Debajyoti Das, alumnous of Hidaytullah National Law University Raipur, is a former corporate lawyer, “a Law teacher at heart” and an aspiring politician to influence change through the BJP. He currently works as CEO of ClatPossible. In this interview he talked to us about his college life, working at Amarchand Mangaldas, working with Clat Possible and Much More.
What motivated you to pursue a career in law?
I really thought that the skills required to be a lawyer like negotiation, arguing, keeping your calm under pressure were requisites that I felt would suit me.
And the money was good, which I found out after my research and hence decided to pursue it.
Can you tell us about your school education?
I have studied in Ispat English Medium School, Rourkela. I did both 10th and 12th from that school. Of course it was a lovely experience, fond memories, absolute nostalgia. I used to participate in lot of sports, was decent in academics, hence in retrospect my schooling helped me take a very good career decision as well.
How was your life at HNLU?
It was the first time that I was staying away from home so it was a liberating feeling, but in some way it was also a little sad because you missed home. But at the same you also enjoy the unparalleled liberty with all the fun part of college like late night dhaba trips, breaking hostel rules. I was subsequently elected as the executive member of student bar association, which means I had a good social life as well. I did a lot of mooting, had a lot of foreign trips because of it, so overall it was a good experience.
Would you like to comment on the quality of academics at that time in HNLU?
From what I hear now, the quality of academics was much better during my time but I would want to add that with all due respect to my teachers, at the end of the day, education in law school is more about how you interact with your peers and your seniors. You can learn so many things by interacting with your seniors and your batch mates rather than the guidance of the teachers, not that it isn’t valuable, but that’s not all. So as long as you have the right friends who are pushing you to do good in academics you will be in a good position to perform.
After studying for a year at HNLU, you appeared again in the entrance test of NLU Bangalore. What was the reason behind it? Were you not satisfied with HNLU?
No, I was absolutely satisfied with HNLU, evident with the fact that I anyway didn’t attend NLS. The reason is that even though I gave NLS admission test very sincerely in my first attempt but my preparation had started barely 10 to 15 days before the actual exam. Hence I missed the cutoff by 1.25 marks. My parents wanted me to attend the best law school especially when I was only 1.25 marks short. So I gave the paper again, just to see whether I get through or not. I did get through- secured the 20th rank.
I did go to NLS for about a week in 2006 batch and regardless to say I loved it. Even after being there for a week I wanted to return to HNLU because of my professors. And not just teachers but my friends and some lovely women as well were the reason why I decided to go back to HNLU. So it was not really a professional decision it was more of an emotional decision.
Your first job was at Amarchand Mangaldas? How did you get placed there?
Yes, it was. I applied there on my own, independently and then gave the interview. One senior from my college referred me to the partners, so they took my interview, for whatever reason they liked my knowledge about capital markets. Incidentally they were specifically recruiting for capital market, so my luck worked out and I ended at Amarchand Hyderabad.
What factors play a major role in getting a job in a high profile law firm?
Contrary to the popular belief, grades are very important and I really want to give this message through my interview that grades are important because they depict that you are sincere enough to understand what it takes to be successful rather than cribbing and skulking about how the world should be, you’re willing to understand the world as it is. I am not saying don’t try to change the system, I am saying that be a part of the system, work in the system, reach the top, then try to change it.
At the fresher level if somebody says they don’t recruit on the basis of I.Q., let me tell why they don’t because you are not expected to do client solicitation, the partners are already smart themselves. So they look for people who are sincere, hard working, who are willing to do what it takes to be successful, who are willing to learn from their seniors. So that’s number one, that you should have grades, which will reflect your sincerity and at some level your knowledge too.
The second thing is to crack your interview, you should have good communication skills including English speaking skills because no matter how much knowledge you have, if you are unable to explain it, things won’t work out. You have to be able to communicate and explain things clearly in a comprehensible manner. So those two skills are the most essential, other than that through your grades anyway the expectation is that you have the right research skills.
Why did you leave Amarchand?
Let me start by saying that my experience at Amarchand was absolutely fantastic, in fact I was working in Anshuman Jaiswal’s team at Hyderabad capital market department. It was absolutely wonderful to be at Amarchand, I learnt everything that I could learn about not just corporate law but the entirety of corporate practices from the business perspective as well. The reason I decided to move forward were many. First is that CLAT possible was offering me a substantial pay hike which played a great role and Lucknow was more suitable to me since I’m from a place like Rourkela. Lucknow was slow and more suited to my pace so that’s a part of the reason. Lastly I have always enjoyed speaking to students, it helps me stay young and being a teacher has its own advantages. But if I ever go back to a corporate job at any firm then Amarchand will be my first preference.
