How can you stay updated about latest legal issues without losing your mind
A lawyer, to a large extent, is valued for his knowledge. Go to any lawyers chamber, you will see racks of books and law reviews displayed for the clients to see. A lawyer who is not knowledgeable is unlikely to do well in any area of law practice.
It is the same for a law student. When you intern in a law office or a law firm, how much work you get entrusted to do (how much opportunity you are given to shine) is usually largely decided by the knowledge you can demonstrate in your conversations or the trial work given to you by seniors.
Apart from general legal learning, it is very important for lawyers to stay updated about the latest law, notifications, guidelines, important decisions, press notes, amendments and what not. To be honest, really few people ever get around to religiously updating themselves about new legal developments although almost everyone knows they should. When I worked in a large law firm in Mumbai, I was always impressed to see how some of the top performers managed to stay on top of all relevant new developments. Eventually I figured out, there is a system!
We have also learnt a lot in the process of creating over 50 high end legal courses that we offer through Lawsikho and NUJS. The critical thing about offering premium legal courses to lawyers, law students and working professionals is that you need to update such courses almost instantaneously, else you will get bombarded by complaints and students will be disappointed if they study outdated material. Still, keeping ourselves updated, although a must, is quite a task.
We can tell you that we learnt a thing or two about staying updated about the latest legal developments seamlessly in the process. While you may not require the same level of rigour, if you are a budding lawyer, looking for a job or to grow exponentially in a specialized career track, you must make an effort towards staying up to date with the latest in law. After all, that is what separates to the average from the finest and brightest.
It need not be an endlessly time consuming extremely difficult process at all!
You should not think of staying updated as a boring long process of endless reading. There are smarter and easier ways. This is about building a system around you so you can easily, with reasonable time and effort investment, can stay on top of new developments.
How is that possible? Here is what you need to do.
1# Set up Google Alerts
Google alerts are amazing. I have several google alerts set for myself that helps me to stay on top of relevant legal news. Say you are interested in divorce law in India, or FDI in India. Simply set a google alert on those topics and you can receive all important news items, blog posts etc in your inbox directly. You will get a list of all such information once a day, or once a week as you prefer, and skim through the information quickly. This ensures that you stay updated to the most relevant information without spending much time. You could read what is of special interest from the list google emails you through google alert every day.
Here is a detailed guide to setting up a google alert. This is not relevant for staying updated with only law but any matter of your interest – such as a law firm, a person, or a certain ministry. See a snapshot of some of my google alerts below:
2# Feeds from government websites and important blogs
It’s quite a job to keep checking government websites for new notifications, policy updates and amendments and it beats the best of us. The way to get this right is to create a feed reader system, ideally into your email or browser itself, and let an alert come straight to you when there is an update.
For instance, if you want to regularly follow RBI notifications, circulars, press releases (as you would want to if you are a deal lawyer, or working in banking team of a law firm, or just a newbie trying to get really impressive by keeping track of things the way pros do) you must set up an RSS feed readers on your chrome browser and then take advantage of the RSS feed provided by RBI. Here is the link where you can find the various RSS feeds of RBI.
Now instead of visiting the RBI website again and again, you can just get the alert when something is notified (which is almost everyday anyway). Most of them maybe irrelevant for you, so you can skip those and only open those which are of relevance to you.
Warning: all government websites do not have such facilities. Some require you to visit and read in an old fashioned way. However, do figure out if government websites you frequent have some sort of RSS feed or email alerts you can subscribe to.
3# Let law firms do the heavy lifting
Most law firms have client updates that they send by email. They want to update their important clients about critical developments in their sector. Some are very serious like Nisith Desai Associates and even have an YouTube channel regarding the same.
Let them do the hard work by summarizing the important case laws, keeping track of notifications published in obscure government websites – you just subscribe to their updates. You will get to know a lot with very little effort. Just visit their website and sign up for those updates.
4# Follow important blogs
Many legal sectors, though not all yet, have dedicated blogs run by passionate lawyers. There are also some general websites that have rich sections relevant to business lawyers. Moneycontrol.com, for example, is fabulous if you want to keep track of IPOs, or want to keep a tab on monetary policy of RBI. VCcircle.com can give you updates on PE and VC investments happening every day if that is of interest to you.
Amongst law blogs, you can expect all important developments in corporate law to be covered in an opinion piece in Indian Corporate Law Blog and Spicy IP has the same coverage of IP laws. Livelaw covers important cases decided by HCs and SCs. iPleaders blog can give you legal knowledge around a diverse areas are legal issues and questions. Taxguru will give you most of the latest company law and tax law updates. You can follow even SEBI and RBI updates from there. labourlawreporter.com can send you a lot of labour law updates should you need them. LegallyIndia has a section which regularly publishes reports by top law firms in important areas of law such as M&A, capital markets and arbitration law.
5# Follow some of the movers and shakers on twitter or linkedin
If you are interested in a certain area, your information digest may be incomplete unless you follow the newsmakers and influencers within that niche. For instance, if you are into constitutional law, it is a great idea to follow Gautam Bhatia on twitter. If you are into tech law and want to stay updated about new trends, your choice may be Anirudh Rastogi from TRA on Linkedin. For IP law you may want to follow Shamnad Basheer who is active both on twitter and linkedin. Depending on your interest, find the biggest influencers and follow them. You got to choose wisely, because these influencers might soon be influencing your opinion too!
If you want to be smart about who to follow, I will recommend that you go to this online tool called buzzsumo and find out who are the heavyweights on twitter at least. I ran a search for cyber law, and this is what I found (see picture below):
Be selective about what is your interest, otherwise so much may be very overwhelming. It is important to decide in which areas you have interest and follow only those areas. Feel free to unsubscribe to things in which you lose interest. It may be easier to get started with a course that keeps you updated on relevant areas of law without you having to make all the effort. Here is one on corporate laws that will keep you updated around the year.
Also, just following all the information is rarely a great idea. Do something with the information. Maybe write about it. Share it on LinkedIn and twitter.
All the best!
Ramanuj Mukherjee is a startup entrepreneur and the Founder & CEO of iPleaders.in, an online legal education company.