Tackling Law as an Optional

Contributed by
Username Jahnavi77
on 13/08/2019

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                                                          Blue: 1000 marks : GS Papers I/II/III/IV

                                                          Red: 500 marks : Optional Papers

                                                          Green: 275 marks : Interview

                                                          Purple: 250 marks : Essay 

Out of the 2025 marks in the CSE, Optional subjects comprise a good 500. That makes them about 24% of the paper. With the interview making 275 and the Essay being 250, while the 1000 marks are the four General Studies papers that a candidate appears for.

Why should one opt for Law as an optional?

  • A  host of politicians, journalists, social workers, civil servants are lawyers. (And you know, since you are working for the CSE, find out everyone that was on the drafting committee of the Constitution along with BR Ambedkar, and you would be surprised to know how many of them were trained lawyers!)
  • The sheer versatility that this degree seems to provide.
  • With universities now providing the cumulative 5 year law program, it gives students longer time to prepare for the CSE.
  • Law students will generally be more familiar with a lot of concepts in the GS (General Studies) part of the paper owing to Constitutional Law, Governance, Polity studies.
  • Volume of work does not daunt a law student.

Possible setbacks, if any?

  • Lot of people rely on statistics on which optionals are more successful. It would be recommended to not so do; most people rely on their area of study in undergraduate.
  • Law as optional also produces numerous toppers every other year. With a lot of law and non-law background people opting for it.
  • People seem to think law is an ‘expansive’ optional, with a rather vast syllabus- sometimes even twice that of general optional subjects.
  • Having said that; it is important to acquaint oneself with every possible scenario prior to picking an optional.

So what does the Law as Optional entail?

The structure of the paper would be something along these lines:

Paper I – Primarily Constitution, Administrative Law, International Law

Paper II – Law of Crimes which would be the Indian Penal Code, CrPc. Mercantile Laws, Contracts, Arbitration Act in India, Environment Statutes, Competition Law basics. Law of Torts, even.


Basic pointers to start and aid preparation:

  • The aforesaid subjects may seem vast, but one isn’t tested on every single thing about the subjects in these exams. There is a specific syllabus. Stick to it.
    Say for instance, within Constitional Law, there will be 10-15 topics which are covered and make sure you do them thouroughly.
  • Note that doing numerous books is not important here, what matters is knowing the concepts. So make a list of the concepts in every subject. For instance, it doesn’t matter whether you read Ian Brownlie for International Law or Malcolm Shaw or even SK Kapoor, as long as you are clear on the meaning of say, Jus Cogens. (Look it up if you don't!) 
  • Practice answer writing – sooner you start the better. And practice a lot.
  • Subjects like Competition Law, Arbitration, Intellectual Property are not to be known in-depth, but just a basic idea of what these topics are about.
  • Note that if there are any contemporary events in the afore subjects, it is possible you might be tested on that so stay updated. (I have heard reading Indian Express for International Law is helpful.)
  • To stay updated on important legal happenings, peruse Bar&Bench, LiveLaw and other websites religiously. (Now that we are on this topic, would you happen to know who the current Law Minister of the country is?
    Brownie points for guessing: It is Ravi Shankar Prasad)
  • Knowing basic case laws for subjects like Constitution, Crimes and even Contracts helps one answer better.
  • Make sure you have comprehensive notes on all these subjects as perusing say an Avtar Singh on Contracts in a week would be a task.

Basic book list for Law as Optional:

Constitutional Law: DD Basu should suffice. Make notes.

International Law: Malcolm Shaw for core concepts. Keep updated with latest happenings. 

Contracts: Avtar Singh

Administrative Law: IP Massey

IPC- PSA Pillai

Torts: Ratanlal and Dhirajlal


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