Dr. Chaitra Beerannavar, BA LLB, LLM, PhD, Assistant Professor, Christ Law College, Bengaluru
- What motivated you to choose law as a career?
I knew many lawyers growing up. My father said I should take the judicial exam to make sure that I followed his suit. I didn't want to do that but I really had no idea of what I did want to do, beyond choosing law because I was sure that law as a career opens up the possibility of embarking upon one of the most dynamic and challenging careers available.
- How was your law school journey of studying LL.B at ULC Dharwad?
It’s one of the most cherished part of my law school journey. ULC Dharwad in many ways is self-contained. My leanings at ULCD still continue to guide me. It laid the foundations for law learning and law teaching. “Read a lot” was the only motive with which we strived to be better. Besides self-learning, it focused on life outside the classroom along the themes of off-campus activities, leisure and the arts, and athletics. I had found respite from my studies in activities both solitary and social, on campus and off.
- Did you always want to do post-graduate studies or was it a sudden decision after your graduation at ULC?
LL.M. was a well-planned opportunity for me. Because I knew exactly where I was lacking and wanted to build on it with specialised and focussed subject knowledge.
- What made you opt for a LL.M degree at Symbiosis, Pune? Do you think LL.M is necessary for every law student?
Symbi became my choice as it was close to my home town. I think it depends on your eagerness to opt for a specialisation. The least an LLM will give you is another highly regarded qualification to add to your CV. If you want to enter a niche market, then LLM is probably right, like sports law, oil and gas law, private international law, competition law etc.
Law is a notoriously demanding subject intellectually, mentally and emotionally, but the rewards make it all worth it. By rewards we mean not just financial or professional advancement, but also the boost to your confidence that comes with completing a challenge. Your LLM year is not just about earning a qualification; it’s about networking. It’s the last and best opportunity to bond with faculty, other grad students and within your professional network. These relationships will prove to be your support system in a long run. When you are in, pls plan it strategically as you don’t have much time unlike graduate studies. Be strategic about how much time you will put into each module. Unless you’re a super duper genius, it will be difficult to be the best in every single one. Be strategic about which ones are crucial to your career plans; in which modules do you have to be top of the class, and in which ones can you afford to slack off a little bit? This way you focus your studying and efforts.
- How was your experience studying at Symbiosis Law School, Pune? What role has Symbiosis played in shaping your career?
At Symbi, I learnt how to unlearn. The havoc of assignment submission almost on every alternative day prepared me for multitasking. Symbi’s role in shaping my career is commanding. Right from the Dean to faculty members, they ensure you take your learnings and values back home. Symbi was my second home for the kind of support and guidance I received there, both personally and professionally. Because faulty at Symbi can go an extra mile in the interest of their students. I am a proud Symbian.
- You also have a Ph.d degree from Symbiosis, Pune. Can you share your Ph.d experience with our readers? How did you get selected for a Ph.d degree at Symbiosis? What were the requisites for it?
I was the first batch of JRF at Symbi. The selection was through a written test and followed by an interview. What worked for me was my conviction on my research topic and the preparation I had put in for defending the same. It required lot of reading but at the end I was happy that those readings had made my thoughts and approach much clear and presentable.
- How has your experience doing Ph.d as a Junior Research Fellow in Symbiosis been? What all did you do along with researching during your Ph.d tenure?
Today’s Ph.d aren’t just confined to one’s research. It’s demanding in many ways and one has to be adoptable to be able to survive. During my Fellowship, I was actively involved in teaching, university research and assisting the faculty both academically and administratively.
- Can you guide law students reading this interview on how to decide on choosing a topic for dissertation in LL.M and also on choosing a Ph.d thesis topic? What are the main factors that law students must keep in mind while opting for the post-graduate as well as Ph.d degree?
There are many reasons why someone may want to start a PhD. It could be one’s passion for research, for developing understanding and knowledge or it could be due to a desire to be intellectually challenged and guided by a world expert in your field. Or sometimes, it’s a requirement to get qualified at the University level. Whatever may be the reason, once you are into it, you need to focus on your area of work.
First, there is no “Right Topic.” What is relevant today may not be the same by the time that you go on the job market. Much more important is to find something that is important and genuinely interests you. There are great papers to be written in almost all fields. You need to settle on an area where you are sufficiently interested that you don’t mind making some investments, since these investments are preparing you not only for thesis work but also for your next round of papers as an expert in the chosen field of Law. It is the first thing that future employers will scrutinize when considering you for a job in their department.
The first issue to bear in mind when considering a topic is how viable it is for a PhD project. Generally speaking, most of the times, we start with over-ambitious Ph.D projects and find it difficult to focus on initial research question and the required literature. The key is to ensure that the big topic can be turned into a manageable research question. That is what time and time again supervisors and other successful academicians tell us. Further, good research depends on many factors, and a good idea alone is not enough. It requires lots of patience, humility and flexibility. In turn, your ability to execute the research will depend on your specific research skills as well as your access to other resources such as equipment, funding, technical support and time. So, once your area is finalised, know how to defend your choice of a particular subject and explain why you are using the methodology you have selected. You also need to be aware of current and established theories related to the topic so that you can situate your own work and ensure that it makes a contribution.
