Career Talk with Symbi Alumnus Adv. Rahul Kothari of AZB & Partners

Learn to develop an independent opinion, even if it is not always the popular opinion, and don’t be afraid to voice that opinion. 

Assistant Editor Neeati Narayan met Adv. Rahul Kothari while he was judging internal and external moots and decided to interview him. Adv. Kothari is a SLS Pune alumnus.

He has previously worked with Hariani and Co. and is currently an Associate at AZB & Partners, Pune.

Sir elucidates on the importance of hard work, honesty and dedication to excel in this field and further comments on the debate of generalisation v/s Specialisation. Read on for an extremely insightful interview into the intricacies of the profession:

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Hello Rahul Sir! Tell us something about yourself?

Well, I was born and brought up in Mumbai and studied at Bombay International School. After I completed my ICSE (10th standard), my family and I shifted to Pune, and I completed my law from

Symbiosis Law School, which I can, without a doubt, consider as some of the best and most memorable years of my life.

I am very interested in current affairs and politics, both of which are usually closely associated with law and legislation.

While law is my foremost passion, I also enjoy watching sports, reading books, especially autobiographies, and playing chess. I have a keen interest in magic, especially card tricks, and I can perform quite a few tricks too.

Describe your childhood in brief? Your sources of inspiration i.e. your driving forces?

I was brought up in a joint family and had an excellent childhood. I miss those care free days, which seem to have gone by in the blink of an eye. My strength and inspiration are my parents. Without their support and guidance, I would not be where I am today.

downloadWhy did you choose law?

In my 8th standard in school, we had civics as a subject, which taught us some very basic aspects of politics and law. This was my first introduction to the Constitution of India and the 5 writs embodied therein.

Studying this subject just seems to have a flipped a switch, and this is when I fell in love with the subject of law, and I realised that this was what I wanted to pursue as my career.

So my decision to pursue law was made quite early, and I’m glad that I stood by the decision. Also, I did not like studying science and maths, and choosing law as a career did rid me of studying these subjects to a large extent!

How was the law school journey like?

Given the opportunity, I would want to relive every moment of my five years spent in Law School. Although a lot of people told me that the five years would be a gruelling time, after having lived through it, I would disagree.

When one enjoys what one is pursuing (academically or professionally), it will always be a fun experience. Some of the closest friendships were also forged during this time.

Although I admit that exam time was a little stressful, but that period would only last for about 3-4 weeks every 6 months, which would very quickly pass.

A special mention here needs to be made to the institution of Symbiosis Law School, and each and every professor that has taught me. The knowledge, skills and guidance that I have received in those 5 years are priceless. One tends to realise the strong base that Law School creates, only after one enters the profession and starts actively working.

Things you liked to do in law school?

Symbiosis Law School offered various co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. So apart from the academics, I enjoyed participating in moot courts and debates. I also liked writing on legal topics and had a few of my articles published during my years in Law School.

download (1)Your biggest achievements in law school? If you could reverse some aspects of your college life – what would they be?

My biggest achievement in law school, I feel, was managing my time efficiently and productively. I secured a long term internship with a well reputed firm in Pune and for 2 years interned with the firm.

I used to attend Law School from 7.30 to 11 am and thereafter work from 12 noon to 7 pm. Of course, this meant sacrificing time with friends and missing a lot of movies, but this was the life I chose to pursue.

If I can remember correctly, I was probably the first person of my batch to be given a pre-placement offer with the firm that I interned with.

While I have no regrets during my Law School days, because I was studying and working full time, I was unable to pick up and diplomas or extra qualifications. If I had had the flexibility and extra hours, I would have like to pursue some diplomas and certificate courses.

Law School generally tends to impart knowledge of the law and its interpretation. Dealing with clients, colleagues and seniors is not something that can be taught, and has to be learnt first-hand. 

Subjects you liked the most? Any particular Professor who inspired you?

Constitution, Contracts, Evidence, Code of Criminal Procedure and Code of Civil Procedure are the subjects that I most enjoyed studying.

While various professors have taught me very well, I must make a special mention of Prof. Dr. MS. Raste (former Principal, SLS, Pune), Prof. Dr. S. Gurpur (Director, SLS, Pune) and Prof. Dr. C. Rawandale (Director, SLS, Noida). Their guidance, through my days in Law School, has been invaluable.

download (2)Some important things which law school didn’t teach you but ‘working’ did? 

Working has taught me how demanding clients can be. However much practical exercise that Law School gives you, it cannot prepare you for a demanding client.

This is something that every lawyer will have to experience, and will also have to learn to deal with in an efficient and effective manner, while keeping the client protected and satisfied.

Law School generally tends to impart knowledge of the law and its interpretation. Dealing with clients, colleagues and seniors is not something that can be taught, and has to be learnt first-hand.

How is it working at AZB, Pune? What is your area of expertise? Did you actively choose this specialisation or was it incidental to the job-profile?

Working along-side some of the best lawyers in the country, at one of the premier law firms, is something that words cannot adequately describe. I have been with AZB & Partners for over a year and a half, and it has been a wonderful experience.

A large part of this is attributable to my senior colleague Percis (head of the Pune office), and of course the invaluable knowledge and guidance passed on from Zia.

