So, finally your child is in her senior secondary years and is contemplating to take law or confused between law, economics and finance. This is fine and this confusion at this stage is considered very normal. It is perfectly OK to even not put all the eggs in one basket and can even contemplate taking engineering or medicine, just to keep options open in this competitive world we live in. So, for those minds who are still contemplating, either as a student or as an anxious parent, I have managed to do some extensive research in understanding the admission process for a five year integrated law undergraduate degree and have captured hopefully some good observations that would be beneficial to this audience.
Usually a student could send some indicator signals even during his or her high school years as to what her or his aspirations are. But they also slowly evolve over time and also may also be dictated by a joint peer group. My advice is by the time they are in their final year of school, for getting the focus, it is better to firm up the one choice or maximum two choices and start preparing for the same, along with the tough final board exams. For those who have a fair idea about law being their choice of study for their undergraduate, it would be preferred if they take up the arts or commerce stream during their eleventh and twelfth so that one does not need to unnecessarily read the science subjects that they would not even care about during the law program. Having said that, I have seen many a science students as well getting into the law program which would have made their final two years of school a little tougher.
Now you have chosen law as a choice either in your 11th or start of your 12th. First thing you need to pretty much understand is that the exam patterns across all the law entrances across India would have English, Logical reasoning, Mathematics, Legal Reasoning and General knowledge & current Affairs, or variations of these. The last two, Legal reasoning and Current Affairs & General knowledge is something every law aspiring student has to really put some hard effort and do a lot of studying to be on the top. The other three areas, especially for those who are from English medium and have taken Mathematics in their high school is just a matter of accuracy within the stipulated time, and should not be considered to be tough sections to handle.
Now that you have a broad perspective of what to expect, like the IITians and Medical aspirants, it is recommended to take some coaching for cracking the law entrances. Coaching is not mandatory but definitely provides the right rhythm to set you for the final tests. The competition here is also heavy and all the reservation in seats applies. The duration of coaching depends on various factors – the student’s available time given that the board exam is very important as well, proximity to a good coaching center, your decision to focus only on law and your financial situation, to just point out a few factors. My recommendation is irrespective of the duration of coaching, it is better to take class room programs (usually conducted twice a week in evenings and weekends) and supplement them with online tests. This way you get to see a future peer group and get a basic reading of where you stand inside your coaching center which can give you a good extrapolation of where one would land in term of law schools. Just to name a couple of coaching centers which may be a good place to enroll – Sriram Law Academy in Chennai and Career Launcher across India. These two institutes has enough knowledge about the entire process and are able to answer almost all queries that you would ask them, and they have been fairly decent in accessing its students and where they would land in terms of law colleges. For those who cannot go to Chennai, I would recommend you to enroll in their short term online programs to ensure you take as many tests as possible. More the tests, timing them and evaluating them would be the nut to crack. No big deal- some regular hard work and focus would do the trick to open up the top law schools for you. But from January to March or April, just concentrate on your final year exams which would become critical if you do not get into any desired programs. During your final years of school, it is very important to participate in the Mock United Nations (MUNs) that happens across various schools in your city and in other cities – even Harvard MUN gets hosted in one Indian city very year. This hones your researching and debating skills which would be the seed for being a good lawyer later. The parents are hence advised to encourage their wards to participate in good MUNs on behalf of the school. Even in law colleges, they do have MUNs in their undergraduate program along with MOOT courts which would give you a good continuity.
The various entrances that one would face between the April and May months of the year of admission would be CLAT (Common Law Aptitude tests) for the 18 National Law Universities across India (as of2017), Maharashtra CET (MAH LAW CET), LSAT India (for getting admission to almost all private law colleges in India), AILET for NLU Delhi and a few state entrances like AP LAWCET, Rajasthan RULET, Telangana TS LAWCET, etc. Remember, when one applies to the state LAW CETs, you need to write the tests in certain cities of that state as they would not have a center in your city which is outside their state. Then there are a few worthwhile private colleges that have their own entrance tests like Symbiosis (common test for their colleges in three cities but separate admission process), Christ University in Bengaluru, Bharathiya Vidyapeeth University in Pune and Kalinga KITTEE in Orissa, and a few worthwhile government institutes like BHU CET and Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastra University IPU CET that are worth writing. Do understand that since you have most of these tests happening around a 6-7 week window, there are lots of dates that would have more than one tests happening and hence you need to pick and choose your battles here. There are couple of private institutes that I want to mention here which do not have their own entrance tests but go with either CLAT or LSAT and the students’ academic scores – SASTRA university in Thanjavur and Nirma University in Ahmedabad which are also worth considering. For those in Bangalore, where I belong, if nothing else clicks and you have no other choice, and if you are desperate to get into law, then MS Ramaiah, KLE Society Law College and University law College of Bangalore University are the choices you are left with.
