Biplab Lenin graduated from Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual property law (2009-2012). He is a qualified attorney with more than 4 years of both law firm and in-house experience in dealing with general corporate and intellectual property matters. He is registered to practice before Indian patent office and currently working with Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas at its Delhi office. His core areas of work include wide range of transactions, general advisory and intellectual property matters. He has acted on some of the significant and complex transactions that the intellectual property team has been involved with.
In this interview he talks to us about:
- How he build up expertise in IPR.
- Primary essentials of a corporate lawyer.
- Professional ethics one should follow while at work.
- Basic subjects one should understand before sitting for an interview.
How would you introduce yourself, given that most of our readers are law students, law aspirants or professionals in the legal arena?
I am currently working as a Consultant with Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas in New Delhi. My practice areas include intellectual property laws and corporate laws. I am a registered patent agent at Indian patent office. I completed my LL.B. from Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law (RGSOIPL) in IIT Kharagpur Campus and also hold a graduate degree in Biotechnology Engineering.
Were you always as fascinated by the field of IP Law or was it an acquired passion that set in through your college years?
Since my father is also a lawyer, I was never a stranger to legal discussions which my father often used to do with his friends over evening tea after a long day in Court. Nevertheless, after 12th standard I followed the crowd of students doing engineering. In the last semester of my engineering, there was a subject called ” Intellectual property Rights”. Somehow, it attracted me quite a lot mainly because it involved both technology and law. That led me to apply for the course at RGSOIPL at IIT Kharagpur. I guess I was lucky to have studied under tutelage of good teachers and in a diverse peer group that IIT offers. Though I had an inclination towards IP subjects, at the same time, I wanted to do my internships on other subjects as well. Hence, I did internships with law firms as well as corporate in the domain of general corporate law, taxation, disputes, technology transfer and intellectual property law.
How did you build up your expertise in IPR? Tell us about your work experience.
My first hands on training on practical aspects of law happened in my internship at Monsanto. After finishing law school, I joined Mahyco as an in-house Counsel where I worked on different IP laws like patents, trademarks, plant variety, biological diversity and technology transfer. More importantly, interactions with several eminent scientists and stalwarts in the agri-biotech domain helped me realize the importance of understanding the technical nuances of the technology involved in any IP law. My engineering education helped me a lot in this area.
After completing three and half years of satisfying work at Mahyco, I joined Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas at Delhi where I am working on matters related to patents, plant variety, biodiversity, transfer & assignment of Intellectual property and general corporate transactions. On litigation front, I am a part of the team which is handling patent infringement and drugs ban litigation before the Delhi high Court.
Tell us about your schooling and early life. What do you think are the habits that you cultivated which help you today?
I did my schooling from Sainik School in Bhubaneswar from Class 6th till Class 12. I think the values of integrity, camaraderie which are a hallmark of the army, are ingrained in me now. Also, Sainik School gave us a lot of endurance training, which helps me when I have to work for long hours in the Firm! I feel that my school experience was also quite instrumental in putting me at ease in any group with diverse cultural backgrounds, which is helpful for an attorney whose work involves people interaction.
How are internships helpful for a law student? What are the other options available for someone interested in IP?
Internships have a role to play in one’s professional career as a lawyer. They help us in learning how the law is practically applied. Also, business aspects of transactions are also better appreciated in internship. Skills like corporate communication are sharpened during internship. For those who are interested in making a career in IP, I suggest doing first internship under a practicing lawyer to get a feel of our justice delivery system. It is also important to look for quality work rather than brand name. There is no point in securing an internship in a big organization where there is little work for an intern. Students can join an IP specialized law firm or corporate for doing internships.
Having Said that, I also feel that one should not be obsessed with stuffing one’s CV with internships. It is important to remember that in college one is a “professional student”and one’s primary duty as a professional student is to study the law books and the basic concepts. What can be learnt in 10 internships over 5 years in a no-pressure situation can be learnt in 6 months in a pressure situation when one starts actually working after college. Many times these days, interns, who have finished more than 10-12 internships in their first 3-4 years of college, but unclear about fundamental legal concepts, which I believe is injustice to one’s profession as a student.
How do you maintain your work-life balance?
I have always had a problem with this concept which pre-supposes that work and life are different and need to be balanced. I believe the first step in achieving work-life balance is to love yourself and love your work. Luckily I do both! Presently my focus is on honing my skills. I believe I’m being paid to learn now so I’m not complaining at all! I also believe that even at a senior level people do get time for themselves while managing work and I feel this should not be a concern for us at least at the beginning of our career.
Any extra-curricular or co-curricular activities did you take up during your time at RGSOIPL and engineering? How did the same affect your learning experience and prepare you for the legal sector?
I participated in a few moot court competitions during my college. However, I enjoyed parliamentary debate competitions more and also participated in several case study competitions conducted at IIT Kharagpur. During my engineering days as well, I have participated in several paper and poster presentations.