You have received prestigious Microsoft Intellectual Property Right Scholarship. How did it benefit you in terms of your career?
That was in my final year at law school. At that time not all law schools had access to that scholarship. In my time HNLU had 2 scholarships every year but NLS had double of that. It didn’t directly help me in my career except that instead of Microsoft it was Amarchand that evaluated my paper. So when I applied in Amarchand I’m certain they must have done some internal check at some level and found out that it’s their own firm which evaluated me to be the best so that must have boosted my chances in the job interview. They paid for my final year fees so there is also a social advantage to it. But there was no tangible benefit in terms of career directly.
You were also a visiting faculty at NLU Lucknow. So how did your interest come into teaching?
Initially I was not a public speaker, I had a stage fear. The credit for the beginning of my public speaking goes to my seniors. They believed and pushed me to a point where I had to participate in a moot court competition. Fortunately I won my first moot court competition. So that’s how I got into public speaking and eventually discovered that I liked it. But the kind of public speaking that I particularly enjoy is where I can talk about my ideas and get people to agree with them instead of imposing on them. So teaching gives me the opportunity to do all these things.
How was your experience at NLU Lucknow?
It was wonderful, I was teaching moot court and clinical legal education. I was taking this subject with professor Rajnish Yadav who was primarily taking the course and I was assisting him. I covered the basics of Constitutional Law, International Law, Trademark Law etc. which were required from the moot court participation perspective. It was fun because I was experiencing the other side of a classroom.
Many times we hear that NLU has the best faculty nationally but in world rankings they fail to break into the list, so what could be the reason behind this?
I think the teaching methodology in the colleges has to be different. I think most of the teachers don’t take the academics as seriously as they can. It’s not that they lack the ability but the institution imposes so many restrictions on them that they lose interest. Ultimately I think the way of teaching has to be changed, I know so many people from different law schools and from my own experience that there is so much pestering after the results are declared that the teachers get lenient about grades simply to avoid further conversation or emotional pressure. Resultantly the college gives degrees to undeserving candidates, hence the standard of the Indian bar gets diluted at some level. There are smart lawyers but at the same time there are people who have no clue about the law but they practice as advocates.
How did you come to work with CLAT possible?
At CLAT possible I am basically the CEO of the company, I handle the corporate affair and academic team. I handle legal disputes and take legal reasoning, bulk of the legal aptitude section where my prime focus is on constitutional law, tort law and business topics like Intellectual Property Right and International Law.
What is the role of coaching institutes to make a student crack CLAT?
I think anybody who deserves to be in a national law school definitely reaches there. The way coaching institutes prepare you is that they give you a more organised system of preparation. Having an institute makes it easier since you get associated with people who have been doing this for years.
CLAT has lot of inconsistencies and this is a trend every year. So what is the solution to this?
I think there has to be more accountability, in fact I had published an article in bar and bench citing that some answers were wrong and suggesting a consistent pattern for the CLAT committee. The reason why it continues to happen is that there is no accountability of the people who are providing these wrong answers, we probably need to have a system where there is absolutely clarity on who gave the questions.
Are you a future politician?
That really depends upon whether people accept me as such but I am definitely an aspiring politician and maybe one day I will be waking up in the corridors of the Indian Parliament. At this point of time I am actively associated with BJP and closely work with Yuva Morcha particularly with Abhijat Mishra who is the national general secretary. We will see whether my hard work leads to something productive for the people as well as me.
Don’t you think your career in teaching and your career in politics should be separated?
My teaching career and my political career are actually separate, I don’t drag my political opinion into the classroom.
But the timing is same!
When I am in the class I teach and when I am at the BJP office then I am at BJP office, I am not teaching there. So the two are completely separate from each other and I would have the decency and the moral shame to never mix the two.
What is your parting message to the students of law?
You should really be humble and understand that the rest of the country is also putting in a lot of hard work and is worthy of your respect and with that understanding and acknowledgement you should also be willing to work hard. If you put in the right kind of effort, success is waiting to be grabbed by the throat as far as the legal profession is concerned.
This interview is taken by @alokanand & edited by Aakansha. To suggest an interview, feedbacks, comments, work with us write at email@example.com
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