Associates, In-House Counsels & Advocates

Ishana Tripathi, Legal Practitioner, on Policy Law, working for Tier-I firms, and her diverse experience

Ishana graduated from NALSAR in 2011 and joined AZB in 2011. After working there for three years in the fields of acquisitions, inbound investments, commercial/civil/corporate crime litigation and arbitration, she then branched into helping set up a private mediation centre – Centre for Advanced Mediation Practice. She assisted them with rule drafting and case management strategies and also a lot of business development. In 2015, she started work on two projects in parallel, the Centre for Policy and Research, Bangalore, and Vidhi Legal, Delhi; one on civic citizenship to develop a constitutional law search engine and the other on court annexed mediation.
In this interview we speak to her about:
  • Working for Tier-I firms such as JSA and AZB
  • Her time in NALSAR
  • Her experience in Policy Law

How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?

This is a trick question. If it has to be concise, then it would someone who is trying to navigate through the various avenues of the inter discipline of law available today!  To me, there are a variety of experiences that one can gain even while pursuing a corporate law firm career without viewing it myopically.  While “specialising” in an area and building your own niche is important for recognition, if you don’t broaden your horizons to work – in every space and opportunity available, in my view, at this seventh year of practice, your ability as a lawyer stagnate.

As a professional who is here to stay, you need to keep educating yourself to the changing ecosystem and while you can’t know everything, it our responsibility to be aware of as much as possible and not let go of opportunities that allow us to experiment. Law as professional can be a beautiful thought provoking and life changing way of life.

Give us a brief overview your NALSAR experience for our readers.

The NALSAR experience is novel to each one in terms of utility. For me, law school was a confusion on whether I want to pursue the law at all. Today, the passion I feel for law comes from working with some of the best people in the profession – a privilege that at the beginning  of my career in 2011, came from being a NALSAR graduate. It would be foolish to deny the edge that having an “National Law School” label will give you but to say that the students are smarter than the rest would be another thing and misconceived.  Its ultimately boils down to a proof of hard work, integrity and dedication – which you need to find within.


What kind of internships did you undertake during your student years?

Law school to me was an opportunity to explore and take chances. I did close to fifteen internships, with different work profiles, I didn’t repeat a single internship. This was a personal choice. I worked with government organisations like TRAI, not for profits like TERI, clerkships with the CLB and the Supreme Court, trial work, general litigation and corporate law firms.  By the end of it, the only thing, I had no idea what I wanted to do but I knew what I didn’t. For instance, I realised I was too mercurial for criminal trial work (here, i mean cases of rape, domestic violence, assault, and not white collar work) and decided not to pursue that route. I am now venturing back into criminal trial work – particularly in relation to restorative justice models – so lets see if I have reached an emotional maturity to handle it.


Is it absolutely necessary to moot or undertake paper publications in order to be a successful advocate?

There is no straight jacketed formula to success. Every individual has their own journey.  Like I said, law school is an individual experience. But if it is advice, then I would urge people to not be close minded, especially todays generation of lawyers –  who have many more avenues like legal journalism, legal policy, legislative drafting – which are work spaces available for a lawyer and were not as present in the mainstream in 2011 when I graduated. Try as much as possible in law school but do it with zeal and not because the mass says so. Law school prepares you to embrace different perspectives. While having ambition and direction are important, do not write off anything.


What are your areas of specialisation and how did you go about choosing these fields to specialise in?

I specialise in – ADR and corporate /commercial litigation, and, labour and employment laws. The first was an interest in law school which solidified at AZB and is a true academic area of interest which I continue to pursue. The latter is attributable entirely to AZB. If you would have told me in law school that I would become a diligence handbook for labour laws, I would have laughed at myself, it was my worst subject – mostly for the lack of interest in it! Today, the research and jurisprudence in it fascinates me to no end. I read regular updates and amendments.


How were the first few years after your graduation? 

Law school was a different phase all together. It engineers healthy competition, using your brains to argue/defend positions, change view points, embrace failure and general personal development.  It doesn’t, however, unfortunately give you notes on implementing the law. It is necessary that the absence of practice from theory in legal education changes. But, that’s a debate for another time. The internships that I was fortunate to get gave me some insights into the inner workings of the lawyer life but I suppose my mind was too young to comprehend and process the amount of handwork and brain cells required to materialise the text book law into strategy.

