Jyoti Shekar is currently working as a Senior Associate at Legasis Partners, Delhi. She graduated with a B.S.L.LL.B degree from ILS Law College, Pune in 2007. Thereafter she started working at Mindcrest India Pvt Ltd. as a Legal Analyst. She then went on to pursue Masters in Commercial laws from Deakin University, Australia and has thereafter worked with OSC Export Services Pvt. Ltd. and Sahara India.
In this interview she talks about:
- Law school experience at ILS, Pune and Deakin, Melbourne
- Work experience at OSC Export Services Pvt. Ltd. and Sahara India
- Work as Senior Associate at Legasis Partners
How would you introduce yourself? Please tell us a bit about how you gravitated towards law.
Usually, I just introduce myself as a lawyer. I really do take pride in being a part of this industry, however small. Right from my childhood, I have always wanted to do law. Perhaps it had something to do with people telling me to be a lawyer due to my talkative and argumentative behaviour, or perhaps some impression left on me by a very illustrious Supreme Court Judge who was a distant relative and used to tell me stories. Honestly, I don’t know. But I do know that I never had a moment’s doubt about being a lawyer and yes, I still just introduce myself as a lawyer.
Please tell us a little about your law school days at ILS Law College, Pune. How were you at academics?
My college life was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work too. I was always a topper during my school days. In fact, my school refused to let me elect commerce in high school. Only after I threatened to quit the school, they reluctantly allowed me to take commerce. But I thoroughly enjoyed accountancy and business studies. I started pursuing the C.A. course along with my LL.B. That’s what kept me busy throughout college life. But I didn’t finish CA after all. But honestly, like any college student does, studying law was a last minute preparation for me, cramming all night and sacrificing sleep. I got average grades but I did have my share of fun in college.
How important would you say good grades are for an illustrious career in legal?
Honestly, as a student, marks and percentages mean the world to us. However, to be honest, I believe that experiencing the practical world with different kinds of people, different cultures, behaviours etc. is more important in the real world. Of course, a good grade point average is important to get into good schools for further education and to make your CV look better. But honestly, after your first job, the interviews are more about how you handle people and situations. Book knowledge is something you can always refer to, but living in the practical world and dealing with colleagues, bosses and clients is the key. I guess what I am trying to say is that although a good grade is wonderful, but it shouldn’t be your entire focus.
How do you think internships are beneficial to law students?
I think the best way to learn is to practice. Internships are the best source of knowledge. Looking back, I do wish I had done more internships in college. However, internships should not be just about getting certificates. To get a headstart, try to be inquisitive and learn the knack of research, reading a contract, drafting an email, observing in meetings and courts etc.
Thereafter, you went to pursue Masters in Commercial Law from Deakin University. How would you describe your experience? What motivated you to go in for the same?
I had an amazing experience during my masters. Actually, after finishing LL.B, I wanted a good job with a good salary. However, my father encouraged me to think long term. He told me that a good qualification will open up opportunities I couldn’t comprehend at that time. And he also said studying in a different country would expose me to different learning methods and will be a life experience. And he was right. I somehow found the courage to go ahead with the LLM plan and even felt excited by the prospect of experiencing a very different culture and academic system. That’s when the idea of going to Australia hit me. And it turned out to be the best decision of my life. When I went there, I did not know anybody in the country. Everything was completely new and different. I slowly learnt to speak their way, I worked in a grocery store, worked in their deli (and I am a strict vegetarian!!), I learnt their way of studying. We did not have exams, we only had research papers instead, lots of them. It was a whole different approach for me. I also learnt to be among people of different cultures and traditions – Australians, Chinese, Sri Lankans, and Europeans. It was very enriching. I am still active with the university’s alumni association in India. They have a lot of business networking events and activities.
Do you think it makes sense for students to go overseas to study law when they want to practice in India?
There was actually a time when a foreign degree looked good on CVs and that is partly why I went abroad. But as I mentioned above, it became more of a life experience for me. And another plus is that I learnt a lot about research and writing methods. Now actually, when people ask me this question, I really don’t know how to respond, since our academic system has also improved a lot and I feel it is a personal choice rather than a mandate.
