“It’s this impact, the compelling stories of people, and the continuous learning from each case that fuels my passion for law, far beyond any monetary gain”- Anisha Mathur, Partner at Shepherd Law Associates

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

To start, can you give our listeners a brief introduction to your background and journey in the field of law? How did you initially become interested in pursuing a legal career?

I love stories! If you carefully hear, everyone has something to share. That’s just the essence of law.

Growing up, I have harboured a deep love for listening to the stories of other people. Whether engaging with friends facing some challenges or family issues, I always felt a strong desire to offer solutions and guidance. The process of meeting individuals, understanding their problems, and finding ways to help them has been a fascinating aspect of my life.

This interest and problem-solving attitude that developed in me over the years played a pivotal role in shaping my career aspirations. The realisation that a legal profession could empower me to resolve the problems of others fuelled my passion. As I delved into law subjects, and navigated the intricacies of the legal system during my internships, I became increasingly convinced that this profession was my calling.

In essence, my journey into law is not merely a career choice but a manifestation of a lifelong passion for understanding and resolving the issues that people encounter on a day to day basis. 

Whether it’s aiding someone to reclaim what’s rightfully theirs, providing a way out of an abusive relationship, assisting companies in debt recovery or negotiation, or facilitating legal actions, each act is incredibly fulfilling. It’s this impact, the compelling stories of people, and the continuous learning from each case that fuels my passion for law, far beyond any monetary gain. Law has a transformative power in both individual lives and society at large.

Today, as the founding partner of Shepherd Law and Associates, my journey in law has been both diverse and enriching. With a distinction in my Masters from Queen Mary, University of London, and being NCA qualified in Canada, my practice has spanned various sectors. I have had the privilege of representing a wide range of clients, from individuals to the State of Maharashtra to US-based organisations, across fields such as Pharmaceuticals, Fintech, Artificial Intelligence, Jewellery, and Sports. This breadth of experience has allowed me to develop a versatile approach to legal challenges.

Your LLM in Intellectual Property Law from Queen Mary, University of London is quite impressive. Could you share what drew you to specialize in intellectual property law, and how has this expertise shaped your legal career? 

Choosing to specialise in Intellectual Property Law at Queen Mary, University of London was a thoughtful decision because I saw how applicable this area of law is globally, especially in growing industries. The course provided innovative learning opportunities, delving into areas such as the legal implications of 3D printing, the evolving video gaming industry, and emerging concerns in privacy and personality rights. These areas, especially privacy law, have now become pivotal in the global legal arena. 

My proficiency in these domains has been crucial, from my very first job under the mentorship and guidance of Ms. Vibha Datta Makhija, Supreme Court designated Senior advocate, who has some of the most prominent cases and at the time was representing the Union of India in matters related to privacy laws. The knowledge kept helping me as I continued to guide my clients in crafting comprehensive privacy policies and Terms of Use.

The option to study Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as one of my course subjects, complemented my expertise, aligning with its growing significance in both personal and corporate dispute resolution today. Skills acquired in negotiation, mediation, and understanding ethical practices have proven invaluable in client counselling and effective case resolution through amicable settlements.

My choice of IPR, combined with forward-thinking courses, enabled me to address a wide, international market. The course’s emphasis on creative problem-solving and open-ended exam formats, which encouraged innovative thinking over rote memorisation, greatly enriched my learning experience. For instance, my proposal for new legislation in an exam not only showcased my creative legal thinking but also contributed to my distinction in the LLM program.

Studying abroad extended beyond academic achievements, fostering personal growth, independence, and a deeper appreciation for cultural diversity. This comprehensive experience has not just enhanced my capabilities as a legal professional but also transformed me into a well-rounded individual, prepared to excel in a global environment.

Having worked with diverse clients across India, Singapore, and the UAE, can you highlight a couple of key experiences or cases that were particularly impactful in your career? How did you navigate the challenges posed by different legal jurisdictions and cultures?

In my career, working with clients across India, Singapore, and UAE and many other jurisdictions, the key to handling diverse cases successfully has been comprehensive research and robust teamwork. 

My journey in Indian law began at the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court, under the mentorship of Ms. Vibha Datta Makhija. This experience, particularly on high-profile cases like the Bofors scam and the WhatsApp-Facebook privacy issue, was crucial in understanding the nuances of representing clients in India’s highest courts. My subsequent empanelment with the State of Maharashtra, under the leadership of Mr. Nishant R. Katneshwarkar, Standing Counsel for the State at the time, built upon this foundation. The insights and skills I developed under Ms. Makhija’s guidance proved instrumental in my growth and effectiveness in these roles. The only way to navigate through challenges is to face them.

Whether dealing with prominent clients in the arena of mixed martial arts in Bahrain, aviation in the UAE, or emerging sectors like Electric Vehicle, Artificial Intelligence, Fintech and sports in India, the approach remains consistent: engaging with industry professionals and learning continuously. This attitude has been fundamental in navigating different legal jurisdictions and cultures.

Facing new challenges, seeking advice from experts, and always responding professionally and promptly are crucial. My guiding principle is simple: if you commit to a task, give it your all and never stop growing professionally.

As a partner at Shepherd Law & Associates, you lead a team handling over 500 active litigation cases. How do you approach leadership, especially in a legal setting? And how do you balance strategic decision-making with day-to-day management?

I believe in leading my team by empowering each member, creating an environment where open communication and collaboration thrive. This ensures that everyone feels valued and contributes meaningfully to our shared goals.

I maintain a balance between strategic decision-making and day-to-day management by effectively delegating tasks and placing trust in my team’s capabilities. Regular meetings and progress reviews help me stay informed while also giving the team the autonomy they need. This approach not only streamlines our workflow but also fosters professional growth and a strong sense of ownership among team members. My role is to provide direction, instil confidence, and ensure that we meet our client commitments with the highest standards of legal service.

