Utsav Gandhi graduated from the Institute of Law, Nirma University in 2014. He has participated in many reputed International and National Law Moots and has headed various committees. During his time in college he made sure to get his hands on everything college had to offer. He is currently working in the corporate and real estate law team at Fox Mandal, Ahmedabad and wishes to keep exploring the field and continue the cycle of learning.
In this interview he talks to us about:
- His decision of choosing ILNU and the college’s contribution in his career.
- His views on Moots and other activities in augmenting a CV.
- His work and experience at Fox Mandal.
- His views and suggestions on starting a successful legal career.
How would you like to be known to our readers, most of whom are the law aspirants?
I am a corporate lawyer based in Ahmedabad and a graduate of the 2014 batch of Institute of Law, Nirma University. Also, I am a first generation lawyer in my family. Initially I thought of studying engineering, but when I started going for the engineering coaching classes the subjects did not capture my interest. While looking at other options I came across law and I immediately took a liking to subjects such as tort law, civil law and criminal law, that I came across while studying for the law entrance exam.
What specific goals, other than those related to your current line of business, have you established for yourself for the upcoming years?
None of my plans are set in stone. However, in the coming years I would like to grow as a legal professional and tackle new challenges over time. Further, I would also like to assume a position of leadership and develop expertise in a particular area of law. On a personal front, I was an avid trekker in school and that is something that I would like to proactively pursue as a hobby in the near future.
What led you choose your college or university?
When I joined ILNU it was relatively new, with the first batch students still in their 5th year. However, Nirma had a very good reputation for having excellent faculty with amazing infrastructure. In fact the Nirma University campus has to be one of the best in India. Also, when I went through the prospectus, it immediately piqued my interest since the course structure was unique, wherein a student could pursue a specialisation (Hons.) in either Criminal, Corporate, Constitutional or IPR Law. Thus, I believed that joining ILNU would help me immensely in building my career as a legal professional.
How do you see your university and education and experience it imparted as being helpful in preparing you for a corporate career?
I would credit the teachers at ILNU for being extremely diligent and focused on teaching the students about the basics of law. Further, I was also given the opportunity to explore many extra-curricular activities such as debating, MUNing and of course, mooting.
Further the curriculum at ILNU was quite rigorous, with term assignments and exams always keeping me on my toes. This helped me greatly in improving my time management skills and also helped me to work under pressure, s so ILNU through 5 years of college, prepared me for the corporate life.
Tell us about the activities you participated in while at university that helped boosting your progress?
I participated in everything that I could get my hands on. I have participated in many international moot courts which have greatly improved my research and communication skills. In fact, mooting was the best thing about college as it also taught me how to work in a team. Further, I also tried my hand at debating and MUNing which helped me in public speaking. Apart from this, I have been part of the ILNU’s Campus Recruitment Committee and Literary Committee, which imbibed in me, the leadership skills, which are invaluable for any lawyer and something that every lawyer should possess.
Also, I have presented papers at various international as well as national conferences and have got some of them published as well. This gave me the opportunity to extensively research on upcoming areas of law and have now helped me in my career. For example, I presented a paper on Corporate Social Responsibility, which back then was only an evolving concept and there was no legislation on the same. However, my research encompassed various jurisdictions and consequently, set up a strong base for me in that subject. Now, CSR has become a major area of interest/concern in the industry, and it has become extremely easy for me to advise the clients on the same.
With regard to the internships, I kept an open mind before deciding on a particular area of law. I had not decided to choose corporate law as a career since the beginning. The various internship experiences I did helped me choose a definite career path. Thus, during my early years at ILNU I decided to intern with Nanavati Associates (District Court, Gujarat), Adv. Devang Nanavati (High Court of Gujarat) and Krishna and Saurastri Associates (IPR). Finally, it was when I interned at Phoenix Legal and Trilegal that I decided pursue a career in corporate law.
