What it's about
Law schools often include several courses designed to address relevant social issues in their course curriculum, including gender concerns, caste-based discrimination, working conditions, environmental protection, the marginalisation of various peoples, and employment. Most law schools take this a step further: NLS, for example, deals with these matters in detail through the Centre for the Child and the Law (CCL), the Centre for Women and the Law (CWL), the Centre for Law and Economic Analysis and Research (CLEAR) and the Centre for Environmental Law Education Research and Advocacy (CEERA). These centres address such issues through various research projects and action plans. Students work with professors on the same projects and the Government often takes the assistance of these centres. The effect of such exposure is reflected in the fact that a sizeable number of law school students join Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that work with these issues. Graduates from law school are also offered opportunities to work with international organisations such as the United Nations and with international war and crime tribunals.
Pros and Cons
Tremendous job satisfaction awaits you if you are passionate about working with socio-legal issues. You can achieve a tremendous sense of worth, and can contribute to changing people's lives for the better. Since your contribution directly impacts people, it's relatively easier to find happiness. This career path offers travel prospects and promises interaction with a variety of people. A person adopting this career path will most likely get respect and recognition in peer groups. If you work with an established NGO, you would also be financially comfortable. However, the job entails a degree of financial insecurity because all NGOs are not well funded, and the pay may be meagre. This could be a serious issue if you need to support a family at some point. Further, the experience may be one of disillusionment and frustration if you cannot realise the fruits of your effort because of hierarchies within the organisation and mismanagement of funds. A person wanting to quit this line might find it difficult to get mainstream jobs (firms or companies). For someone really interested in making a difference vis-a-vis a social issue, no other career option can match up to this one. It must also be remembered that one can contribute to social efforts while pursuing a mainstream job.The Road Not Taken
Lawyers are, arguably, best equipped for undertaking social work as they are aware of the legal rights and obligation of all strata of society. Meaningful work can be done by working with NGOs and Government Commissions like National Commission for Women, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, National Human Rights Commission, etc. Still, it is a path less taken by most law students. While a number of law students go for internships in NGO’s during their first two years of law college, not many end up choosing this as career path. The reason could be attributed to Money! Money! and Money!.
It’s a numbers game all along. The salaries offered by NGO’s can go a long way to explain why students prefer working in a corporate law firm over this. Graduates from national law schools can expect an annual package of Rs. 3.8 lakhs from Teach for India, and similarly the Human Rights Law Network, which is a well-known lawyers’ organisation, pays Rs 2.4 lakhs per annum to fresh graduates. Such packages are in stark contrast to those offered by national law firms that are easily willing to spend more than Rs 10 lakhs per year to attract talent, in addition to hefty bonuses.
But the job as stated above comes with a lot of significant positives. There exists a wealth of opportunities in social organisations that could move public spirited students to enter the fight. There is no scarcity of cases and international exposure to bodies such as the United Nations can lurk in the job.