I honestly lucked out with the mentors I had at work right out of law school. They instilled a quality of work and pushed my intellectual barriers. They enabled me as a lawyer right from the start, they never treated me as someone fresh off of the boat. It was “use your brains and assume responsibility for work” from go!  If I look back, my time at AZB, gave me a strong foundation and was a very empowering experience. I can blindly say that I am ardent Zia Mody fan, she defies patriarchy in the profession in ways I took for granted at the age of 21, when I started working there.


Give us some insights on the qualities that Tier-I firms look for in prospective candidates.

I can’t speak for every Tier-I firm and I also think recruitments and requirements change with time / legal landscapes.  Prospective candidates vary accordingly – depending on type of work, experience, firm expansions etc. If you are asking for what they look for in an fresh of the boat law student in an interview – for me, self confidence, good English (I suppose!), demonstrable ability to work well with others, passion for any element of the law is what worked.  


Briefly describe your experience in assisting the set-up of the Centre for Advanced Mediation Practice.

Professionally, after three years of arbitration experience at AZB, mediation was a new bull to me. To study it and embrace it was easier than I thought it would me. CAMP opened a new chapter to me as a person as well as a professional and gave me insight into being non – adversarial in thought process and also gave me new direction towards understanding law.  CAMP, to me, was being a part of a movement, which would shape a new dimension in legal process in India. It was of course, a new challenge, since going from the comfort of a corporate law firm to figuring out how to get conference call facilities! But that’s the beauty of a start up. Its not only the idea of it but also every other element of it that makes it more personal. Combine it with the “purpose” that it seeks to achieve – CAMP was critical in reinforcing the idea of wanting to be a part of the system and help nurture a better case resolution mechanism.


Please give our readers some insights into the functioning of Policy Law firm.

(Ishana has worked with two of India’s most reputed firms in policy law- The Centre for Policy and Research, Bangalore and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, Delhi.)

With Vidhi, I worked on a project that studied the efficacy of court-annexed programmes. Here, we studied four centres in India and where there were issues and fallouts. The hope remains that the recommendations are picked up and a change in implementation of mediation is envisioned by the law makers and the judiciary.

With CLPR, was a project on civic citizenship and constitutional law. This was uncharted territory, since my knowledge of constitutional law was basic and text book. CLPR was spearheading a project that would culminate into a database of the constituent assembly debates that led to the framing of our constitution. I worked on the first phase which was focused on the fundamental rights and directive principles.  The project involved reading through days of debates and coding them in a prescribed format which would then be fed into an algorithm where people could search (like Google).

It was amazing to learn and unlearn the pre-conceived notions of our rights and in a way get to know the people who fought / argued/ reasoned / shaped the future of individual and social rights in this country. To everyone who reads this, I am shamelessly asking you to check out the CLPR website for the CAD page! It will be worth the effort! The hope is that one day it would reach the common man for general awareness.


When and why did you decide to leave your job at JSA?

It was in April 2017 that I decided to leave JSA. I believe it was the right time in my profession to pursue a higher education in law with the Erasmus Mundus programme.  


Is there any other suggestion you would like to give to our budding lawyers?

You just have to have the dedication and maintain a standard and drive for yourself.  The day you can’t give your 100% to something – it could be even proofreading ten lines on a matter, then its time to find something else. Demotivation in life is the worst thing you could do to yourself and the person whom you represent – who deserves your dedication, time, thought and places their faith in ‘you’ not anyone else to guide them right.  So if you ever find yourself in a situation where you say “have to” more than ten times a day, move on. It is a disservice to yourself and your colleagues if you choose to continue in the same state of mind.

As a parting thought, never take any work opportunity and position in life for granted. Moreover, to me work-life balance is a myth. Never take on a task with the purpose of attain this. It is work that has shaped my personality, increased my capacity to question and broaden thoughts. It is practice that has indulged a love of studying the law.  The sooner you accept the importance of work in your life the easier your journey in law becomes!

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