Vishy Vincent graduated from School of Law, Christ University, Bangalore in 2014. During college, he was always focused on academics and co-curricular activities including moot court and debate competitions. He has also penned down a number of article during college. He was also the winner of 2nd Gurcharan Singh Tulsi Memorial Legal Essay Writing Competition 2012 organised by HNLU, Raipur. Soon after graduation, he joined DH Law Associates and is currently working as an Associate there.
In this interview he talks about:
- Law school experience at Christ University
- Importance of academics, co-curricular activities and internships
- Induction and work at DH Law Associates
What motivated you to choose law as a career? How did you get through to School of law, Christ University, Bangalore?
I wouldn’t say I always wanted to be a lawyer. I was born and brought up in Patna, and as is the case with most people raised in small towns, being an Engineer or a Doctor or an Officer from the Civil Services are the only career alternatives that you are made to see, anything else is a strict “NO-NO”. I too pursued Science till class 12th under the influence of my neighbours. I had always been a good student and I wasn’t too bad at Science either but I didn’t enjoy it. Three to four months before the Board Exams, I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to sacrifice my life just to hear a “Waah Beta” from my neighbours. I had always had an extra liking for the social and political science subjects throughout my school days, I had good command over language, I was into debating, and yet I had no clue where these things would count, which is when I met Mrs. Ragini Singh from Law School Tutorials (LST)-Patna. My understanding of law was totally different back then, I would never have done law if I hadn’t met her. She opened my eyes into the realm and extent of an unbelievably exciting and enthusing challenge called Law. The funny part is, this wasn’t a planned meeting, this one evening I just happened to accompany a friend of mine to LST, which is where I came across Mrs. Singh. Legal studies for me, wasn’t a back-up option but like I said it wasn’t something that I wanted to do right from my early days in school either. I was fortunate enough to meet the right people at the right time but sadly the kind of information/career advice that is required at that age isn’t available to most youngsters in our country, which is why a lot of people end up doing things they utterly despise.
As for School of Law, Christ University (SLCU) (Bangalore), it was a big chance I had taken back then. The institution was only three years old. I hadn’t performed well in CLAT and I knew it would be foolish to expect admission in the top NLUs. I had cleared the entrance tests of a few Universities that had their own entrance procedures but of the lot that I had in hand, I was most convinced about SLCU, Bangalore. SLCU certainly wasn’t my first preference, but in hindsight, it turned out to be one of the best things that happened to me. I am really proud of, and grateful to my alma mater.
How did you fare in your academics at Christ University? Would you say a great CGPA is a necessity to kickstart a good career in the legal profession?
I had always been a good student and it continued to be the same for me in college. I know a lot of people downplay the importance of academics, but I have a completely different take on the subject. I personally think it’s very important. When I say academics is important, I am not necessarily referring to a great CGPA, it is the approach to academics that matters. The effort one puts into read and learn as much as possible during the student years is what counts. A good CGPA may or may not land you with a great job, but if you have worked hard to increase your knowledge base in your student years, you are bound to do well at the start of your career.
Your internships at law school have all been with top tier firms. Our readers would be quite curious to know how you went about securing these internships.
Credit for most of my internships goes to the Internships and Placements Committee at School of Law, Christ University, particularly to Ms. Sarah Thomas, the then faculty co-ordinator of the Committee. She would take personal interest in each of our applications. In fact, she never limited her role to overseeing the application process, she would sit with us and discuss how and where our careers were headed, the DOs, the DON’Ts, everything.
My internships in the first two years were self-arranged. I had prepared a list of contacts and I’d pester those in that list to give me an internship. However, please note that I never spammed anyone on that list. I used to dedicate a week at the beginning of a semester and a week in the last part of the semester to mail/call the concerned persons. It is also important to develop a pool of people who can give you a good reference when required. The people you work with during an internship, your professors, seniors from college, friends/relatives working at senior positions at important organisations etc. can all help you. If you have such people around you already, make use of them. If not, start networking today. Also, I use LinkedIn like an addict, I think it is one of the most useful websites ever made. If you are not comfortable networking in the real world, make the most of LinkedIn.
How relevant did you find your law school education with the kind of work you were required to do at law firms?
A good law school primarily teaches you
- what to look for where (research) and
- what means what (interpretation).
Statutes may come, statutes may go and specific law subjects based on such statutes may not mean much over a period of time, but the aforementioned skills of research and interpretation will always stand the test of time. When you start working, all that changes is the approach. Understanding the scheme of things and certain specific requirements becomes all the more important. It is easy to mould into the office environment and grasp the required approach if the aforementioned skill sets are honed in your law school days.
Did you learn any skills while interning? What are these skills and how did you acquire them?
Like I said, once you start working, there is a difference in approach. You probably find and read the same things as a law student, but what you take out from what you have read changes. It takes time to grasp that ability to perfection. In hindsight I feel every internship that I did was a step taken towards attaining such skill and capability, and the learning continues even today.
You have published quite a few papers in various journals. Can you give us a few tips to ace the art of paper writing?
Clarity of thought matters most. If you are not sure about what you are writing it is unlikely that anyone else would understand or even give your article a complete reading ever. Most people who read the legal articles/papers that we write, read it to find certain answers or to form a certain view on a given subject, irrespective of whether it is a student, academician, professional or whoever. Nobody ever reads an article to appreciate the complex English words or Latin phrases used in such articles. Using big words or inserting a million citations just for the heck of it does not help. The steps are simple, do some background reading, develop a view on the moot question of whatever you propose to write on and then start writing and continue with the research and consolidate your writing with the additional ideas you find or read about whilst writing. Once you start writing and you come across something that changes your view on the whole scheme of things, just ignore whatever you’ve written until then and start from scratch again. Also, I truly believe that the simpler and easier it is for the reader to comprehend your idea, language wise and in terms of how the article is structured, the better it is.
