Arijeet Mukherjee graduated from Symbiosis Law School, with a gold medal as the class topper of his batch (batch 2012). While maintaining Rank 1, he won various moot court competitions and has multiple publications to his credit during his five years in law school. As a law student he has been quite active and participated in many debates, MUNs and conferences.By the time he graduated, he had received a PPO from Khaitan & Co
We have taken this opportunity to ask him about the several decisive moments in his career amongst other things including:
- Maintaining grades
- Acing moot court competitions
- Securing a PPO at Khaitan & Co.
How did you gravitate towards Law? Tell us about your college life at Pune. What all activities did you partake in?
I had a keen interest in matters that impacted the society and law was simply one of them; an option which I could take up as a profession. Looking back, the choice of going to law school was more than anything else, a leap of faith and as it turned out it was an excellent experience.
Pune is one of the most fun cities to be living in as a student and I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. College life was not just about academics at any point of time, the whole experience of living independently with friends and making the most of it was extraordinary. All in all, college life at Symbiosis was definitely an exciting and memorable one.
I was involved in various extra-curricular activities and represented the college in Philip C Jessups, Raj Anand and M S Rammiah moot court competitions. I also participated in the HR and RCPNE Model United Nations. However, the activity closest to my heart was the Make a Difference project, which I was involved in as a part of the Human Rights Cell of the college, wherein I used to teach drawing to children who used to live in a nearby slum.
What were your areas of interest during your graduation? How did you go about developing expertise and knowledge in these areas?
I was in a peculiar position where I did not have any one particular area / subject of interest per se, some aspects of quite a few subjects really interested me. For instance, I was not particularly keen on intellectual property rights law, but the aspect of pharmaceutical patents was something that really evoked interest. Overall, I can say that no one single area interested me the most, it was eclectic mix of subjects, topics and ideas which fascinated me.
In this regard, to develop a better understanding of my likings and gain experience, I interned at quite a few places. These internships gave me an exposure to different fields and organisations. I learnt as much in my internships as I did in college, perhaps even more.
You were one of the most exceptional students at Symbiosis Law School. You bagged a Gold medal for being the batch topper. Please give us a few actionable tips on managing higher grades.
Grades are an important part of law school life, particularly if you are looking towards a future in corporate or law firms, so grades were definitely on my priority list. However, the cliché law exam clearing method of mugging answers never appealed to me. I had quite a few friends in law school, who spent months and weeks mugging answers and more often than not they were successful in getting good grades, but that was not something that I could have ever possibly succeeded in doing.
My method of achieving high grades was simply studying smart. It is not the volume of materials that you study that can help you get good grades, but it is your understanding of the concept that matters the most. The way I used to go about preparing for my exams was to first identify the important topics, then conceptually understand those topics and create my own answers in plain and simple language, rather than repeating text book answers. This not only helped me get good grades but also made me conceptually stronger and most importantly, reduced stress levels before exams.
One has to realise that the manner and method of studying is a personal matter and what suits one in all probability will not suit the other. No one can claim that one method is the best and the other a failure, I believe that everyone should find a way to study that they are most comfortable with and not get tensed over what others are doing. In these matters, it is best that you prepare on your own terms and not let others stress you out.
You have been the Recipient of various scholarship and awards including Ram Jethmalani Scholarship for Excellence in Law of Evidence, Advocate S K Jain scholarship for topper in B.B.A.LL.B, Advocate Nani Palkhiwala Memorial Trust Award for Excellence in Constitutional Law. How did you go about achieving this?
As far as the Ram Jethmalani scholarship and Nani Palkhiwala scholarship go, I had developed an interest for topics of constitutional law and evidence law. It was due to this interest that I ended up studying these subjects in greater detail and that was perhaps the reason I was able to receive these scholarships. For the Advocate S K Jain scholarship, I owe it to the study pattern I followed throughout law school of studying smart and not mugging. I must admit that achieving these accolades was not an easy task, but then when one is interested in it the task does not seem uphill.
You have publications in various renowned journals. How should one go about writing papers and getting the same published?
