Talha Salaria graduated from NLSIU, Bangalore. She has been a corporate lawyer for most of her career. She is the founder of Lawyers at Work.
In this interview, we asked her about:
- Her experiences as a founder of ‘Lawyers at Work’
- Her experiences of practicing as a corporate lawyer.
- Internship experiences and their importance in a student’s career
When did you decide to take up law as a career?
I didn’t choose law – I think law chose me. While I do have a few lawyers in my family, most of them went on to join the bureaucracy as IAS officers.
I studied in Welham Girls High School, Dehradun. Since we were living together as boarders, we used to hear about various opportunities that are available for higher studies. I knew that I wanted to do a professional course and hence applied for the entrance exam of NLSIU, to have another option.
You have been a corporate lawyer for most of your career. What prompted you to take up corporate law? Share with us some experiences which helped you to shape your career choices.
When I started working I wanted to be financially independent. Unfortunately, litigation did not offer that opportunity since at that time (and maybe even now), it did not pay much, atleast initially. Moreover, I really enjoyed the atmosphere of corporate law firms. Most of my internships were with JSA where we were a small team, very focussed and yet we had a lot of fun. It was a great atmosphere and a very good platform for learning – I wanted to be a part of it.
You started your career at J.Sagar Associates where you worked for six years. Thereafter, you co-founded MMB Legal. Were you always keen on having your own establishment?
I was not keen on having my own establishment as such but over a period of time, I felt I had the risk appetite and the confidence to be able to do it. I do not necessarily make detailed long term plans but when I see an opportunity, I make sure that I respond to it immediately. The markets were good, the adrenalin was high – there was nothing stopping us!
Almost five years after co-founding MMB Legal, you established your own law firm named “Lawyers at Work”. What prompted you to make this choice and what made this shift possible?Any specific reasons why you chose the name “Lawyers at Work”?
I wanted to push myself to the limit – it is very challenging to set up on your own and it was a challenge that I wanted to explore.
Choosing the name took a long time – I did not want to name the firm after myself – I was very clear about that. After much thought, we stumbled on a name that sounded good and exciting.
Please tell us something about “Lawyers at Work”. What is a workday like?
The key aspects that we focus on is learning and being a facilitator to the business of our clients rather than a cog in the wheels – therefore, we are very quality and timeline driven. At the same time, we like to ensure that everyone gets their weekend’s off and some personal time on a daily basis. There are very few rules – the idea is to take ownership of the work and also your conduct so that people come together as a team rather than based on hierarchies.
What were the initial challenges you faced setting up “Lawyers at Work”? Having established a law firm earlier would you say it was easier for you the second time?
It was definitely easier to set up the second time. Infact, MMB Legal was a great learning experience and a stepping stone for setting up L.A.W. The main challenge that we have faced right from the start is getting good people and attracting good talent. Our clients have been very supportive and we have not had any concerns regarding getting work, which is the typical concern for a start up.
What is the most challenging or stressful part of being a founding partner of a law firm? Is it easy to have a work-life balance?
The challenging part is to play so many different roles in a given day – administrator, rainmaker, mentor, lawyer – just to name a few. It keeps you on your toes. Given the fierecely competitive environment, especially in the Bangalore market, one needs to be constantly up to mark and creative in ensuring that you build yourself up brick by brick. I have a great work-life balance through it all – it is possible to have one with good time management and multi-tasking.
Please share your experience starting up with a law firm for the benefit of law students and young lawyers who want to start up on their own.
I would strongly urge young lawyers to focus on learning for the initial 10 years. The legal profession is a lot about experience and expertise which cannot be learnt in 1 or 2 years. Ideally, the young lawyers should litigate for atleast a couple of years and if they are in a corporate set up, they should focus on learning rather than aiming for the big figure salaries. Once the foundation is set, it is easy to set up and build on it later.
The trend is now on gathering various internship experiences at different places. Was the scenario same while you were pursuing law? How is internship helpful for a law student?
This trend was there even at our time. Internships are what you make of them. We have had interns who have come only for the sake of recording the internship on their resume and others, who, with the focussed work that they have done, have treated it as a rich learning experience. I remember when I was interning, I did my first due diligence and it was an eye opener for what was to come in future.
Does your law firm take interns? If yes, then what is the application procedure? What do you look for in a prospective applicant?
Yes, we take interns. The applicant can write to email@example.com. We generally take one intern at a time to ensure that it is a fulfilling experience for the person.
What would be your parting message to law students who want to be successful in corporate law?
Hardwork, dedication and the right attitude will go a long way in being successful, and this applies to a career in corporate law as well.