Advocate Akriti Shikha completed her graduation from Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She practiced in the Dispute Resolution team at L&L Partners (formerly known as Luthra & Luthra) and practiced as a Securities Lawyer at Reliance Capital
You’ve completed your Graduation from Symbiosis Law School, Pune. How would you describe your experience?
My experience at Symbiosis Law School, Pune was blissful, not only in terms of academics but also extra-curricular activities. It’s a premier law institute having exceptional faculty and infrastructure including a great library. At SLS, I got a chance to take part in varied activities that have shaped my thought process and consequently, my career choices. SLS gives you an opportunity to intern, moot, write and publish articles, debate and engage in other extra-curricular activities such as sports or participating in events and committees, which would help individuals to hone their skills. I actively participated in the events organised in college and tried to intern as many times as I could.
SLS offered me a rich gamut of opportunities, both academic and personal, and I plunged headlong into making the most of it. It was an intellectual adventure that I thoroughly enjoyed (and that’s very rare for a law graduate to say!). The lessons learnt aren’t available in paperback or otherwise – they flow from the experiences lived. To the future graduates – law school years could define you, so make sure you choose the definition wisely.
What motivated you to choose law as a Career?
I am a first-generation lawyer in my family and a litigator by choice. Law was probably the only subject that intrigued me right from the time I got introduced to it during my graduation in commerce (B.Com). I always aspired to be a professional and I was never excited about numbers and accounts, so I decided to pursue a career in law which was sans any of it.
The real inclination in pursuing law stems from my trait of righteousness and personal belief in justice, along with my compelling desire to work amongst people, to help resolve matters and to play a role in shaping the legal landscape in India.
To be completely honest, in my opinion, no combination with LL.B really helps in the profession. All that matters is how focused you are on what you have chosen voluntarily as your career path. B.Com in a way helped me generally to get a quick grasp and understanding of the commercial and business aspects of a transaction which are the subject matter of the contracting and negotiations or non-litigation as we call it.
3. You interned with various organizations during your Law School. How important is it to Intern for a Law Student?
I personally feel that internships are an extremely important part of a lawyers’ education; its like a window into the profession. I had started interning right from my first year at Symbiosis Law School, and one of my greatest takeaways from such internships is the need for lawyers to have an attention for detail. In my zeal to figure my area of interest, my internships targeted corporate laws and litigation as areas of practice. My internships were primarily with corporate law firms. I worked with Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co., Khaitan & Co., AZB & Partners, Nishith Desai Associates, Kochhar & Co. among others. In the hindsight, it has proved to be an enriching experience.
My most memorable internship was with Senior Advocate, Mr. Ashok Mundargi, a distinguished criminal advocate. I was able to strengthen my legal expertise including drafting, application of law and argumentative skills. Working with him, I got the opportunity to closely observe law practitioners, who interpret and apply laws in a very different way, work in a very competitive and unpredictable field and deal with real-life clients/counter-parties/judges. I tried to apply these learnings when I started working as a lawyer.
My advice to law students would be that they must undertake internships in both corporate and litigation practice, which will help them to understand the practical aspects of the subject they are studying in law school. It will also help them in deciding to choose the career path depending upon their interest and liking.
Most of the students in Law Schools are inclined towards getting good grades. Do grades have any significant impact on career in the long run?
Though good grades may not be the sole criterion, I believe that it does play an important role. In my experience, few law firms extensively bank on academic performance of students.
However, legal acumen is not all about exam marks. In the long run, recruiters are interested in evaluating how much you ‘know’ than how much you ‘scored’ or which law school you belong to. Marks and institution may get you to a door but you can enter only with knowledge and whether you are the right fit to their organisation.
5. How important is it to go through the Judgments regularly?
More than securing good marks in legal education, it is important to learn and stay abreast with the latest developments and industry news through interactions and discussions with peers and stalwarts in the field of law.
One of the best ways to stay updated is through reading law journals and updating oneself with the various online law portals which come up with an analysis and bring to one’s attention the developments in the law across the country and by keeping an eye out for notifications from regulators in the legal field. I urge all students and young lawyers to make it a point to read the latest Court decisions and maintain their personal case journal and update the same regularly. Lately, a lot of focus has been on webinars which one should avail the opportunity to attend as many as possible.
6. You have practised in the Dispute Resolution team at L&L Partners. Please share your experience working with L&L Partners.
I had the privilege to join the Dispute Resolution team at L&L Partners (formerly known as Luthra & Luthra, Law Offices) in the year 2018. L&L Partners is one of the biggest and most reputed law firms in the country. Their knowledge base helps you to learn the subject better with each passing day. Normally, my day started with a visit to Court followed with research and drafting. At L&L Partners, I not only got an opportunity to draft for various clients for high stake cases but also to brief Senior Counsels as well as appear before various forums. It is thrilling to argue your own case; it was a very exciting phase. Unlike corporate practice, disputes throw up challenges everyday. The uncertainties and the challenges involved in resolving the disputes matters make this practice quite interesting. L&L Partners will always be a very significant chapter in my career history, where I met some inspiring lawyers and made great friends.
7. You also have practised as a securities lawyer at Reliance Capital. Please share your experience with our Readers.
At Reliance Capital, I worked in the field of securities litigation, mainly dealing with matters before SEBI and Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT). The field of securities law, apart from being a niche, is immensely complicated and interesting. Just when you start thinking you have learnt a lot, you realise there is a universe out there waiting to be explored. New challenges keep cropping up every single day and that’s what kept me interested and fascinated. Working as an in-house counsel is more about applying what you learnt in the law schools.
8. Being a lawyer, how difficult is it to maintain a balance between Personal and Professional Life. How do you cope with the Work Stress?
This is a very important question to consider for everyone in the legal field. The professionals are caged due to the hourly billing and timesheet culture. I think it is important to use your free time judiciously and indulge in your hobbies. Given the sedentary lifestyle we as lawyers lead, it is all the more important that one chooses a healthy lifestyle. I’m extremely fond of art and photography and love food and travel. This helps when the work is at full tilt then one doesn’t get burnt out and is ready to put in the long hours at work. Also, in my opinion, working-out and meditation is a great outlet for the stress that builds-up during high-stress situations at work.
9. What’s your opinion on the NLU and Non-NLU divide?
I have personally witnessed the NLU and Non-NLU divide to be true, especially during internships. I think recruiters must focus on whether the individual would fit in their working environment rather than their law school. At the end of the day, the work speaks for itself and the NLU or Non-NLU tag should not create a distinction at the workplace.
10. On a concluding note, what would be your suggestion to the Budding Lawyers?
There is no straight-jacket formula to success. Every individual has their own journey. Law school is an individual experience and prepares you to embrace different perspectives. I would urge people to not be close-minded and to engage in as many activities as possible in law school for a holistic experience. While interning/working as a lawyer, one must have a logical and problem-solving approach, be aware of the basics of law and have a lot of hunger to grow. Reading is an integral part of our field, and by reading I don’t mean legal reading alone – Keep your knowledge updated in the area that you practice primarily. There must be clarity in your thought process and the same must be reflected in your drafts and correspondence. Most importantly, creativity and out of the box thinking would be an added factor.
While applying to law firms /organisations, do not be disheartened if you face any rejections since it is not the right fit or the correct match for you. There is a more suited place /opportunity awaiting for you.
As a parting thought, I feel its a great decision to be a part of this noble profession. Hard work is the key, coupled with due application of mind. I wish luck to all of you.
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