Parineeta Srivatsa graduated from Symbiosis Law School in 2011, and thereafter she had the opportunity to pursue higher studies from the National University of Singapore. While at law school she had huge achievements in mooting. She also has rich experience of interning at top-tier Indian and foreign law firms. After returning to India, she joined MD&T Partners as an Associate. Later, she switched over to ALMT Legal.
We asked her to share:
- Her experience while pursuing an LL.M from National University of Singapore
- Internship experience at foreign law firms including Allen & Overy and Allen & Gledhill
- Work at ALMT Legal
When did you decide to take up law as a career? Being a law student, were you only focused on academics? How was the academic pressure?
I chose a career in law as a matter of elimination. I’m a first generation lawyer in my family and had no background in law apart from a general (albeit misinformed) idea from Perry Mason and John Grisham novels and the Practice marathons. I was always interested in civics, administration and constitutional studies (as part of history) in high school. In the 11th Grade, I chose to opt out of science and engineering and chose to study accounts, economics and political science. Over the course of the two years, law became a career choice and with the support of my family, the right choice. Symbiosis Law School was a game changer. In those five years, I developed a synchronous relationship with everything life in law school had to offer and the learning and un-learning that I did in those five years were the most crucial towards contributing to where I am today.
I imbibed and absorbed everything I could from what was taught, discussed and happening around me. I will cherish my time there the most. Academics weren’t the only focus but a lot of emphasis was paid to the same. Unlike school, undergraduate school suddenly burdens you with the responsibility to make your own decisions and this takes a while to get used to. The academic pressure, too, depends on how much you opt to do and how self driven you are. I had a great support system to make sure I stayed grounded and focussed despite the million distractions per minute.
How was your LL.M experience from National University of Singapore? Did you always have higher studies in your mind? If not, what motivated you to go in for the same?
The LL.M. at National University of Singapore was fascinating for me in every aspect. Renowned and accomplished professors, state of the art facilities, new country, hard working and dedicated students and challenging colleagues were just some of the many facets to my year in Singapore. I was more motivated than ever before to make the most of my year there and the facilities available at my disposal. The teaching style at NUS was more discussion based and there was abundant reading to be done for each class to encourage students and professors alike to bounce ideas off one and other. Focus was on peer review rather than peer to peer competition. The professors stimulate the discussions as moderators providing direction, valuable inputs, insights and opinions on a range of topics. This was different than what I’d been used to in class in India. Personally, I found writing papers more challenging than writing exams because I had to modify / un-learn my working style in order to cope with the level of detail and analyses required for each module.
An LL.M. was always on my mind. As an undergraduate student, I was given an introduction to all fields of law and I wanted to hone my interest in corporate and business laws with further in-depth studies on the topics and gain a global perspective on the same. I ended up making some great friends and memories in the process, as well.
During your days at Symbiosis and NUS, you interned with various foreign law firms like E Line Ventures, Joyce A Tan Partners and Allen & Gledhill. How are these foreign firms different from top-tier Indian law firms?
My first foreign internship was with a children’s educational games based company in New York called E-Line Ventures. It was a small company and quite an informal environment with many creative and dynamic people. I was their only in-house legal intern at the time and I would help with research on Intellectual Property Laws, the Children’s Online Protection Policy Act and basic trademark searches. While at NUS, I had the opportunity to work with local Singaporean firms as well as foreign firms based in Singapore. From my experience on both sides of the fence, I would say that the integration into a firm and the amount of responsibility in terms of work is more qualitative in Indian firms than in foreign firms. Having said that, foreign firms are more systematic in the training provided to interns. Associates and partners often conduct training sessions / seminars in the different fields of law and provide a general insight into the field of law that interns would be working in during the tenure of their internships.
Could you please share with us on applications for internship and interviews, especially with foreign law firms?
A strong yet crisp C.V., internships, especially in your area of interest, published articles / papers, if any, knowing your C.V. inside out (which is why it is important to have specific points and areas you’ve researched on in your C.V. instead of a general overview on the topic), and most importantly, confidence and a calm demeanour. When it comes to interviews, experience is the best tutor. Re-evaluating each interview after it’s done and picking up on all those points that I thought I’d not answered or could’ve answered better has always worked for me in the past. Also, honesty and sincerity is paramount. An interviewer will know immediately if you’re trying to guess the answer to a question you’re uncertain about.