Amongst other competitions, you were the winner of 2ndGurcharan Singh Tulsi Memorial Legal Essay Writing Competition, 2012 organised by HNLU, Raipur. What does it take to win an essay writing competition?
Very honestly, I don’t know. It was the first and only legal essay competition I ever participated in. From what I remember, I tried to keep the essay as structured as possible. The flow of thoughts should be smooth I believe. Each paragraph should lead from one idea to another connected/related idea. Like I said before, for any writing clarity is key. Catch hold of people around you, ask them to read your article/essay and try to figure out whether they are able to grasp the key ideas from your writing and whether they are able to appreciate the connectivity in the many ideas that you present. If not, one must rework on the structure of the piece.
How has your mooting experience been?
I haven’t done a lot of moots. My first mooting experience was in the university’s own primer for the first year students. I would have barely spoken for 2-4 minutes and I was asked to stop and leave the court-room. It totally disheartened me and I didn’t moot until the third year. In the third year, my teams’ university rank was 18 out of 30 odd teams, which wasn’t great but it was a consolation for me in terms of the disaster I had in my first experience. Our team qualified for a moot organised by S.D.M. Law College, Mangalore and we fared pretty well in that competition. It was a morale booster for me personally. In our next university rounds, my team managed to secure rank 1. It was a big mental victory for me and it gave me an unbelievable sense of confidence. The top rank gave us the good fortune of representing the university at the Jessup National Rounds 2013. Jessup was an unbelievably incredible experience. Though, we couldn’t make it to the Washington Rounds, the feeling and experience of being there and competing with the best was unreal.
After graduation, you joined D.H.Law Associates. How did you go about bagging this job?
I was an intern at D.H. Law Associates, Mumbai and so it wasn’t that difficult. They were familiar with me and my work. I on my part ensured that I was in constant touch with most of associates (senior or junior) and partners I had worked with. After my final year, I pushed in an application for recruitment and I’m sure the associates and concerned partners gave a positive feedback and responded in the affirmative when a call on me was to be taken.
How tough were the first six months at your workplace?
It wasn’t tough at all. D.H. Law has a very welcoming environment. We all bonded very soon, and it’s not just the associates I’m talking about, the Partners are equally friendly and encouraging.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities? How is the experience so far?
At D. H. Law, each associate is linked to two teams. I am primarily associated with the Banking and Finance Team but also report to the General Corporate and Commercial Team on certain matters. The experience has been very satisfying until now. An important aspect is that D.H. Law exposes you to the business realities of the profession as well. I am also actively involved in the Business Development Programme of the Banking and Finance Team, which in itself has been a big learning experience for me until now.
How do you manage the workload and your personal life?
I don’t know if I handle this aspect particularly well but I would say I never think about my work life and personal life simultaneously. When I am working, I am working and when I am with family or with friends, I am with them in body and in mind. I am never half here half there.
How do you keep yourself abreast with latest industry news and trends?
I handle the Resources section of the D.H. Law website, so that keeps me aware of what’s happening where. Also, I have subscribed to and read almost all the newsletters released by the major law firms and legal knowledge portals in the country.
As for the Banking and Finance practice particularly, checking the RBI website once a day has become a habit.
What are the primary professional ethics you follow while at work? What has been your strategy to deal with errors and mistakes?
I haven’t really thought through the professional ethics that I will or do follow at work. I just do my work with honesty and love. As for mistakes and errors, the best strategy is to accept it. Some mistakes if revealed on time can help the organisation make amends. Individual cover-ups could turn out to be very expensive for the clients as well as for the firm.
What do you feel makes an intern stand out and is very important for him to do to have a chance of getting a call back or even a PPO?
As for what makes an intern stand out, good work is definitely the primary criteria, but good work alone will not help you land a job. Your interpersonal skills matter a lot. Since the time I have been here, there have been some interns who work well but do not communicate and get along with the team well enough, there have been some with whom we get along but the quality of their work is not up to the mark, there have been very few who do good work and give us the confidence that he or she could or should be a part of us.
The question that whether one should specialise in a particular area of law or be more of a general lawyer often comes up before law students. What is your opinion on the same?
It is a difficult question. I know people who have tried different things at the start of their career and have figured out where their interest lies and continue from there and have evolved successfully. Alternatively, there are some who’ve tried everything and now find themselves in a mess. Likewise, there are some who’ve stuck to a particular line of practice and have loved it so far and propose to continue with the same, whilst there are few who regret their decision and find it very difficult to move out of the line they picked a few years ago.
It is too early in my career to pass a judgment on the same, but if I were to pick between the two, I believe one should specialise in a particular area of law, which is what I’m planning to do as well. The reason for me is simple, I love what I’m doing and I don’t see myself wanting to move to a different practice area.
Lastly, what would be your parting message for our readers?
‘Take it easy’ is all I’d like to say. Everyone, everywhere has his/her own set of pressures and tensions, but live each day to its worth, don’t overthink. Definitely plan your career and set targets for yourself but do not lose yourself under the pressure of such targets. A lot of people may disagree, but I live in the present and stay happy. The past is past and nobody knows the future so live each day to its worth and stay happy.