With the massive response to the CA+MBA series, the idea to reach lawyers at B-Schools was an absolute no-brainer.
There’s a real dearth of guidance of what lawyers should do to make the best of their college experience and how they are perceived at B-School is also a black box.
To solve some of these mysteries, we reached out to Ishita Saxena, a second-year student at Xavier Labour Relations Institute - XLRI - (2019-2021) and a pass out of NUSRL, Ranchi who has been kind enough to answer these questions for us!
In today’s post, Ishita talks about her reasons for going the MBA HR route, and her experience as a lawyer at XLRI Jamshedpur, the foremost institution for HR in India!
PS! - If you are a Chartered Accountant, Lawyer, Economics or Commerce graduate who wants to make it to the B-School of your dreams, don't forget to subscribe to The Unconventional MBA!
Without digressing further, let’s just jump into it!
Ishita Saxena | XLRI, Jamshedpur
10th-10 CGPA | 12th - 94.8 % (Commerce)
B.A., L.L.B (Hons.) 7.5 CGPA
National University of Study and Research in Law (NUSRL), Ranchi
Thanks to my zest for public speaking and well, arguing with anybody and everybody, I decided to pursue law and appeared for CLAT after 12th. I got a decent score and got enrolled in NUSRL. I can tell you for sure that those 5 years in law school, were without a doubt, the best years of my life.
I met some amazing people, took part in a couple of moots and parliamentary debates, organized cultural and literary fests in the university but above all, chilled. A lot. I got a chance to intern in the chambers of Mr. Salman Khurshid and the then-attorney general for India Mr. Mukul Rohatgi as well as a couple of notable law firms. While I found the life extremely fascinating, I was never sure of what I wanted to do after law school ends.
I got an offer from a notable litigation and arbitration law firm in my final semester, and that is when the dilemma struck. To be very honest, I just wanted a little more of college life before entering the real world.
My XLRI Jamshedpur journey
The idea of pursuing an MBA had entered my mind when my brother (an engineer) got into ISB and told me about his batchmate who was a law school grad. This was something I had not heard of as nobody at NUSRL, or any other person I knew, was doing MBA after law.
It was probably the last week of college when I finally took the decision of coming back home in July to begin preparing for B-school entrance exams, which were due in a few months.
I started exploring the different specializations and found that HR was one such field where it seemed that law perfectly aligned. Also, the kind of work in my head that an HR does (and I could not have been more wrong!), seemed to be easy and people-oriented and hence, fascinated me a lot.
At the beginning of my preparation, I was sure that I wanted to study Human Resources and XLRI was, without a doubt, my dream college. I had absolutely no faith in myself and had filled out every form for every college possible with HR as my first preference in the list of specializations.
XAT has an additional sectional of Decision making and GK. I used to love decision making, because as lawyers, reading between the lines is a habit you develop. On the other hand, I knew that quant was going to doom me and I had to compensate through other sections.
Now the best thing about XAT is that there is no restriction of the time you can devote to each section. Thus, my strategy was to play on my strengths. Since I am a fast reader and could do VA and Decision Making relatively quickly, I wanted to keep substantial time in the end for Quant, find questions from the topics I was comfortable with and attempt only those. I also knew that if I started off with quant, I’d lose confidence and probably would not be able to give my best in the other sections where I actually have a chance of scoring.
The strategy worked and I ended up scoring 98. something percentile in XAT and a convert to my dream B-school.
How does an MBA in HR align with your degree in law?
With HR as specialization, while on one hand, you study software like R and SPSS, which are completely unheard of by a law school graduate, there are also extensive labour law courses all through two years.
While labour law is taught in B-schools, at XL takes it to another level. We have some amazing faculty with industry experience who give a fresh perspective to the subject. While there is an edge that you have as a lawyer in labour law subjects, you start to view the law less as a lawyer and more as a future manager.
You entered XLRI right after law school. Do you think that work-ex would have helped you?
I think more than anything else it depends upon how strong your CV is. It goes without saying that qualifying the entrance exam is not the only criteria for selection and a lot depends upon the interviews.
In case one has a strong CV in terms of internships and co-curriculars, being a fresher can be an advantage. In the absence of a strong CV, one should appear for the entrance after some work-ex as it is essential to have spikes in your CV, not only for the B-school entrance but also for internships and placements.
Are there other lawyers in your batch as well? What should we work on compared to our engineering peers? Do math-heavy subjects pose an extra challenge?
In my batch, there are a total of three lawyers out 360, while my senior batch had none.
However, I think that the trend is starting to catch up as law school grads looking to go for further studies have started seeing an MBA as a viable career path. While I was the first in NUSRL to go for MBA, it makes me immensely happy to see a couple of my peers entering great B-schools this year.
However, there are quite a few challenges for us as lawyers when it comes to Quant, Excel and other software that engineering grads are already comfortable with. That said, the best thing about B-school is peer learning and I have had some great friends who have gone out of the way to help me with these subjects when I struggled.
There will be a lot of things that lawyers would not know that end up making you feel a little out of the place, and there will also be a lot of aspects where you’ll feel like you have an edge. I guess that’s why diversity is appreciated in B-schools!
What sort of electives should lawyers take up at XLRI?
Electives are supposed to be taken up in 2nd year at XL. By the second year, most people understand what kind of subjects they prefer. My choice of electives has been governed solely by my interest and the faculty offering the course.
The decision of electives I believe is governed less by your under-graduation and more by your own (and your senior’s) views at B-school. Whether or not those electives turn out to be good for a lawyer is yet to be seen!
Any advice you’d like to give to future lawyers at XLRI HR?
Being the oldest B-school in the country, XL differentiates itself through its strong Human Resources and Labor relations-oriented courses.
It is probably the only B-school in the country which offers extensive law courses and hence, XLRI aligns perfectly with five years of law school. However, it is also a whole new world where you learn new and brilliant things. One year down the line, I believe I have acquired a diverse range of skill sets and an entirely new perspective.
So my only advice would be to enjoy, have a great time and be open to all learning opportunities that come your way!
Best of luck!
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