Internship Experience @ Khaitan Sud & Partners, New Delhi: Corporate environment is not for everybody

Intern Details

Name: Aishwarya Borgohain

College: University School of Law and Legal Studies, GGSIPU

Year of Study: 3rd Year

Exact Duration of the Internship: 21st December, 2015 – 16th January, 2016

Internship Experience

Testing the Proverbial Waters – the Work and the Work Hours at a Corporate Firm.

Name of Organization, Location, Team Strength

Khaitan Sud & Partners

I interned at the Lajpat Nagar office with their Project Finance team.

It is, however, a full-service law firm, with their main Delhi office being located in Defence Colony. The team I was interning under was 5-6 associates-strong, with 2 partners and several support staff.

Application Process and Contact Details

The internship procedure itself is fairly straightforward – fill up the form available HERE, preferably a couple of months in advance, and follow up with an e-mail at [email protected]

As with any firm in any field, it helps to know someone beforehand.

Most of my co-interns happened to be final-year students who had been selected for an assessment internship. I did meet a couple of others, however, who were also in their third year of law school. From my understanding, the latter had scored their internships the same way I had – through referrals.

The one major disadvantage to my college is the paucity of time given to students to actually intern.

So while the lack of a winter break can be mildly annoying, it’s the resultant inability to complete an internship (without the fear of lack of class attendance lurking over you) that serves as a hindrance to the students. That being said, we got lucky this year, with a neat two weeks off after our finals.

Naturally, I scrambled to find a last-minute internship for myself.

As it turns out, big law firms aren’t exactly enthusiastic about taking in random third-year students who’ve never interned at a law firm before – much less one who applies a mere few weeks before the internship itself is due to start.

It was clear that the only way I’d be able to get an internship in time was if I used a contact – so use a contact I did.

I did, however, have to sit for an interview with the principal associate at the firm. Since it wasn’t a very technical interview, most of the questions revolved around my areas of interest, and past activities in law school.

I was unable to rein in my curiosity, however, and asked a number of questions about what was to be expected of me during my internship – questions which may seem downright absurd to my contemporaries, but which I had absolutely no idea about.

This taught me my first big lesson – never hesitate to ask questions if you’re uncertain.

Duration of Internship and Timings

I opted for a 4- week internship with the firm. Internships for a shorter duration are also possible – one of the assessment interns had completed his within 15 days. Alternate Saturdays are workdays.

Timings get a bit tricky; while the official timings are 9:30 to 6:30, the latter can be extended, “subject to work commitments”. This means most of my co-interns got to leave only around 8-9 in the evening.

However, they do tend to be more lenient with girls, especially when I told them that I’d be coming all the way from Dwarka every day. So while it got a bit embarrassing asking to leave early every day, I did get to leave at 7.

I have since then found out that timings like these are fairly regular at most corporate law internships.

Guess the whole ‘workaholics only’ culture in corporate law firms wasn’t exaggerated after all.

PGs in and around Lajpat Nagar, however, make for a much better option for those who don’t live in Delhi. Anything makes more sense than commuting nearly two hours in the Delhi traffic every day for four weeks.

Another thing that I’ve since learned is the norm in most law firms – apply for any leave a day in advance. And bunking is strictly frowned upon.

One of my co-interns tried to apply for a sick leave, and was promptly asked to bring a medical certificate for the same. Poor guy was out 400 bucks (for getting a certificate made) that day.

First impression, first day formalities, infrastructure

The office is located on the third floor, 8 Ring Road, Lajpat Nagar IV. It can be a bit tricky to find at first, but it’s right above a Himalaya Opticals store. The associates (about 5 in the team) have a separate room of their own, as do the interns.

The interns’ office had workstations to accommodate 5 students at a time. It was a rather nice setup, however. Each intern got her/his system configured on the first day, and each workstation came with a landline.

There were quite a few conference rooms with beautifully-stocked bookshelves, and the partners and principal associate had rooms of their own. The nicest thing about the office that I noticed, however, was the staff.

