Associates, In-House Counsels & Advocates

Rajeev Nair, Principal Associate, Rajani Associates, on being a Company Secretary, and his experience in Corporate Law

Rajeev Nair graduated in law from Mumbai University, in 2007. He is also a qualified Company Secretary. He has experience of around ten years in the areas of corporate laws, corporate acquisitions, mergers and demergers, joint venture transactions, corporate restructuring, private equity transactions, due diligence, general corporate, corporate legal compliances, negotiations and drafting of the transactional documents, setting up investment funds, debt transactions and real estate private equity transactions.

In this interview we speak to him about:

  • Pursuing the CS course with law
  • Working at Rajani Associates
  • His experience in corporate law

How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?

I am a first generation Corporate Lawyer. During my early days of law studies, I got attracted towards the subject of Corporate Laws and was fascinated by it, not just because of it being glamorous/ high paying arena, though I admit the Corporate Law field has grown multi folds in the past decade or so. Thus, I decided to choose a career in Corporate Laws and here I am sharing my thoughts and experiences in my journey as a Corporate law professional.

Presently, I am a Principal Associate at Rajani Associates, a Mumbai based full service law firm. I am part of the Mergers and Acquisitions team at Rajani Associates.  

 

What made you decide to pursue a career in law and take up studies for being a company secretary at the same time?  

Frankly speaking, after completing my Commerce graduation, I was (like most of the people at that stage) contemplating exploring certain career options. Among them, the foremost being to study law, though, I would not attribute any particular reason to it. Subsequently, during my first year at law college (Jitendra Chauhan College of Law, Mumbai), I found a growing interest towards the sphere of Corporate Laws such as Companies Act, SEBI laws, Income Tax, etc. I was keen on studying those subjects in depth and somehow found a natural liking towards them and wished to be a specialist. At this stage of my career, I thought an additional educational qualification catering to this desire would be ideal for my career. Hence, I decided to pursue Company Secretary (CS) course, along with my law studies. The reason for me opting for the CS course was owing to the fact that it is ideal for professionals who wish to specialise in corporate laws, and the CS syllabus provided an opportunity for me to study my favourite subjects in depth. This way, I tried to manage both my law as well as CS studies, though I must admit that I found it very difficult to manage both simultaneously. But, I believe, that there would be no gain without any pain, and thus applied my all focus to juggle my law and CS studies together.

 

What are your areas of interest in the legal field? How did you discover and cultivate such interests?

As discussed earlier, during my early days at law college, I found growing affinity towards the subject of Corporate laws – Companies Act, SEBI laws, Income Tax etc. and was keen to study further and in depth in these subjects. I always wanted to be known as a corporate law professional with an intent to constantly learn and improve the requisite skills. As a student, I began following the developments in the corporate world through the internet, newspapers, business newsletters etc. and started cultivating habits which would enhance my professional prospects and help propel my career in the arena of corporate laws. As such, this became my professional ecosystem, thereby leading me eventually to become a corporate lawyer.

You were a company secretary at Cello. Can you briefly tell us about the work profile of  a CS? 

Right after I qualified as a Company Secretary, I joined the Cello Group of companies – which was famous for its pens, writing instruments, cookware and other products. Essentially, I was responsible for the compliances of Corporate laws and Corporate governance norms for certain Cello group companies. Here I was, immediately after qualifying as a CS, being appointed at a responsible position, which being a statutory requirement. Frankly speaking, initially I felt like I was sitting on a hot seat as I was being responsible for the Corporate laws for the well-known companies and was answerable to the management, the foreign investors, the auditors and government authorities and all of which seemed very daunting initially. As a CS, you are also required to sign the financials of the company along with the directors. All this accountability for a freshly qualified profession appeared to be sufficiently intimidating. They say that you learn swimming when you are thrown at the deep end of the pool. My experience at Cello was somewhat similar to that. I learnt many things – essentially accountability, responsibility and being confident. Generally, I have realised over the years that you learn the best lessons of your life when you are put in a challenging position, when you are tested, and not when you get things easily, without any effort. I admit, when you undergo a challenging phase, the first thing that comes to your mind is when I would get out of this situation soon. With experience, you get wiser and you learn to deal with challenging times in better manner. But for that, you have to face the difficult circumstances and undergo the ‘process’, however grueling it may be. No two ways about it.     

 

What motivated you to leave your position as a Company Secretary and enter the legal field?

