“Marrying Facts and Law for Practical Counsel & understanding the intricacies of business alongside legalities ensures effective client execution and success in today’s dynamic market.” – Nayantara Devaya, Founding & Managing Partner of Catkin Legal

This interview has been published by Namrata Singh and The SuperLawyer Team

You’ve had an impressive journey from working in prestigious firms like Khaitan & Co and AZB & Partners to founding Catkin Legal. Could you please walk us through your journey and share how each phase of your career contributed to your growth as a legal professional and entrepreneur?

AZB & Partners and Khaitan & Co, are important institutions in my growth as a professional. It provided me with the experience and finesse that a corporate lawyer requires to navigate the era where lawyers are considered valid in board rooms and business transactions, other than just court rooms. While I was working with the firms, they provided me with opportunities to work on some important transactions in the business world. The firms gave me an idea of acceptable global standards and exposure to global working environments. The pedigree I got from the firms has shaped a lot of how we do business in Catkin Legal.

Given your extensive experience in Corporate & Commercial laws, what unique challenges have you encountered in advising companies on Information Security Privacy Law and Cyber Risk Management amidst the digital surge in various industries?

AZB We are seeing a surge in the relevance of lawyers in the new business era. Business heads are recognising the importance of working with lawyers on a day-to-day business to ensure smoother operations of their businesses. While old business houses are passing on hands to the new generation new leaders are very encouraging of legal support to their business teams in closing transactions and operational issues. While real time businesses are going digital sensitizing leaders on the security of information they are procuring, and the importance of certifications is increasing.

As a strong advocate for mental health, how do you integrate initiatives for well-being within Catkin Legal, and what impact do you believe it has on the overall performance and satisfaction of your team?

At Catkin, we propagate mental health and well-being. Our employees may avail of mental health leave once a month for a day which can be extended. The associates do not need to cite their reason for being on MHL. Additionally, the partners are very aware of not overburdening our associates with manic hours. Associates have the freedom to tell their leaders that they need a break. As leaders, we are responsible for the work but not for deciding when one need a break. The career is very demanding, and we want our associates to run long not fast.

Considering your multifaceted experience, what advice would you give to aspiring legal professionals aiming to build a successful career that transcends traditional boundaries and embraces new dimensions of law and business?

With the energy and enthusiasm the young blood brings to the profession, I would always advise not just new but any lawyer to marry the facts and understand how the business or product runs along with the law. If this does not happen the advice we are dispensing to the client becomes redundant as they cannot execute it on the ground. Due to this gap, there have been numerous judgements that are impossible to implement.

Mentors often play a crucial role in one’s professional development. Could you discuss the influence of any mentors or role models who have inspired and guided you throughout your career journey?

My career is basically me being a living proof that I have had the most amazing mentors. They have helped me navigate the legal profession and understand how to manage teams and clients. But more importantly in their understanding of the law, people management skills, negotiating skills, and life skills

Founding Catkin Legal marked a significant milestone in your career. What motivated you to establish your own firm, and what were some of the initial challenges you faced in setting up and establishing its reputation in the legal industry?

 I think starting my own law firm was always a goal. My parents- who have always been the wind beneath my wings were very encouraging of starting my own practice even though I do not come from a family of lawyers. Believing in my goal every day in the last 15 years and working on that goal every day and working on myself made me start my firm. One of the key challenges we face is to keep being relevant. We keep upgrading our skill set and recrafting our working models to ensure we are a relevant and sustainable firm

Building a clientele and reputation from scratch can be daunting. Can you share some strategies or initiatives you implemented in the early days of Catkin Legal to attract clients and differentiate your firm in a competitive market?

Balancing multiple responsibilities as a managing partner, legal advisor, and advocate for mental health advocacy can be demanding. How do you prioritize your time and commitments to ensure both professional excellence and personal well-being? I think all these roles are interdependent. I try and understand the urgency and support required for each situation on a weekly basis and set my priority on a need basis. I believe in a physically fit and mentally healthy life, so for me, that comes first. I do not work alone. I have teams for all tasks and project- Home-work -or anywhere else where I want to contribute. Creating and cherishing capable leaders and individuals within or teams, helps us go a long way.

Your career has seen transitions from working in prestigious law firms to in-house legal roles and eventually founding your own firm. Could you share your experience of navigating these transitions and highlight the differences in working environments between law firms, corporate settings, and running your own legal practice?

Law firms and business houses systems are already in place. You come in and integrate into an already existing system and grow with the system. Starting a law firm or any business involves starting or creating systems that others can integrate into. As a business owner, the biggest challenge is not creating that ecosystem but ensuring its sustainability. A huge part of my role is troubleshooting to ensure the ecosystem of catkin remains healthy and sustainable in all areas.

With your busy schedule and diverse professional engagements, how do you unwind and recharge outside of work? Could you share some of your favorite relaxation techniques or activities that help you maintain balance and rejuvenate your energy?

A good cardio workout and yoga is my favourite kind of unwinding. I try to pack in this at least six times a week. I enjoy a good movie. I like to read, but we read a lot at work and usually, it becomes my last option. Oh, recently I’ve been enjoying reading storybooks to my two-year-old son.

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