Before I start to talk about the law schools in details, one thing you should never do is to with ratings that are available online like the Outlook, The Week, EduVidya, College Dunia, India Today and Career360 to name a few. Certainly do not take any of these surveys in isolation to make a decision, as most of these surveys are paid ones and you would see no-name, unheard off and lousy schools making a great ranking. Also many good colleges do not participate in most of the surveys which is something you need to watch out for. NLU in Delhi is never ranked anywhere but this is certainly a law school to long for and certainly in my books in the top three schools in India. If you want to use these surveys, get the latest annual ones across many different surveys and do a weighted average of the rankings – by which I mean, if many of the surveys talk about certain schools in the top 10, they are certainly in the top 10 to a degree of belief.
Next, being an engineer, I see lots of difference in how I would evaluate an engineering school vs a law school. An engineering school is evaluated by the quality of the full time professors available, the quality of the laboratories that exist, by the infrastructure there is across the various engineering disciplines, their syllabus being current and more relevant for employment, and by the research and affiliations they would have with international engineering bodies. When it comes to law schools, few things take the cake – older the law schools, bigger the alumni and better known is that school within the law fraternity and hence it works out to be great for placements and internships. Usually a law school would have just one big academic building and this is it- a few good full time professors, an extensive library which has both an extensive hardcopy collection and a large online collection, many esteemed visiting professors, and a large auditorium. Kindly check for this first hand before any admission process is closed. Third and most important is, if the school is in Mumbai or in NCR region, automatically you get large law firms coming in to swoop you for placements in the former and you would establish close contacts with leading High court and Supreme court law professionals while you are in the latter which would help you to get great internships and contacts for your career. Pune due to its proximity with Mumbai hence has some its placement advantages. This goes without saying that by inference that even lower grade law schools in these two regions would be able to attract good students and get them good placements as well. One good yardstick one can use to choose their law schools is that they must have been around for the past 10-12 years, which means after the five year degree, they do have 6-7 alumni batches that can be used as a good measure for evaluating that school. Also it would be better if the university also has a good one year Master’s program in Law.
I would start off with a strong statement that like doing management degree, one needs to do law from a top school which would be the cream of all the available law schools in India. In terms of competition, the law is not that heated up yet like the engineering JEE or the medical NEET but the number of students getting interested in law as a career in India is definitely increasing over the past few years. Let us first start with the National Law Universities – NLUs as they are called- these are the autonomous government law institutes just like the IIMs for management. Each of them is their own university and one gets a degree from that particular NLU. The admissions to these NLUs are through CLAT – this is the most prestigious entrance tests. As I told you earlier, Sastra and Nirma use just CLAT scores for their admissions. There are 18 of them, all the coaching institutes would be classifying them in 3 to 4 buckets. Tier 1 is the ones in NLSIU Bengaluru, NALSAR in Hyderabad (~ 55 acres) and WBNUJS in Kolkata. NLSIU is the oldest of them all and was established next to the Bangalore University campus in 1988 in a total of about 23 acres. Hyderabad and Kolkata were established a good decade later in 1998 and 1999 respectively. From a campus perspective, the Kolkata School has 4 buildings in total including the separate boys and girls hostels in about 5 acres– nothing big or fancy. If you get into any of these three, your career is set – not to worry. One has approximately 191 seats in total for all these three in general quota (for the exact number of seats, kindly refer to that particular law school and not use the number I quote as an absolute reference as things change year over year). Generally the top 190 ranks in CLAT get into these institutes (unless their preference has been elsewhere).
