“The asset management domain is undergoing rapid expansion in a highly dynamic and competitive environment”- Anita Jain, Partner at IC Universal Legal

This Interview has been published by Pragya Chandni and The SuperLawyer Team

Can you share with us the pivotal moment or experience that led you to pursue a career in law, especially considering your initial inclination towards marketing and sales?

As a teenager, I was very keen to pursue a career in the field of sales & marketing and enrolled for a specialized course in marketing & sales. The course was being conducted by the esteemed Narsee Monjee college of commerce & economics. It was a certificate course at the Higher Secondary school level for the academic session 2005-2007. I was all set to pursue bachelor’s in management studies and to follow it up with a master’s in business administration. It couldn’t have been a mere coincidence that my dad had to file a special leave petition in supreme court at around the same time. He so strongly wished we had a lawyer in our family who would manage all the family’s legal matters. Dad would narrate to us siblings the regular courtroom happenings in that matter. The narrations stirred in me a great interest in the profession of lawyering. Around the time I was wrapping up my junior college, dad was fully convinced that I would make a fine lawyer. Thus, I enrolled for a five years integrated law programme at Government Law College fulfilling my dad’s long held wish. 

Transitioning from a specialized vocational course in marketing and sales to pursuing a degree in law must have been quite a shift. How did you navigate this transition, and what motivated you to embrace it wholeheartedly?
Contrary to the popular belief, one really doesn’t need a grounding in law as a sine qua non for maturing perfectly. Honestly, the first year in college was completely orientational. Towards the beginning of the second semester all my scarcely precious lawyering skills were severely tested in an intra-college Moot Court event. I enjoyed studying law and shared the commonly found eagerness amongst law college nestlings – to apply all freshly earned knowledge to the various real-world situations at the drop of a hat. Much like my new peers I too quickly realised that the procedural aspects of the real courtroom made it a different place and the experience was overwhelming.
In my early days, the prevalent myth was that courtrooms would be the eternal resting place for lawyers. It wasn’t late when after only a handful of interactions with the college seniors and professors alike, I realized that a degree in law would rather open up a wide range of career opportunities across sectors viz private practice, government sector, academia, nonprofit organizations and corporate world to name a few. All of that really motivated me to gain a deeper understanding and knowledge of business laws. Consequently, I also enrolled for the company secretary course to gain a deeper understanding about the corporate laws. 

Your journey seems to have been influenced significantly by your father’s vision of having a lawyer in the family. How did his guidance shape your perception of the legal profession, and what role did it play in your career decisions?
Precisely as the words ‘a lawyer in the family’ convey, his longing stemmed from the need he felt as a common man to successfully negotiate the turns and bends of the tortuous legal system. The trust you have on family you would not find anywhere even though you entrust your wellbeing into the hands of professionals. The missing link was the element of trust. Thus, he secured in his daughter a legal professional of utmost competence and trust. As a lawyer I hold these two virtues above anything else. My father was a businessman and ethics formed the bedrock of his enterprise. He believed that
one shall pour his/her heart and soul into whatever he or she does”. I have been unconditionally following that belief to this day. He instilled in me a sense of propriety and wisdom. For him lawyering was not merely about securing judgments but much more about securing the larger interests of the common man and the wellbeing of the society as a whole. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Balance of time and resources is optimised through informed legal reasoning. Conciliation and mediation were the approaches rooted in my father’s vision of law as a means for rapprochement in the never-ending wrangle of lis and I have borrowed heavily from him to strike a fine balance between approaches hawkish and dovish without actually lending myself to either.

Your sabbatical to focus on well-being and completing a Vipassana course is intriguing. How did this break impact your professional outlook and approach towards your legal career?
Initially, I was very hesitant to take a break and had few concerns about taking a sabbatical from a career progression perspective. I was worried that taking time off would lead to falling behind in the field or missing out on opportunities for advancement. I had addressed these concerns and weighed them against the potential benefits of a sabbatical.
Vipassana is one of India’s ancient techniques of meditation. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body. The entire practice is actually mental training. The human body is not a machine. We have a mind and a soul. You can’t be good to your calling unless you are good to yourself. Your mind has to free itself for new ideas to sink in. The fourth dimension of spiritual creativity widens your field of view. Just as we use physical exercises to improve our bodily health, Vipassana can be used to develop a healthy mind.
My outlook towards life (including professional goals) completely changed during that sabbatical. I realized that it was important to focus on one’s well being to do a long marathon rather than aiming at a short sprint.

Having worked with various esteemed firms and handled significant projects, could you highlight a particular project or accomplishment that has been the most fulfilling or impactful for you so far? Invariably every completed project gives you a happy feeling. However, one unforgettable experience at IC Universal Legal, which has simultaneously been the most fulfilling & impactful, was of getting an opportunity to assist a committee of experts on investment funds, constituted by the International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) to review global best practices in making recommendations to the IFSCA on the roadmap for the industry. It was another great opportunity to have been able to contribute to the development of the investment funds regime at IFSC. The regular advocacy initiatives undertaken at IC Universal Legal makes my association very enriching and highly rewarding.

Your expertise lies in funds practice, particularly in the asset management domain. What are some key challenges you face in this area, and how do you approach addressing them? 

The asset management domain is undergoing rapid expansion in a highly dynamic and competitive environment. It brings forth challenges hitherto unseen and the scales and stakes involved are of epic proportions. One of the biggest challenges being faced by the contemporary asset management industry is that of the continuously evolving and somewhat complicated regulatory landscape. The industry functions subject to various regulations and guidelines issued by the SEBI & RBI, to name a few. Asset management lawyers need to remain ever updated and familiar with the continuously evolving regulatory framework. An in-depth understanding of the regulatory working mechanism is another indispensable requisite to say the least. At IC Universal Legal, we have detailed biweekly sessions entirely focussed on the latest legal developments, regulations and industry best practices. My role entails collaboration with clients, legal professionals and other industry stakeholders for the exchange of knowledge, sharing of best practices, and addressing common challenges collectively. 

In addition to your professional journey, we’re curious to know if you have any hobbies or interests outside the work zone? 

I have a passion for traveling. I enjoy traveling for leisure, engaging in adventure sports, outdoor activities such as scuba diving, river rafting, sea walking etc. My Wishlist is to catch northern lights soon and also cover major rafting zones across the world. 

On weekends, I love exploring cafes across Mumbai to find the best smoothie bowl and hot chocolate. My friends call me Zomato and ping me for instant recommendations

As a seasoned professional in the legal field, what advice would you give to fresh graduates who are aspiring to build a successful career in law, especially considering the evolving landscape of the industry?

  • Be Yourself‘. Don’t benchmark your aim and purpose of life against someone else’s life achievements or goals. Draw inspiration from other people’s achievements. Introspect upon what you really want in life; define your goals wisely. Don’t participate in the rat race or glorify the hustle culture. Have your own vision and road map for your career goals. 
  • Track the latest developments in the legal field, especially in areas of law that interest you the most. 
  • Along with Intelligence Quotient, focus on soft skills such as communication, negotiation, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence. These skills are crucial for building relationships with clients, colleagues, and stakeholders and navigating complex legal situations.
  • Don’t take shortcuts, be honest and commit to learning to gain in-depth knowledge about the field. 
  • Attend legal conferences, events and sessions as this will help in building some great network and add to the learning curve. 

Get in touch with Anita Jain-

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