Law Career Development Workshop Report
The first ‘Law Career Development Workshop’ was held by Lahore Education And Research Network (LEARN) at School of Law, Lahore Pakistan on Saturday, 7th November, 2015.
LEARN is a dedicated and honest initiative that aims to bridge the gap between education and practice by conducting research and capacity development workshops to focus on those skills and on those areas which are usually left out by schools between the pressure of completing the course on time and sitting for examinations. In this way, LEARN not only aids the students but also the schools and colleges by effectively liaising and partnering with them to bring the most for their students and helping them to transform into more marketable and viable candidates for the intended job market.
This particular workshop was envisaged and developed under the professional and academic development service offered by LEARN with the aim of introducing and acclimatizing the final year law students at School of Law with the various career options they had after their law degree as well as the general climate of law practice in the civil, criminal and international law arenas. They were also guided on the procedure, costs and documents required to apply for their License to Practice law and enrollment with the Bar Council and Associations. The workshop ended with an emphasis on CV development and tips on writing effective cover letters.
The students participated with a keen interest and their relevant questions made the workshop a healthy discussion as opposed to a monotonous lecture.
The Law Career Development Workshop was held by the Lahore Education And Research Network (LEARN) at School of Law (SOL) on 7th November 2015.
The workshop was organized for the final year students at SOL in order to introduce and acclimatize them with the various career options opened to them after successfully completing their law degrees as well as to offer them a clear insight into what was in store for them as far as legal practice goes. They were also guided on the procedure, costs and documents required to apply for their License to Practice law and enrollment with the Bar Council and Associations and on developing effective CVs and cover letters.
The workshop covered the following themes:
- Legal and Non-Legal Career Options after a Law Degree
- Life in the first two years of (i) Civil, (ii) Criminal and (iii) International Law Practice
- The Procedure, Costs and Documents required for obtaining the License to Practice and enrollment as an Advocate.
- Effective CV and Cover Letter Guidance
The Workshop commenced with a brief introduction of the nature and purpose of LEARN as a capacity building network of professionals to aid and assist the students in developing practical skills and, in so doing, bridging the gap between education and practice thereby helping them to transform into more marketable and viable candidates for the intended job market.
The Founding Director of LEARN, Ms. Nida Mahmood then gave her presentation on the legal and non-legal career options that are open to students who successfully complete their law degree. She emphasized on the plethora of opportunities that are open to law graduates and encouraged the students to explore all the vast options to find their niche and place within the legal and academic sphere. She first highlighted the career options within the legal profession and discussed the modalities and requirements of working in a law firm or as an in-house legal counsel but her emphasis on exploring a career with the judiciary shed a new light for the law students who were not so well-versed with this career route.
As explained by Ms. Mahmood, the governing law for initial appointments of the subordinate judiciary is to be found within the Punjab Judicial Service Rules 1994 (“Rules”).
Section 5 of these rules lays down the ‘method of appointment’ as per which the appointing authority (i.e. High Court) appoints subordinate judiciary upon recommendation from the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) based on result of competitive exam in the subjects listed in Appendix A of the Rules, viva voce and psychological test.
In order to meet the requirements to appear in these exams, a candidate interested in appointment as a ‘civil judge cum magistrate’ must be aged between 22- 30 and between 35-45 if interested in being appointed as an ‘additional district and sessions judge’. The candidate must also have a LL.B Degree from a recognized university as well as 2 (for civil judge cum magistrate) and 10 (for additional district and sessions judge) years of active legal practice experience to be declared on a duly sworn ‘affidavit’. In addition to this, 3 character certificates from people other than the friends and family of the candidate must be submitted, one of whom must be the principal academic officer of the candidate’s last institution. A certificate declaring the candidate to be medically fit issued by the Board of Medical Officers is also required along with Punjab Domicile certificate.
The exam tests the students in English and Urdu language as well as Islamic/Pakistan studies and general knowledge in addition to the civil, criminal and general legal principles. It is usually a 3 hour unseen written examination in which 6 questions are to be answered, followed by a 2 hour MCQ exam. The medium of instruction is English save for the Urdu+Essay examination.
The exam schedule is widely advertised in newspapers and on website of the High Court and PPSC. Those successful in the examinations the viva voce and the psychological tests are then appointed to the relevant post. The new appointees are attached to senior judges for a few weeks of practical training. They may also be required to attend the trainings conducted by the Federal and/or Provincial Judicial Academies.
Ms. Mahmood then introduced a number of non-legal career paths that may prove to be viable options after a law degree including but not limited to, research and rights advocacy, consultancies and work in the development sector, policy input as well as teaching and capacity building, knowledge creation and education management as well as a career in international relations were all discussed in some length providing an opportunity to the students to truly evaluate their strengths and aptitude to match a suitable career after law school from amongst all the creative options they now knew they had.
This however, did not displace the importance of gaining actual legal practice experience as Ms. Mahmood stressed upon the fact that a basic 2 to 3 year experience in active law practice becomes a pre-requisite in most cases where a candidate is looking forward to join an organization as their in-house counsel. Also, the skills and insight gained in law practice is invaluable and goes a long way in assisting candidates in other chosen career fields as well.
For this reason, the next segment of the workshop aimed to bring forth notable practicing lawyers from different areas in front of the students who were to share their experience and insight in order to help them understand and gain perspective on as to what to expect in the initial years of law practice.
