A common dilemma that is faced by students of the law nowadays is that once they get that law degree in their hands, what should they do with it? Obviously, the goal is to practice law but the profession has evolved a great deal since the days of old. No longer is litigation the only preferred choice but as of late law graduates also prefer to get into corporate law or chamber work or become solicitors. In Pakistan, once you get your LLB degree, you can become an Advocate of the Courts i.e. have a right of audience and argue cases. There are no Barristers or Solicitors here, as is the system in the United Kingdom. With the professional environment being what it is these days, young students often get disillusioned with the thought of being a litigating lawyer in the glorious courtrooms of our country. Prolonged adjournments, striking lawyers, violent bar members, and inefficient court-staff – all of these factors don’t exactly paint a rosy picture to the newcomer to the profession. However, one has to start their journey somewhere once the Law degree is in hand, as it is important to get a flavour of all the different types of lawyers present – the warrior litigator, the meticulous drafter, the document master, the crafty court orator, the opinion crafter and so on. As a lawyer, one always has the choice to decide what type of lawyer they want to be – but what is often lost sight of, is the struggle that one has to go through when making that particular decision.

When I decided to do law, I certainly did not know what to expect. I had seen most of the legal TV sitcoms to understand what it was about – long hours, tough cases, hard taskmasters for bosses, etc. I do remember though, when I entered my Ustaad’s office for the first time, that he told me that I should spend some time getting to know the law, getting to know what the profession was about, getting a feel of litigation, getting to understand what legal drafting was about. He always told me and continues to say that what type of law you want to do, is your choice and whatever be that choice, you must be passionate about and committed to the choice you make. I have been working at a litigating lawyer’s office for the past 13 years and although we primarily focus on litigation related work, corporate work i.e. legal drafting, contractual work and preparation of other legal documents, etc., is also something that I have had the chance to do. The great thing about being a lawyer is that you are never straight jacketed into being one kind of lawyer – one always has the freedom to change direction, but such change is never easy.

I have often flirted with the idea of getting a corporate legal job. I have even interviewed for several positions over the years. However, trying to become a warrior Advocate has always been the goal. Owing to my possessing a somewhat “gentle” personality, becoming a warrior in court has been a struggle at times. And in Pakistan, in order to be a successful Advocate, aside from being a skilled practitioner of the legal craft, it is very important to be a fighter, whilst in court. According to my Ustaad, in the good ol’ days, litigating lawyers who performed well in court i.e. through their advocacy skills, ability to assist Judges and the manner of their address in court, would be successful in establishing their practice. Unfortunately, that model seems to be very much in the past and not really a decisive factor any longer in determining whether a lawyer is successful or not.

My alma mater, LUMS, has been offering a BA-LLB degree for 5 years for some time now. Whilst attending LUMS to read Economics at the undergraduate level, I had always wished that they had a law program as well. I have often had the chance to meet law graduates from LUMS and noticed how the majority of them sought to either go abroad to work or get into corporate jobs, as opposed to becoming litigating lawyers in Pakistan. Obviously, the current environment has played a big part in determining their choices. But alas, that is the beauty of law – you always have the choice of who you want to be as a lawyer. Good luck and God Speed…