“One of the unique challenges of balancing litigation and transactional work is managing priorities and deadlines, while maintaining the highest standards of quality and client service”- JV Abhay, Partner at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.

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

Can you walk us through your journey into the field of law, particularly specializing in intellectual property rights? What drew you to this area of practice?

My initial interest in law began during my school days when I had an interaction with one of my close family friends, who was a well-known lawyer, practicing at the Supreme Court. After high school, I wrote the entrance exams of the first five-year L.LB. (Hons.) course offered by the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University in Delhi. I cleared the exams and joined Amity Law School to pursue the L.LB. (Hons.) course. My plan was to join my relatives after graduation. Unfortunately, this was not to be, as my relative passed away before I graduated in 2004. Unlike the present times, job opportunities were few and far (at least for first generation lawyers) during that time but with a little assistance from one of my batchmates, I was fortunate to get an interview at the Indian Red Cross. I joined the Indian Red Cross as a law officer and worked for almost 2 years. At that time, IP was an upcoming field of law and I wanted to explore it. Incidentally, I came across an opportunity at Remfry & Sagar, an IP Boutique Firm, sometime in 2006. I was interviewed for the Trade Marks (Litigation) practice and was selected. This was the beginning of my journey as an IP lawyer. As a part of my first assignment, I was required to work on a large litigation that was transferred from another Firm. As destiny would have it, I ended up handling this litigation, which over time grew manifoldly, till I was with Remfry & Sagar. Working with a boutique IP firm for more than a decade, helped me learn the intricacies of IP law and practice. Additionally, the firm also taught me the significance of time management and discipline at the workplace, which I value to date. While I was a part of the Trade Marks (Litigation) team, I used to work closely with other teams as well. The dynamic nature of IP law, coupled with its intersection with technology, business, and culture, also led me to specialize in this area of practice.

Your work experience showcases a significant trajectory from being a Law Officer at the Indian Red Cross Society to now being a Partner at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. How did your early experiences shape your career path and your approach to practicing law? 

My early experiences as a Law Officer at the Indian Red Cross Society provided me with a solid foundation in legal practice. Working in a multifaceted organization like the Red Cross exposed me to diverse legal issues ranging from civil cases, review of complex agreements, international humanitarian law issues and advocacy. I was also involved in organizing IP awareness programs at the Red Cross. The experience taught me the importance of being focused, adaptable, and thinking strategically in navigating complex legal matters. 

As I progressed in my career, each role I undertook further shaped my approach to the practice of law. All throughout my career, I have always strived to leverage my expertise to achieve best outcomes for clients, while upholding the highest ethical standards. My early experiences taught me the value of diligence, discipline, perseverance, and continuous learning in the profession, traits that I have always tried to hold onto till date. 

Throughout your career, you’ve handled a variety of cases ranging from civil and criminal cases to IP litigation. Could you share with us a particularly challenging case you’ve encountered and how you navigated through it?

One particularly challenging case that I encountered involved a high-stakes trade mark dispute between a well-known foreign newspaper and a big Indian publishing house. The case involved complex legal issues pertaining to violation of trademarks and newspaper titles. The case, which started as a singular lawsuit, quickly spread across multiple jurisdictions and forums. Additionally, the case had significant commercial implications for both parties, including potential damage to their respective brand reputations and market share. While dealing with the case, I conducted thorough research, gathered extensive evidence, and assisted in formulating a robust legal strategy tailored to the unique facts of the case. This ensured that we were able to safeguard our client’s interests. This experience underscored the value of diligence, thorough research and strategic thinking and decision making in achieving successful outcomes in litigation.

As a Partner at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co., you’re deeply involved in both the litigation and transactional aspects of intellectual property law. How do you balance these different aspects of your practice, and what unique challenges do each present?

Balancing the litigation and transactional aspects of Intellectual Property Law requires a versatile approach that combines expertise with strategic foresight and commercial acumen to understand clients’ specific business needs. 

In my present role at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co., I assist and advise clients in IP litigation, prosecution and transactional IP issues such as licensing, franchising, and technology transfer. To effectively balance these different aspects of the practice, I rely on a combination of strategic delegation, collaboration with colleagues from other practice areas and effective case management. One of the unique challenges of balancing litigation and transactional work is managing priorities and deadlines, while maintaining the highest standards of quality and client service. To address this, I emphasize on strategic planning, and proactive assessment to anticipate potential issues and risks. The goal always is to provide holistic legal solutions while keeping clients’ business needs in mind. 

In addition to your legal practice, you’ve been actively engaged in speaking opportunities and publications, both nationally and internationally. How do these activities complement your work as a lawyer, and what motivates you to participate in them?

Speaking opportunities and publications complement my work as a lawyer by allowing me to share insights, expertise, and thought leadership on key legal and industry issues. These activities enhance a person’s professional visibility and credibility and also leads to knowledge sharing with other legal professionals and clients. It also fosters strategic partnerships with industry stakeholders. These activities provide a valuable opportunity for professional development, personal growth, and continuous learning. They challenge me to stay informed, think critically, and push the boundaries of my expertise, thereby enhancing my skills as a lawyer and enriching my overall professional experience. I am of the view that sharing knowledge, experience, and perspectives with others, is the best means for updating oneself with the latest developments in law and strategy.

Your involvement in administrative decision-making and resource management within the IP practice at your firm indicates a leadership role. What strategies do you employ to effectively manage and empower your team?

For effective management and empowerment of the team, I have always adopted the “people first” approach. The emphasis is also on proactiveness, leadership, mentorship of other colleagues, and professional development. 

The approach adopted by me is to foster a culture of client excellence, innovation, and accountability for work. I encourage open communication, mutual respect, and constructive feedback to create a supportive and inclusive work environment, where team members feel valued, motivated, and empowered to excel. Team members are also encouraged to enhance their skills, expand their knowledge, and achieve their career goals. I strive to provide guidance, support, and opportunities for growth that enable team members to realize their full potential and contribute to the success of the IP practice. By investing in the development and well-being of my team members, I believe I have been able to create a team which has achieved sustainable growth and success.

You’ve been recognized as a top IP lawyer in India and have received awards for your contributions to IP litigation. What do you attribute your success to in this highly competitive field?

In one word “determination”. My success can be attributed to my determination to be able achieve what I set-out to do at various stages of my career. I have always tried to stay ahead of the curve in terms of legal knowledge, skills, and expertise. Additionally, my ability to build strong relationships, both within the Firm and with clients has contributed to this success. I have been able to forge long-lasting partnerships that have fuelled my professional growth and contributed to my reputation as a trusted advisor to clients in the field of Intellectual Property Law. The support and mentorship of seniors throughout my career has also been instrumental in me being what I am today. 

Lastly, considering your wealth of experience, what advice would you give to fresh graduates or aspiring lawyers looking to specialize in intellectual property rights or law in general?

For fresh graduates or aspiring lawyers looking to specialize in Intellectual Property Rights or law in general, my advice would be to cultivate a habit of continuous learning. Also, as cliché as it may sound, there is no shortcut to success, especially for a lawyer. So be ready to put in the hard work; be patient; adhere to your values; build a strong foundation in legal theory, research, writing and develop the ability for critical thinking. All these skills are required, especially for someone wanting to specialize in Intellectual Property Law, as it is a dynamic field that requires a deep understanding of legal principles, industry dynamics, and emerging trends. Also, I would advise aspiring lawyers to stay curious, adaptable, and open-minded, as the legal landscape, especially in the present times where technology and market dynamics have come to play a vital role, is constantly evolving. 

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