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What are the 3 key differences between qualifying as a lawyer in the UK v India?

To begin with both have their own set of advantages that help one in becoming a good lawyer. However, the 3 key differences between qualifying in the UK and India are as follows:

  1. Qualifying in the UK gives you a better opportunity to practise internationally. It’s a widely accepted degree vis-a-vis to a degree from a home country, in my case it’s the Indian degree. So once you have a valid degree from ones native country, a UK degree will definitely help in opening more doors of opportunities internationally. However, by no means am I suggesting that your home country’s degree is invalid or immaterial.
  2. Qualifying in India and as a practising Indian disputes lawyer I can say that we get to practise a variety of topics at one go. So in the beginning of our careers, we are exposed to a variety of subjects which according to me help us a lot. However UK definitely helps one in specialising and concentrating on one subject that one loves. In conclusion, I would say qualifying in India gives you a wider realm to start with, however, UK helps you with narrowing that net to concentrate on your subject of interest after a couple of years in practise which is absolutely essential.
  3. The third difference is the procedure for qualification. In the Indian jurisdiction the qualification is theory-oriented which is extremely important for getting your basic fundamental degree and to get a better and deeper understanding of the subjects. However, with the UK qualification especially the Solicitors examination, the approach is more practical/pragmatic to deal with the actual situations one encounters in the profession.

I feel qualifying in both these jurisdictions have been a package deal for me as I got trained on the best aspects of each of these jurisdictions.

What unexpected challenges did you overcome? 

The biggest challenge that I had to deal with was TIME. Since I was/am a working Counsel managing work and studies was a tedious task. In addition to work, considering that my course providers were based out of UK the classes were as per UK time so, to manage late night classes after work, mocks and professional commitments was a legitimate war like situation. I knew that the only way this situation could be dealt with was if I followed a strict timetable and would be disciplined about it.

The biggest challenge was also to keep myself motivated through the challenging times of covid and the lockdown. I cleared my MCT in July 2019 and was supposed to travel to London for my OSCE in April 2020. However, a month prior to my exam we were informed that the exams had been postponed and they would inform us in due course as to when we could sit for the same. Finally, after a lot of deliberations, I decided to sit for my OSCE in July 2021. I again started studying from November/ December 2020. Come June 2021 when I was all gearing up for my attempt, travel from India to UK was banned because of the rising covid cases. I had to, unfortunately, cancel my attempt again.

This continuous studying and breaking the rhythm for some circumstances beyond my control was absolutely frustrating. The task to keep myself motivated was truly debilitating and to keep studying again and again without knowing when I would be able to go was exasperating.  Finally I managed to travel and attempt my OSCE in November 2021 with just about receiving my visa two days before my exam.

Well the challenges did not stop there. My results for my November 2021 OSCE were out in March 2022. I could not clear my first attempt by 0.56 marks and marks mind you not percentage. I was truly devastated. I had managed to sit for my exams after two years and now having given it I did not clear it by just 0.56 marks felt like a joke. The next few days were numb just out of pure frustration, sadness and exhaustion.

I knew I had come this close and it was going to be worth the fight for one last time. I knew come what may I had to give it my all in the last attempt at being a Solicitor. However the twist was that now I did not have to give the OSCE I had to attempt the SQE 2.

But with all that hard work that I had put in for my OSCE ,I knew it would help me in my SQE 2. With all the motivation that was left in me I poured it in studying for SQE 2 and finally in February 2023 I cleared my SQE 2. Was it tough yes…!!! Was it worth it absolutely…!!!.

How will this new achievement impact your legal career? 

Well, to begin with, I am officially qualified to work in England now. It can't get better than that, can it? And I always wanted to do that.

Irrespective of being an Indian-qualified lawyer with over 10 years of experience for the lack of a valid English law degree I could not practise/work in England. But thank god that stands changed today. So moving to England though tedious will not stand unachieved for the lack of an English Law degree.

Moving on I have had the good fortune to work on International Commercial Arbitrations wherein most of the contracts are governed by English Laws. Having in-depth knowledge of English Law will definitely help me in handling those matters in far more detail. It will also help me to be involved in more International Commercial Arbitrations not only as an Indian-qualified lawyer but also as an English Solicitor thus giving me an opportunity to gain international exposure on a more frequent basis.

I also deal with a lot of Admiralty law matters, with an English law degree queries and advisory work will be impacted in an extremely positive way.

In the larger scheme of things becoming a Solicitor of England and Wales is going to propel me higher to such an international arena where my degree will give me the opportunity to work with some of the best in the field and help me in becoming a better lawyer and achieving my dreams that seem to have found a place on my mood board for a while now. An inch closer to it…. For sure.

What 3 tips of advice would you give to aspiring lawyers looking to do the same as you?

Firstly- Ask yourself why do you want to be an English Solicitor.

Know why you want to do this degree. Have a game plan. Let me tell you it’s not an easy exam. It tests you mentally and physically. So do not do it just because you want additional degrees on your visiting cards or because your colleagues are doing it. If you know your reason which is going to be valid enough the passion and motivation will seep in automatically. Otherwise, it will just be an arduous task with no zeal or motivation to keep you pushing ahead and believe me you need tons of it for this exam.

Second- Discipline

Discipline. I think its extremely important to be disciplined if one wants to undertake this journey. Be particular of the schedule that one is working with especially if one is also a working professional. My saying this is by no means wanting to insinuate that personal enjoyment has to be haltered. Believe me when I say this you have to take dedicated breaks for rejuvenation and enjoyment otherwise you will not be able to come back to those notes and mocks 100 %. Have a good timetable that is achievable. At the end not everyone sticks to the timetable 100 % so incase you cannot on some days follow the timetable do not beat yourself up for it. Go in the next day without the backlog and move ahead. Its ok. You will cover it up trust me. Just keep moving.  Study, work and ENJOY the process.

Thirdly- Listen to your tutor/people who have cleared the exam.

The syllabus is vast. Its massive and it can get overwhelming. At such time all you want to do is listen to someone who has been through the process or guiding you through the process.

My mentor in my course provider was someone who really helped me through this. After my every lecture or mock she would give me some tips or places to improve upon. I used to make a note of the same in my diary which I called “my little black book”. I wrote down every minute suggestion or advice she had for me and kept revisiting those every time I gave a new mock test. These little suggestions and advice make a whole lot of difference. They give you that extra 10 % advantage. This is what is going to propel you beyond the passing mark.

If you do not have a tutor talk to a friend who has passed the exam. They are the best people to guide you through this. Take their suggestions. I had extremely supportive seniors who had cleared their exams before I did and they shared their little tricks which genuinely helped me. Well, that went in my little black book as well.

When you are just about to give your exam you are so consumed with the legal material that it is only these little tips and tricks that help you to push ahead and clear that exam. With all my honesty my little black book helped me immensely.

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