How would you introduce yourself to our readers? Please tell us about your family back ground.
I have been born and brought up in Pune. I graduated from ILS Law College, Pune in 2015, following which I joined the chambers of Senior Counsel Mr. Mihir Desai in October 2015. I am a first generation lawyer. I have two elder sisters who are working in different cities and my parents are based in Pune. My parents have always impressed upon me the importance of education and being independent economically and socially. However they have never pressurized me for academics or otherwise, nor have they imposed upon me their decisions. Thankfully, I have had the liberty to make my own decisions and I’ve always had the support of my family.
Which factors do you believe shaped your decision to pursue law?
The decision to pursue law was an impulsive one. I had little to no knowledge of the field, especially the intricacies of practice. Retrospectively, which I believe was good. Had someone tried explaining to me the procedural system in courts, I would’ve thought twice before choosing litigation.
However, while I was making the decision to pursue law, I wanted to work in Corporate Law. Company law was something that interested me back then. As I said, the decision was an impulsive one.
Growing up, subconsciously I had always wanted to work for a better society, and at that time law seemed the best option to do that. Though, I hadn’t figured out how I would contribute to the society at that time, law still seemed the better option.
Your experience at University of Pune? Apart from studies which were other activities in which you were involved passionately?
My experience at the University of Pune was great. The course of law is designed in such a manner that it gives you scope to be involved in activities apart from your academics. Once you are done with the classes in the morning, you have the rest of the day to intern or take up other courses.
Apart from law, I was involved more with research activities and volunteering. I have always been interested in research, thus I used to take part in research projects more than mooting. I also researched for the Mental Health Law Cell in my college.
I have always believed in the spirit of volunteering. I used to volunteer with NGO’s and participate in various protests for different causes. I believe my experiences as a volunteer definitely helped shape my views about society and my decision to pursue litigation. I also learned different languages. I believe it is important to learn things that help develop your personality and individuality as well and you shouldn’t restrict your activities to mooting and debating.
Could you tell about your internship experiences? What sort of internships did you prefer and what learning experiences did you gain from it?
Initially I interned at a different NGO’s, trying to learn and offer whatever little knowledge of law I had gained then. This phase was particularly important for me as it made me realize how little legal support is given to NGOs who do not have sufficient funds to appoint lawyers. These NGOs could definitely gain from any legal assistance that can be offered. Towards the second or third year I interned at firms specializing in different streams, to gain a wholesome perspective of the different possible areas I could work in. As I was unsure in which field of law I wanted to specialize in, I tried interning at different firms to finalize upon a decision.
These internships helped me rule out the fields I didn’t wish to work in after graduation. Also the internships are important as they make you realize how law is different when you study it from books and when you have to apply it to individual cases.
Any remarkable experiences during your internships that shaped your career?
There have been three internships I pursued that helped me shape my career. The first one was when I interned at ‘Saheli’, which is a community based NGO working for the betterment of commercial sex workers in and around Pune city. The first aspect that surprised me was the inefficiency of the State and its machineries to provide for the marginalized and how easily are the marginalized ignored. The second aspect was that, it made me realize how I can offer my services as lawyer to help NGO’s that really require legal assistance and the positive contributions I can make as a lawyer.
The second internship was when I was interning at Green Peace. This internship was important as it showed me how a lawyer can be a part of the Social Development Sector by working with Non-Profits. Interning with Greenpeace I realized that the job opportunities after law are not restricted to firm or litigation, there are various job opportunities for lawyers in the social development sector.
The third impactful internship was with Adv. Jagdeesha Byatha at Banaglore. As he is a practicing lawyer, my internship with him interested me to pursue litigation as also it gave me a clear picture of how fascinating yet difficult practice can be.
What is your area of specialization? When and why did you decide to pursue career in it?
My area of specialization, if broadly put, is in Human Rights Law. I specialize in Writs and PILs in the field of Service and Education Law. Fortunately because of my seniors I also get the opportunity to work on some criminal matters. Working with Mihir, it is a mixed practice and we get to work on a lot of different cases.
What were your areas of interest during your graduation? How did you go about developing expertise and knowledge in these areas?
