Associates, In-House Counsels & Advocates

Abhishek Bhalla, Principal Associate, IndusLaw, on building a career in Corporate Law

Abhishek Bhalla graduated from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (2002-2007). He joined IndusLaw in January 2016 and is a principal associate with the corporate-commercial practice. His focus areas of practice are mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, foreign investment and general corporate and commercial matters.

In his legal experience of almost a decade, Abhishek has structured, negotiated and drafted a wide range of transactions for foreign investors across sectors such as oil & gas, renewable energy, automotive, IT, telecommunication, aviation and hospitality.

Abhishek advises foreign investors and multinational corporations on a wide array of legal issues relating to acquisitions, joint venture agreements, regulations governing external commercial borrowings, foreign direct investment policy, company and employment laws, etc.

In this interview he talks to us about:

  • Advantages of starting out at a smaller law firm.
  • Disadvantages of not doing law from a National Law School.
  • What law firms look for in potential candidates?
  • What must a law student do to get hired in a top-tier law firm?

 

How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?

Hi, I’m Abhishek Bhalla, a first generation lawyer, working as a Principal Associate at IndusLaw as part of the Corporate M&A team.

I focus on mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, foreign investment as well as general corporate and commercial matters. In my legal experience – spanning about a decade, I have structured, negotiated and drafted a wide range of transactions for foreign investors across sectors such as oil & gas, renewable energy, automotive, IT, telecommunication, aviation and hospitality. My experience also straddles deals across stages of evolutions ranging from capital infusion in start-ups to strategic acquisitions of significant value (as high as a billion dollars).

 

Tell us about your life before you joined college. Where did your interest lie as a student and what made you gravitate towards law?

I grew up in a family of business professionals with almost no ties with the legal fraternity. So at some level getting into law was a complete accident. However I was pretty sure that I wanted to get into a professional services career that provides options to branch out on my own later. Hence law was a natural fit. All in all though, it turned out to be a really good decision.

 

Your focus areas of practice are mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, foreign investment and general corporate and commercial matters. How did your interest develop in this field?

After getting some exposure during internships, I decided on pursuing corporate law. Within corporate law, I worked on various kinds of matters but M&A, joint ventures and FDI interested me the most given the stakes, intensity and pace. I liked the real impact it created on the clients’ business and the level of engagement it evokes. Hence over the years I focused more and more on M&A, joint ventures and FDI, and the more I specialised the better the work got.

 

You started out at RNC Legal and then shifted to Phoenix Legal when it had just started. What are the advantages of starting out at a smaller law firm?

The biggest advantage of working in a smaller law firm is that you get to work directly with the partners from the very start. That is the fastest way of leaning to be responsible for and take ownership of your work. As a young associate, watching your work product go out to the client without much red line is a great satisfaction.

I have been quite lucky to have worked with partners who have had the patience to guide me in the early years, and let me learn from my mistakes.

 

You completed your LL.B. from University School, GGS Indraprastha University, Delhi. What are the disadvantages of not doing law from a National Law School?

Graduating from a national law school has obvious advantages, especially for placements straight out of law-school and the long term networks that you build. At that time, the name of the law school is the often only thing on the CV which matters. However, after a few years into the profession, work experience – your reputation and personal networks – matter much more than college education. There is no substitute for on-the-job training.

 

What is the importance of getting perspective from the client’s side?

Last year, I was on secondment to BG India, the subsidiary of a British oil and gas company which has since been acquired by Shell, for about 4 months, assisting them with sale of certain off-shore assets.

That secondment gave me a very different perspective. The bulk of the work for an in-house attorney starts where the work of external counsel ends. Application of the advice within the organisation is the real challenge. For an in-house attorney, the managers of the company are the clients. It is always useful to look at things from the other side to see how clients view and evaluate our work. I would highly recommend a secondment to anyone who gets the chance.

 

If you were a law student today, would you do anything differently? If so, what would it be and why?

I guess I would give more focus to internships. As I mentioned earlier, there is no substitute for work experience and on the job training.

 

What do law firms look for in potential candidates?

 A fresher is not expected to know the law. What firms look more than anything else is the willingness to work, and of course basic analytical understanding/ability.

 

What must a law student do to get hired in a top-tier law firm? What advice would you give to law students wishing to work in the same sector as you?

I think the best possible way of getting into a firm is internships, especially in the last couple years of law school. Several internships at the same firm can get a foot into the door, and even if you do not get a PPO right away (as the firm may not require fresher’s at that point of time), you are more likely to get an interview call based on relationships you made during your internships, and convert that interview if you have the knowledge that emanates from the experience of having worked at a firm.

 

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