You have also interned at Allen and Overy as an intern. Given that you had already graduated and were pursuing Masters what sort of work did you get? How would you say your legal education helped you in this internship?
At Allen and Overy my scope of work involved drafting / reviewing closing documents and options agreements and management services agreements, among others. I attended training programs on banking transactions and general corporate and mergers and acquisitions transactions. These helped in future assignments as I wasn’t completely thrown off guard when trying to grasp agreements, jargon and more importantly, the reasoning behind the same. I also researched on enforceability of non-compete and restraint to trade clauses under Singapore laws. My LL.M. was in corporate finance and business laws, so I was equipped with a basic understanding of financial and transactional concepts in law. This helped me in some of the areas of research I was expected to do during the tenure of my internships. I also had a few practical sessions in NUS where corporate lawyers from renowned firms would provide us with problems mimicking day-to-day transactional law situations. These helped a great deal in understanding documents from a transactional perspective for future interviews and work.
Do you think it makes sense to students to go overseas to study law when they want to practice in India?
I have been asked this question many times and my answer is, monetarily and as a value add to your C.V. you can get into a top law firm without an LL.M. and more often than not people have. But purely from an academic standpoint, it is definitely a value add in terms of academic depth and learning. Further, due to flexibility, it provides you with an opportunity to explore subjects that you wouldn’t normally learn in an undergraduate degree. This may have opened doors for people who didn’t think they’d be interested in that particular field / subject of law. One of the optional modules I signed up for during my LL.M. was entertainment and celebrity law, with no background or interest in the field. It turned out to be the most interesting and engaging modules that semester. These, from an academic standpoint, may open doors for a prospective student that he/she otherwise wouldn’t have foreseen.
For those students who are planning to go for higher studies, what do you think would be better- going right after graduation or going after having gained some work experience?
I would suggest considering an LL.M. after a couple of years of work experience. Having said that, going right after your undergraduate studies has its advantages. You’re still inclined to learn and you’ve gotten used to studying and facing and tackling academic pressure. Many peers who’ve intended to break off for an LL.M after a couple of years of working have not been able to do so due to many reasons, including but not limited to secure jobs and steady incomes.
Currently, you are working as an Associate as ALMT Legal. What prompted you to make this choice? What kind of work and responsibilities does an Associate at ALMT Legal generally deal with?
I was a lateral hire in ALMT Legal from MD&T Partners. I had wonderful teachers in MD&T Partners and in my short time there I was able to absorb more than I had expected to, thanks to their guidance. Thereafter, I made the shift to ALMT Legal as I found the same to be more streamlined with my interests. My work at ALMT Legal ranges from everyday general corporate research to private equity and mergers and acquisition transactions. I enjoy working in ALMT Legal and don’t think of the work environment with dread. This is important for anyone who intends to develop a career in corporate law. It is as interesting as you make it. And thus far, in ALMT Legal, with the support of a fantastic team, I have been given responsibilities and have interesting work coming my way so I stay engaged and focussed.
What is the current scenario of studying corporate law as a career option in India? What are the key qualities one should posses for becoming a corporate lawyer?
I see courses and seminars and other reading material being offered every other day for practical courses in corporate law. It is definitely a good time to enter the field as a corporate lawyer as India is looking to emerge as a global and market-friendly economy. As regards key qualities, I would say reading and keeping abreast of developments in any field of law, whether by self or through discussions with colleagues and peers and using the resources available at one’s disposal are some of the ways in which one may have an edge over others.
Do you ever feel that you missed out on the fun part of your college life?
Symbiosis Law School ensured that fun was never neglected. As for managing with academics and ‘extra-curricular activities’, I was surrounded by brilliant peers who knew exactly how to manage that. We were young and malleable and learnt to inspire, challenge, and push each other’s limits without realising how much of it we were involuntarily absorbing for the better.
Last but not least, what’s next for you?
Exploring and pursuing interests and learning inside and outside of work. Knowledge is easily accessible these days so if you don’t know something, you have only yourself to blame. I also enjoy scuba diving, driving and travelling and discovering new places, things and people and I intend to continue to explore that as well.