During graduation I had always been interested in Human Rights Law. I developed my interest first by reading about it and secondly by pursuing internships in that particular field. This way you get to network and also learn about the field more. You get a more hands on experience.
What are your thoughts on activities like mooting, debating and publications in law? What skills do law students acquire by engaging themselves in such activities and their value on CV?
Such activities definitely help in structuring and disciplining one in developing the research skills. It also helps with building the skills and confidence to argue law. Though mooting is way different from arguing before a judge, it helps nevertheless. It adds value to the CV especially if one is applying to firms. Whereas practicing lawyers would not particularly give much importance to these activities.
What inspired you to choose litigation as a profession?
Working at a research centre for a month made me choose litigation. Research being very monotonous, I could not handle sitting before a screen for the whole day. That’s when I realized litigation was a better option for me.
You are working at the chamber of Mihir Desai. Please describe to us your role there. How you managed to get placed there?
I am a junior advocate there. My role is basically to handle matters. Right from drafting to appearing to briefing Mihir and also client counselling and consulting. I applied to Mihir via email and sent him my resume. I was called for two interviews and then I was confirmed. It was a simple and straightforward process.
Not being from an “elite” law school a lot of people believe that it acts as a hindrance. Has that been a point in your case?
Not particularly. I believe it makes a difference, when you are applying to firms. Good grades, the right internships and networking are the aspects one should concentrate on. Do not let the tag of not being from an elite law school affect your career. Many of the legal luminaries have not graduated from elite law schools, like Fali Nariman, for example. It has definitely not been a hindrance in my case. While applying to practicing lawyers, they want to see your understanding of law, they do not particularly give much importance to where you have graduated from.
You have been actively volunteering with Greenpeace India for more than a year now. Please tell us your role and experiences there?
My experience with Greenpeace India has been inspiring and has helped me develop a great deal of management skills. I along with a few volunteers started a volunteer group in Pune. It was exceptional to see the passion people have to work towards a better environment and the hard work all the volunteers put in without any expectations of any remuneration or incentives. Everyone I’ve met at and through Greenpeace have inspired me in their different ways. Greenpeace definitely provides for a good platform to volunteers, for them to be actively involved politically in the current environmental issues.
Please share some of your experiences with Mihir Desai?
Working with Mihir, I have developed a great interest for Service Law. Along with which I also got to work on interesting cases like the Beef Ban case in Maharashtra, Himayat Baig and so many more. It has been great working with Mihir and with everyone else at our office. Mihir allows you to learn from your mistakes and always shows confidence in you, which is very important when you are starting off in litigation.
Did you find that your law school education had prepared you sufficiently for the many tasks you were required to execute during your internships and later at your job?
I don’t think any law school can prepare you enough for litigation. A law school can only provide you with the basic foundation and it depends on you how you develop your skills and take it from there. Therefore when you’re interning, you should take an initiative to learn as much as possible. You should network and approach like- minded people. It was a whole new learning experience for me once I started practicing. That is why you should concentrate on doing the right internships and worry less about marks.
How much do grades matter for making a career in litigation? Tell us about other activities which play a major role.
Grades matter only to an extent, especially in litigation. How well one can argue and convince a judge requires a completely different skill set from how well one can answer a 20 mark question. Writing about law to gain marks and applying law to a particular case are not the same things. Grades are definitely not something anyone should ever stress about; they are not a measure of your intelligence.
What are the pros and cons of taking litigation as career? People say that salary in litigation is drastically low even if you work with a senior advocate. Your take on that.
The biggest pro about litigation for someone who is passionate about law is that your understanding of law improves drastically when you practice law. You also realize the shortcomings of implementation of legislations and how one can work around them. That I where I believe the real skill of a lawyers lies. Salary is low in litigation, but that is only for a few initial years. After which your networking should help you as you start taking up more independent matters.
What would be your parting message to law students who want pursue career in litigation?
Do not be discouraged to pursue litigation. Do not be afraid to question. Don’t just study law, try to understand it. Concentrate on your drafting skills and learn about the manner in which courts function. Litigation is an exceptional field. It might not be the most comfortable of jobs, but it is definitely rewarding.
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