“Although you climb up the professional ladder, you continue to study and learn all throughout your career just like you did in your first year of practice”- Dr. Kanika Arora, Founder & Managing Partner at Nirka Law Advisory

This Interview has been published by Pragya Chandni and The SuperLawyer Team


Can you walk us through your journey from studying Oil and Gas Law to pursuing a Doctorate in Business Administration? What inspired this transition?

Having studied at the University of Reading, by the end of the degree I was amply clear that I wanted to pursue a specialised LL.M. degree right after. After having done thorough research, I narrowed down to doing a majors in Oil & Gas Law, which touched upon policy as well as commercial learning with regard to the industry vertical. In fact, despite the fact that I was the youngest out of my batch of LL.M. students, I ended up acquiring the first rank at the end of the year. It was a subject-matter that I was passionate about right from the beginning, owing to the fact that I had grown up in the Middle East and had been exposed to the industry from an early age.

Once I had completed the degree programmes in the UK, I was at the juncture of deciding where I wanted to practice and that is exactly when I took the leap of faith and moved to Mumbai- the commercial hub of India. I spent a couple of years practising on various domestic and international arbitrations- gradually and eventually building my expertise in construction, infrastructure and energy arbitrations.

Deciding to go ahead with a Doctorate in Business Administration was motivated partly by taking my academic qualifications a notch higher and also coupled with the fact that the profession of law is hugely infused with the education of business and commercial skills. The degree added value to my already existing portfolio, and in fact, helped me to strengthen my business foundations.

With experience in both legal practice and business advisory roles, how do you see the intersection between law and business, especially in your area of expertise?

Absolutely- without a doubt. Once you move ahead of your formative years in practice where you acquire experience in research and drafting, you are then exposed to the next level of the legal industry, being the business of law. Just like any other industry, the legal profession also demands one to be fluent enough with commercial sensibility and business development skills.

In fact, in my opinion, it is important to understand another perspective. Clients share a fiduciary relationship with their lawyers wherein they confide in them to understand that their case possibly involves a huge financial responsibility. Sometimes only legal knowledge does not suffice. Any commercial case would also require one to apply basic financial understanding, technical understanding of certain claims and strategizing the most effective and efficient way of closing the case for the client.

You’ve worked in various legal positions across different regions like the UK, UAE, and India. How have these diverse experiences shaped your approach to law and business?

Looking back, I’m very fortunate to have been exposed to multiple markets and jurisdictions. Especially today, when we see that commercial players in India are a part of few of the biggest transactions taking place globally. Since I have focused on construction and infrastructure arbitrations, both domestically and internationally, having exposure to multiple markets has made it simpler to deal with complex cross-border cases. It also makes it easier to understand client mentality and procedures of courts.

As the founder of Nirka Law Advisory, could you share some insights into the challenges you faced while establishing your own firm and how you overcame them?

I think I have been lucky enough to have had a range of mentors to look up to and gain inspiration and advice from, which made the process a lot more simpler. This was the ultimate target and I am glad that it worked out in time and just in the way our team had planned for it.

Initially setting up shop in any industry vertical demands time, money and effort – relentlessly. Unlike employment, the entire burden of ensuring that quality of work generated remains uncompressed, clients are satisfied, the team is well-equipped and happy with the work being done, etc. all lies with the founders. However, having a team and compartmentalizing duties and responsibilities has helped immensely. We have hand-picked our team to provide optimum quality services, and we are thankful to have retained our clients through our quality of work.

What motivated you to specialize in Oil and Gas Law, and how do you see this sector evolving in the coming years, especially in the context of global energy transitions?

The conventional energy sector has for decades been a dynamic and interesting sector to study and work in. For someone who wants to gain insight into it, I always recommend watching the documentary, ‘Story of the Seven Sisters’. The sector is vast and ever evolving, that at no point would the learning stop. Yes, the non-conventional energy sector has picked up at a rapid pace in the last couple of years, however, in my opinion we are still largely dependent upon conventional sources of energy and that would be the case even for the next couple of decades.

Throughout your career, you’ve held roles ranging from Legal Intern to Partner. How have these different positions contributed to your professional growth and perspective?

I think this is the basic life cycle of any lawyer. It’s a slow yet promising transition. Although you climb up the professional ladder, you continue to study and learn all throughout your career just like you did in your first year of practice. The profession comes along with this.

Could you highlight some key lessons or insights you gained during your time at Advani Law and AZB & Partners that have been particularly valuable in your current role as a Managing Partner?

I think all the firms that I had worked with have contributed to my learning curve in one way or another. With Advani Law LLP, I gained a lifetime mentor, Mr. Hiroo Advani who I would all the credit to for making me the professional I am today. The firm worked more like a chamber practice and when I had first arrived I was absolutely clueless about what practice would really entail. The firm taught me everything that I know about being an arbitration lawyer, because I had the best arbitration lawyer in the country as my teacher. AZB & Partners gave me an insight as to how the top law firms in the country work, which is vastly different from how boutique firms run. The learning involved working with a much larger team and the expectations were very different in terms of timelines and performance.

Finally, considering your journey from law school to founding your own firm, what advice would you offer to recent graduates aspiring to build a successful career in law and business?

The best thing that a law graduate can do is to get themselves the right mentor at the very beginning of their career. Secondly, it is all about persistence. The learning curve is not just for a couple of years, but for the entire life of a lawyer’s career. Lastly, take risks. Step out of the comfort zone and take the initiative to think out of the box.

Get in touch with Dr. Kanika Arora-

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