Posted by: Mod | September 9, 2009

Founder’s Message: It’s Ten Years to The Day

It’s ten years to the day that LST was founded over a table-top at Case Picola’s in Bangalore. What a decade! Some serious water has flown under the bridge. Guys in the boy’s hostel of NLS went from wearing banyans and lungis to Kobe Bryant jerseys. Despite attempting to shamelessly appropriate the moniker ‘Law School’ to itself the National Law School in Bangalore is now just one of several national law universities. Entire batches have graduated from these new national law schools that didn’t even exist in 1999. Students from LST’s first few batches, the first one being in 2001, are now seasoned lawyers- in courts and law firms across the world. The overnight express train became Air Deccan, which then became Kingfisher Red. Other minor matters – the World Trade Centre came down in 2001, Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded, and I have a grey hair.

When LST got in touch with me to write on the occasion of its ten-year anniversary, I initially resisted the idea. I am wary of nostalgia. How does one sum up ten years without making a complete hash of it? Well, one can’t. So instead I’ll share a few thoughts on the students who have been through the corridors of LST, and legal education itself.

LST gave me an opportunity to interact with an incredible bunch of youngsters between 2003 and 2006. My interactions with that lot, and I still remember a whole lot of them, were memorable.

I saw in this bunch the several different threads of youth – the pressure of ‘being someone’ and having an ‘identity’, raw idealism, early cynicism, and so much energy. I remember the idealism – sitting with a young Woodstock alum at the café in front of IIT Delhi, and having him share, rather sheepishly, his desire to be a political leader. I was proud of him. Where are you? Do write in.

Then there was this boy from Gaya, the name escapes me, who told me in chaste Hindi that he wanted to study at NLS Bangalore but had been educated in Hindi all his life. I gave him a few pointers and some well-meaning advice but, personally, I didn’t rate his chances too highly. He proved me, and all other naysayers, wrong. I remember the joy on his face when he came to meet me with the news of his results. The look of someone for whom the world is suddenly a very different place – like climbing a mountain and seeing the lay of a strange and exciting land which you knew existed but didn’t believe you’d see.

I could go on, and on. Some days I look back at those days, those conversations and wonder if there is anything greater than the spirit of youth. To me law school is special because it can tap this spirit in ways that few other streams of education can. It can take this spirit and help it realize itself. So when you get there be prepared to absorb like a sponge – in the classrooms, in the hostels and on the sports fields.

A few months back I received a call from a daughter of a family friend. She struck me as being unusually forlorn. Her complaint was that she felt that she wasn’t ‘good enough’ and that world was full of such ‘talented and capable people’. How would she make a mark? My response was simply this – and I share it because I know that a lot of young people think like this. At 17 you are NOT a finished product. You have a long long way to go. If there is anyone who should be whining, a bit, it’s us thirty year olds. And even we have cause to believe. You have a lifetime of self-development and learning to go. Cut yourself some slack.

I recently met for lunch an LST alum (2004) who went to a better ranked law school and graduated this year. She told me that she’d had a disappointing experience at her law school. That she deserved better – and I believed her. Some of the ‘better’ national law universities have not delivered on their expectations. The students deserved better than some half-qualified first-time teacher cutting his teeth, for way to long I might add, on a batch of talented youngsters eager to absorb, question and debate. I felt responsible for her disappointment and believe that the leadership of those law schools needs to take responsibility too. There are few things worse than the unfulfilled potential of young talent – and students have every right to protest if what they are being served in the classrooms is rubbish. Students need to recognize this right – if not at a law school, then where?

But there is a positive note for every disappointment – and I have met so many, sometimes on the streets, that have savoured their experiences, and the joy is writ large on their faces. They have risen above their circumstances, benefited from their interactions with other smart youngsters and select good faculty, and literally taken the law into their own hands.

It is the law schools from where the intelligentsia has to arise and bring sanity to a stage dominated by ranting news anchors, moral police and other shallow-thinking notables. More people into the civil services, research, academics, and creative career options, on the periphery of, and even outside the law. That’s what we need.

Finally, to all of you who want to study law here’s the great summing up – always bet on the side of crazy idealism. But crazy idealism will take effort and you should know that. The journey though will be so fantastic that it won’t feel like an effort. The wall between ‘work’ and ‘life’ will slowly dissolve and when people ask about the ‘work-life balance’ you will smile to yourself.

There is a 17 year old girl, Melanie Oudin (pronounced ‘Oo-dan’) who has made it to the quarter-finals of the US Open against all odds. On her ridiculously coloured sneakers she had scrawled with a marker the following word:

‘Believe’.

Sachin Malhan

Founder – LST
9/9/2009
Mumbai

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Responses

  1. I don’t how to address you, But i always admire you as my close and true friend. A friend who always made me aware about good and bad. Thanx for being with me. My lot of good wishes and greetings for completing marvelous 10yrs. May you live long to give every youth a reason and chance to write “Best Luck Sachin”.
    May Baba bless you with lot of Prosperity and good health. Warm Regards, Deepak Raina

  2. very well written, mr. sachin!

  3. It was great to read this, reminds me of the first day i heard you in St. xavier’s auditorium in kolkata, and took a plunge for law leaving my family shell shocked. that was back in 2005. I know the crazy idealism you are talking about 😀

    I remember asking you the most strange questions, from ‘sir, what tort will be committed if I start an artificial rain?’ to ‘would strict liability apply to those spreading SARS (dangerous thing escaping their body)’. You even took time to think and answer them!

    Thank you for giving me law. and also, giving LST.

  4. dear mr malhan,
    my son a lst alumni is in third year in RGNUL
    patiala. pl conduct more seminars to guide what
    next. through ur website or lst centres pl try to
    throw light on courses available after LLB,


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