Interviews

Aditya Shamlal, Partner, GameChanger Law Advisors, on career experience in Sports Law

Aditya Shamlal graduated from the National Law School India University in 2008. He has worked as an Associate at Amarchand Mangaldas and thereafter at the Chambers of Raj Panwani. He is at present a Senior Consultant at GameChanger Sports Ventures, a Partner at GameChanger Law Advisors and Managing Editor at gamechangerindia.com. In this interview he shares his insights on:

  • Choosing law as a profession
  • His time at NLSIU
  • Working at GameChanger, India
  • Experience in Sports Law

 

How would you like introduce yourself to our readers who are mostly law aspirants, law students and young lawyers?

I am a graduate of NLSIU, Bangalore, Batch of 2008. I have, during my 7 plus years since graduation, gained experience and worked in various practice areas within the legal industry, such as corporate and commercial law, environmental law, technology law, sports law and dispute resolution. I am an avid sports enthusiast and do regular research and writing within the sports law domain.

 

Did you always want to be a lawyer? Did you have lawyers in your family or among relatives who motivated you to pursue law?

As a child or even till I was 14-15 I never really thought much about a career and I don’t think I was particularly ambitious either. I was quite content with playing sports with my friends, playing video games and studying when required to. The first profession I seriously thought of was law.

However, I did not have any lawyers in my family or even among distant relatives. No one in my family really knew what being a lawyer meant. I first discussed this with my family in 2001-2002 and their only idea of a lawyer (and consequently mine) was an advocate who practiced in the courts.

 

What inclined you towards the field of legal education? Can you recall any specific incident that made you choose law as a career?

My favourite subjects in school were English and Social Studies. Our civics course had chapters on the Constitution of India and that first got me interested in the ‘law’. By the time I was 14-15 years old, I had displayed a higher aptitude for English, History, Political Science and Economics over Math and Science. My school at that point of time did not offer arts courses as an option for the 12th Board examination. I was left only with the options of commerce or science and chose science to ‘keep my options open’.

Sometime in 2002, my English teacher, who herself was an LLB graduate from Delhi University, suggested I consider law as a possible career option, as she felt I had an aptitude for it. This got me thinking about law seriously, and after doing a bit of research on the options available and the exams to be written, I decided to go ahead and write the legal entrance exams.

 

How would you describe your experience as a student at NLSIU? How instrumental was NLSIU in shaping up your legal career?

NLSIU was a great place to study law. While NLSIU, like every other institution in India, has its own problems and issues, those 5 years completely changed the direction of my life.

I believe NLSIU has been extremely instrumental in shaping the legal career of almost all its graduates and the NLSIU alumni community is now understanding that, and consequently are more invested in the institution than before. NLSIU has churned out leaders in advocacy, law firms, companies, public policy institutions, academia, social work and quite recently in entrepreneurship as well. This would not have been possible without the institution providing a conducive atmosphere for learning. In addition, the institution has also provided us with other building blocks (such as exposure to so many different situations, the ability to build powerful networks, development of communication skills etc.) that have stood us in good stead way after our graduation. Therefore, there is much reason to be grateful to NLSIU!

 

What were your areas of interest during your graduation? How did you go about developing expertise and knowledge in these areas?

Economics, Company Law, Intellectual Property Law, International Law were the courses I enjoyed the most during college, I would be lying if I said I went around developing any sort of expertise in these areas during my college days, apart from during internships, which necessitated doing reasonably in-depth research with respect to real world circumstances and scenarios.

Most of my extra-curricular activities were centred around sports whether it organisationally or in the form of participation. I played basketball briefly for the university team, and otherwise participated yearly in inter-batch sports activities like basketball, football, tennis and table tennis. I was also on the sports committee for a year.

 

Tell us about the internships you pursued when at law school. What kind of work did you get to do during internships? Did law school equip you enough for internships?

I did mostly litigation internships with NLSIU Alums in the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court for my first 3 years in law school. In my 4th and 5th years I did more corporate internships by interning at law firms and at banks. The education at law school, whether relevant or not specifically with respect to subject matter, in general armed me with the tools I needed to tackle any legal problem thrown at me during my internships.

