Associates, In-House Counsels & Advocates

In Conversation with: Shruti Swaika, Partner at Fox & Mandal

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

What motivated you to take law as a career and how has been the decision so far?

This has a fairly clichéd answer. My mother was keen that I study law, so I started preparing for the various law school exams. However, right from then I’ve loved the subject and am glad for having taken up law. I enjoy how logical the subject is, and helping families and enabling businesses feels deeply rewarding.

What are your views on AI or legal tech adoption, what restrictions will it have in the coming years?

Adopting tech is extremely important. We should all adopt it as early as possible. Tech helps you do the same things more efficiently, saving time, effort and resources. This frees up the professionals to spend more time thinking of more innovative solutions. India still is a developing democracy with many fields of laws at a nascent stage. Lawyers should be able to spend more time in assisting the legal sector mature and bring it at par with international standards. I don’t see tech being able to replace that yet.

Ma’am, do you think any road-maps help in a career like law, or like many you trust that things can happen by the flow itself?

Man proposes, God disposes. Although roadmaps have their limitations, one should definitely have one. However, be flexible enough to change the roadmap as and when required, especially in a dynamic market like ours. However, advising on a roadmap is difficult, as each individual has their own story and the roadmap would be different for all.

According to you Shruti, as a law student, where should the focus be on, the hard work on academics or smart work on networking and building a great skill-set?

Both, but I feel more on academics. Networking is also important but if you want to be a good lawyer, you have to pay attention to the reading and academics. Smart work and building a great skill-set is a given and not contrary to putting in hard work on academics. They go hand in hand.

“Unconventional careers in law will spoil your degree”, why has this misconception led many people far away from the legal industry revolution and how to excel oneself to reach heights?

I don’t know of this misconception to exist really. I see more and more people taking up ‘unconventional’ careers in law. We now have lawyers getting into the business of law firm management, law firm branding, specialised HR for law firms, and the like. In fact, this is quite an underdeveloped space in India still.

We hardly have any specialized firms that lend support to law firms in industry research in complex litigation’s, financial fraud research, and the like, which is much more developed in the west. I think we need many more professionals taking up “unconventional careers in law”.

When we talk about disputes, most of the time obviously both the parties commit the same number of mistakes, and both suffer as well, before even going for conflict resolution, don’t you think there is some way out before that? 

I don’t think it’s obvious that both parties make the same number of mistakes, though you are right, that there will often be a grey area. I do feel that most parties try to settle a matter out of Court prior to coming to lawyers and opting for the legal route. However, this is not because they opt for institutional mediation or ADR, but because they want to avoid the long delays and heavy expenses involved in coming to Court. Most people come to lawyers as a last resort, unless it’s a matter of ego.

We already have pre-litigation mediation as a mandatory requirement for commercial litigation, which has quite honestly, been a farce.

In fact I feel it should be quite the opposite. Our legal system should inspire confidence in the citizens that they will get timely relief and do not feel compelled to settle because of lack of confidence in the legal system.

We read that you are a graphologist, what is it all about, is it something related to astrology?

Graphology is the study of handwriting analysis. Astrology, at the cost of oversimplification, is the study of the impact the position of the planets at the time of our birth have on our lives. Graphology and Astrology are not directly related. I have always been interested in the occult sciences and have recently started studying Vedic Astrology also. I want to understand on what basis astrologers, who have gained quite a reputation for themselves as being charlatans, make the predictions that they do.

Talking about work-life balance, there has been ample amount of discussion on health issues as a lawyer, what do you believe are the best practices to maintain the equilibrium? 

I feel it is fairly difficult to maintain work-life balance at a fresher level. That is a stage when you really do need to burn the midnight oil. However, after a few years, it is not difficult to maintain work-life balance. I feel the elements you need incorporate in your life to maintain the equilibrium are

(1) Exercise,

(2) Spending time on a hobby,

(3) Meeting friends, and

(4) practicing some form of spirituality, perhaps meditation. I have maintained that practicing grounding activities of some sort are important and goes a long way in improving mental health. Meditation, journaling, light exercises, sound sleep (even if for lesser hours) help tremendously in mental health, and can be practiced even when you don’t really have work life balance.

Few advice for our young law professionals?

It is important for you to enjoy what you do. The profession is a marathon, not a sprint. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of reading. Whenever you are studying a branch or aspect of law, make your own notes. It will help you in future. Try to maintain your own database of caselaws from the start. Most importantly, don’t burn out.

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