Nani Palkhivala Arbitration Centre, Chennai
Office and Staff
The office is a reasonably spacious building, tucked away in the heart of Mylapore, one of Chennai’s most busy areas. The office consists of a reception bay, cafeteria, three conference rooms and a pretty decent library.
The office is well constructed, with maximum utilization of space being the objective. The conference halls are large and modern.
The team consists of madam registrar Dr. J. Durgalakshmi, a manager, an accountant and a caterer.
I sent an email to [email protected] with my curricular vitae. The reply from the Centre was prompt, confirming my internship application.
I was required to fill a form and mail the hard copy to the office address of the Centre to finalize my internship details.
The Nani Palkhivala Arbitration Center follows quite a routine schedule. Work commences from 10:30 in the morning to about 5:30 in the evening, when the interns are asked to leave.
If there are any arbitration proceedings in the evenings, the interns are required to stay back and observe.
The interns can also be asked to come on Sundays for attending important arbitration proceedings. The working days are six days a week, with Saturday being a half-day, when you can leave at around 2:00. Lunch timings are flexible and entirely up to the interns, provided that they do not exceed an hour. I worked for four weeks.
Mylapore is quite the commercial hub and thus, crawling with a variety of Paying Guest options. There are a number of decent such establishments quite near to the Centre.
Personally, I stayed at a place in Thiryuvanmiyur, which is around five kilometres from the Centre. The closest bus stop to the Centre is the Luz Church road. From Thiruvanmiyur, my preferred means of transport was the 1A bus. Non-Telugu speakers should beware of autorickshaws as they tend to overcharge.
Accommodation can also be found in other places if the intern so desires as connectivity and public transport is good – the stalwarts here being the EMU (metro) and the bus service, which are cheap and quite efficient.
I took the 1A bus from Thiruvanmiyur bus stand to Luz Church road. It took me nearly 35 minutes to commute to the road and a further five minutes to discover the Centre. Discover it was.
The Nani Palkhiva Arbitration Centre is not quite noticeable, having been built over a recreation centre.
The building is quite unimposing from the outside. Hesitant, I climbed up the steps to be greeted by a totally different scenario inside. I stepped in to a swanky reception area, where the manager and a blast from the air conditioning, which provided a respite from the infamous Chennai heat, met me. I was made to wait for Dr. Durgalakshmi as she was in an arbitration proceeding.
Meanwhile, coffee was served as I browsed through a collage of recent developments in arbitration. In a few minutes, an exodus of people exiting from the conference hall signaled the end of the arbitration. The registrar received me warmly and she took me to the library to introduce me to the other interns.
The library is quite a spacious portion of the whole building. The collection houses around 600 volumes of reporters relating to arbitration.
The library also serves as the interns’ workspace. I was detailed with the tasks that were to be performed, served coffee (again!) and hooked up to the Internet. I was set!
Nani Palkhivala Arbitration Centre is, in essence, an arbitration centre (duh!). This means that the various conferences halls are used for conducting arbitrations. No lawyers work in the Centre per se, instead, arbitrations are facilitated by the Centre.
In the beginning, I was assigned to work on the preliminary draft of a beginner’s level course on arbitration, set to be held by the Centre in collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, London.
The course contained broad guidelines relating to the procedural aspects of arbitration and various domestic and international laws governing it. Most of the beginning week was utilized in framing my specific portion of the course dealing with international commercial arbitration treatises.
The arbitration season started soon with the reopening of the courts. The best part about the internship is being able to witness arbitrations. For this, you need the prior permission of the arbitrators. If granted, you are allowed to sit through the arbitration and take notes.
Most of the arbitrators are friendly and accommodating with the interns. They comprise of retired High Court and Supreme Court judges as well as engineers and IAS officers, among others.
They are quite keen to make sure the interns learn and take personal interest in interacting with us. In the beginning, it is an overwhelming experience, but you do get used to it. One of the highlights was when a retired IAS officer asked us to help him with a case of his.
Promptly, we sat down to research and after several painstaking hours of work, managed to conjure a half-decent attempt.
Imagine our gratitude when we were thanked, with the arbitrator saying that our research was pivotal to the case judgment. That conversation made our day.
Along with watching and compiling weekly reports of the arbitration proceedings, the Centre also expects the interns to represent it on various professional occasions. Durga ma’am and we managed to attend a lecture at the Madras High Court by a prominent arbitration specialist.
