Professional growth comes each day with experience and time spent on matters- Orijit Chatterjee, Partner at Fox Mandal & Associates

This interview has been published by  Priyanka Karwa and The SuperLawyer Team

Could you please tell us how you ended up pursuing a career in law? Was it something you always aspired to do, or did you discover your interest in the field later on?

Initially I was very interested and curious about matters relating to science. I passed out of school with the aptitude of pursuing science and research. Long story short, after graduating with a BSc(Hons) Degree I happened to visit law firms with my father for a few of his professional matters. The intrigue of a law firm and the challenge of each assignment attracted me towards the legal profession and I decided to pursue a career in law.

Were there any specific events, experiences, or individuals that played a significant role in shaping your decision to pursue law as a career?

The decision to pursue law as a career was in particular largely influenced by my Late father, Bireswar Chatterjee and my father figure Late Dinabandhu Mandal, who was the Senior most partner at Fox & Mandal. While my father was always confident that the legal profession was to be my destiny, Late Dinabandhu Mandal came across in my life as a Godman and unparalleled goliath who I was in awe of since the very first day. A larger than life figure who was respected by all around. Once embraced by him into the legal profession I could only be on the path he showed. 

Could you share with us your educational journey and the steps you took to become a lawyer? What were some of the challenges you faced during this process?

My educational journey started with Lamartiniere, Kolkata. I was always keen to be on the sports field and tried by hand and foot at Cricket, Football, Hockey and Athletics. This was the most important part of learning at Lamartiniere. I learnt to live life, enjoy, struggle, fight, compete, laugh, cry and make friends through extra curriculars in this institution. Studying was the next part. I completed my class 12 with an ISC degree and went on to complete my graduation with Bsc (Hons) from Scottish Church College. Lamartiniere however always stayed in my soul and continues till date. After graduating I met my Godman, Late Dinabandhu Mandal on a career defining day and decided to pursue legal studies from Hooghly Mohsin College which was offering a 3 year law course to graduates. So much was the passion then, I decided to join Fox & Mandal in my first year of law itself as a half day intern and used to slowly learn the practical application of law and study case files under the guidance of Seniors in the firm and the magnanimous shadow of Late Dinabandhu Mandal. Though Late Dinabandhu Mandal is no more, there will be no one quite like him in the firm and the legal fraternity for a very long time. The challenge was to make a mark in this legal arena which had very little room for first generation novices. I was also told by a few during those days as to why I was here in this legal profession at all and that I should move towards other pastures or perish. It was demotivating and depressing on occasions but I survived.

What were your early experiences like as a law professional? Could you highlight some key milestones or memorable moments that helped shape your career trajectory?

Just like any lawyer during the early 2000s trying to make a mark in Kolkata I started as a Junior assisting Mr. Shuva Mandal (currently the Managing Partner of Fox Mandal & Associates) in civil and commercial litigation cases. I always had an affinity towards company law related matters and got the opportunity of watching stalwarts such as P.C. Sen and B.K. Bachawat (to name a few) prepare and argue for matters. As time went on I found an interest in transaction documents and started honing my skills at drafting transactional documents. The most memorable assignments which I worked during those days were an infringement action against the makers of the T.V. Series “Karishma” and by first Admiralty Matter relating to the arrest of a vessel named “M.V. Stella Th”. An assignment involving setting up of the “Kolkata West International City” project also was extremely challenging and memorable. After an initial year or so with Mr. Shuva Mandal I worked with Mr. Kaushik Mandal and thereafter with Mr. Shourya Mandal (currently Co-Managing Partner of Fox Mandal & Associates). Mr. Shourya Mandal reposed utmost trust and faith in my abilities and provided the support and encouragement to achieve where I stand today. His contribution and guidance is a continuing process till date. 

It would be incomplete if I did not mention the knowledge I acquired from two Senior Counsels of Calcutta High Court, Late Pratap Chatterjee and Mr. Ranjan Bachawat in course of the innumerable matters I had the good fortune to work with. They always took the effort to explain, reach and reprimand me. I thank them for the affection and time they contributed through their busy schedules in shaping my growth. Though Late Pratap Chatterjee is no more, all like me who happened to have the good fortune of working with him shall miss his presence for the rest of our lives.

