UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- When Penn State Law LL.M. students Ekakshra Mahajan and Kiran Manokaran signed up to participate in a prestigious moot court competition for law students from across India, both hoped, but neither expected, that they might come out on top.
They knew the road to victory wouldn’t be easy. The Professor N.R. Madhava Menon SAARC Mooting Competition, organized by the Society of Indian Law Firms and the Menon Institute of Legal Advocacy Training, attracts the nation’s brightest students to compete and some of India’s most distinguished luminaries to judge this yearlong tournament.
Professor Menon himself, whom Mahajan describes as “the father of modern legal education in India,” served as one of the lead judges, alongside Indian Supreme Court lawyers and the permanent member of the Indian Law Commission. The winners would be named the top law students in all of India, earn international recognition in their field, and win a scholarship with the Penn State Law LL.M. Program.
But Mahajan and Manokaran distinguished themselves through their knowledge of, and passion for, the law -- earning themselves the titles of best male and female law student out of the thousands who competed.
“Frankly, I thought they had made a mistake when announcing the winner,” Manokaran said. “But, once it sunk in, I was amazed and honored. Perhaps even more meaningful than the award itself is the fact that Professor Madhava Menon himself chose the winners.”
Mahajan said the competition required no small amount of dedication and time to practice, prepare, and compete. While some of her colleagues sought jobs for after graduation, Mahajan devoted herself to the mooting competition—an investment that paid off with invaluable connections and the opportunity to continue her education at Penn State Law.
“We are deeply proud of Kiran and Ekakshra’s incredible achievement,” said Hari Osofsky, dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs. “It is an honor to have them here with us at Penn State and to help them continue their academic and professional success.”
Mahajan and Manokaran both agree that their victory at the mooting competition and their experiences at Penn State Law will open doors and help them achieve their goals back home. Manokaran looks forward to becoming a professor of law, while Mahajan aims to work in public policy and facilitate positive change in India and beyond.
“I remember Professor Menon explaining that he hopes this award can push law students to achieve something they don’t think they can,” Mahajan said. “One thing I’ve learned from this experience, is to believe and know for a fact that I can achieve what I want to accomplish.”
For Manokaran, who initially had to convince his family that he should pursue a legal career, this victory is validation of his dream of becoming a professor. When he was announced as one of the two winners, Manokaran said his family was “thrilled and excited” at the news.
“To win this award and to be in Professor Menon’s presence, alongside such important names in the field of law, was a great honor,” Manokaran said. “For some time, I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing. But after winning this competition, I know I made the right decision.”