They were surprisingly attentive, refilling jars of water and handing out tea and coffee a couple of times every day.

I was a bit of a nervous wreck on my first day. I was asked to fill in some forms with my basic details. The first couple of hours saw me sitting clam-like at my desk, trying to focus as hard as I could at my Gmail account.

It was only after reading the same mails thrice that I realized I’d be better off swallowing my nervousness, taking initiative, and asking an associate for work. Work was then allotted on the first day itself.

Main Tasks

My main purpose behind this internship was to test the proverbial waters- in this case, the corporate world. After having completed the internship, I admit that corporate law may not quite be my cup of tea.

The work given was interesting in itself – even the parts that I didn’t understand at all. I was given mainly research work involving one extremely specific point of law or the other.

Do a quick research”, I conclude, is one of the most dangerous sentences I have ever come across, one that involves hours of poring over the Ramaiya (the bible for company laws), frantically looking for any answer that may be valid.

When (if at all) the answer to a question is found, you can be sure that the associate will ask any and all questions even remotely related to the topic.

Research work is thus frustrating, but extremely satisfying once it’s complete.

I was also given a lot of proofreading work (which can be rather monotonous) and asked to read through contracts, look for case laws for a specific point, etc.

There was one whole day devoted to data entry, which may just be the most robotic work ever handed out to a human being, but regarding which I was allowed to go for a client meeting.

I remember working with a person at the client office on the same, and having him ask me, “Are you new here?” He then launched into a tirade about how sad office life can get, and I remember positively fleeing the scene.

Work Environment and People

Incredibly amiable, always formal.

I had fully braced myself, preparing to get yelled at by the fearsome principal associate, or by some of the other (rather strict) associates, because I’d heard quite a bit (interns gossip, too).

But they were nice. One of the associates made it categorically clear that what I was doing at my internship was for my learning and benefit alone – and they stuck to that.

I’m sure some of the work I did was less than satisfactory, but they were rather patient, willing to explain the same thing thrice if need be. There was never any dearth of work available either, if you asked.

The one thing that stood out was on my very second day at the internship. I had been asked to look up properties of different kinds of shares, and was called into the principal associate’s room.

The grilling sessions that followed (all three of them) were excruciating, but ended very well. It was late in the afternoon when they were finally over, and I remember being relieved that the associates in the room were all relaxed, when one of them suddenly said  “you remind me a bit of Harry Potter”.

I laughed so hard I nearly snorted into my teacup. I was very lucky in that I had very helpful co-interns.

Nearly all of them were final-year students, and hence able to help me iron out my basics. Also, Amar Colony is a short walk away.

It’s a crowded marketplace, but there are plenty of places to go have lunch in, most being rather pocket-friendly.

Corporate Environment – Not for Everybody

While I loved the formal atmosphere there, it did sometimes get slightly stressful. Although to be fair, I guess this is true of any place if you stay there long enough.

The timings, on the other hand, were perplexing. And this applies to all big law firms, really. I fail to understand how work hours can get that strenuous, at least for the junior interns. I suppose lawyers have always been known for being excessively formal, and it’s probably just my naivete that makes me unable to understand why.

Stipend

There’s no stipend at this internship, not even for the final-year students. I won’t exactly complain about it because I wasn’t looking for a stipend here, but it may be disheartening for some interns.

Biggest Lessons

1. Office camaraderie is probably the only thing that keeps you from biting your hair off sometimes. Value it when you get it.

2. The salaries are all too alluring, but the job itself may not be. I don’t quite have the knack that would help me make it as a corporate lawyer; while that does mean that landing a great job will get slightly trickier, it also means that I will not be wasting time on something that I, quite frankly, lack both the aptitude and the interest for.

3. Embrace the system of referrals whenever you can. While landing internships on your own is incredibly satisfactory, networking and making contacts is very much a part of any internship experience.

4. Nervousness and rigidity in terms of work doesn’t really get one anywhere. Even if the work at hand is daunting, there’s a mild sense of satisfaction at having finished it. If someone were to ask a corporate lawyer ‘what gives?’, this would probably be the answer.

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