The senior advocate from Ebrahim Hosain Mr. Chaudhary Muhammad Usman, who has developed significant expertise in civil law practice, as well as transactional and advisory work made a very informative presentation on life in the first 2 years of a practicing civil lawyer. He started his presentation by stating the personal characteristics needed to be successful in this profession. He laid stress on resilience, hard work, integrity and a sense of responsibility as the basis for growth within the firm and generally as a professional.
Mr. Usman then explained in some eloquent detail, the sort of work that a new entrant to the profession is expected to carry out for instance, legal research, registration of company, making applications and other legal documents etc. He also expounded on the key procedures, institutions and personnel that the young lawyers are expected to be familiar with such as for instance the role and powers of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and the Intellectual Property Organization (IPO). He concluded by advising the students to try and gain maximum exposure into all types of civil work in their initial years including the likes of labour, banking, family, corporate and consumer laws.
The area of criminal law practice was covered by Barrister Umar Mahmood Khan who holds a Master’s Degree in human rights law from University College London (UCL) and has had the distinguished opportunity to assist his head of chamber in over 100 murder and anti-terrorism cases. Barrister Khan vehemently discussed how criminal law practice actually ‘looked like’ in Pakistan noting that no formal structure of growth so to say exists in the legal chambers of the firms which indulge in criminal law practice.
He clarified the notion of what it means to defend your client even where he/she is guilty of the alleged offence for it is imperative to not get involved in the cases at a personal level in criminal matters more so than in any other area of law. His main focus was on dispelling the pre conceived notions about criminal law practice being ‘dangerous’ and not for the faint hearted.
He highlighted that two of the sitting female judges of the Lahore High Court had mostly been practicing criminal law before their judicial appointment and in doing so he encouraged the female students to pursue criminal law. He was however, not entirely oblivious to the challenges and frustrations that may come about in this practice and concluded by stating that it can be a very rewarding and giving experience also, especially when you are able to help innocent victims.
More recently, the field of international law is gaining its due share of importance and attention in Pakistan – a major contributor of which is the work of Research Society of International Law (RSIL). The workshop therefore, benefitted from the insight provided by Mr. Moghees Uddin khan, Research Fellow at RSIL, who shared with the students his own journey and inclination towards international law practice and how he was able to make a direct impact into government policy and position in matters of global importance and relevance. He explained the kind of work that a graduate could pursue after a law degree with a research and policy think tank such as RSIL including drafting and amendments of laws in light of global trends, conventions and commitments. The most challenging part of his presentation was in explaining to the students the application of International Law in practice.
In the next segment, senior advocate Mr. Mufti Ahtesham Uddin Haider from Shafiq Sons Law Associates threw light on the procedure, costs and documents required to obtain the License to practice and the enrollment as an advocate with the Bar. His presentation proved to be the highlight of the workshop as it touched upon a pivotal requirement and essential step that law graduates take soon after graduation. This becomes even more important in light of the fact that license obtaining procedure is marred with complications and complexities which can baffle any young lawyer and there is no singular forum where information for the same is easily accessible nor is this ever taught during three years of law school.
Advocate Ehtesham identified that Laws which deal with enrolment as an advocate, which include, (i) The Pakistan Legal Practitioner and Bar Councils Act (1973), (ii) The Punjab Legal Practitioner and Bar Councils Rules (1974) and (iii) The Pakistan Legal Practitioner and Bar Councils Rules (1976).
He highlighted that Section 26 of The Pakistan Legal Practitioner and Bar Councils Act (1973) described the persons qualified for admission as advocates. Once admitted, an advocate of subordinate courts is entitled to practice throughout the province for which the bar council on whose roll his name is entered and he/she is entitled to appear before any court or tribunal in such province other than the High Court.
Advocate Ehtesham then explained the procedure for obtaining the license as well as cost involved and documents required along with details of the specifications of the photograph required to be submitted along with the documents. He also identified that the following must be taken care of before sending ‘intimation’ for enrollment as an advocate:
- The senior advocate with whom a candidate is starting apprenticeship should have standing not less than 10 years and at that time he should not have more than three apprentices including the candidate.
- Intimation should be sent within one month of starting of apprenticeship, otherwise the Punjab Bar Council counts six months of apprenticeship from the date of receipt of intimation resulting in delay in the eligibility of your license to practice.
This information indeed proved extremely useful for all the students present at the workshop and LEARN announced that it would also offer ‘license and enrollment advice service’ to students who needed help in future.
The workshop concluded with a session on CV development and effective cover letter tips that was presented by Ms. Nida Mahmood. Ms. Mahmood explained how the CV was a ‘living document’ that should be customized in accordance with every job posting that the candidate is considering so that a careful self-assessment of your experience and skills can be cross matched with the job description. A little research into the background of the company, the hiring personnel as well as the job description goes a long way in helping to streamline a CV and making it scan proof just enough to get a candidate noticed and to secure him an interview. Other basic tips included attention to details, spellings and grammar and the impact of using positive and action oriented words such as conducted, examined, authored, achieved etc.
The students were given sample of the cover letter layout and structure and were asked to prepare one in accordance with the training they had received at the workshop. All successful students will be awarded a certificate for their participation.
LEARN is grateful to Mr. Ehsan Chughtai – Chairman, School of Law, Ms. Sara – Head of Administration, School of Law, Mr. RMS Azam – Partner, Azam & Rai, the learned guest speakers, Studio92 and all attendees for their support in making this workshop a success.
 As per Section 4 of the Punjab Judicial Service Rules (1994) Lahore High Court is the appointing authority.
 Ibid Section 6
 Ibid Section 7 (a) and (b)
 Ibid Section 7 (c)
 See “Appendix A” of the Punjab Judicial Service Rules (1994)