After coming back to India, you joined OSC Export Services Pvt. Ltd. as a Consultant. How did you secure your appointment? How would you describe your experience working there?
I simply applied to their vacancy ad. They had a series of written tests which I cleared. Of course, it was quite prestigious for me to start working there after my studies due to its association with Clifford Chance LLP. I got an opportunity to work in Clifford Chance London and New York offices which exposed me to international transactions and practices.
Thereafter you joined Sahara India as Manager Legal – Corporate Finance. What led to this shift? What kind of challenges did you face during this job?
Though I was doing quite well in my current job at the time, I wanted to get some in-house experience, which is what I wanted out of my career then – to be an in-house counsel. When the Sahara opportunity came along, I grabbed it, especially because it required me to be in the finance department, which was fast becoming my forte. Even in Clifford Chance, I was associated with their Banking and Finance department. It turned to be an amazing sea of experience with wonderful projects. Each of us lawyers had to deal with our projects independently. I loved every minute of it. The challenges were plenty; I had to pilot transactions right from proposal stage to post closing stage, of course with the assistance of external counsels, especially in other jurisdictions. We reported to the Corporate Finance Head, who had a surprisingly good grasp of legalese. It provided me with a lot of learning and knowledge.
Currently, you work as a Senior Associate at Legasis Partners. What prompted you to make this choice and what made this shift possible?
Well, the Managing Partner of Legasis Partners, Mr. Suhas Tuljapurkar, is my absolute role model in this profession. I had interned with him in Mumbai and also worked with him in Pune at the beginning of my career. I jumped at the chance of working with him again in Delhi when the opportunity presented itself. I was planning my exit from Sahara and everything just fell into place.
What kind of work and responsibilities do Senior Associates at Legasis Partners deal with?
In Legasis Partners, we are given the opportunity to develop ourselves as professionals as per our interests and skill sets. Here, we do not believe in designations and everybody pitches in to help achieve the common objective of growth. It gives me an opportunity to be independent and learn to take decisions and also to explore various ways in which I can be useful to the organization and hence to my own self as a well rounded professional.
Tell us about a case that you are particularly proud of. What steps do you take to prepare for a difficult case?
Well, a parent is equally proud of all their children. Every project I have done so far, be it small or big or high profile, has made me learn new things.
To answer the second part of your question, in any transaction, homework is the key. I need to know the entire background before starting a project. And I never hesitate to ask questions, even at the risk of sounding ridiculous. If I have a doubt in my mind, then I cannot do a convincing job.
What is the current scenario of studying corporate law as a career option in India? How challenging is life as a corporate lawyer?
Corporate law has developed a lot in the past few years. With the new Companies Act in force, there are lots of stringent regulations which necessitate having a strong in-house team in every company. Corporate lawyers can either be in-house or work in law firms. There is no formula for being a successful corporate lawyer, though I personally believe that grasp of legal and contractual language is very crucial to this role. Also important is your negotiation skills which comes with experience. It is also important to understand the business and commercial aspects of the transaction to be valuable to your company/clients.
Being a transactional lawyer, life can be very hectic while a transaction is in progress. Once I had taken my laptop along on my birthday dinner! But it can be quite exciting at certain times and routine at others.
What are the other related fields where a corporate lawyer can try hand apart from joining law firms and corporate houses?
There are LPOs for those who like a little more regular timings and good salaries. However, these days, this depends on projects and deadlines too. Legal journalism is another interesting option. We need a lot of good law professors in different subjects. Then there are research related profiles in legal search engine companies. There are law publishing houses for those whose tastes are literary. People now are specializing in areas like legal recruitments, business development for law firms etc. I have just mentioned a few, there are lots more out there waiting to be explored and discovered.
What do you cherish most about the experience you’ve had over the past two years?
I have cherished every stage of my career. I interned with law firms and CA firms. I worked in LPOs. I worked as in-house counsel. I work in a law firm now. Every place has taught me a new perspective in which to look at the law and a new way in which to deal with people and situations.
What are your plans from here on?
I love doing different things, learning new areas and doing what I love to do. I am initiating myself in giving lectures also, whenever I can spare the time. Let’s see what the future holds. 🙂