Rather than existing in isolation, the law and its concepts should serve as tools to support individuals and enterprises-Neeha Nagpal, Founder, NM Law chambers

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

Please share with us the journey of how you ended up becoming a lawyer? What  inspired you to pursue a career in law, and what were the significant milestones along the  way? 

I believe that my current profession, which is being a lawyer, has chosen me in a way. I  did not actively grow up with a strong aspiration to become a lawyer. My father used to  emphasize the importance of understanding the laws of the land, which planted a seed  of interest in me. This ultimately led me to pursue a double major in Law and Business  Studies at the University of Warwick. However, the idea of being a lawyer and going to  court every day was not something I had planned for myself. 

Despite this, I feel incredibly fortunate to have received mentorship from a young age,  from Mr. Arun Jaitley. Fondly referred to as ‘Arun Uncle’, he was a close friend of my  father and had a profound impact on my life and maybe somewhere hearing him regale  his court antics had a subconscious impact on the choice I ultimately made. Though, I  must say that I learnt it is from Mr Jaitley, I learnt the value of conducting oneself with sincerity while interacting with Clients. He always said, “There is no replacement for  sincere hard work in the profession!” 

You have an impressive work history, with experience in various areas of law, including  Supreme Court litigation, arbitrations, and commercial transactions. How did you decide to  focus on these particular areas, such as insolvency, competition law, and white-collar  crimes?  

My journey in the legal profession started out by getting involved with the team that  was working on the BMW Sanjeev Nanda Hit and Run appeal in Delhi High Court. Following that, I commenced working with Agarwal Law Associates [‘ALA’] in 2009,  where I dedicated a decade of my career until 2019. 

During my tenure at ALA, I found myself amidst the unfolding 2G scam, a major  controversy at the time. I actively represented the Essar Group and its promoters in this  matter. Coincidentally, around the same period, the coal scam was also coming to light,  and I got the opportunity to contribute to that case as well. This involvement marked  the beginning of my increasing engagement in matters related to white-collar crime. 

Since I set up NM Law Chambers with my Partner- Malak M Bhatt, in 2019, there has  been vast amounts of work related to white collar crime and insolvency coming our way. Hence,  NM Law Chambers is essentially focused on these areas of legal practice. 

As I delved deeper into my legal pursuits, I realized an interesting overlap between  insolvency and white-collar crime, which subsequently directed my focus toward  insolvency matters.  

Presently, I consider myself fortunate to collaborate with the Insolvency Law Academy,  where I’m actively engaged in working on a research paper pertaining to personal  insolvency law in India.

Throughout your career, you’ve represented a diverse range of clients, including  prominent companies and individuals. Could you tell us about a particularly challenging or  memorable case that you worked on and how it impacted your approach to law? 

Each legal case comes with its own unique set of challenges and trials.  At that time, the 2G scam stood as one of India’s most significant white collar /  commercial crime cases. It reshaped the landscape of bail jurisprudence and required a  reevaluation of legal norms. 

Likewise, I was involved in an International Arbitration case centered around the  complex concept of advance loss of profit. This particular case demanded a high level  of dedication and had a steep learning curve due to its intricate nature. 

However, one case that will forever hold a special place in my heart is the effort towards  decriminalizing homosexuality. I initiated this petition on behalf of my dearest friend,  motivated by the power of love. The impact of the resulting judgment on people’s lives  was truly profound. 

Your work played a crucial role in the challenge to homosexuality laws in India, leading  to the decriminalization of homosexuality. Can you share the experience of working on such  a groundbreaking case, and what was the most rewarding aspect of being a part of it? 

The petition was a laborious endeavor fueled by deep affection. I drafted and filed it on  behalf of my childhood friend. However, during the process of having him sign the  affidavit, a sense of concern clouded my thoughts.  

This worry stemmed from the fact that, at the time of filing the petition, Section 377 of  the Indian Penal Code criminalized even consensual relationships between homosexual  individuals. Essentially, I was seeking his endorsement on an affidavit that essentially  labeled him as a criminal. This apprehension unsettled me. 