Then we can talk about the Tier 2 schools in Bhopal NLIU, Jodhpur NLU and Gandhinagar GNLU. It is hard to differentiate the rankings between Jodhpur and Bhopal as they usually land neck and neck. These three schools established in 1997, 2001 and 2003 in that order, have been endowed with huge 50 to 60 acre campuses with lots of open spaces and a great surrounding away from the bustling city – a really healthy environment for the students to thrive. Jodhpur and Bhopal are unfortunately not directly connected with most of the metro cities as one needs to traverse through Jaipur or Bhopal and travel from there to these cities by rail or road. Gandhinagar NLU on the other hand is about half an hour drive from the Ahmedabad airport. The 200 to 450 rankers generally land in these institutes.
Then comes the next rung which although established between 2005 and at late as 2015 (Nagpur) would not be in my recommended list based on the feedback I have received from alumni from the other top six institutes, and the placement they have or do not. If you want a NLU tag, then go for Raipur, Lucknow and Patna in that order where most of the South Indian’s prefer not to go due to perceived safety concerns. Chanakya was responsible for holding the 2017 CLAT and I can say it was shabbily handled – every time they announced a date for the seats (they are four rounds), all the time they missed the time twice due to technical issues. In fact, their first round of allocation this year had a withdrawal of that allocation for a day due to some wrong seat allocation. Given this is how a professional institute can mess up, this does not speak well about the administrators of that particular college. And given my ‘rule of thumb’ mentioned earlier that older the law college , the better it is and you must at least have five alumni’s passing out to judge that school and get decent placements, I would rather not join the other NLUs yet.
Before I move on, I wanted to mention as of this year, the fees for an Indian here in these NLUs ranges between Rs 2 lacs to Rs 2.5 lacs/year, including hostel- a few newer ones do not have a hostel inside their campus or anything associated with them, and hence it is worthwhile taking a look at the campus before admitting your ward. And for admission, one needs to write just the CLAT and there is no need to apply separately to each of the 18 NLUs as they get allotted according to a system that values both merit (your CLAT score) and preference of University. From end of May, one needs to be active on the Internet as most of these results, seat allocations and counselling happen online – once allotted a seat, you need to pay Rs 50K online to confirm your seat within couple of days after the seat gets allotted or you need to forego the seat. And I must also mention here that all the NLUs have a free high speed internet inside their campus for their students.
Before I move on to the state entrances, I would like to mention three other government university – National Law University Delhi (NLUD) which conducts the AILET every year and this is the toughest of all entrance tests in general, Banaras Hindu University Varanasi that conducts BHU UET and even the lesser known National Law University in Himachal Pradesh HPNLET. NLUD does not get involved in any survey or ratings games and they belong to the top four law universities along with Bengaluru, Hyderabad and West Bengal and they have a total of about 73 seats to compete for. Given that this is in the state capital (same logic would apply to GGS IPU that I mention later) and is a central university, with all the network of the High courts and Supreme courts, this is definitely worth a test to concentrate to achieve high along with CLAT and LSAT. I mention the one in Shimla because this is a NLU at the end of the day and situated in a fabulous place, but nothing else I can add at this point.
Having done with the central autonomous NLUs, let me mention a few states that have their own law exams – honestly, like NEET and JEE, they must mandate only one CLAT and one LSAT for admission to all law colleges in India and this is something we the people have to recommend to the higher authorities. Every state has their own timelines and at some point, it becomes difficult to manage mapping them all. And to write most of these state’s entrance test, as a non –domicile status, where the number of seats allotted to such category is even low, you need to go to some cities in that state to write them. A few mentions are Maharashtra (MH CET LAW), Rajasthan (RULET), Cochin (CUSAT). Andhra Pradesh (AP LAWCET) and Telangana (TS LAWCET). Check their calendar as they have a long timeline and they close after all the prime law colleges close although their tests are scheduled around the same time period with other major ones. If you have not landed in anything good, and if you belong to that state, then it is worthwhile to go after it. Many of these are painfully slow in processing, give no updates for a long time and sometimes never, never use Internet to update anything, and have an extended timeline, some closing admission in time when the first semester of the NLUs gets over. Out of all these, I would still recommend MHCET LAW for students all over India and others state entrances to only for students for that particular state. Maharashtra has only 15% of their seats allotted to other state students but they have a few colleges that are worth trying – Government Law college in Mumbai (over 150 years old and has the likes of Dr. B R Ambedkar, Bal Gangadhar Tilaq, Soli Sorabjee, Ram Jethmalini, etc. as their alumni) and ILS law college in Pune, which are both pretty decent.