 

Right after graduation you joined as an Associate in the New Delhi offices of Amarchand Mangaldas. Tell our readers what was your work profile at this Law firm? What did an average day of work look like?

I joined the erstwhile AMSS, Delhi in 2008 and worked there for a period of 2 years. As a fresh graduate in a large law firm it is sometimes tough to hit the ground running. Often you were put in a practice area you did not understand and it can be quite a challenge coming to grips with the major legal issues and nuances of a particular practice area.

As a junior resource you work profile includes doing all of the ground work in the form of research; preparing first drafts of opinions, legal memos and agreements; conducting due diligence exercises; maintaining files, taking minutes at meetings, assisting your immediate reporting senior associate or your partner in whatever way possible. An average day in Amarchand is quite hectic, you are almost always occupied with most of the tasks I have already mentioned.

 

Please tell our readers what was the procedure you followed for your applications to the big law firms?

We had a robust recruitment committee during my years in law school, and the big law firms, both Indian and from the UK, were recruiting actively from NLSIU. We routed our job applications through our recruitment committee and some students had already landed jobs through pre-placement offers on the basis of internships.

 

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You have further worked in litigation for about 2 years. Kindly in brief share these experiences with our readers.

After walking into NLSIU in 2003, joining a litigation practice in 2010, was my biggest eye opener. During my time at AMSS, I had the opportunity to work on all kinds of projects, but due to the way large corporate firms are structured, my client or ‘real world’ exposure was fairly limited and junior resources in large firms are generally sheltered and insulated from the big bad world.

Juniors in Litigation, especially outside of the larger firms, have no such protection afforded to them. You are quite literally thrown into the deep end, whether it is drafting, or filing a suit or petition, sitting in client meetings and gleaning facts from your clients, sitting with senior lawyers and briefing them. In litigation, every one of your skills is tested thoroughly. Whether it is the hard legal skills of drafting or research or soft skills in managing client expectations and dealing with the registry, all your work and life experience will come into play when working in litigation and therefore, to me at least, it was one of the more challenging experiences of my life.

 

Take our readers through this wonderful transition and journey you have experienced and kindly share your legal insights in sports issues.

(Thereafter Aditya joined GameChanger Law Advisors as a Senior Consultant and as the Managing Editor of gamechangerindia.com and finally became Partner of GameChanger Law Advisors.)

GameChanger Law Advisors (a legal advisory practice) and GameChanger Sports Ventures (a consultancy and online web magazine on the business of sport) was founded by Amrut Joshi (NLSIU, Batch of 2003) in the year 2011. I was always interested in sports law and sports businesses and most of my friends knew of that interest. I was put in touch with Amrut through a common friend and I wound up joining both the law firm and the consultancy in 2012. Initially, it was just the two of us in the law practice.

GameChanger Sports Ventures was conceptualized as a sports business consulting firm to provide niche consulting services to the sports industry (such as sponsorship consulting, social media marketing, and other advisory services). While Amrut and I were responsible for shaping the content platform i.e. gamechangerindia.com, Prantik Mazumdar (who is a reputed digital marketing consultant in Singapore) was leading the execution of all consulting assignments.

The idea was to bootstrap the sports consulting venture with revenues earned from a pure play law practice (i.e. from GameChanger Law Advisors) and from a social media consulting practice (in Prantik’s case). We straddled our corporate and commercial law practice with GameChanger Sports Ventures’ work for the first few years. However, due to Amrut’s and my legal experience, the law practice continued to get stronger (as a result of a strong startup ecosystem in both Bangalore and New Delhi), and we eventually pivoted to a model where we were exclusively focusing on pure-play legal services, which included assisting clients on Angel/VC investment transactions, technology licensing transactions, commercial contracting, sports law and employment law advisory All the while, we have continued to retain our focus on servicing clients in the startup and sports industries.

 

Please tell our readers about GameChanger Law Advisors, its area of operations, services offered. What was the thought process behind joining GameChanger Law Advisors?