However, apart from legal skills, I used extra-curricular activities to build my communication skills and inter-personal skills. I was one of the founding members of moot court society and conducted the first parliamentary debate competition at RGSOIPL.
During my law school days, I worked as a volunteer in an NGO named “Independent Thought” based in Delhi. The NGO works for the Eradication of Social Disparity and Injustice by promotion of Fundamental and Socioeconomic Rights. I used to assist team in doing research and preparing reports with regard to remedies on issues relating to child labour. This experience showed me the humane side of the law and it still keeps my sensitivity intact and reminds me that beyond all the paper work and legal arguments there are real people who are affected by what I do.
Generally the first year after graduation is the most defining time of a fresh law graduate. What would you suggest a fresh law graduate should do to hold spirit and utilize the opportunities available?
I would suggest a two-pronged approach:
- Many students are thinking about doing an LL.M, immediately after LLB. I feel that an LL.M. without any work experience is just an LLB with some more semesters and a thesis.
I strongly encourage fresh graduates to take up some professional assignment of their liking instead of academics, be it with a law firm or corporate or even NGO. You’re bound to be confused, so make sure someone’s paying you in the meantime!
- In college, we first pay fees and then we learn. In a job, we get paid to learn. Therefore, as a paid student, learn as much as you can about different areas of law and practice. It is important to remember that most books mention “law” and “practice” separately, for example Banking Law and Practice, meaning thereby that practice is something different from mere legal provisions. This will help you in choosing a particular field or subject for your career.
What are the primary essentials of a corporate lawyer? How do you say a fresh graduate can work on building these skills?
I think honesty towards the client and one’s colleagues is of utmost importance. One may be low on information about a legal concept, which can be gained, but honesty must come from inside. This of course is a basic human requirement in any profession, so all law graduates must also try to imbibe these values.
Patience is also a vital asset. One must not get affected by looking at how others are doing in the profession.
What are the primary professional ethics you follow while at work? How do you deal with mistakes or errors?
I believe that honesty is the best policy. If there is a mistake, one should admit immediately. Mistakes are bound to happen especially in areas where human effort is involved. In face of mistakes, first requirement is to maintain a cool head, accept a mistake has been made and then immediately start working on a solution. When I’m the team lead, I own the mistakes of my team. I think clients too appreciate such candidness.
What are the basic subjects which one should read and have understanding of before sitting for an interview?
From point of view of legal concepts, basic understanding of the following 5 subjects is a must for any civil lawyer regardless of any interview:-
1. Contracts (including sale of goods and specific relief)
2. Transfer of property
4. Registration and stamp duty (basic concepts not details)
5. Constitution (basic concepts)
Thereafter, one may try to gauge the requirements of any specific interview and prepare accordingly.
Where do you see yourself ten years down the line?
Hopefully still on the line!! Jokes apart, my first aim is to build my expertise in my domain, which is more of an internal process. I haven’t really given a thought to any particular designation as such. But I would like to be a lawyer who has earned atleast two things – complete trust of clients which allows them to sleep peacefully as far as their legal worries are concerned; and respect from seniors and peers in the profession regarding my professional ethics and competence. Apart from this, designations are trivia!
Please compare RGSOIPL with other law schools.
RGSOIPL is a unique law school because admission itself requires a degree in technology or medicine. Being a part of IIT Kharagpur campus, it has an IIT-style admission process with entrance test, group discussion and interviews, which is a great learning in itself. It attracts students from all over the country, which helps in enriching one’s culture and view of life. Also, studying law in the IIT Kharagpur campus in the midst of the crème-de-la-crème of India’s technical brains, gave me 2 important lessons –
- Law is an instrument to facilitate business and technology;
- Law cannot be learnt or applied in isolation without an eagerness to learn the technical dynamics of any business.
RGSOIPL also benefits from the infrastructure of IIT. We had access to major online legal resources like Westlaw, Manupatra and Hein online apart from books. There are various co-curricular activities which one can pursue to unwind from demanding course schedule.
How is your experience in working as In house and then shifting to law firm?
Being an In-house counsel helps to learn the significance of law as a toll for business. However, I would advise to have law firm and court experience at the initial stages of the career and learn court proceedings and allied matters and then shifting to in-house.
Shifting from In-house to a law firm is tough from a work pressure point of view. Also, subject experts are readily available when you are working in-house, which may not be the case in a law firm full of mostly lawyers. Anyone who wishes to develop a very particular specialization should work in in-house IP department. Law firm gives you a more diversified work. Needless to say, law firm working hours are more strenuous. However, learning as well as growth is much speedier in a law firm.
What would be your parting message to our readers?
An excellent CGPA is always good. However, it is important to co-curricular and extracurricular activities as well. Read as much as you can. Take risks when it is required. It is not necessary that every risk you take will result in success. There will be failures too.
It is important to not think too seriously about oneself and one’s so-called reputation etc. while taking professional decisions. I think the most vital part is that one should feel good both as a human being and a lawyer.