“Effective mentorship involves mutual respect, open communication, and practical insights. Aspiring legal professionals, remember: Pursue excellence and professionalism, and money will follow.” – Shruba Bhattacharya, Counsel at ivari Canada

This interview has been published by Namrata Singh and The SuperLawyer Team

Your career has taken you from India to Dubai and now to Toronto. Transitioning between legal landscapes and cultures can be both professionally and personally transformative. Can you share insights into your journey and how you navigated these transitions, both in terms of your legal practice and adapting to new environments?

UAE opened up a new world of personal and professional opportunities. I moved to UAE with about few years of work experience from India and with god’s grace, I was quickly able to find a position in one of Abu Dhabi’s oldest law firms. Though I had apprehensions about moving from a common law hybrid jurisdiction to a civil law hybrid jurisdiction, however, none of my apprehensions came to fruition, as the firm had amazing people who were happy to help and guide me. The addition of ADGM and DIFC, which are common law jurisdictions also helped. On a personal front, our stint in UAE was amazing, we started our family and made lifelong friends. However, owing to the non-permanent transient nature of the stay in UAE, we chose to move out to Canada, where I did my masters and licensure and am presently a Counsel at ivari. I am blessed to be working with an amazing team and a very competent and compassionate General Counsel. Moving countries takes and restarting life, gets harder with time. However, an indomitable spirit, ability to adapt, ability to keep an open mind and resilience are key to success. 

As Counsel at ivari, you provide legal guidance on insurance-related issues and collaborate with internal clients. Can you share a recent project or challenge you’ve worked on at Ivari that stands out, and how did you navigate it to achieve positive outcomes for the company?

While I can leverage my past work experience and at present predominantly work on the corporate commercial side of insurance, insurance is multifaceted– reinsurance, segregated funds, pension laws – and the list goes on.  While I have ample guidance with work, the biggest challenge for me is the transition from private practice to in-house. The challenge presents itself in dealing with various internal clients, while balancing out business needs with legal advice. To surmount these issues, I use a two-pronged approach – first I aim to identify the needs of the client, what are they looking for, have a chat with them if need be and then commence the work and second, properly manage internal client expectations.

Your experience includes dealing with diverse legal areas such as corporate law, employment law, and foreign investment law. Is there a specific project or deal that stands out as particularly memorable or challenging in your career?

One transaction that stands out was a settlement agreement I was working on for a French banking giant. One of the conditions involved vacating a “mortgage” on a ship which was one of the securities. While a tangent work, I do not deal with maritime law – therefore it was particularly memorable and enjoyable given that the ship was not in port, the intricacies of UAE law and formalities required by the authorities, the nature and timing required to complete the transaction.

As someone who has worked on a range of transactions, from joint ventures to business purchase agreements, what aspect of corporate law do you find most fascinating or intellectually stimulating?

I find acquisitions to be fascinating. It is dynamic in nature involving strategic planning – including financial considerations, negotiations, structuring, due diligence and drafting/negotiating definitive agreements. Acquisitions have an implication and impact for the stakeholders, the companies, operations and the broader business and legal landscape – and this adds another layer of complexity in what is already a complex matter.

In your role as a lawyer in Abu Dhabi/Dubai, you managed deal/transactional teams and conducted sessions to develop transaction strategies. How do you foster collaboration and effective communication within a legal team working on complex transactions?

The framework of effective communication is built on organisation within the team, defining the roles at the inception, regular/daily check-ins depending on the complexity and urgency of the matter, encouraging open communication wherein team members to bring in diverse perspectives and fostering a culture of respect (which is key when working in an ethnically and linguistically diverse workspace).

You pursued a Master of Laws (LLM) at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. What motivated your decision to undertake this academic journey, and how has this experience enriched your legal perspective, especially considering the transition from Abu Dhabi/Dubai to Toronto?

The motivation was very personal. I was moving from UAE to Canada and therefore needed to relicense myself. I could have taken the exams route which would have been economical and less time-consuming – but instead, I went in for the longer route of LLM. Getting back to academia was hard. However, I wanted to ingratiate myself with Canadian laws. I would recommend that to anyone moving to Canada to pursue law – just gives you a better understanding of the legal system and legal community. The LLM brought me up-to-date with what is going on in the Canadian legal space.

As a member of the 2022-2023 LPPCA Executive, what goals or initiatives are you particularly excited about, and how do you see these contributing to the legal community in Toronto?

This was a student body at the LPP. Nothing major here.

You have been involved in various extracurricular activities, including being a Vice Chair for the School Council. How do you balance your professional commitments with your community involvement, and what motivates you to actively contribute to the community?

I have always wanted to give back to the community. In Canada, there is a huge thrust towards volunteering. It starts right at school. Doing something for the community and building a sense of community are part of the school curriculum. I too have always wanted to give back to the community. Education and the future of kids is an interest of mine. So, I volunteer my time at the school council. I also volunteer my time with the LPP program at Toronto Metropolitan University (previously Ryerson University) to give back to the profession. I am also in the process of getting involved with United Way – an organisation that my office supports.

Outside the legal realm, you’ve mentioned being a food and K-drama enthusiast. Can you share a favourite dish you enjoy preparing or a K-drama series that you found particularly captivating, and how do these hobbies contribute to your work-life balance?

Love eating, cooking and entertaining friends. I do not have a favourite dish – but love trying out new cuisines. At present, I am obsessed with Hong Kong Chinese cuisine, particularly Youtiao. I have been trying to make it at home with little success.

Having mentored and coached interns during your time in Abu Dhabi, how do you approach mentorship, and what advice would you give to aspiring legal professionals starting their careers?

For me effective mentorship involves guiding mentees through a legal issue – irrespective of the complexity, sharing practical insights, and sharing feedback (including taking feedback too).  The most essential element for a good mentor-mentee relationship is mutual respect followed by open communication.

Advice to new lawyers, as I recently stated in an alumni panel discussion for the current batch of LPP candidates,:

Identify what you can do/are good at. Can you get clients – private practice then; cannot get clients – consider in-house, do you like the academia, do you want to go into law adjacent careers?

Once you have done that, try your hands at many things. Have some experience in litigation – that is the foundation for a good solicitor practice.

Pursue excellence and professionalism, and money will follow.

Get in touch with Shruba Bhattacharya

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