During my tenure as a Company Secretary at Cello, I realised that I wanted to do something more than looking after the Corporate law compliances and overseeing the Corporate Governance function. I wanted to have the exposure to a wide gamut of corporate and commercial laws where I would get the opportunity to work on my drafting skills, advise clients and provide solutions to them on their various legal issues, understand their commercial understandings for different transactions and experience other related things. Then, I thought of giving a shot at work with a law firm. I was criticized and also cautioned by people around me, as life at a law firm was considered tough and challenging (not denying that even today) with deadlines and late working hours. However, I had decided that I wanted to give it a try as I realised that if I don’t try, I would never realise what it is like actually working at a law firm. I was ready and made up my mind that come what may, I would proceed and give it a crack with a lot of conviction. I told myself that if I don’t succeed, I would stick to my CS profession. It’s just that I never wanted to sit and regret having not giving honest try. This is how my career change took place – from CS to law. This is where I learnt that if you want to achieve something, you should want to achieve that badly and have a junoon (urdu word, read in the sense of having unflinching dedication and absolute focus towards achieving a particular thing) for that respective thing and at the same time be ready for failures as well. The failure (depends what you choose to call it – I prefer referring to it as stepping stone) should not bog you down. This may sound cliché but this true. I can now say this as ‘I have been there and done that’ – though still a long way to go. Not at all boasting, but saying this only to encourage the young lawyers who are on the verge of joining or have just joined the legal profession.

 

How did you secure an appointment at Rajani Associates?

As I pointed out above, I was making a career change from CS to law and I was not joining the legal profession after my law graduation. Due to this, I have to be candid, I found it relatively difficult to find opportunities to work at a law firm. Here, at Rajani Associates, after a lot of search, and almost giving up on my desire to work at a law firm, I eventually got an opportunity to work in a law firm and continue my journey of Corporate laws – the settings changing from CS to a law firm. I thank Rajani Associates to have provided me an opportunity to work with them and providing me professional enriching experience.

At the outset, I experienced certain difficulties, as I was not a fresh law graduate (who generally goes through various internships during their law college days and are thus aware of the things to expect and well aware of the law firm ‘culture’) but here I was a professional who was making a career change (from CS to law) and trying to get a footing in a law firm. As long as you know what you want, it becomes easier to face challenging times as you already have a motivation to get through the tough phase. Here after joining a law firm, I got an opportunity to do things what I desired and thus was ready to overcome the initial challenging phase. It was definitely a substantial change for me career wise to join a law firm. But with clarity, patience, and support of my colleagues, I took some time and got in sync and became part of a law firm system. This was possible because I knew what I was doing and in which direction I am going.

In a nutshell, I can say that there was a major change in my attitude from working as a CS that compared with working as a corporate lawyer.  

All I can say is that it has been truly a memorable and enriching experience working at Rajani Associates as I have got to experience many things which I always wanted to learn prior to joining Rajani Associates. Mr. Prem Rajani, Managing Partner of Rajani Associates, has been truly inspirational and has guided me all through. I thank him for keeping faith in me and my abilities and providing an opportunity to work with the firm. The work environment at Rajani Associates is truly like one big family which helps in having a positive and upbeat work environment. The work environment goes a long way in shaping your professional development and it helps further if you have positive, motivated and hardworking colleagues working with you – as is the case at Rajani Associates.     

 

As a Principal Associate, how is your work profile different from an associate who has freshly joined?

Initially, as junior lawyer, I was very eager and looking to learn and absorb every aspect pertaining to working as a lawyer in a law firm. Over the years, apart from the laws, I have learnt many things at Rajani Associates, including the importance of research work, the client interactions and advisory, drafting and negotiating commercial documents, knowledge management, etc. At the start, if one needs to succeed in any particular field, you need to have the focus and sincerity and keep learning the necessary things, never stop. Now, after graduating to a senior position, life is a bit different in the sense, you work on matters independently, you have to do client management, work on areas of development of the firm which includes writing research materials, newspaper publications, you are also involved in training the new lawyers and guiding them through various aspects of the law field and provide more practical insights which they may not necessarily get to experience while at law college. As such, life after joining a law firm did change to a certain extent and now after spending certain years at the law firm, life has definitely undergone a major change and undoubtedly with a sense of satisfaction of having taken the plunge of joining a law firm. At the start of the career, you learn the essentials of the profession and your focus is on building your foundation blocks of the profession and once when you progress to a senior level, your focus areas/ role in the firm change accordingly.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about the nature of work in the field of corporate law and what qualities one should develop to succeed in this field?