Now I would go with the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) – this is the standardized test conducted for all the law colleges in the USA and Canada, and which focuses only on Reading comprehension, logical and verbal reasoning. There is an Indian version called LSAT INDIA conducted by Pearson VUE that happens around a Sunday of May that is important for getting admissions to private law colleges. This is for getting admissions to some good private colleges like Jindal and they all go by the percentiles (instead of marks) and your score sheets gets sent to the top 10 colleges that you would choose while submitting the application for the test – these ten colleges would certainly have your information and test scores, and start contacting you even before you write the LSAT India test on their own – not to worry. Higher the percentile, the better it is. For OP Jindal State University in Sonepat, Haryana which charges around Rs 7.5 lacs/year (includes hostel), there are good tuition fee concessions up to 50% if your percentile is > 95. Most of these private institutes sell more than what they can offer, and I believe strongly these are more for rich kids who have a lineage of politicians or lawyers in their family who would like to spend a good five years here and get a degree – someone who joins here should get used to the peer pressure in terms of wealth being displayed. Again, if you ask me, there is Jindal for LSAT and nothing else close to it in terms of standards and I prefer not to mention any other college names here. You need to apply to each of these private colleges separately.
Now I can say in most instances, the first three Sundays of May would be the three major tests that one needs to take – CLAT, AILET, and LSAT India. Other tests would work around these dates and some will clash with these dates as well and hence it is prudent for you to concentrate on these three and have the other tests work around it. There are good private colleges like Symbiosis, Christ University and Kalinga KIIT who would have their own entrance tests much prior in April and first week of May so that their admissions try to close even before one gets the results of CLAT and AILET so that they get the good students first. For the students, they try to grab a seat here, pay the fees and wait to get lucky and make a decision to move elsewhere foregoing part or the entire fees paid to these institutes. Since these seats usually gets thrown up after the first seat allotment of CLAT and AILET, these seats gets filled by the waiting list candidates and one would be surprised as to the amount of seats getting opened up here for the second allotment. Again, I view it as a conniving trick by these good private law colleges to get some ‘free money’ up front and they are used to the first allotted seats getting vacant and hence they do not create any hassle about it. Businesses that thrive due to the anxiety of the parents – something we need to cut across and have the government go after only CLAT and LSAT India as the entrance tests for these seats and allotment made accordingly after one fills up the NLUs.
Now let me talk about a few institutes before I talk about a few good private and state law colleges. First is Institute of Law – Nirma University in Ahmedabad which goes only with your CLAT and LSAT scores and give you admissions. From a syllabus perspective and their internships, they seem to be doing pretty well. Next comes Kalinga KIITEE which usually would be the first decent law alternative to close admissions – they are from Bhubaneshwar and considered to be a good institute as the founder has done a great job in the engineering and technology side. Then comes Sastra University, in Thanjavur which goes only with your CLAT score and your 12th score to get admission, purely by merit – there is no management quota here. I am mentioning this here because this is the only decent alternative left in Tamilnadu now. Then I would mention about MS University in Vadodhara– they used to have a good name earlier, but definitely a good alternative for anyone from Gujarat to study in.
Now comes the private and state colleges worth mentioning in my book of law admissions:
- Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastra University (Delhi State government) – has its own IPU CET but given that this is in capital region, and is a decent university otherwise as well, something worth taking.
- Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, UP – again, has its own law test AMU LAW with only three centers in India – two in UP and one in Kerala. Old institute tag gives it some decent reputation.
- Banaras Hindu University (BHU) – they have its one test UET BHU. Worst part is although this is open throughout India, they do not have any centers in South India – they had Chennai earlier but this year they made all South Indians travel to Delhi to take the test. Sounds ridiculous but you are their mercy in these things unfortunately – they would advertise all the centers, get the fees and then a week or less prior to the test would ask you to come to some other city to take the test.
- College of Legal Studies, Dehradun – has its own entrance test ULSAT although they accept good CLAT and LSAT scores. Approximately Rs 5 lacs as fees that includes hostel. More famous for its energy related courses but has a wide variety of Bachelor’s option in law, one specializing purely in Energy law.
