Veena Kamath of RMLNLU on getting into Oxford University, talks about do’s and don’ts of Law School

  1. How was life at Law School? (Your favourite social and academic activities and normal curriculum)

We had classes from 9.30 AM to 1.30 PM from Monday to Saturday. On all weekdays, the library was open until 9 PM. So, after an hour’s lunch break, I would go to the library.  Opportunities were endless at Law School. What I did in the library would vary each day from reading up for a class discussion, working on my articles, preparing for a moot or having an intellectual discussion with my seniors. The last two were my favourite. This schedule would alter at times when there were on campus activities. The day always ended with a lively dinner in the girl’s hostel, which used to last for an hour or two depending on what we ended up discussing on the dinner table.

  1. The do’s and don’ts of Law School?

The big ‘do’ is to make use of every opportunity that comes your way and to enjoy it. The big ‘don’t’ is not to give up or conclude on the worthiness of an opportunity (for example heading a committee of your University, doing a particular internship, doing a particular moot, etc.) only on the basis of what you have heard from others, without trying even once.

  1. Do you agree with the Law School Tier System prevalent among CLAT aspirants and Law school newbies?

I don’t closely follow the ranking that is given by different people/forum, because in my opinion I do not think a law school’s ranking decides one’s success as a law student. This is my personal opinion. When I joined RMLNLU in 2009, there were no alumni, who constitute the pillars of any University. The seniormost batch was in the 4th year. I was told by many in the legal profession that it was nearly impossible to win an international moot or to make it to Oxford University, as no one had done it before from RMLNLU. This proved false eventually. I won the Leiden Sarin International Air Law moot in 2012 and got a chance to study at Oxford University in 2014. This was possible only because I had fantastic seniors and some of the most encouraging teachers. RMLNLU gave me all the opportunities to reach my goal – we have an excellent library with many online databases to get journals/articles from all over the world, a willing librarian who bought books at the request of students, excellent student run committees – for example Moot Court Committee, Internship and Placement Committee, Journal Committee and Cultural Committee. Within a very short period of time, today we have achievers from RMLNLU, just like the law schools that are considered to be top-rated, in all fields, ranging from sports to securing an excellent job to acing the judiciary exams or joining the CAPF.

Similarly, every law school, irrespective of its ranking, has opportunities for a law student to graduate with flying colours, although it might require little extra efforts from the students because of (for example) – lack of a well established alumni network or lack of a very student friendly administration. But, I don’t think one should reject the offer, ontained through CLAT, to study in a law school only on the basis of its rank.

  1. Managing Academics, Mooting, Research Papers and other activities in RML and Law schools in general.

At RMLNLU, lectures were only from 9.30-1.30, so we had ample time to give for other activities. Academics could not be compromised. So, keeping aside some time for academics, I would usually plan my non-academic activities in the beginning of each semester. In my opinion, moots, compared to other activites take a lot of time. So, if I was working on a moot, I would just do that. So, when I was not working on a moot, I would club other activities – writing articles, conferences and attending cultural fests of other Colleges. I also planned my internships in advance. In my opinion, during the first 5-6 semesters’ internship break, one should work in diverse fileds and figure out one’s niche. Rest of the of the internship breaks should be spent working in the specific field of one’s interest.

  1. Best Mooting Experience you would love to share.

My best mooting experience would be winning the Leiden Sarin International Air Law Competition in Istanbul in 2012 for three reasons. First, by winning this competition, against Leiden University and some of the other best law schools from different parts of the world, I surpassed my own fear of being a speaker in a moot competition. I had participated in different moots, before I did Leiden, but as a researcher and not a speaker. Second, I got a chance to argue before Mr. Gilber Guillaume, former President of the International Court of Justice. I made two friends in Ms. Mia Wouters and Ms. Elizabeth Friedenberg. These two dynamic ladies had judged me in my rouunds and we keep in touch even today. Ms. Mia, who is my biggest inspiration, invited me to do an internship with her in Brussels, eventually, after the moot. The third reason was when Mr. Gilbert Guillaume invited me and my teammate on stage to take the trophy, I lifted the trophy with my father, who is also a lawyer by profession. Getting a standing ovation from the audience, with my father next to me was a dream come true!

  1. How life at RML changed you as an individual?

RML taught me to win hearts. There was a time, when me and my friends used to jam outside the academic block, the security guards would ask us to jam elsewhere, but this soon changed – the guards would also join and sit next to us while jamming! There was a time when the hostel warden would shout at us and ask us to stop playing music late night. This soon changed when the warden asked us to reduce the voulme, rather than stopping, and sometimes danced with us too! Facing problems while chasing out lizards from my room to doing some College administration chores, RML taught me not to lose hope when I failed in my first attempt. Most importantly, RML gave me friends for life and some of the best teachers who are responsible for all my achievements.

  1. The most awaited query: Getting into Oxford and living the dream of studying in a reputed British University.

Making it to Oxford University was truly a dream come true. The seed of this dream was sown by Late. Prof. L N Mathur Sir, who taught me Law of Torts. In my first semester, in 2009, I used to go to Mathur Sir’s (who was then around 86 years) chamber to clear my doubts on Torts. He had lot of his former students visiting him for getting his recommendation letter for their post-graduate studies. One day when I went to clear my doubts, he suddenly told me that he wants to see me pursue my masters in one of the best Universities in the world and that he would write a recommendation letter for me. Since that day, I decided to do my masters.

When I started applying for my masters, unfortunately Mathur Sir was no longer present to guide me with my application. However, my Professor, Mr. Sudeep Malik came to my help. He strongly supported me and gave me very valuable guidance in applying for my masters.

When I got an offer letter from Oxford University, it took me some time, to digest the fact that my dream was a reality. This was possible only becaue of my family, Mathur Sir and Sudeep Sir.

Life at Oxford University as a student was hard but exceptionally amazing. I studied my course from some of the best professors in the field of my specialisation  (which included International Commercial Arbitration, Conflict of Laws, Restitution of Unjust Enrichment and Commercial Remedies). I got an opportunity to stay with wonderful flatmates and make friends from different parts of the world. Of all the amazing things I got to do at Oxford, three of my most favourite was – reading the D.Phil. thesis of some of the notable alumni of Oxford University, playing my Indian classical flute in my Indian attire in various College events and chapels and attending guest lectures/round table discussions. Some of these included lecutres by sitting judges of the UK Supreme Court, Lord Millett and lively talks organized by the Oxford University Student Union such as one by Anders Fogh Rasmussen and  Lissa Muscatine.

  1. Any messages for Law aspirants and New Law students across the country? 

My message for law aspirants is: to be a lawyer is to be in a wonderful profession and the first five years as a law school student awaits a lot of fun and learning! My message for new law students is: make use of every opportunity from the beginning itself and do not wait until your 4th or 5th year. You should contact your alumni and others in the legal proefssion and find out the various career paths available. Then plan for your internships and other law school activities, accordingly to find out what interests you the most. At the end of 5th year, you should be able to prove ( for example: to the admissions committee if applying for higher studies or to the recruitment committee in case of jobs) that you always wanted to get into your chosen career path.

  1. And lastly, Details about you being a trained classical musician and life at Bangalore.

Currently, I am working at Kamath & Kamath, Bangalore, as a practsing lawyer. I live with my parents, three siblings and my grandmother.  They are my strength and the biggest reason for all my achievements. Each one in my family is a musican, so learning to play the Indian Classical flute (Carnatic style) was a natural pick. I learnt to play my flute from Ms. Ashwini Varaghur in Bangalore.

For any queries you can contact Veena Kamath at : veenajkamath@gmail.com

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