Assistant Editor Neeati Narayan interviewed Adv. Supratim Chakraborty, Senior Associate at Khaitan & Co., Mumbai about the know-how of the legal world – one which requires street smartness and quick knack for adaptation to changes. He graduated from Symbiosis Law School, Pune in 2008.
Mr. Supratim talks about the circumstances which made him choose law as his true calling, his journey through Symbiosis Law School (and the incidental occurrences) and his work-is-worship routine at KCO.
Hello Mr. Supratim! Tell us something about yourself?
This is perhaps the most difficult question for anyone to answer. Very briefly, I think I am an ordinary person with extra-ordinary desire to excel in whatever I do.
I have undertaken a number of activities till date and, fortunately, have fared decently well in most of them. I love music, sketching/painting and food (I am a Bong – so no prizes for guessing that).
Describe your childhood in brief? Your sources of inspiration i.e. your driving forces?
My childhood was awesome fun. Growing up in a joint family in Howrah (West Bengal) was an enriching experience. Galli-cricket to local plays – I used to be a super active participant.
My parents and my pishi (aunt) have been my sources of inspiration and my driving force. In my success and my failures, they have been equally supportive.
Why did you choose law?
My Dad worked in the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court in Kolkata and the last thing he wanted me to become was a lawyer. The reason for this thought was perhaps because he was witness to the degrading situation of lawyers in lower courts.
As per his assessment, only quantity and not quality of lawyers was improving with passing days.
In order to meet Dad after school, I used to visit the court very often and was very fascinated by its functioning. I used to sit in courtrooms for hours and watch the proceedings. This was perhaps the genesis and the germ got sown unconsciously.
How was the law school journey?
Law school days were the best days of my life. I made loads of friends, studied hard and partied harder. Even today I consider Pune to be my second home.. Goodluck Café the best eatery.. E-Square the best theatre.. and the list is endless.
Things you liked to do in the law school?
I loved making caricature of professors in my notebook. I used to participate in many curricular and extra-curricular activities in law school; but, what I loved most was writing legal articles. This helped me to strengthen my research, analytical and drafting skills considerably.
I started realizing, how important it is for a lawyer to take up live social and legal issues and write about them. Law school days are perhaps the best days to kick start such activities. One has ample time to research and analyse a topic. If required, one can always discuss an issue with a professor or professional / academician, as per requirement.
Fortunately, Pune houses some of the best thinkers, lawyers, professors and professionals and I took the liberty to consult them, whenever it was required.
However, one of my failures that I would like to highlight is that it took me quite some time to learn how to segregate personal and professional time.
Things you’d advice others to stay wary of?
Inculcate the habit of segregating personal and study / professional time. This will help you throughout your life.
Also, have fun but keep the focus on studies. Law school days are the best days on which you can capitalize and build a solid foundation for your career.
Your biggest achievements in law school?
Microsoft IPR Scholarship, winning prizes in the Stetson International Environmental Moot Court Competition, Palkhivala Foundation Taxation Law Essay Competition, Vyas National Legal Essay Competition, All India LawZ Essay Competition, etc
Your personal failures?
Fortunately, I have managed to work hard and turn most of my failures to success finally. I think my strong determination has helped me to sail through these failures.
However, one of my failures that I would like to highlight is that it took me quite some time to learn how to segregate personal and professional time. I learnt this quite late when some of my closest friends had written me off from their get-togethers and I was spending nights at work.
Our profession is truly demanding and there is no short cut to success, but I believe that at the end of the day one needs to have a healthy mix of personal and professional time. The earlier you inculcate this habit the better it is.
Subjects you liked the most? Any particular prof. Who inspired you?
Contracts, arbitration and information technology laws. I will take the liberty to mention more than one professor who really made a difference in my life:
Adv Manoj Wad – He is the reason that I started taking interest in contract and commercial laws. He broke down the most difficult concepts into easy fragments. The love for contracts that he inculcated, fuels my career till date.
