Rahul Miranda is a graduate in law from SLS, Pune, batch of 2014. Since then he has worked with Senior Advocate V.J. Mathew in Cochin for a year before securing a judicial clerkship at the High Court of Delhi. He is currently a masters candidate at Swansea University with a focus on maritime law, marine insurance and energy laws
In this interview, we speak to Raul about:
- Pursuing a legal avenue as niche as maritime law
- His curriculum at Swansea and his decision to go there
- Being a judicial clerk at the High Court of Delhi
You were excellent at academics while simultaneously being an avid and successful mooter during your time at SLS, Pune. How did you manage your time and prioritize effectively?
Learning to manage time and prioritize your tasks is an essential skill for any lawyer. My absolute favourite thing about SLS, Pune is how well they prepare you for the real world in this regard. Numerous opportunities are made available but never pressed upon you. It was completely up to you to decide on the load you wanted to take on. You could either easily breeze through with minimal effort or be so heavily yoked that you’d kill for Hermione’s time-turner.
I managed to find a balance fairly quickly during my time there and thoroughly enjoyed being able to switch between my academic commitments and co-curricular interests.
You spent a semester on exchange at Queens University in Kingston. What was your experience like? What were the challenges and opportunities that you faced in making the transition between the two academic environments?
My Semester at Queen’s was the best! Under the auspices of the Ontario-India Exchange Program, I got to take a full course load of upper year JD courses at Queen’s University and was even required to sit through the exams and compete with the home students for a GPA. The quantum of reading and research that was expected was immense and the professors demanded a comprehensive understanding of the course material. As an exchange student who just wanted to travel and take in the new experiences, this was an extremely daunting prospect. I did manage to get through relatively unscathed though and I even managed to squeeze in quite a bit of travel.
An exchange program is something I highly recommend to anyone who has an opportunity to be in one. Apart from the obvious opportunity for professional and personal growth, it gives you a fresh perspective and teaches you to look at an issue from several angles – an essential skill for any successful lawyer.
Given that maritime law is a niche area of practice, we would like to know how you developed an interest in the subject and have come to choose it as your core area of practice.
Shipping is the lynchpin of international trade and brings together the eternal triangle of producers, manufacturers and markets. As the most cost-effective way to move goods and raw materials around the world, shipping accounts for over 90% of the world’s trade. Considering its obvious importance to a developing country like India, I believe the field has a lot of potential for growth and wanted to contribute to this. The government recognizes this potential and is promoting investment in this sector through initiatives such as the Maritime India Summit which was held in Mumbai last April.
As a law student I was intrigued by the several unique challenges and opportunities that this field offered. I took up an internship at Bose & Mitra & Co. and my time there under, the able guidance of the managing partner, Mr. Majumdar, and the rest of his fantastic team truly fanned the flames and got me hooked to this area of practice.
How did you secure your first job as an Associate at V. J. Mathew & Co.? What was your experience working there like?
I applied for an internship there and was assigned with some very interesting assignments. I was impressed by the quantum of maritime law work that the firm handled and the professional manner in which they functioned. At the end of the internship, I was offered a position and grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
My time at the firm was a period of immense learning and it was a baptism of fire of sorts. Being a boutique firm, I had the opportunity to work closely with the partners on most cases and was made to feel like a valuable part of the team. I am very grateful to Senior Advocate V. J. Mathew for playing the role of a mentor and for trusting me to argue important cases before the Kerala High Court so early in my career. He is also a strong advocate for positive reform in the maritime industry and often got me involved in his research preparation for a big conference or an important paper.
Being a judicial clerk at the High Court of Delhi, what have been your tasks and key learning experiences?
I had always wanted to do a judicial clerkship and so when I got the opportunity to work with Hon’ble Mr. Justice Najmi Waziri I was overjoyed. For those of you not familiar with the concept, a clerkship involves working closely with a judge and attempting to ease their workload by helping with case briefs or research propositions.
In my case, this basically meant trying to learn as much as I could while being as little of a nuisance as possible. And I say this only half jokingly as it’s truly incredible how adept Justice Waziri was at identifying crucial points in the case and I was often out of my depth when trying to brief Sir on a case or while sharing a point of research with him. What the experience did give me was an opportunity to observe from close quarters what it takes to be successful in this field and the level of commitment, hard-work and professionalism that it requires. Justice Waziri is truly a role-model for me and I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to have been able to learn from him.
You are currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Maritime Law from Swansea University. How did you decide on the university and why were you keen on getting a masters degree?
The peculiar nature of ships and the shipping industry means that the law governing it also has several peculiarities. In order to fully understand these intricacies in the law I felt that it was necessary to study the subject in depth. Furthermore, a Masters in Law is obviously a lot more than just the degree and offers the opportunity to meet like-minded people from around the world and to participate in conferences and networking events which bring with it a plethora of opportunities.
For this reason, picking the right university to pursue your course from is vital. I was accepted into several programs but finally decided on Swansea University based on the almost singular focus of their program on commercial maritime law, the reputation of their professors within maritime circles and its very strong alumni network. It’s probably also wise to factor in fees, scholarship opportunities and cost of living while picking a course.
What are your career plans after this?
To be honest, I haven’t really thought too much about this yet. I’m looking for an assignment which will challenge me and give me a chance to apply all that I have learnt during my course. I’m going to have to work very closely with the career services office at the university over the next semester to explore my options and find the perfect fit.
Do you feel that adequate exposure is given to students in niche areas of law such as maritime law? What would be your advice to students who are inclined towards a career in the field?
While I was at law school there wasn’t really any exposure to this field of law. Over the last couple of years, however, I have noticed that several law schools are conducting symposiums, conferences and even moot court competitions dedicated to issues involving maritime regulations. I have been invited to speak at these conferences and judge these competitions a few times and remember being impressed by the quality and quantity of participation. If students are interested in this field they should definitely check for these events and participate in them as they offer a good opportunity to get a feel for this area of law and also to network within the field. Applying for internships with firms that deal with maritime matters is obviously another way forward. I wish them the best of luck and will be happy to help them with any further queries they might have.