- You were chosen for the Sixteenth Dr. D.C. Pavate Memorial Visiting fellowship at the Centre of International Studies/Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge, U.K.-2016. Can you share your experience of researching at one of the top Law Schools in the world?
This has honestly been the best experience I’ve ever had. It has expanded my cultural horizon and enriched my ability to meet new people and learn to become independent.
My experience at Cambridge has absolutely been the best of my life, I can’t stop saying it! Everything at the camp, from the location to the activities, has just been wonderful. I cannot thank Pavate Fellowship enough for providing me with the perfect academic and social opportunity. Cambridge changed my life. It is not simply an academic course that makes you more confident and ready for life, but also makes you feel part of a wide network of passionate and fascinating people around. Cambridge is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I loved everything about my experience there. The people that I met, the things that I learnt, were incredible. I have been so inspired by Cambridge. It offered me an experience that will stay with me for years to come. I learned about different aspects of life and was surrounded by a healthy academic environment. Cambridge went above and beyond my initial expectations both academically and socially. What makes Cambridge different and top class is its ability in bringing students together to prepare them to fulfil their roles in society as the learners of today and the leaders of tomorrow. The University has a strong history of success in research, and continues to build upon this. It is a great feeling to have the brightest minds in the field teaching you. The lecturers will often mention research relevant to the lecture material, relating the course material to the world beyond your level of course. It is the combination of high-level teaching and course content in Law, with Cambridge as a living environment, which has made my time at Cambridge so interesting and so enjoyable.
- What advice would you give to law students who wish to get selected for similar fellowships and scholarship during their law school journey?
Fellowships can be vital to your post-college success. Winning an external fellowship indicates that you have demonstrated that your work is promising and worthy of support. Once you have won a fellowship, further fellowships are likely to come your way because you have already been evaluated and stamped with approval by some collection of trustworthy reviewers—and because a fellowship enables you to devote your time to working on and improving your research.
Therefore, first, define as best you can your long-term career goals and aspirations. Next research and answer the question, ‘‘what is the best way to ensure that I will be able to attain these goals?"
In order to be best prepared for it, first, find others in your program who have earned a fellowship, ask peers and mentors to share their strategies, consider eligibility and the intent of fellowships. Remember, the fellowship requires both a research plan and a career development plan, and both are important. So, spend enough time in developing the specific aims, and then seek input on the aims before preparing the whole proposal. Then, develop the proposal. Address hypotheses, rationale, experimental design, measurable results and interpretation, the impact if your ideas are right and alternative approaches if something doesn't work. Consider how your proposal develops skills you need—new techniques to the sponsors, new collaborators etc.
- What fascinated you in choosing teaching as a profession? Is there anything or anyone who particularly inspired you to become a law school teacher?
My love for learning the Law makes me passionate about teaching the same. And the best thing about teaching is, people tend to remember their teachers for an entire lifetime, long after school is over. With this profession, you'll get passion and commitment, but you'll also get a wide range of experiences in several different settings like experiences that give me a broad base beyond course work and student teaching.
- How would you describe your teaching experience in Symbiosis? What all roles did you have to play in Symbiosis as a part of the faculty at Symbiosis?
Teaching was of more learning to me at Symbi. Besides teaching, it trained me into co-curricular and extracurricular activities.
- You have been an outstanding student to have won a lot of Gold Medals during all your Law School life. Can you tell us who has been the biggest inspiration and motivation to your success in performing exceptionally well in all phases of your studies and life?
Being successful means acknowledging the challenges, so you can deal with them the best that you can before you experience them. Perhaps the key to a successful academic experience is winning the law school mind game. Law school success can be defined in many ways—graduating, getting a job, good grades, creating lifelong relationships. Grades are just part of the equation. If you do not get straight A’s, there are plenty of other ways to make yourself an attractive job applicant. One way to move past bad grades is to acquire practical skills and practical experience. Your GPA is one line on your resume—you need more than that to stand out. If you can create a niche within an area of law—go for it. Independent research and writing classes are a great way to delve into an area that is not covered in class. If you are on law review or a journal, write about a hot-topic in an emerging area of law.
14. What would you advice our readers, especially those who aspire to do join pursue law or are current law students?
Grab a best fellowship program for your higher studies with the best of your abilities and intent. This will be the only time in your career in which you will be completely protected from the political and financial pressures of the academics, and be afforded adequate time to completely immerse yourself in the study of your chosen discipline. If you choose to make this ‘‘sacrifice’’ and pursue such training, you will be rewarded throughout the remainder of your career. You will be prepared to take on a leadership role within our specialty, and perhaps within the greater house of academics. You will develop some of your closest and most cherished professional relationships during your fellowship training, and these will continue throughout your career. Fellowship training was one of the most enriching experiences of my career. I hope you will consider this great opportunity for yourself.