- New Law College, Bharathiya Vidya Peeth University in Pune: this conducts its own test BVP CET and a unique way in which they make twice the money in these tests is they conduct two different tests in consecutive days for BBA and BA stream – I find this ridiculous.
- Army Institute of Law , Mohali – has only four open seats and one cannot get any information whatsoever from them – you need to be watching for news about this as their website is not updated, and
- Lloyd College, Greater Noida – has its own test called LET. I am just mentioning it here, purely because this is in the NCR region and they do have some sort of MOU with NLSIU and other NLUs – something to look into if nothing else works.
Last but not the least, I kept two private colleges that are worth the trouble after the six top NLUs and NLUD to the very last – Christ University and Symbiosis Pune (the other two institutes in Hyderabad and Noida are definitely not worth it). Definitely something to really go after given that their reputation in both management and law is very high. Although not a Bangalore bias as I am from this city, I would rate Christ a little better than Symbiosis Pune. Both of them have strict uniform codes for the students, and both do not have an in-house hostel although they have associated with certain hostels nearby. Both would not be too transparent in the way they do admissions which is a setback, as they do have their own entrance tests CULET and SET respectively. Christ campus is the best amongst all law colleges in India as this is part of their other streams as well and not exclusive to it – they do have a 6 to 7 places to eat within their big campus for the students and have an extensive library and compete with the local NLSIU (the top NLU in India) for Internships. Symbiosis Law in Pune has its own building (no concept of campus) which is away from their main set of buildings and closer to the Pune Airport (walking distance) but looks very stuffed up and seems to be a good place for most of wealthy Maharashtrians to get their wards in. Symbiosis has an advantage of better placements due to its proximity to Mumbai. So, between them it is a toss honestly.
One mention I wanted to say here is even if you are a local Bengelurian, due to the bad traffic here, it is better that the ward stays somewhere nearby the university as law is all about doing work beyond the normal 9 to 4 pm schedule of classes. And any private hostels surrounding Christ smells bad and is a hell hole and I would rather prefer 3-4 students joining together and getting an apartment although it would be on the expensive side in Koramangala area and be able to commute within couple of kilometers.
Now coming to an interesting piece that I keep asked about – what about OCIs students (who hold a foreign passport and have parents of Indian origin and are of Indian origin) – how do they get classified? The Bar Council of India does NOT allow OCIs to practice law in India today, unlike engineers or doctors who can work in India, this would most likely change in years to come – their only resistance at this point is to not allow foreign law companies to come and establish here and steal their lunch and dinner. Of course, any OCIs can act as a researcher or an advisor after their degree. The way any private college treats OCIs is very simple – as long as they have studied their 10th and 12th (and a few institutes add the clause of at least 7 years studying in Indian schools) , they get classified under normal Indian quota. In the NLUs and NLUD, same logic applies. But in NLUs you can also be considered as in NRI category and pay higher fees in US$ (or INR equivalent) as long as you have a sponsor for the same – again, I still cannot fathom the fact that OCIs can get clubbed with NRIs if the OCIs are legal tax resident of India earning in Indian currency!. But if you are a non-OCI and hold a non-Indian Passport, you are classified as a foreign citizen only in all the institutes, be it private or government (there are a few exceptions though).
Last note that I wanted to make is for the students in Bengaluru looking for a Bengaluru option for pursuing law – although I would not recommend any of them personally, some schools that do have a decent local studentship are MS Ramaiah, Alliance, NA Global. KLA Society Law College and Bangalore Institute of legal Studies. I would still have University Law College of Bangalore University and the Law College in University of Mysore above any local institutes.
Hope this has cleared most of the anxiety that the parents face in sending their child to the law programs in India. Law education is just started to boom given you have an increasing statistics for the past few years in the test intakes and is going to be on par with the JEEs and NEETs soon. Unfortunately not much good information is available on the web for students and parents, and I thought I would lay it down as I see it today that would be helpful for most of the audience.
Before I close this blog, there are two websites that one should keep in mind while doing research and getting the right information: www.legallyindia.com and www.barandbench.com – these give you some reliable pointers and are a good resource to find most of the queries answered. The other sites that are out there are pretty much not to the mark – they provide anywhere from stale information to wrong information. The author is a, educational consultant and a blogger out of Bengaluru and had to do this research extensively last year for seeking admission to one of his close relatives and this blog is just an outcome of the same research that is being shar