Dr Shashikant Hazare – He taught us Constitutional Law. I have not seen a more knowledgeable and intellectually sound professor. He not only taught law but encouraged students to debate and deliberate over their views. That is the way to learn law and the result was evident – 100% attendance of students.
Mr Sameer Gupte – He could teach the entire syllabus of tax without referring to books. Simply a genius. His knowledge of FEMA is also unparalleled.
Some important things which law school didn’t teach you but ‘working’ did?
The list is endless. But three things I must mention:
Pragmatic Approach – Times have changed and so should the approach of lawyers. In most cases these days, clients prefer crisp and precise legal views that can be easily comprehended by businessmen. Legal knowledge is indispensable, but the legal view should be conveyed to the client in a lucid yet comprehensive manner.
Discipline and Focus – During my internship days I realized this critical aspect that working teaches one to be disciplined and focused. During my initial internships only I started learning the art of working for more than 15-20 hours at a stretch and still remaining completely alert.
Meticulousness – You create an impeccable impression when you dot the i’s and cross the t’s, even if it means sitting that extra hour in office. I believe that it is of utmost importance for a lawyer to release documents only when they are abundantly sure that the same is legally accurate, well-constructed, reader friendly and formatted. Never ignore that last cold reading.
How to get clients?
There is no magic formula for this. However, do remember that ‘the prize of good work is more work’.
What according to you should be the focus of the law students at law school? How should they shape up their potential career graph?
Study (you will never get a better chance), participate in moots, write articles, intern (work during internships and don’t just collect certificates), party and make friends.
Get an all-round exposure and slowly start firming your thoughts on which area of law you want to finally pick as a career.
By structuring your internships you should be able to decipher which area of law appeals to you more and finally you may zero in on that as a career option.
My personal advice is that one should not wait till the end of law school and then start thinking on what to choose as a career option.
One live example I must share with you in this regard. A student interned only with NGOs and human rights organizations throughout law school days and at the end of law school tenure the student started searching for a law firm job in corporate / M&A sector. It took the student substantial time to get placed in a law firm.
As you can see, students get carried away at times towards one sector and forget to check out the others during student days. Therefore, it is a good idea to plan ones internships carefully so that one gets all round exposure. It is like a tasting session, at the end of the session you can speak from personal experience and with reasonable certainty which item you liked most.
What survival instincts should lawyers-to-be develop?
Be a self-starter and go getter to stand out in the milling crowd. The industry easily embraces pro-active professionals. Remember, when you are new in the profession, no senior would expect perfect legal work. Even with average legal acumen, one can grow further.
However, what is indispensable is the right attitude – to be ready to work and show commitment towards work. Further, long hours of work and stress are inevitable in the profession. So learn to relax and be composed even in stressful situations. Your maturity as a professional will reflect from your composure and ability to handle tough situations calmly.
What is the real world like? Please throw some light on your schedule.
When I started working in Mumbai, my friends and family suggested me to invest in a sleeping bag that I could use in office instead of paying rent for the apartment.
Sometimes, I used to return home just to take shower and to freshen up. Real world is ever demanding and you need to cater to it in order to grow.
Tight schedules and deadlines are ways of life in most spheres now, so adapt to it as fast as possible, in order to reap the benefits.
How is it working at Khaitan? What are your future plans? Are you apprehensive?
Khaitan & Co (“KCO”), Mumbai, is a happy and caring family for me away from home. KCO started operations more than 100 years ago in Kolkata and has continuously honed some of the best professionals of the industry.
Being from Kolkata, I can feel the warmth amongst the people here. Excellence in work is coupled with a humane outlook at KCO. I plan to work at KCO and continue to grow. There is no apprehension and no reason for it as well.
What would be your 3 biggest piece of advises to law students entering the profession?
- There is no shortcut to hard work. However, hard work garnished with smart work will yield better results.
- Learning is a continuous exercise, never stop it. The day you believe you know it all, is the day you will start perishing.
- Humility and respect are excellent add-ons. Always keep them handy.
Any more tips/tricks?
None other than those stated in the above responses. Good luck!!