My foremost area of experience is dispute resolution, especially litigation. However, working at the Pune office has given me the opportunity to work on varied areas of law, such as real estate and corporate transactions, in addition to litigation. This has allowed me to diversify my experience and gain experience in different aspects of law.

At the moment, I do not have a specific area of specialisation, and I intend to develop my legal skills in a holistic manner. I have always been hungry for a greater level of knowledge and experience, and considering our profession is an ever learning journey, I don’t think that I will be satiated on that front, any time soon.

One aspect all lawyers-to-be need to dwell on is whether generalisation should be opted or specialisation should be given precedence w.r.t. career options?

That is a very interesting and pertinent question, and I have had quite a few debates and discussions with friends and colleagues on this topic. I do not think that there is a fundamentally correct answer to this question and there is no ‘one size fits all’ response to this.

In my opinion, for the first 5-6 years after graduating from law school, one should not seek to take up a specialisation, and should try their hand at various areas of law. I feel that this gives a holistic approach to one’s career. Also, one should, at an early point in their career, take in some experience in litigation.

This experience will tremendously help in each and every aspect of law, regardless of your specialisation.

Having experienced various areas of law, one should then move on to take up a specialisation, based on their interests and market requirements at that time.

This is where, I believe, working with a large law firm really helps, as it gives one the flexibility of working on various matters, in various areas of law.

Could you elucidate on Corporate Litigation? How does one hone their knowledge in the transactional matters?

Corporate litigation is an area of litigation concentrated on advising and representing businesses in respect of their disputes, and like all litigation is greatly about strategy and getting a favourable result for your client. Parties to a corporate litigation are usually directors, shareholders, partners or other stake holders of an entity.

Corporate transactions are vastly different from the litigation arena. While litigation concentrates on the dispute at hand, transactional matters usually involve a ‘marriage’ (coming together) of two or more entities, through a complex document.

One of my seniors has often told me that a transaction document is a multi-dimensional creature which has to work like a well oiled machine. Even if a small part is missing, the machine will not work smoothly and efficiently.

The only way to hone one’s skill in transactional matters – work on them and gain first-hand experience. There is no easy way out of this one. seniors play an important role in this process and tend to be the buffers and trainers for all the mistakes a junior would make in their first few transactions.

download (3)What, according to you, should be the focus of the law students at law school? How should they shape up their potential career graph?

In my opinion, students should try and maximise and effectively utilise their time in Law School. Usually lectures don’t go on for more than 4-5 hours per day, and I believe this is intentional.

This gives students ample time and opportunity to pursue their hobbies, interests and gain experience during the rest of the day. One should spend their time productively.

No doubt, that the initial focus of should be on regularly attending lectures. However, there is a limit to how much knowledge Law School can impart by itself. I know that Symbiosis Law School has numerous co-curricular and extra-curricular activities and many committees that students can be a part of. Students should actively participate in these.

One of the important activities, that all students should participate in is moot courts. I believe that taking part in moot courts imparts a lot of skills that lawyers require, namely legal research, drafting, clarity of thought, creativity, confidence in arguments and of course, spontaneity.

Having said this, one last, and most important pieces of advice that I can give here is that one should enjoy their time in Law School. Whatever a students’ pursuit may be, make it into a fun and enjoyable experience, not a burden and an obligation. Pursue something because you want to pursue it, and not because you have to.

What survival instincts should lawyers-to-be develop?

  1. Don’t take things at face value. Question everything.
  2. Learn to develop an independent opinion, even if it is not always the popular opinion, and don’t be afraid to voice that opinion. Good seniors will always give you this opportunity, and will also correct you when wrong.
  3. Law is a dynamic subject, which is constantly changing and improving. Keep abreast with new laws, amendments and recent judgements. This is essential, and should not take more than 30 minutes a day.

What is the real world like? Please throw some light on your schedule.

Considering that students are getting opportunities to intern with reputed law firms, they would be quite familiar with day to day situations from an early stage.

If one experiences interning/working while studying, then the ‘real world’ is not as intimidating as one tends to think. The attitude with which one approaches this profession, greatly affects the way the ‘real world’ is perceived by that person.

Although my office starts at 10 am, I’m usually in office by about 9.15 am. I like to start my day early, and an empty office gives me time and space to think without any disturbance. I usually leave office by about 8 or 9 pm.

During this intervening period, my work schedule and work load depends completely on the client deadlines, meetings, internal priorities and court dates.

What would be your 3 biggest pieces of advice to law students entering the profession?

  1. In our profession, every day can be a learning experience, and during the course of one’s daily schedule, one must try and learn something new every day. This learning may come directly through working on a matter, or through some pearls of wisdom that your senior may impart to you.
  2. There is no substitute to hard work. If you are willing to work hard and work smart, sky is the limit in our profession. There are no short cuts to success, in fact, there will be a long gestation period before one achieves success. One must remain consistent and focussed with their efforts.
  3. Although this may sound clichéd, honesty is very important in our profession. Honesty and dedication to your work and to the cause of your client is paramount. Reputations are built brick by brick, and layer by layer over many years. However, they can be destroyed in seconds.  Your career will be built on your reputation; protect it fiercely.


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