I work in the Mergers and Acquisitions team at Rajani Associates. As such, my work areas include working on Companies Act, SEBI laws, Competition laws, Income Tax, Foreign Exchange laws and related subjects. Here you do transactions such as acquisitions, Mergers, Amalgamations and required to merge the laws with the commercial understanding of your clients. You are required to negotiate for your clients with a view to protect their interests and draft the transaction documents accordingly. There is a strong element of responsibility and accountability and considering the high commercial stakes of your clients, you have to take adequate care to uphold the interests of your client. This further becomes complicated by ever evolving and constantly changing ecosystem of corporate laws. Thus, you are always on your toes and need to keep oneself updated with the latest amendments of law as otherwise it will not augur well for you professionally. Thus, you need to work and focus on constantly updating yourself with respect to the Corporate laws, develop on drafting and negotiation skills and client management. If one wishes to join the corporate laws arena, one need to have flair for these things.         

 

Did you ever consider pursuing higher education? 

As I have already discussed above, I pursued my CS course, along with my law studies, as I wanted to study further and specialise in the areas of corporate laws. Thus, according to me, higher studies is very subjective matter. It is for every individual professional as to decide for higher education/ additional educational qualification. According to me, additional education qualification should be taken up if any one feels that the same is to their liking or which would further enhance their already chosen career path. Merely adding degrees, though may look good on the face of it, but will not yield desired result if pursued only for the purpose of ‘showing off’ or expecting that ‘magic’ will happen with the additional degrees. I say this with due respect to the people doing further studies/ additional courses and do not intend to ridicule them. Thus, ideally speaking, an individual should introspect and accordingly decide as far as higher education/ additional degrees are concerned.    

 

How do you maintain a work life balance given the challenging nature of your job?

As I have already pointed out, the work life at Rajani Associates is very positive and like a family. Due to this, there is a positive impact on my work and coupled with the fact that I work alongside hard working, understanding and friendly colleagues. It is indeed difficult to maintain work life balance, but the experience gained over the years help immensely to attain that and as with experience you become wiser and are better equipped to handle things at work place and if you have a very understanding and encouraging work place like Rajani Associates, it only acts as a catalyst in your pursuit of striking a work life balance.

 

How can law students prepare to increase their chances of securing jobs at law firms?

Most Important, know what you wish to do. Your internships, interactions with your seniors, your peers should help you understand/identify which stream of law you wish to go for. I believe this is the age of specialisation as the clients are increasingly looking for that as the complexities in every field has grown multi-fold. As such you need to understand your objective so that you can dedicate your focus and keep working towards a particular goal. Accordingly, the law students should apply to the law firms which they believe would provide a platform for harnessing their career professionally (monetary benefits will follow and should not be a primary criteria). If one is not sure where one needs to go or what one needs to do, then it becomes very difficult. Law firms would also welcome those law students (at least the chances are much higher), who are confident and have a certain clarity in mind as to what one wishes to do.  

 

What advice do you have for our readers who are primarily college students?

Life teaches you many things, every second is learning experience. So when life does not stop teaching, you also don’t stop learning things and in the process becoming a better person and professional in your chosen arena.

Identify the area of your interest. Introspect yourself as to where your liking is. This will help you a lot in choosing a right career path. I understand that in today’s age, there are lot of activities happening at law colleges, then you have internships, social media, etc. Absorb and learn as much as possible from all these things and identity your passion, your liking and where you can solely focus and dedicate yourself. Only then you will be able to accomplish greater things. This is because, you will attain joy only in doing what you like. It is said, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life”. Money should not be the primary or sole criteria. Do the work what you like and enjoy, you will do a great job and money will definitely follow, as was famously said in the Hindi film 3 Idiots – try to be competent, success will surely follow.

Also, there is no substitute for hard work. The profession is such that you have to constantly update yourself; learn, unlearn and relearn, no substitute for that. Also, when you are young and new to the profession, you have lot of enthusiasm, passion and energy, but in most of the cases, the passion and energy tends to wane over a period of time. It is important to sustain that passion and drive towards your career and never allow it to diminish, only then you would achieve remarkable success and most importantly, do your work with sincerity. I believe, you don’t do your work seriously but do it with sincerity. You can fool others, but not yourself. For this, you have to constantly learn, improvise, look for betterment in your work. As commonly said, you should keep the fire in you burning always, so that you always come out as a better professional in each of your professional endeavours. As a music lover, I would end on a musical note, and in order to summarise my advice, would quote the song “Never Give Up” from the Hollywood movie Lion to the young lawyers – wonderful song with amazing lyrics, truly inspirational.   

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top