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UPSC or Judiciary ?  

law optional upsc

For fresh law graduates, who want a government job of stature, they often struggle to choose between two, that is, preparing of UPSC or State Judicial Services.


Which is better? Which has a better chance of success? , Which have maximum job satisfaction? etc. As a law optional UPSC teacher, I have often faced with these questions from law graduates. This article seeks to help clarify the doubts and enable you to decide for your self, by evaluating the nuances of each examination. 


I have had students who are already in judicial service and still enrolled in my classes for UPSC law optional preparation because the respect and authority you command in society or otherwise as an IAS officer from the beginning of the career itself is immense, it takes a lot of time to achieve that in the judiciary or even if you are in litigation.


Many law graduates in the last five years have cleared UPSC with top ranks, it has made it a popular career option among law graduates.And it is rightly so, as a law graduate you have a certain advantage in UPSC when compared to other subject graduates. In almost all the compulsory papers of UPSC, it has invariably questions from the legal aspect of topics present in the syllabus, Which a law graduate would understand better.

Some of the Toppers in UPSC with Law as an optional are : -

Saumya Sharma (AIR 9 CSE 2017, Her Blog is a very helpful place to start emulating her)


I have written a lot about questions of similar nature as the topic of this article on the various platforms of social media such as youtube, quora or Telegram.

Now coming to evaluating these exams, Both of these exams are different and vary a lot, in terms of 

  1. Structure of exam,

  2. Effort Required,

  3. Time of preparation,

  4. Career progression

  5. Chance of success.


Let’s discuss them individually in detail - 


1. Structure of Both Exam - Considered Generally

UPSC Exam - This exam is very simple in terms of its pattern, it has a fixed syllabus and does not change much over the year, the last major change introduced was in 2013. After prelims, in mains UPSC Consist of 5 compulsory paper (4 paper of GS and 1 of essay), and one optional subject with two papers (which you can easily take law). 


Gs papers syllabus almost overlaps 40 percent with law optional syllabus. Law syllabus does not have procedural laws(CrPC, Evidence, and CPC),  So that becomes easy for a law graduate.

Judicial services - This exam differs from state to state, the number of papers, syllabus and marking scheme all changes from state to another, it will continue to be so, unless all India judicial service becomes reality.


State judicial service invariably have a language barrier, they have one compulsory a local language åsubject paper. So if you are not Hindi background very tough to pass in northern states judicial service, same goes for northern state’s student, in southern state’s judicial service

2. Level of effort Required

Generally Speaking, UPSC requires slightly more effort than judicial services, For one, a candidate needs a more articulative brain, For later more of a memory, power is required. Both of them an equally tough task.


UPSC Exam - The effort is more coordinated in UPSC due to its more generic nature of the syllabus. It requires a thinking and articulation brain and does not require much cramming. For an example question in The Information technology act, in law optional UPSC, would be its effectiveness rather than its provision in the bare act.


Judicial service -  also requires an effort but in a different way. It requires effort in comprehending the syllabus, as when you prepare for judiciary you generally go for two-three states judiciary in one go (why to limit yourself, right !).


Each state judicial service syllabus has at least three-four separate local acts and that too in major portions sometimes. It requires a lot of effort just to know what to study. Previous year question paper is a huge relief in determining that.


3. Time of Preparation


Time required for preparation actually depends how much you have studies in law school, it is true in case of both the examinations.


UPSC Exam - Ideally it requires 1 year but Practically even if are called for interview still you should read till final results comes out. As there is almost five month gap between mains exam and final result. 


If you are well read and was interested in current affairs in college days or participated in debate competitions, well you are in great advantage in reducing the time frame for developing concepts.So keeping one and half year aside will be a much better choice.


Judicial Service - It require a full devoted two year, if not preparing from college days. The reason I say so, Firstly, Extra local state laws has to be studied which are not part of syllabus in law schools. 


Secondly, there is far two mugging up the bare act, as preliminary exam invariably asks the sections and sometime the date on which it came into force.


Thirdly, there is not a predetermined date of vacancy so some time few state don't have vacancies notified for straight two years.

4. Career Progression


For Civil service, if you are young (22-28) there is more or less fixed career progression up to a certain stage. After that certain stage, it depends upon your career performance ACR, some time Political good will as well. 


For Judicial career, High Court judge may be ideal for most of them. Elevating to supreme court will be a tough task. Almost 60 percent of high court judges are from district court elevated judges. 


5. Chance of Success


It really depends on Multiple factors such as, number of seats available each year (for Determining competition), and Material/Expertise Available for preparing for examinations.  Exam certainty, result declaration on time, regular vacancy are few other factors as well. 


UPSC Exam - Total seats vary from 600-1000 per year. Recent railway service inclusion/exclusion have created some confusion whether it remains or not with civil service examinations. Still looking at the past trends Law graduates and engineers have high success ratio


Judicial Service - The chances in qualifying judiciary is more or less same. Though the post number may be more. However it is decreasing in number day by day. If all india judicial service comes and becomes a reality, then it would be conducted by UPSC only.


Finally a few short tips, 


  • Never Club preparation for the same


Both demands for the exam are different so never club the preparation of two at all. No matter how coaching institutes or online blogs say so. I have students who are already judge but couldn’t clear UPSC because of the precise same reason. See More


  • If you choose UPSC, Should you take Law optional?


Now, it will be sheer stupidity not to take it. I mean, what would you tell it, when you are willing to study a new subject in its entirety and leaving a subject which you would have to read in the graduation program (that too no Procedural part in UPSC). Read More


  • Coaching or no coaching for UPSC or law subject?


I will ask you to read the syllabus in more detail and access yourself before deciding on that. The best way would be to read a separate article I wrote on it. Precisely speaking it depends on how much you have been able to retain in law courses. Read More


  • Can You prepare while in Job ?


With advent of online coaching and technological support you get, it is more easy then ever was. You can prepare while in job, but the point is, will you have enough time to study. Given the demanding nature of legal jobs

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