Campus Journalist Neeati Narayan interviewed her alumnus, Mr. R. Arunadhri Iyer (Batch 2005-2010) about his law school journey and prepared a cheat sheet for the “real world”.
Mr. Iyer recently left Khaitan & Co. to pursue his Masters degree and then enter practice whole-heartedly. Read along to discover funny secrets and misgivings.
I hated school and pretty much anything establishmentarian.
One ought to learn to be very, very afraid of stagnation of one’s learning; to abhor mediocrity; to take pride in ensuring quality of work, even if it means you are working that couple of hours extra to proofread the hundred page document for a third time, just to remove one superfluous comma; learn to compartmentalise professional and personal life; and learn the art of diplomacy.
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Hi Iyer! Tell us something about yourself?
I am an asocial geek with undiagnosed ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder, people!). Very few things hold my attention long enough and the list consists of gaming, the law, an interesting read, a logical analysis and, of course, being always correct.
Describe your childhood in brief? Your sources of inspiration i.e. your driving forces?
I hated school and pretty much anything establishmentarian.
Had a wonderfully supportive family in my parents and my elder sister; it’s not every day that a kid who flunked in three subjects (including Math and English) in fourth standard and who continued to flunk math regularly till his tenth goes on to top his school in the twelfth! My only inspirations and driving forces are my family, especially my mom, with perhaps a smattering of friends chipping in every now and then.
Why did you choose law?
Not sure if I should call it luck or fate. I didn’t want to do the usual stuff like engineering or medicine because they were all done to death by everyone from where I come.
I had to make a choice one day and was just enjoying a good Perry Mason novel; guess the choice became obvious. It also helped the decision that I had no one else in the family who’s a lawyer.
How was the law school journey like?
Well, it was definitely “interesting“. Learnt and worked a lot of things. Some majorly backfiring (like pushing for a democratically elected students’ council, which ended up being implemented as the Principal’s plaything, with her cronies filling up most of the posts), but some actually worked out too (like managing to get the college to ditch its antediluvian dialup for a decent broadband connection).
I enjoyed the experience thanks to innumerable friends and insufferable professors (the hate was mutual, I’m sure).
Things you liked to do in the law school?
Mooting, attending lectures (it was wildly fun when some professors tripped over their own teaching once you actually start asking questions from what they teach – made you realize that if those people can make a living as a lawyer, you definitely can!), the women (my college was thankfully blessed with some of the hottest ones I’m sure), and probably the utter lack of infrastructure and quality professors (taught one to be majorly self sufficient in the profession!).
Things you’d advise others to stay wary of?
The administration, wasting college life without improving yourself for your preferred practice area (You guys should at least publish one article in five years for goodness sake!), expecting some basic human rights to be respected (Hey, my college didn’t even understand freedom of expression!).
Expecting your professors will teach / prepare you for the profession (college is an opportunity that’s only as useful as u can make of it – don’t expect any professor to encourage you unless you show an interest in being encouraged!).
Your personal failures?
Believed too much in (the non-existent) innate goodness of the administration. Didn’t work sufficiently enough to have a respectable curriculum vitae at the end of my fifth year.
Didn’t do enough internships as I perhaps should have. Didn’t participate in as many co-curricular and extra-curricular activities as I perhaps should have. Probably didn’t study as much as I should have either.
Subjects you liked the most? Any particular prof. Who inspired you?
I loved most of my subjects, although contracts, torts, constitutional law and IPR do stand out.
I appreciated our Contracts-I professor Ms. Shital Navandar who is probably the sole reason why I loved and still love the law. Her preparing four hours a day for a fifty minutes lecture also gave me a fairly good insight of how my career would be once I start working!
I also liked our torts and constitutional law professor Ms. Parimal Garud; she made me realize that sometimes all you need in the profession is knowledge of the legal provisions – the rest is just logic. Our English professor Ms. Sujata Arya deserves special mention – I owe my drafting and researching skills almost entirely to her.
Some important things which law school didn’t teach you but ‘working’ did?
1. Being a lawyer in a corporate firm is about 20% knowing the law, 30% knowing the right people and 50% getting the right people to know you. The remaining 100% is about having high billables.
3. Client interest is paramount, even if it means compromising on facts or giving up an opportunity to debate a particularly interesting issue of law in court.
4. Physical fitness is paramount if you wish to be a junior in the litigation practice. If you can’t run from one court to another when septuagenarians do, how can you survive in the competition?
5. Billables matter. If the firm is big enough, sometimes non billables matter. Competence and potential won’t matter until they are converted to either billables or those special non-billables.
6. No matter how good you are with your legal provisions and concepts, if you don’t keep yourself abreast of the more recent judgements, your billables will always be written off at the end of the year.
7. Never ever mix issues with causes (Credit: Hon’ble Justice J. Kathawalla, Hon’ble Bombay High Court).
Being a lawyer in a corporate firm is about 20% knowing the law, 30% knowing the right people and 50% getting the right people to know you.
How to get clients?
I’m too young in the profession to have yet figured it out. I’ve however learnt how to ensure that one doesn’t lose them, and that’s by ensuring quality in work more than commensurate with the amount they pay.