GameChanger Law Advisors, is a boutique commercial law practice that is focused on servicing clients in the Startup, Sports and SME ecosystem. We currently have full-fledged offices in Bangalore and New Delhi. Our core areas of practice are:

  • Corporate and Commercial Law Advisory;
  • Employment Law Advisory;
  • Angel and Venture Capital Investments;
  • Mergers and Acquisitions;
  • A specialised practice supporting the Technology and Media industries; and
  • A specialised practice supporting the Sports Industry.

The thought process behind joining GameChanger Law Advisors was that I wanted to work in industry areas in which I am interested. In addition, I had a unique opportunity to build a law practice that is modern, contextual and meritocratic in its outlook. The decision was borne out of that interest, it was an instinctive decision taken after weighing all the pros and cons of leaving an established practice area and attempting to develop and carve out a niche for ourselves.

Company Law applies equally to any company irrespective of the industry it does business in. Our value addition as corporate and commercial legal counsel stems from the fact that we strive to obtain a deep understanding of our clients’ businesses and their commercial considerations and pinpoints, while rendering our services. The fact that Amrut and I were able to obtain a substantial amount of first-hand non-legal business experience also helps us when we share our experiences with Founders of startups now. As much as it is a cliché, we believe that we will only be successful and relevant to our clients if we provide advice that is practical and not merely by reading to them the plain letter of the law. .

 

How did your interest grow towards sports law as this an area less travelled by corporate lawyers?

I used to watch and play quite a few sports growing up. Watching and reading about sports like Football and Basketball got me thinking about how sports are a reasonably structured business in the West. Sports as a business in India was only unlocked in the early 90’s with lucrative TV deals for cricket broadcast and sky high endorsements for Sachin Tendulkar. Even as recently as the early part of the last decade, sports business in India was equated with just cricket. Since then however, the business of sport in India has evolved gradually. The last few years has seen the advent of leagues in sports such as Football, Kabaddi, Hockey, Badminton and Tennis. These leagues are now spawning a professional ecosystem, which comprises not just the players but also other stakeholders such as sponsors, franchise owners, broadcasters, infrastructure providers, coaches, medical staff, player agents etc.

The growth of this ecosystem has also gradually increased the demand for specialised legal services to support different stakeholders in the sports industry. Sports Law, in our view, is “applied law”, and is a discipline that requires a good working knowledge of several other bodies of law such as contract law, constitutional law, administrative law, intellectual property law and company law. You cannot be a good sports lawyer unless you are a good lawyer!

 

How is the work life at GameChanger Law Advisors and how do you maintain the work and family life balance?

We strive hard to maintain a work-life balance at GameChanger. However being a young firm, with a growing client base, work-life balance is sometimes a luxury that we cannot afford. Those situations notwithstanding, we try to make sure that we don’t unnecessarily keep long hours. We try and make sure that the entire team gets a complete break on Saturdays and Sundays so that we are fresh and ready to deal with new challenges at the beginning of every week! Being a small team, we are also flexible with leave and holiday requests- the team tries its best to cover up for any person who is on leave/vacation, so that the vacation/leave can be used for its actually intended purpose! Having said that, if there are unavoidable situations at work, which require us to be available for clients at late hours or on weekends, our team members are game to accept such challenges too!

 

You have various publications on sports law to your credit. Kindly share your experience with young readers and how your interest was drawn to this field.

Publications are something which I didn’t really take to seriously in Law School. I didn’t attach to much importance to it at that point of time as I viewed it as an exercise which requires too much effort for no tangible result. Only once I started working did I realise the value in writing. Legal writing truly hones your theoretical skill and grasp over the subject at hand. In addition, it helps you to express your views, strive towards paying attention to detail and reach a target audience that is relevant to your practice. As a firm, GameChanger Law Advisors puts a lot of emphasis on legal writing, not just in the field of sports law, but also other areas of law such as corporate law, administrative law, employment law and contract law.

If I have any advice for a young law student, it would be to use the opportunities during college life to get published as much as possible. If a subject interests you, write about various topics that are current and relevant to the legal debates of the day. It is an extremely handy skill-set to have and something which in my view will never go to waste.

 

Do you have any plans to pursue higher education in the future specially in sports laws?

No current plans to pursue higher education, in sports law or otherwise, though I would love to do a sports law related LL.M so I would not rule that out for the future if the opportunity ever presents itself.

 

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