What drives your passion for the field of law? What aspects of the profession do you find most fulfilling?

The passion for law is the biggest mystery for most lawyers which cannot be deciphered and /or reasoned. Maybe it is the uncertainty of things and outcome which attracts. It is a relentless drive forward to learn, practise and achieve greater milestones each day. Even the sky probably would not be the limit of this drive. The most fulfilling aspect of the profession is the scope to be innovative on the application of law and strategy. There is nothing sweeter and satisfying than the closure of a hard worked on transaction or a toughly fought and contested litigation ending in your client’s favour. The comradery and respect among colleagues, juniors and seniors is also overwhelming. Being a part of the vast legal community has always been like being part of a mammoth family which in a very unique way assures you that you belong here and that there is scope to learn and improve every day. 

What are your primary practice areas within the field of law? Could you briefly explain what each area entails and why you chose to specialize in those particular areas?

The primary practice areas are Corporate Law and related dispute resolution including Arbitration. Civil Commercial Litigation and Insolvency. Company Law was a subject and continues to be a subject which I have always been attracted to. The flow of events from the shaping of a transaction / deal to the situation where occasionally parties to a transaction, in course of time, fall apart for various unprecedented reasons leading to a situation of dispute resolution or litigation require parties to avail legal services. I would simply say that I find myself most comfortable and can express myself best in these situations and hence specialization to me in these verticals came quite naturally.

Throughout your career, what are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned as a lawyer? Are there any specific cases or experiences that had a profound impact on your professional growth?

The legal profession is definitely a marathon which spares no one. It takes a “lambi race ka ghora” to make the most of what this profession offers and succeed here.  The important lessons learnt are to respect colleagues and seniors, be patient, value time and the importance to develop a disciplined and methodical work approach. It is also essential to learn and improve from your experiences each day. Professional growth comes each day with experience and time spent on matters. However, there have been a few cases involving personalities and complex situations which have made a difference. In recent times the resolution of Rohit FerroTech Limited by Tata Steel under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code was an assignment which was satisfying. Another recent matter involving resolution of disputes between promoters of Switz Foods and other shareholders was nice experience.

What advice would you give to individuals who are considering a career in law? Are there any misconceptions about the profession that you would like to address?

A career in law is to be chosen out of passion and the will to be a part of the large legal fraternity. Accumulation of wealth by seeing the success of established individuals should never be the criteria, they can only be an inspiration to fuel one’s desires to succeed and become better lawyers. I believe that there are no shortcuts to long lasting success here in the legal profession and people must have the aptitude for taking the grind for the long haul. Every aspiring individual considering a career in law must have patience and the will to sacrifice their time spent on recreation, friends, relations and relatives and pursue their passion of making a place in this vast legal fraternity by devoting all his mind, heart, body and soul to this noble profession. Patience coupled with the ability to sacrifice along with the will to survive and put all that one can to the demands of the legal professional is extremely essential for making a career. 

Lastly, what advice would you like to give to fresh graduates who are entering the legal profession? What key skills or qualities should they focus on developing, and what strategies can they employ to succeed in their early years as lawyers?

Fresh graduates need to choose where they want to be and what they want to achieve wisely. They should in today’s times dig / see deep within themselves and decide whether they have the aptitude for practising as a legal counsel at the various courts and tribunals comprising the framework of the judiciary or should they join a law firm for practising in a vertical of their choice such as Corporate law, Real Estate, Banking & Finance, Dispute Resolution etc. Some may even opt to make a career in a Corporate House as legal assistants and become a General Counsel with time.

As for strategies irrespective of where one is and which vertical one opts for, success comes for the ones who have the will to passionately and diligently meet the requirements and demands of their profession. The passion and will to succeed must burn under all circumstances and be backed up by disciplined and consistent hard work. The ability to work and adjust with a team, various people and going forward build a team is also extremely essential. It is also an appreciated quality and essential to be ethical in practices adopted with clients, colleagues, seniors, juniors and other people associated with the legal fraternity. 

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