Despite my concerns, we proceeded with the filing, and as they say, the rest is history! The most gratifying element of our triumph was the outpouring of tears of happiness  that filled the courtroom that day. I bore witness to countless individuals, many of whom  I had never met before, stepping forward to convey their elation and gratitude. This  experience was truly humbling and served as a poignant reminder that actions  undertaken for the sake of love, guided by love, hold the potential for tremendous  impact. 

You have received recognition and awards for your contributions to the legal field, such  as the Forbes ‘Tycoons of Tomorrow’ Award and being featured in the ‘Forbes Powerlist 2021′  and BW Legalworld’s ’40 under 40’ Elite Lawyers. How do you stay motivated and focused on  achieving excellence in your work? 

The transition from motivation to discipline is a straightforward one. When motivation  wanes, discipline becomes the driving force. Personally, I find a sense of satisfaction in  adhering to discipline and staying devoted to my commitments. 

Recognizing the profound impact our work as lawyers can have on individuals’ lives and  freedom, I understand the paramount importance of responsibility in our profession. 

Hence, it’s the combination of my innate dedication and the weight of responsibility that  serves as the anchor keeping me rooted and concentrated on my path. 

Over the years, you have worked with various high-profile clients and handled complex  legal matters. What are some of the essential skills and qualities that you believe have been  critical to your success as a lawyer? 

In my genuine perspective, individuals seldom seek the services of lawyers or doctors  willingly and by preference. Their circumstances, often far from favourable, compel  them to approach professionals in these fields. Therefore, our role as lawyers (or  doctors) is to respond with empathy and compassion, striving to alleviate some of the  burdens that accompany their difficult journey. 

My approach centers on treating clients with understanding and warmth, aiming to offer  them a measure of comfort along their challenging path. This approach serves as the  core of my practice, and from there, positive outcomes tend to naturally unfold. 

You have experience advising clients in media/TV show productions and commercial  transactions. How does your legal background come into play when dealing with such  business-related matters, and what challenges do you often face in these areas? 

Recognizing the significance of an interconnected legal framework is crucial. Rather  than existing in isolation, the law and its concepts should serve as tools to support  individuals and enterprises. The initial step involves comprehending and appraising the  practical realities of commerce, and subsequently aligning legal elements with those  realities. Through experience accrued over time, professionals acquire the acumen to  discern which strategies are viable within comparable factual contexts. 

The real challenge emerges in persuading clients to remain open-minded and flexible.  Encouraging them to eschew rigid expectations and steadfastly held positions can be  demanding, particularly when they are fixated on specific outcomes or contractual  terms. 

As a founding partner at NM Law Chambers, you are responsible for managing and  leading a team. What advice do you have for young lawyers aspiring to become partners and  leaders in their respective law firms or legal practices? 

Your effectiveness is inherently tied to the quality of your team. They constitute the  bedrock of your efforts. Thus, it becomes crucial to provide feedback and actively invest  in their growth and development. 

In addition, it’s imperative to define your personal work ethic and values, and then  steadfastly adhere to them.  

Personally, I prioritize responsibility and responsiveness towards my clients. Likewise,  at NM LAW CHAMBERS, our emphasis lies in delivering optimal performance, focusing on 

efficiency and effectiveness. Rather than fixating on monetary gains, we view them as  a natural outcome of the dedicated work we undertake. 

Throughout your career, you’ve witnessed the legal landscape evolve and change. How  do you keep up with the latest developments in law and ensure that your legal knowledge  remains up-to-date? 

Read. Read. Read. Read.  

There is no shortcut to that.  

As someone with vast experience in the legal profession, what advice would you like  to give to fresh law graduates who are just starting their careers in the field of law? What  key principles or lessons have you learned that you believe could benefit them as they  embark on their own journeys in the legal world? 

1. Knowledge is power 

2. Don’t just work hard but work smart! 

3. Time management is a valuable life skill and the faster one learns how to manage  their time, the happier one will be. 

4. Happiness is a choice, we will make everyday  

5. Define your own success. You cannot define your success by someone else’s  parameters or lens! 

6. Take time out for yourself- most important. Do something small everyday that is just  for you. Be it a workout or play a sport or read for leisure. Me time is essential. 

7. Family and friends are your life support system. Give them the priority they deserve. 

8. Lastly, trust the process. Life always has a larger plan for all of us.

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