(This is Part IV and the concluding post 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.)
N) Infrastructure and Quality of Food Options
You will be spending a substantial portion of your time in class, in the library or in the hostel or travelling between these places. This means the quality and maintenance of infrastructure, especially of these services is essential. While having air conditioned hostels and other buildings are required depending on how high the mercury rises there are other equally (or more) relevant considerations in deciding the infrastructure quality.
i) WiFi/LAN and internet accessibility:- Majority of your work will be done online including research activities. So having access to the internet is a big must. Opt for colleges that offer WiFi/LAN preferably at least in these three places I just mentioned with decent speed.
If you can, also make sure that there is no internal gateways which restrict your internet access to only certain domains/requires you to login with your personal password and ID etc. If there are such restrictions, bringing a one gb a day data pack is recommended for when you feel like binge watching.
ii) The hostel rooms and their quality:- How big the rooms are, who you will be sharing with, whether there is possibility of single bed rooms are all factors to consider. While I believe staying with roommates all five years is the way to do, some of my friends believe otherwise for very valid reasons. It depends on your own experiences in the hostel, so possibility of single room is a good idea.
iii) Hostel Structure and its regulations:- How new the hostel building is and the amenities it offer (hot water, water coolers etc.), whether there are separate hostels for boys and girls/junior and seniors etc. (which affects the interactions you will have/can expect), whether the college has staff available for emergency repairs/non functional tube lights etc.
iv) Accessibility:- The distance between all facilities on the campus is very important. Having a huge campus is a disability if your room is twenty minutes away from the library and half an hour away from the main building. This is doubly so if you are compelled to use crutches or wheel chairs during your stay in the college. Similarly accessibility within the buildings is important as well including the availability of ramps and elevators.
What is also important however is the accessibility to the town and other neighbourhoods on campus. You should either have a suburb within fifteen minutes to twenty minutes of college that can help you purchase essentials or facilities inside the college for the same. This could be laundry, stationery, photocopying facilities etc.
You must also have quick access to the police, hospitals/doctors as well should their services be needed.
v) Library and Resource Centres:- Library is the most important part of any law school and your most important resource. A well equipped library with resource centres to back it up as well as a good online research database can give you access to the same information that someone from Harvard would have access to. It can go a long way in giving you an edge in all the activities you endeavour in whether within or outside the scope of academics.
vi) Food choices:- College messes don’t have to serve the best cuisine but they ought to have decent hygienic food at affordable rates. See if the college has a decent canteen, bistro, eateries and shops to buy snacks for midnight cravings too. If the college is near a town with a decent selection of eateries that is a good plus as well.
vii) Health Centre:- An important but often neglected part. You will be spending five years in the law school and that leaves enough time for anything from flu to fracture to happen. Most law schools are sufficiently far away from the city that having an on campus health centre and related support staff is very important. There should be an on campus nurse and daily availability of a doctor for emergencies. Preferably it is best to have a sufficiently major hospital within fifteen to twenty minutes distance and college owned mode of conveyance to get you there.
The college having a good professional counselling and support system in place within campus that is a major positive as well. Law schools are extremely hectic places and sometimes the stress or pressure can get a bit too overwhelming.
viii) Sports, Gym and other facilities:- Law schools aren’t just about law and related facilities we also take sports and games sufficiently seriously as well. Having good gym, a well equipped and maintained sporting facilities are both essential as many of our law schools take sporting rivalries intensely and it provides a good break from other activities in college.
O) Fees and Scholarships
This is the most important point as the fee between law schools vary greatly depending on whether they are public or private and on whether they are a NLU or not. Fee for most NLUs tend to be in the range of Rs 1.75 lakhs to Rs 2.2 lakhs per year but the difference is even bigger when other law institutes are considered. The tuition fee will be only a part of it and there are multiple other expenses including hostel fee, mess fee, library fee, moot court fee, gym fee, sporting equipment fee etc.
You will also have to take into account the other living expenses including ancillary expenses for your course as well including stationary and other expenses. This will make the fee of some of the more expensive NLUs even out on an average compared to the others.
The fee system is important for the third point I’m making here – that of scholarships. You must know the terms of scholarship and fee waivers offered by the university. Especially note whether the scholarship/fee waiver is for the tuition fee alone or is it for the total fees of the college. You must also note whether it is merits or means based scholarships, whether the college has a scholarship cell to support applications in state and central governments as well as other organisations outside of the college funds and on other performance parameters governing the scholarship like for instance whether it is tied to your entrance exam marks or academic performance. Lastly see if the policy allows for payment of stipend to support routine expenses as well as laptops and other essential tools.
Both NLSIU and NALSAR have seen a major expansion of their scholarship policy as well as resources in the last few years and other universities have also come up with their own scholarship or fee waiver policies to support students.