“Evolution from Defender to Litigator and Leader”- The captain of the High Court Women’s Cricket team reflects on how discipline, hard work, and perseverance from her defense-inspired upbringing have become pillars of her successful legal career – Kirti Patwardhan, Managing Partner of Patwardhan Law Associates

This interview has been published by  Priyanka Karwa and The SuperLawyer Team

Your journey from clearing the Combined Defense Services exam to becoming a successful litigator is quite unique. How did your initial interest in defense services shape your approach to litigation, and what inspired you to take the path of law after your graduation?

I have been brought up in a household where serving society has been engrained since childhood. I wanted to join the Indian army after graduating from school itself but that point in time, there were no entries, after 12th class, in defense forces for females therefore I decided to take up law with the thought that if I don’t get to wear the olive green, I will serve the nation by doing litigation. The interest basically is derived from the thought of serving the nation in whichever little way possible. I had seen my father do a lot of hard work and I had also seen the satisfaction he used to get from his work, which was another factor that inspired me.

Discipline, hard work, integrity and perseverance are the things I have seen in all the soldiers and these things have shaped my initial years in the litigation. 

Therefore, litigation is one such field where you get to the opportunity to giveback by doing Pro Bono work but good work for those who can’t afford legal fees. It is a very satisfying feeling which cannot be described in words.

Being a graduate from Gujarat National Law University and having revamped your father’s chamber into a full-time litigation firm, what challenges did you face in transforming a longstanding setup, and how do you think it has contributed to the firm’s success today?

I owe a lot to GNLU. I evolved as a person in those five years and found few of the most amazing friends from my law school. The learning, thinking on your feet, decision making is all that I developed in the course of those 5 years which comes handy in litigation. I was lucky to have had a background but even in 2012-2013, it was very hard for a lot of people to digest that a girl had joined hardcore litigation in Indore and was also calling spade a spade. The entire restructuring invited a lot of hostility but it was my father’s support and faith that kept me going. My office was established in 1946 by my great grandfather and to change the system in place was questioned by many but I thought one has to evolve with time and that restructuring has helped the firm in establishing its clientele, Pan India. With a good team, I am now able to diversify the work we do and we now specialize in Labour law but also undertake Arbitration, Criminal, Consumer, Commercial, and NCLT matters.

In addition to your legal expertise, you are a certified trainer under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the workplace act. Could you share your experience in training students and professionals on their rights and duties under the POSH act, and why is this area of law important to you?

I think today sexual harassment at workplace is the most rampant issue and it’s a subject close to heart. It’s such an enriching experience to interact with young minds who have so much going on in their head and are full of ideas and questions. I feel delighted that I get a chance to shape their impressionable minds with the right knowledge. If they are told about their rights and duties at an early stage then automatically, they will go as professionals with right knowledge, compassion and attitude towards others at the workplace.

Training professionals is a different ball game altogether, they are all individuals with years of work experience and it takes more convincing to make them open their minds to take in this new field of law, which is of paramount importance for smooth functioning of any office.

The issue pertaining to awareness under the POSH act is close to my heart because like the majority girls, I have also been victim to harassment in some way or the other and I think it is my duty to make everyone aware of the law that exists and educate everyone about their rights and duties.

As the captain of the High Court Women’s Cricket team, how do you manage to find time for sports amidst a demanding legal career? And how has your experience in sports influenced your approach to leadership and teamwork?

I have been into sports since school and I truly believe that playing sports helps build one’s personality. If you are truly passionate about something, you might sleep an hour less but take out time for the thing you are passionate about. Likewise, I take time out from my schedule to play a sport or take boxing classes or some physical activity because litigation is such a stressful job that you need some way to vent it all out and cycling and sports have worked for me.

As you continue to make significant contributions in various domains, what future goals or milestones do you envision for yourself and your firm?

There is a lot to achieve and as a lot of seniors from my field say, by putting in 10 years, you just started crawling in the field of litigation. I envision opening branch offices beginning from Jabalpur and Bhopal and then one in Delhi in next few years. I also want to establish my firm as one of the best Service law firms in the industry. Originating from Indore, it will not be easy but who likes easy.

We’ve learned about your professional endeavors. Could you share a bit about your personal interests or hobbies that bring balance to your life outside the courtroom?

I absolutely love travelling. Whenever I get a chance, I travel. I have changed the phrase work hard, party harder to work hard, travel harder. I think the best kind of experience and learning one gets is only through travel. I like doing artistic workshops on weekends, like pottery making, resin art, mandala art etc., so I spend my Sunday engaging in all such activities which are satisfying.

Having a deep connection with Indore, can you share a hidden gem or favorite spot in the city that you would recommend to someone visiting for the first time?

This is the only city I relate to and I think a place called Ralamandal is a hidden treasure we have. It’s a hill top on the bypass road where in you have to trek up to the top and you can go and meditate there. There is a small museum and platform which gives the necessary space for Yoga meditation and other such activities. Its breezy and you get a panoramic view of the entire city. It is breathtaking during monsoons and you get to see all shades of green, that the nature has to offer.

Drawing from your experiences, what advice would you offer to aspiring lawyers and young professionals navigating the legal landscape, especially those aspiring to balance legal practice with diverse interests? I think it is important to balance legal practice with your interests because litigation can be very stressful and you need an outlet to channelize your energy. One advice which I really want to give is that hard work will never leave your side, come what may and perseverance is the key to success in litigation. Frustration is temporary and there are no short cuts in this field. Be faithful and sincere towards your client and integrity towards bar and bench is the roadmap to success, in my humble opinion.

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