Publications are definitely a way to gain visibility and put out your work for others to view. However, the trend of publishing something for having a fuller CV is not something I believe in. One should not write for filling up columns in one’s CV, but one should most definitely put pen to paper if one is genuinely interested in the topic.Needless to say that the quality of the article depends on the research one puts in. One important thing to bear in mind is that the articles written should not be generic “gyaan”, but the topic should be distinct and innovative, such that it arouses interest. Even if the topic is general in nature, strive to put that one additional thing that will make your article different from the others.
As for publishing the articles, there are immense opportunities available online, I highly recommend a thorough regular check on the internet for publication opportunities. The regular publishing hotspots usually have an overflow of interest but the unconventional ones or ones lesser known in India are the ones which must also be explored.
Soon after graduation, you joined Khaitan & Co. as an Associate, how did your appointment take place? What worked for you in securing the job?
I was selected for a one month internship at Khaitan & Co, Mumbai through college. I had interned in the month of March, which typically is a mad rush season for corporate law firms as it is the financial year end. This effectively meant that even as an intern I was exposed to some big ticket transactions and got opportunity to work on some quality matters. I thoroughly enjoyed my internship experience and based on the feedback, after a brief interview, I was offered a PPO in my fourth year.
Some of the most important factors that helped me get the PPO were my internship feedback, my grades and my previous internships experiences. As an associate now, I think one additional factor which is considered deeply is one’s attitude. Usually interns are simply judged by their sincerity at work, this sincerity only comes if you are enjoying the experience of interning. My earnest advice in this regard is to enjoy the internships as an experience and you will in all probability do well.
Any tips on how one should go about framing a C.V. and prepare for an interview?
Keep the CV short and simple, usually no one reads more than a page. Highlight what you think are your big accolades / accomplishments and sieve out the minuscule ones. It is wise to tailor your CV as per the organisation you are applying to, so that the potential employer sees synergy between what they do and what you can offer.
As far as an interview is concerned, in my experience the most important factor is likeability. One must come across as a likeable person, whom the potential employer would like to hire and make a part of his existing team. This likeability can never be faked, so one must not try to appear something he is not and one must be absolutely comfortable in one’s own skin. Confidence is another appealing factor, if one is not sure about one’s own answer, rest assured he is paving a way for a few very difficult questions ahead. In case you do not know something, admit it and tell the interviewer your limited knowledge on the topic in a confident manner. Some basic technical skills must be polished before the interview, which would off course depend on where you are interviewing.
Many lawyers would say that the actual learning takes place in the years of practice. How far would you say it is true? What was the case in your situation?
Unfortunately, it is absolutely true generally and specifically in my case as well. You soon realise that what you learn on internships and on the job was nothing like what you were taught in law school. This gap between class room teaching and real life practice is unfortunate and the system of theoretical teaching has to undergo a change so that we have more street smart lawyers. Till the time the system changes, as a student one can greatly enhance one’s learning curve by interning as much at as many different places and organisations as possible.
It’s been more than two years of your work experience in corporate law. What would you say contributes to the high attrition rate of the top law firms?
There are many factors such as stress, pressure, seniors, larger life callings etc. However, the biggest factor that pushes one over the edge is when one stops enjoying what one does. So work in an organisation as long as you enjoy working there, else move on to what you like doing.
In these two years you must have guided a lot of interns at Khaitan & Co. What do you think differentiates a good intern from the rest? How can an intern make a positive impression in the limited time they have?
I believe that a good intern is different from the rest on account of his sincerity. This is not to be confused with face time or perceptions, when intern is given a task he should try doing it to the best of his abilities and that all there is to it. Interns are allowed to and even expected to make mistakes.
I personally have worked with quite a few interns, and have a personal liking for those students who are here to have fun and enjoy their internship experience. I think a fun and relaxed working attitude definitely creates a positive impression.
Life for lawfirmites can be very hectic at times. What is your take on work-life balance? How do you unwind?
I have to admit that I am struggling with that. As is well known, college life at Symbiosis is very different from work life and it takes some time to get used to working in a law firm. Work levels and stress levels cross danger marks quite often,so one really needs to take a break regularly. As far as unwinding goes, college life at Symbiosis has equipped all of us pretty well on that front.
What would be your parting message to law students who want to be successful in corporate law?
For being successful in corporate law, you do not need to dwell yourself in books, enjoy the experiences of interning and learning new things. Look out for stuff that interests you and pursue them, and most of all do only those things that you like. This quotation from Warren Buffet pretty much sums it up:
“There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?”