than enrolling in an LLM. Litigation doesn’t need an LLM at all. As for me, I did the ASCL course – which is merely a diploma in corporate law – as just one other thing to do during college.
How the tectonic shift came into your career. How you came into journalism?
There was no tectonic shift. I have written stories all my life, be it for the school magazine or for independent publications and contests, and so when I was bored of the fed narrative (graduate law school, find a law firm job) I wrote a story about it, then mailed the finished product to Legally India (and a bunch of other publications). Next thing (after the interviews), I was a Legally India journalist.
You are working with Legally India since Jan. 2012. Please describe to us your role and experiences there.
I report and write for all the different beats of legal industry news which Legally India covers. The legal journalism sector is opening up everyday, is a flexible beast, and therefore my role transitions a lot and there is a lot of opportunity to learn – there’s hardly ever a settled, comfort zone for the newshound. With tight resources plus some amount of misunderstanding of the role of trade journalism in this profession, we do miss out on several areas of coverage. But there is also a tremendous rate of growth in the general understanding of how and why the legal media works the way it does, and therefore phenomenal forces work with us as well, not just against us, thus helping us expand our coverage.
Would you suggest aspiring law students why to prefer NLUs and other private elite universities over conventional universities?
NLUs and other elite universities are a better choice over conventional ones because of the general seriousness – it is somewhere a function of the high fees, in addition to the competitiveness of the CLAT. High fees, results in both better paid teachers with better credentials, and students willing to fight for a better bargain re academics and the overall law school environment. These bolster each other.
Conventional universities generally have a lot of student apathy or student-teacher indifference for the college conditions, and this results in a downward spiral where overall quality is concerned.
Additionally, the legal media does not yet have the resources to keep a consistent watch on the administrations of conventional universities, as opposed to the NLUs.
Did you find that your law school education had prepared you sufficiently for the many tasks you were required to execute during your internships and later at your job?
Not really. Moot court competitions, and the internship experiences sure helped with the preparation for the field, but law school education was a parallel universe of sorts I’d say.
What according to you should be the top-most things in the to-do list of someone in law school aspiring to become legal journalist?
Devour the news, daily, that’s a basic. If existing legal news websites are not on your live feed or in your mailbox at as a daily newsletter, you have a lot of catching up to do. Finally, when following the kind of journalism you aspire to do gives you lead ideas, try your hand at writing and blogging about it.
PS: You’ve struck gold if your writing is so relevant that one of your websites of choice ends up sharing a link to it!
How much grades matter to become successful or getting a job in legal journalism.
Getting high academic grades involves an element of persistence which mirrors that in journalism – persisting toward the larger goal even while having to deal with some uninteresting, sometimes downright annoying parts of the bigger picture. That’s about it. No direct correlation between success in journalism and high academic grades.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
I am an early riser so the day starts at 6. A brief workout followed by the news and other personal readings. Coffee, emails, and then office by 10. Luckily for me, we work remotely so none of the daily commute drudgery. Office is a mix of telephoning, messaging and writing to chase, follow up and finally report on leads. Sometimes this is interspersed with source meetings and conferences. We wrap up between 6pm and 7pm, unless a lead of pressing urgency arrives, or we are at an event.
What are the scope of taking legal journalism as career?
Scope depends on what you’re looking at. It is not the career path to take for the conventional “rising up the ladder” in terms of designations and financially. If you have strong sentiments in support of transparency on one or more chosen subjects, the number of places you can publish parts of your reportage (whether you are an independent journalist or affiliated) are not just endless but endlessly niche and super-specialised in this age of online publishing. Sky is the limit, if you can manage the time.
What are the key attributes that on must develop in order to excel in this industry?
Curiosity. Fearlessness. Impeccable English grammar. A willingness and ability to network with the universe your publication covers. Lateral thinking. Each of these also develop a lot further, with practice.
What would you say to some of our readers who contemplate making a career in the field of legal journalism?
In addition to the last two responses? Well, “initiative” is your best friend. If you can find yourself gaps in the current state of reportage in legal journalism, gaps of relevance which only you can fill, you’ve got yourself a career in legal journalism.
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