In managing our practice, I have bifurcated and specialised teams dedicated to corporate matters, intellectual property rights, litigation, and so on. I make it a point to check upon my team and ensure they have a comprehensive understanding of every aspect of a case and deliver holistic solutions to our clients and my team knows that I am always reachable, at any hour of the day. 

My team understands the unpredictable nature of court appearances. I encourage them to approach each day with a fresh mind-set, understanding that there will be good days and challenging ones, but they just need to do their best, rest everything works out. Following timelines, reaching on time, promptly responding to clients and fulfilling commitments, takes you a long way and also separates you from the crowd. Many struggle to do these things and that’s how you become different.

Your experience spans multiple countries. Can you share insights into the challenges and advantages of handling legal matters in cross-border contexts? How do you navigate the complexities that arise in international legal representation?

Handling legal matters in cross-border contexts presents both unique challenges and advantages. One of the main challenges is navigating different legal systems and cultural nuances, which requires extensive research and collaboration with local legal experts. This ensures accurate understanding and application of relevant laws. Another challenge is managing time zone differences and communication barriers, which we overcome through flexible working hours and clear, concise communication.

The advantages include a broader perspective on legal issues and the opportunity to learn from diverse legal practices. It enhances our adaptability and problem-solving skills, making us more effective lawyers.

To navigate these complexities, we focus on thorough preparation, building a network of international legal contacts, and staying updated on global legal developments. This approach ensures we provide our clients with informed, comprehensive legal representation in any international context.

Mentoring seems to be an integral part of your role. How do you approach mentoring junior associates, and what advice do you find yourself giving most often to those starting their legal careers?

Mentoring junior associates is deeply rewarding, yet it comes with the responsibility of guiding them through the stark realities of legal practice. I often share my own experiences, emphasising that the transition from law school to the courtroom is challenging. The practical aspects of law are much tougher than academic learning, and even something as basic as reading a case file can feel overwhelming at first.

I remind them that internships, while valuable, are different from the reality of courtroom work, especially in litigation where initial earnings are modest. I started my career with a salary of INR 12,500/- p.m. despite my academic distinction, a stark contrast to peers in other fields. It’s easy to feel disillusioned, but persistence and passion are key.

The journey in law is filled with learning from mistakes and facing tough feedback from seniors and judges. My advice is to embrace each day as a learning opportunity. If law is your passion, the challenges you face early in your career will eventually lead to rewarding experiences. 

I encourage them to have faith in their journey, learn relentlessly, and approach every new challenge wholeheartedly. The path may be difficult, but it leads to growth and fulfilment beyond monetary gains.

Passion in law leads to fulfilling outcomes, and I emphasise the importance of empathy and kindness in professional growth. The goal is to nurture not only skilled lawyers but compassionate individuals who recognise the power they hold to positively impact lives.

What insights can you share about the motivations and challenges for new lawyers embarking on a litigation career?

The path of litigation, particularly for first-generation lawyers, is often marked by a focus on service rather than immediate financial gain. 

Many of us start by handling pro bono cases or assisting friends and family, building our practice without the expectation of significant remuneration. 

This initial phase is crucial, as responsiveness and competence are key to retaining clients who often hold the misconception that lawyers are unreliable or deceitful. This is especially true for individual clients and small businesses. 

Being successful in the legal world means being patient and not always focusing on immediate financial gains. This profession is all about learning, and you cannot become an expert overnight. It is more about consistently showing up, being open to new opportunities, and taking things one step at a time.

When reflecting on my legal journey, I recall the initial years where I was an external member of company’s Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) committee. Despite being a part of their Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), I went beyond my role to assist in problem-solving. This dedication led the same company to later offer a retainer to my firm, entrusting us with the responsibility of handling all their corporate and litigation compliances.

Similarly, my empanelment with the State of Maharashtra before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India followed a similar trajectory. Having previously assisted on various matters for the government to the senior, I gained the confidence to represent the State right from day one.

The lesson learned from these experiences is that in the legal profession, don’t view yourself as a junior but see yourself as a leader, there are abundant opportunities for growth and recognition. By actively contributing and going beyond the expected role, one can build lasting relationships and open doors to new and exciting opportunities.

Lastly, considering your journey and success in the legal field, what advice would you give to fresh law graduates who are just starting their careers? Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you wish someone had shared with you early in your career?

Reflecting on my journey, I wouldn’t label it as a success; it’s still unfolding. A crucial understanding I have gained is the importance of compassion in the legal profession. 

Recognising that everyone handles pressure differently and allowing space for growth and mistakes is vital. We all err, and it’s about learning and improving. Have faith in your team, rely on friends and connect with seniors. Help and seek help, there is no shame in asking what you don’t know yet.

Early in my career, I was advised to keep going! and it’s something I firmly believe in. To fresh law graduates, my advice is to take it one day, one hour, or even one minute at a time. Be patient with yourself and your seniors. This profession will test you, but the key is to keep getting back up. Many may leave, but those who stay, grow immensely, both intellectually and financially.

As the founding partner of Shepherd Law, I started with ‘file No.1’ and have now surpassed 500 active case files. This growth symbolises persistence and dedication.

Another lesson that I have learnt is that one should preserve their mental peace to create a healthy work-life, in the high-pressure world of litigation or corporate, where intense concentration and problem-solving are constant, a hobby serves as a therapeutic escape. It provides a chance to unwind, offering a mental break from the complexities of legal cases and courtroom dynamics.  

Therefore, my advice is simple, yet on bad days, extremely difficult to follow. ‘Just don’t give up yet!’

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