“I appeal to the young lawyers to have an empathetic and humane approach with integrity towards the downtrodden and poor litigants for whom lawyer is the only hope to fight for justice for him/her”- Sudeep Vijayan, Independent Legal Practitioner

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

Can you share with us your journey into the field of law, from your decision to pursue it as a career to your experience at Hidayatullah National Law University and GGSIPU for your LL.M. and your recent decision to enrol for a Ph. D. program with IIULER?

First of all, I would take this opportunity to thank Superlawyer for this interview and convey my deep appreciation for this endeavour as it could offer your young readers some valuable insights while planning their life around law as a career. 

Addressing  the first part of your question on deciding to pursue law as a career; I would like to tell you that  I was a student of Physics, Chemistry and Biology up to 12th standard; and had no family member into active  legal practice, but I think my flair for languages and my father’s inspiration who despite being a serving Army officer ; pursued Law. Since my scoring in languages had remained stable throughout my school career, the orientation classes helped in getting an insight into the field of law. Thereafter, after completion of my 12th Std, I cleared entrance examinations for Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur (HNLU) and Army Institute of Law, Mohali (AIL) in the year 2003. I decided to continue with HNLU. HNLU was established in the year 2003, and I could become a part of its 1st Batch having passed out in the year 2008. The State of Chhattisgarh was established in the year 2001, so our batch had a unique distinction of being from a new university in a newly established state, which had its own challenges but, it soon turned into opportunities for all my batchmates. 

Now coming to the second part of the question; I would like to say that the professional work environment of a career in law is quite dynamic which entails frequent changes in laws, new legislations, delegated legislations etc. I have always believed that life in general and Law in particular is an ongoing process of learning; one needs to keep a tab on new developments to keep oneself updated and the grasp the diversity of knowledge. I, thus, completed my LL.M in Corporate Law from USLLS, IP University, Delhi during 2014-16 and currently pursuing a Ph.D. from India International University for Legal Education & Research, Goa (IIULER), on the topic of ‘Food packaging and food Contact materials’ and its Regulatory & Legal Standards in India’. IIULER is designated as the 1st International University for Law in India and is an initiative of Bar Council of India Trust-Pearl First.    

You have a diverse career path, including working with ZEUS Law Associates, KPMG, and the Ministry of Finance. How did these experiences shape your expertise in tax law and advocacy?

Law as a profession has always intrigued me with its depth and ambit and I have always wanted to explore the diverse verticals that it encompasses. During the final stages of college education, drawing inspiration from revered names in law practice i.e. Sh. Nani Palkhiwala & Sh. Harish Salve had both started their respective careers in the field of taxation. I was deeply inspired to take-up tax as a career option despite the general trend being to opt for court practice, corporate practice or capital markets. Despite being involved in matters of significant constitutional issues having national and international repercussions, they are still considered doyens of tax practice. My professional journey commenced with the tax team at Zeus Law Associates, New Delhi followed by KPMG. Both these stints gave me incredible insights into tax as an area of practice coupled with much desired cross-country work exposure. I had also learnt the importance of working with professionals from different disciplines, since it involved working with Chartered Accountants, Company Secretaries, Architects etc. These interactions gave me immense insight into overall working of ‘business transactions’ and added incredible value in my growth as a lawyer. From early part of 2013, I had ventured into independent practice and started to take-up matters in other areas of law in addition to my continued work in tax. Hence, I would encourage young graduates to bear in their mind that life shall always give you avenues to earn and learn. As long as you are able to identify those avenues which can catapult you and enhance your own sense of individuality, you should choose them over anything else no matter what the costs. I don’t intend to sermonise this but, if one were to practically see within the legal profession and perhaps medical profession too, there are no defined career progression or milestones which more or less exists for other professions. It’s all upto an individual about how one intends to lead his life. Hence, as and when one is able to identify an avenue of personal growth, one must prioritise it and seize the opportunity and work towards enhancing one’s skill set. Please understand that, skill set doesn’t really mean ‘legal skills’ alone it also means honing-up ‘life skills’ and can be as simple as one’s ‘ability to listen’, ‘time-management’, ‘language’ etc. It is for a reason that, law as a career lacks any entry age or retirement age as in life there is no specific age or stage for learning.  

