The genesis of becoming a lawyer involves many stages. There is the passing of the legal study examinations; there is the getting one’s license to appear as a pleader; there is the first time one appears in Court and gets bamboozled by a strict Judge or a cunning opposing lawyer; there is starting-out-on-your-own, or beginning your legal career at a firm, or partnering up with a like minded colleague. But one of the most important times of a lawyer’s journey into the ‘unknown’ is the time of apprenticeship. In Pakistan, once an aspiring individual completes his or her LLB examination, they are required to serve an apprenticeship of six months with a licensed to practice lawyer before becoming eligible to be enrolled as an Advocate. Exciting times for a young lawyer – being able to learn, work and assist senior lawyers at a law chamber in order to get a bird’s eye view of what is to come. My Ustaad often would tell us that in England, if a young lawyer wanted to work with a Barrister, the young lawyer would have to pay the Barrister a nominal amount of 5 pounds. What a young, aspiring lawyer gets out of apprenticeship really depends upon the level of interest, commitment and sacrifice he or she is willing to invest in. And it is the beginning of a long investment – which is never ending and is most demanding. Welcome to the law!

My apprenticeship was longer than usual. It lasted the whole three years of when I was supposed to be going to College and studying for my LLB exams and the six months after I had gotten my provisional LLB passing certificate. Being lucky enough to come from a family of lawyers, I was greeted initially by my cousin (who had been working with my Ustaad before me) and on the first day of work, I was told in no uncertain terms that whatever I was told to do, I had to do it within a given timeframe and that if I wanted to stick around, I would have to submit to his will and that of my Ustaad. Translated – if everyone is staying late till the wee hours of the night, so will you; if there are work meetings on Sunday, you will have to come as well and sacrifice your day off and if there is a Court hearing, if you are involved in its preparation, then only will you get to go. Testing times indeed. Aside from juggling preparation for the exams whilst being in office, I was given all the tasks that an intern or an apprentice would do – typing, filing, reading, case law handling, taking notes, arranging of documents, reading, reading and more reading! Trips to Court were very frequent and often I was drafted in without any notice to assist Seniors when they were arguing cases. It was a great learning platform. The first few years of my apprenticeship were tough times but being able to go to Court and observing how the Courts work within the confines of procedure, how lawyers argue cases and the general atmosphere of the legal community were very beneficial for being able to understand what the general ‘dos and donts’ were for when the time came to actually begin practicing as an Advocate.

The Apprenticeship is a significant stage in the beginning of the journey for an aspiring lawyer. Unfortunately today, it is treated only as a mandatory requirement for practice and the majority of the current generation of young lawyers does not fully take advantage of the learning opportunity that they get to benefit from. By serving one’s Senior, a young lawyer gets the chance to ask questions, learn how to prepare a case, learn how to argue a case and courtroom experience for a litigating lawyer is essential in letting a young lawyer know what to expect when the time comes to take responsibility for a brief themselves. It is often the case that as senior lawyers are very busy with their work, they do not have time to ‘spoon-feed’ young lawyers with the wisdom and knowledge that they have gained from their experience. On the contrary, it is the young lawyer’s duty and privilege to take the desired initiatives to extract the maximum potential from an apprenticeship.

I have been fortunate to learn and grow from a continued apprenticeship to this day with my Ustaad. He is one person who will always give you the space to be creative and logical in your thinking when dealing with a case. But at the same time, he will always encourage you to come up with your own solution to a legal problem and be able to test it, so that it may withstand any legal challenges, when in Court. As a litigating lawyer, you are always learning on the job but if you (and not anyone else) invest in your foundations at the outset, when you are privileged to learn from a senior lawyer, the journey into the future might just be more worthwhile. Respect the Apprenticeship. It shall give birth to your wings to fly.