Aastha Dhaon graduated from RMLNLU, Lucknow, in 2011. During this time she has interned with the likes of Mr. Arun Sinha, Senior Criminal Law Practitioner, Lucknow, India, Mr. Nirmal K. Seth – Senior Counsel, Lucknow, India (Civil), Nanavati Associates, among others. Since then she has gone on to work as Legal Associate at Chambers of Mr. J. N. Mathur, Additional Advocate General, Uttar Pradesh. She is currently in-house counsel, writer and legal editor at Manupatra.
In this interview we speak to her about:
- Being a fourth generation lawyer
- Her interest in publishing
- Her diverse experience
How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
I’d rather thank you for giving me this opportunity to connect back to where I belong. I am a proud Lucknowite, working here in Delhi with a lot of support from my mom and dad and a lot many dreams in my eyes.
Why did you decide to study law?
Law was never on my radar. I always wanted to be a famous painter. However, I first wanted to be an Architect. I got through the National Institute of Fashion Design (NIFT-Delhi) but, could not get through National Institute of Design (NID, Ahmedabad) the premier institute for design in India. Hence, to sum it all up, law just happened, for which I usually tell people that it was in my blood.
I qualified the entrance for the National Law School in Lucknow (Dr. RML NLU) and was part of the first batch of my University. My university really made me what I am today, personally as well as professionally. It really taught me ‘life’.
What kind of internships did you do while you were a student?
I never really focused on any one area in law. I interned everywhere I could get through really. Being the first batch of our institute, it really was a task convincing the high and mighty to give us opportunities, but, then we all were made out for law, we grabbed all opportunities coming our way. I interned under some senior Government Counsels, criminal lawyers, law firms, corporate houses and Non-Profit organisations as well. Since, I strongly believe in taking a multi-faceted approach towards things, hence, my aim was to get an experience in all directions so I could make better choices when choosing a particular work area in the legal field.
My internship under a very well-known criminal lawyer in Lucknow was one of the most heart wrenching experience for me. He was handling quite a lot of famous criminal case, where a lot of media trials happened as well. Everybody used to have opinions on them, and there I was sitting with my boss’ clients in his chamber daily, listening to acts they may have done, and something inside me breaking every time. That was the time I saw a lot of small aspects involved in criminal law and I decided I had to drop my plan of becoming a female criminal lawyer for some time atleast.
You worked as Legal Associate at Chambers of Mr. J. N. Mathur, Additional Advocate General, Uttar Pradesh. How was your experience there?
This was an extended vacation time for me right after college, not because I did not work much (believe me I haven’t worked longer hours than I did here), but, because I have had some of the coolest seniors here. However, it was not all play without work. A few months into litigation my seniors gave me chances to handle my own individual cases, which nobody form my batch was really doing till then. Here, I worked on company matters, taxation matters, service matters, etc. Mr. J.N. Mathur has been one of the most dynamic, honest and hard-working advocates I have seen or heard about till date.
What does a workday at Manupatra look like?
Legal publishing was one dimension which remained untouched by me during my college days. I am soon completing a year here in Manupatra and it really feels great. Here at Manupatra, if you are really capable and a hard worker, a lot of varied opportunities are given to you time and again to prove your mettle. The senior management is one group of really smart and highly informed individuals, who not only are good at what they officially do, but, they are also adept at dealing with departments that they may have had no knowledge about.
Just like in any other corporate house or a law firm, work in Manupatra is not as easy as it all looks. A lot of planning and hard work is done to bring forth everything on our site. A lot of value additions are made to our regular judgments, which go a long way in helping us all in our researches. And, of course, it is a big high being a part of something based on whose research we actually passed our law schools.
Our day starts at sharp 9 a.m. with updation of new legal news, then selecting what judgments are to actually go onto our site, meetings, coffee-breaks, less of chit-chatting and a lot of work, etc. The office usually closes down by 6:30 in the evening. So this job, not only gives me the exposure of working in the best Legal Publishing House in India, but, it also gives me a chance to create a work-life balance in my life.
What would be your advice to law student interested in working with a publishing house?
As contrary to how the working in the publishing houses seem, when compared to law firms and litigation, the work scenario is not much different. It requires the same amount of commitment, or even sometimes more, to finish off our assignments within strict guidelines. Online publishing is a race against time. To feel content with your work at the end of the day, there is a lot of running around you need to accomplish during your work hours in office. Publishing demands unflinching attention and the zeal to achieve the best you can in very short spans of time. Everything in a publishing house is urgent. Nothing can be given a second position of importance. You need a lot of time management skills in here. Of course, apart from this, good writing skills could give you the opportunities of getting into legal writing as well. There may be days when you feel like giving up, but, those are really the days when you should just hang on, and wait for something better to happen for you.
Do you feel that publishing may become a major career avenue for law graduates in the future?
Publishing is ‘the thing’ coming up for sure. There are very few players in this field at present and the future does hold a lot of open ground for new people to come and settle in. Publishing is a major field abroad, however, it is catching up here in India now. Publishing houses can give you chances of working not only as an editor, but, they can rope you in as their legal advisors as well, giving you a chance of working multi-dimensionally.
What would have you done, if not law?
I would definitely have been a professional painter, trying to make this world a more artistic place to live.
What’s your take on work life balance?
Work-life balance is very essential. When we start out, with all our ambitions we just throw ourselves into work. Today, the longer working hours you can boast of, the more successful and hard working you are considered. However, a few months down the line, your life shakes up and you realize only work is not going to help you in life. There are a lot of human beings that you need around you to survive; you need to move out and socialize. Yes, I agree our profession does not really give us the liberty to have a life, but, the more you try the easier it is to get out of the vicious circle, and believe me, work’s perfect when you actually do have a life beyond work. More so, what are you going to do with all your hard earned money if you don’t really have the time to even spend some of it! Won’t that really be quite sad?
How do you spend you time when you are not working? Any hobbies?
Painting and sketching – that’s what I do. I love going out with my friends, spending time with them, as well as meeting new people. I was so stuck up in my field until recently, when I met a whole bunch of some of the brightest people ever when I got selected to attend RELEAD – an International Conference on Leadership at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM – Bangalore). It gave me a whole new perspective about work, life and the world. It brought in a whole lot of new aspects to my life.
What would be your message for law students planning to join the publishing industry?
I would definitely suggest them to try out this new upcoming field. I would ask them to be patient and be ready to slog it out if they really want to enjoy the fruits of their work. And, of course, develop love for what you do, because it is not always that you may do what you really love.