Could you tell us more about your role in formulating key proposals and legislative drafting for the Ministry of Finance? What were some of the most significant challenges you faced in this role?

I have had the opportunity to work as a Consultant with the Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs, Govt. of India in 2016-17. This assignment entailed exploring the arena of legislative drafting and policy making for the said Department. This entailed attending stakeholder’s consultation process, undertaking research, preparing notes from legal standpoint, and drafting of statutory legislations, amendments, circulars etc. as desired by the said Department.  I can definitely say that it was quite an enriching experience. It gave me a bird’s eye view regarding the functioning of various securities laws in India and how policy making by the Departments tries to respond to challenges and concerns faced by the stakeholders and the public at large.        

Co-founding Integricon Consultancy Services (ICS) is a significant milestone in your career. Can you share the motivation behind starting ICS & ILO and how it has evolved to offer comprehensive consultancy solutions?

The basic idea behind ICS is to bring the concept of seamless cross-practice experience to clients. As a result, myself and two other partners were able to establish ICS in the year 2020 as a one stop consultancy service solution for clients. So as to provide these consultancy services, we have a bouquet of professionals from myriad walks of life viz., bureaucrats, lawyers, chartered accountants, cost accountants, economists, engineers, technocrats and company secretaries. ICS engages with various Companies, PSU’s etc. for meeting their consultancy, research and training needs.  

In addition to the same, we had established Integricon Law Offices (‘ILO’) as a full-service Law firm for legal services and as a think tank for research and legal services. The think tank works on various vacuum areas of anticipated legislation world over and elucidates various situations from a legal standpoint involved.  On the legal services side, the ILO focuses on litigation practice, corporate practice and tax & regulatory practice. I personally look after the tax and regulatory practice including Food Safety and Standards Act, Legal Metrology Act, NMC Act & related Rules etc.      

As someone with extensive experience in the legal field, what advice would you offer to fresh graduates who are just starting their careers in law? What skills and strategies do you believe are essential for success in the legal profession?

All fresh graduates should journal their life and professional experiences. This would not only assist them to traverse through a career in law but also make them mindful of their respective professional/ life environment that they are a part of. This would allow them an opportunity to evaluate their respective strengths and weaknesses. Law offers myriad career choices. Thus, in addition to these career choices, a graduate should also try and develop a sectoral focus by integrating technical knowledge and expertise and not merely restrict to the nature and kind of work coming their way. After all, apart from professional journey it’s a life journey as well hence, both needs separate prioritising. In a lighter vein, I can only say that in this world of T20 cricket, a career in law practice is a like that of a Test Match wherein after surviving a few testing sessions the playing conditions are bound to get better. Hence, it’s all about staying put on the crease while trying to be the best player version of oneself alongside. 

It is famously said about lawyers that they have this unique capacity to do what common people might find boring. Therefore, so as to answer your question, fresh graduates who are at the stage of commencement of their careers need to really hone up their capacity to pay attention to details. Moreover, no work should yield satisfaction unless there is an internal assessment of whether one has performed to the best of their capacity on a given day. Late Nani Palkhiwala had mentioned that, graduates coming out of law colleges should not be ‘ethical literates’ and they should inculcate a greater sense of understanding about public good hence, it is important for graduates to develop a public character while pursuing a career in law.

For the lawyers/ young law graduates who aspire to take to court practice, my only advice is to be a keen practitioner who can challenge and alter his/her own thought process every day on settled legal propositions as per human and societal needs because that helps civilisations grow into a certain direction. Also, I appeal to the young lawyers to have an empathetic and humane approach with integrity towards the downtrodden and poor litigants for whom lawyer is the only hope to fight for justice for him/her. 

In the end, I would like to once again thank Superlawyer for their initiative which has afforded me an opportunity to try to put my perspective on law as a multifaceted profession before the younger lawyers of the country.  

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