(This is Part III of the series on what factors you must consider when choosing a law school. Note that none of these are ranked preferences and their importance depends on what you expect from law school.)
I) Student Culture and Student Participation
You will be moving away to a new city for five years and the crowd you hand out with is the most important factor in determining how fondly you will remember this phase of life. They will be there to support you when you are homesick, chill with you, help you out with college, help you out when sick or in trouble and generally substitute themselves for a lot of things your parents used to do.
While you can only have a general guess about how your batch mates will be, it is easy to figure out how the senior-junior relationships in a college are. An effective system will support you both in your academics and extra-curricular pursuits as well be an effective coping and support system especially in the first year.
Lastly a competitive peer group will make you push harder by virtue of the fact that they themselves will be doing something always and you will always find someone to race against. But more importantly they must also be able to support you, encourage you and help clear out any difficulties you might face. On the other hand a bad student culture will demotivate you, put the bad sort of peer pressure, foster bullying and ragging and generally fail at supporting you when bad things happen.
Another factor that you must look out for is diversity. While law schools have generally not been bastions of diversity, a more diverse law school will help change your outlook in life and give more things to reflect on. It will also give you experiences and help you break out of the shell of conformity. Diversity here would indicate diversity in terms of gender, cultural, social, economic factors as well as your place of residence.
J) Performance in Moots, MUNs, Debates, ADR events and other competitions
This helps identify not merely the quality and interests of the students in the college but also a few other factors. All these competitions test skills that are generally not taught through regular classes and require students to look into minute legal and socio political issues as well as present day developments. These require quality research infrastructure, library and access to databases but more importantly access to seniors and alumni who can both effectively help you prepare for the competitions/event and also explain the intricacies of the issues in question.
The number of tournaments and other events a college participates in is also reflective of how robust the college is in encouraging student participation. If the college does not go for many international tournaments despite having a good national record, it could be due to the fact that there is no financial assistance policy for events abroad. Similarly a lack of participation in events outside of the city might indicate difficulties with attendance makeups or exemption policies.
Winning a major international or national tournament is a major plus, but a college with a single tournament win but could not qualify for the other events might indicate an exceptional team but an ineffective system to nurture students, so a college that does moderately well in lots of events with a few cups is probably better than the college with just one cup and shoddy performance or non performance in most other events
K) Publications, Conferences, Seminars, Guest Lectures, Research Cells, Chairs and other bodies
This shares many factors with the things stated above. A college with multiple publications, conferences, seminars, research cells, chairs and other bodies engaged in active projects means you have a better opportunity to interact with people across fields, meet eminent people, get to know more about the area you would like to specialise in, boost your credentials in that area and have an easier time making a foothold.
Journals and Publications will have some well known names in the committee and will also have well known authors writing on it. So as a student this is a great way to get your own work published and also improve your quality and standard of research. Similarly conferences across a diverse range of topics will bring you in touch with people, improve exposure and open up new opportunities. Ideally there should be a clear mix of law and non law subjects for conferences in the university coupled with exposure to not merely members of the legal fraternity but also activists, NGOs and government officials engaged.
Take care when choosing your college to ensure that these bodies and journals don’t just exist in paper. Many of them will have their bodies and editions online. So you can see who and what they write/work on.
L) College Administration and Regulations
The approachability of the college administration is very important in knowing how easy it is for the students to operate and make the best of their opportunities. This can range from minor things like getting hostel repairs done to getting attendance make-ups on medical grounds to major things like how far the college supports student involvement in festivals and events, internships, placements and even faculty/staff appointments. You can opt for a rigid system, which according to some, is essential in building discipline, order and such virtues as well as a good academic environment, though that has not always been the case for a more open and participatory student system.
I should however point out here that having a disciplined regulatory regime on campus does not mean that they are just as effective in handling student grievances. Your admin will be the ones to make the ultimate decision on everything ranging from infrastructural needs to disciplinary proceedings for ragging and sexual harassment. Despite the fact that all institutions are required by law to have committees and inquiry bodies; the effectiveness of these bodies and the ease of access to these proceedings vary between colleges. Some are extremely effective and encompass everyone regardless of power but others exist only in name. So see whether the colleges have such committees, what their regulations are and how effectively it has dealt with such proceedings as well.
Similarly you must also be clear of the college rules and regulations that apply to you before you decide the college you want. Some colleges have strict attendance and curfew requirements making it impossible to get through when facing illnesses or some such difficulty.
The regulations will also dictate what events you will be able to participate in and when, the internship requirements and generally influence the level of freedom you will have in building your character. Check about the curfews, whether there are different timings for boys and girls, whether the library shuts early, whether the college actively separates boys and girls from all interactions except in the class rooms, etc.
I have personally felt that an approachable and accessible administration that encourages student involvement in all aspects of the college while also being efficient in how it operates leaves students with the most opportunities and means to resolve any issues the student might face.
M) Accessibility to differently abled persons or students facing special challenges
On one hand this is especially important if you are facing any disabilities which you need infrastructural and academic support to offset. While I’m primarily referring to physical disabilities, many colleges have taken steps to eliminate linguistic barriers and other challenges you will face to socio-economic factors.
Many law schools have in recent years taken a lot of steps to make their infrastructure and classes more accessible to differently abled students and the government as well as the student body have also taken measures to facilitate the same.
This is however also important for those of you who do not fact disabilities as it will on the one hand make it easier for your batch mates who do face disabilities participate more effectively while on the other hand a college that genuinely takes measures for differently abled persons is also more approachable as well as accessible should you face any temporary issues whether due to accident or otherwise.
This is beneficial in other ways as well because the college will have audio/video tools for recording lectures, conversion of text to speech etc. as well as ramps, elevators and other facilities if you injure yourself while in college. This will mean that you can easily access classes despite these difficulty or if required skip classes without repercussions.
Similarly if your college provides English and other language courses, allows for special academic programmes and other initiatives to improve your English skills and other subject based barriers in law school as official courses. Then that is a major plus as well. This tend to be addition to the academic support initiatives offered by your seniors and have proven to be extremely helpful to everyone involved.