Kolkata: The economic downturn has India’s top law schools struggling to find jobs for their students. The Bhopal-based National Law Institute University, for instance, started its placement process in November last year but has been able to place just 17 out of 50 students who wanted jobs.
“Many companies have told us that they are going to review recruitment needs once the new financial year begins,” said faculty member and placement coordinator Tapan Mohanty. “So we have decided to keep placements open till end of April.” The average pay offered to the 17 students is around Rs5 lakh a year, compared with an average annual package of Rs9 lakh last year.
The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences hasn’t fared too well either. Even though at least 22 companies hired fresh graduates from the institute located in Salt Lake city on the outskirts of Kolkata, only 36 of 64 students applying for jobs have found employment.
In better times, students here were allowed to reject up to four job offers, but this year the authorities have decided to do away with that rule to make sure that offers weren’t wasted.
“To give you an example, Amarchand Mangaldas alone has hired around 200 students from our institute over the last five years, but this year, they hired only three,” said Anirban Chakraborty, lecturer and placement adviser at the school. Luthra and Luthra Law Offices, another big Indian law firm that has hired a large number of students from the Kolkata institute in the past, interviewed about 15 students on phone, but didn’t make a single offer, Chakraborty said.
Difficult times: Recruitments at National Law School, Bangalore, begin on 3 April and students are worried if there will be 100% placements. Hemant Mishra / Mint
A few students have had to settle for jobs with non-profits and legal process outsourcing firms. Because placements didn’t go well, many students have also applied for judicial clerkship—a stint under a high court or Supreme Court judge as a research assistant.
“We are hiring a little less than last year, which is a function of where we see the market headed,” said Zia Mody, senior partner of AZB and Partners. Abhijit Joshi, a partner at the law firm, added it would hire 12-15 new graduates this year. “These students had interned with us. The only difference this year is we wouldn’t be participating in the final on-campus placements,” Joshi said.
The only law school that appears to have bucked the trend is National Law University at Jodhpur, Rajasthan, which placed 61 of 73 students with firms such as Wadia Ghandy and Co., Luthra and Luthra, AZB and Partners, Tata Sons Ltd, Ernst and Young and Larsen and Toubro Ltd. Some students of the Jodhpur law school, who had interned in the UK, secured pre-placement offers from international law firms such as Herbert Smith Llp. and Clifford Chance Llp.
“In anticipation of the downturn, we had structured our placements in two phases. The first phase began in August and ended in a month. The second phase began in January, and it was to enable students, who were away on internships during the first phase, to secure jobs,” said U.R. Daga, faculty and executive director of the Jodhpur school’s placement bureau.
Placements at India’s most sought after law school, National Law School of India University, Bangalore starts on 3 April, and students there are worried. “We are definitely not expecting 100% placements this year though some 12 students have already secured jobs with companies they had interned with,” said Praneeth Ramanavarapu, member, recruitment co-ordination committee.
Global law firms such as Herbert Smith, Clifford Chance, Norton Rose Llp. and Simmons and Simmons Llp. have hired a few law graduates from India. But most had offered jobs before September, when the current economic crisis started intensifying with the fall of Wall Street investment banks and insurers.