Further, I have also completed various courses such as the Thomson Reuters’ Legal Advancement Programme (in my second year) and a diploma course on Entrepreneurship Administration & Business Laws jointly offered by NUJS and iPleaders. These courses helped me improve my knowledge base and have also played a major role in helping me to ace my interview with Fox & Mandal.
Share with us your working experience as an Associate at Fox Mandal, India’s oldest law firm.
I have been working on corporate and real estate law matters at the Ahmedabad office of Fox & Mandal for the past 2 years. My work profile mainly comprises of transactional and advisory work in the area of general commercial laws and drafting due diligence reports and advisory opinions on real estate law.
Fox & Mandal is a huge law firm with over 200 lawyers across India and all the offices regularly connect with the each other. Therefore, I have had the opportunity to interact and work with some of the brightest minds and experts in their fields of law. Further, since the Ahmedabad office is relatively new I have also had the opportunity to network with potential clients across various industries in Gujarat. I believe that no other big law firm would have provided me with this opportunity and I am sincerely grateful to Fox & Mandal, as I believe that this will always be of an immense help to me.
Would you like to share with us any of your accomplishments before or after joining the Law School or even after your placements?
The first moot that I went to was the GNLU International Moot Court Competition, where our team won the 2nd Best Memorial Award. Later on, we were the first team from ILNU to get selected for the prestigious D.M. Harish Memorial International Moot Court Competition through the Memorial Round. I was also awarded a gold medal by ILNU in recognition for my moot court achievements.
Further, I have also won an essay competition which was then consequently published in a book titled “Right to Development – Views and Issues”. I also pursued an online internship with Alexis Society (an organisation dealing with issues relating to youth empowerment), where I was adjudged the Best Intern and I had primarily worked on the research topic of Global internet freedom.
At present, I am also closely working with Adhrit Foundation as an Editor and an Internship Coordinator. My priority tasks with Adhrit include Editorial Work, Content Development and Talent Development. This role has provided me with the opportunity to mentor many law students who have just begun their law school journey.
Having seen the dynamic evolution in various facets of law, how did you manage to seize any opportunity that knocked your door?
One has to really be on their toes and it is very important to keep a lookout for any new opportunity. The best resource for this is of course the internet, which is a multitude of vast information. However, in order to stand apart from my peers, I always chose to do something new and take risks and I give a 100% to whatever I am doing.
Also, I always keep myself updated with the latest developments in the legal field and immediately prepare concise notes for the clients on the upcoming areas of law which are going to have a big impact on the industry. After joining Fox & Mandal, I have also assisted in organising various conferences and workshops with the latest one being a Workshop on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace. Further, I have also delivered a lecture at Apollo Hospital, Ahmedabad on the medico-legal issues that healthcare professionals face. This has helped me in understanding the industry issues and consequently, helped me in addressing their various concerns too.
How would you advise a law student if one has to start on to preparing for a career while in college?
I believe that a law student should focus on his academics to ensure that the basic concepts are clear since that is the first thing that the recruiters will look at while short listing a candidate. However, one does not need to be a topper to get a good job. The important thing is that the CV should be well-rounded. Also, I would advise the current crop of law students to moot extensively, irrespective of whether they’re choosing litigation or a corporate law career. Mooting develops ones research and communication abilities to a great extent. Further, other extracurricular activities such as debating and presenting papers at various conferences also helps in developing presentation and research skills.
In the end, what would you like to communicate to the fresh graduates who are ready to set foot in the law firm?
Keep an open mind and work on as many areas of law as possible and always interact with everyone across the board, be it an Associate or the senior management. Further, the field of law is dynamic and ever changing, hence, one has to stay abreast with the latest developments and preferably conduct a thorough research on topics which may have a huge impact in the future. Also, ones aim during the first couple of years at a law firm should be to accumulate knowledge on all the aspects of law and not confine themselves to a particular area from the beginning.