However, the best part came afterwards when we were scheduled to attend a symposium on commercial arbitration at a posh five star hotel. The highly interactive panel discussion and the sumptuous lunch were the highlights.
The Palkhivala Foundation, a legacy of the legend Nani Palkhivala, backs the Centre. This means that the Centre is networked professionally.
We managed to meet prominent advocates like Mr. Arvind Datar, the taxation law legend, personally. We also got a chance to work on the draft of a leading book on arbitration.
The internship finished on a high note with us completing the draft for the course and knowing that we had played quite an important part in its inception.
On the last day, we had a talk with ma’am about our future prospects and plans when she gave us our certificates and stipend.
Your regular interactions occur with the permanent staff present at the Centre – registrar ma’am Dr. J. Durgalakshmi, manager Ms. Jaya and Ms. Monisha who doubles up as an accountant and a receptionist.
These three people are extremely friendly, approachable and accommodating. Quick to smile and easy to be with, their jolly demeanor ensured that the workplace always remained upbeat.
The work environment at the Nani Palkhivala Arbitration Center is the best I have ever experienced. Durga ma’am is not very intrusive – she will give you a deadline and will not check up on you till the deadline is breached.
So, you have the liberty to work without being watched over all the time. This eases the pressure. However, you do have to meet deadlines and thus, this ensures that the work cycles are maintained.
Firstly, the work experience was definitely a big plus. The ambience the Centre exuded and the demeanor of the staff motivated on to work to his full potential. This ensured that I completed assignments on time, and importantly, well.
The nature of work, if you are lucky, is quite good. Studying the working procedure of arbitration and researching into treatises governing international commercial arbitration gave me a good idea about arbitration in general.
I could thus proceed with working on Indian statutes dealing with arbitration, enabling me to correlate and learn.
Witnessing arbitration proceedings is the single most important thing interns are supposed to do. Just sitting 10 feet away from such dignitaries made the experience worth it. To cap it, their friendliness, as well as the brilliance of the advocates was amazing.
I still remember one advice a lawyer gave me. “When I doubt, search for a loophole, and stick to that. Don’t leave that point of law and the case will be yours.”
The cherry on top, was no doubt, the opportunities the Centre provided. Witnessing the symposium and the lecture and meeting prominent advocates took the experience to another level.
The biggest, and the only drawback I can make is that when no arbitrations are taking place and if you are done with your assignments before deadlines, days can be lazy. These can be utilized for personal research (courtesy: the library) or online movies (courtesy: the internet) as per your wishes.
Other drawbacks can be the city of Chennai itself. Though dynamic, North Indian food comes at a premium here. So, people might get tired of eating the same South Indian fare everyday.
Not knowing the native language is not much of a drawback, but still counts. People who are street smart can figure ways around it, though.
It was the first time I visited Chennai. So, I took full advantage of that. The Centre does have the facility to get you food delivered from a variety of popular restaurants at normal prices at your desk, if you so desire. Being new, I decided to be adventurous.
Firstly, Mylapore is quite the place to be. So, lunch breaks would often hold surprises. I visited a variety of shacks and restaurants in search of food. After various successful (and unsuccessful) attempts, I shortlisted a few places which an intern can look forward to for staple food.
Sarvana Bhavan, a 10 minutes walk, is quite popular. It serves excellent South Indian at pocket friendly prices. However, it would be overkill for daily meals. For those, I turned to this gem of a place called Senthil’s Mess. The Mess is five minutes away. They serve quintessential South Indian meals for nominal prices.
The winner, here, is the amazingly good quality and taste, coupled with Mr. Senthil himself, who is quite the entrepreneur and ensures that service is quick.
Weekends were the time to let loose after grueling six days of continuous work. My co interns and me had memorable moments at one of the world’s largest beaches, the Marina.
The city of Chennai is quite happening, with crowded streets, bustling markets and chic malls. Discovering lip-smackingvadais at unnoticed shacks or the latest deals at the neighborhood mall are experiences that can brighten up anyone’s day.
As a full time intern, I was paid Rs. 2500 per month. I have heard that the Centre also has provisions for part time interns who are paid Rs. 1000 a month.
When embarking on a journey to a place quite far away from your home for an internship, you wish that it would be perfect. Interning at the Nani Palkhivala Arbitration Centre was all that I dreamed and more.
I always expected that I would be attending arbitration proceedings and researching on that but meeting such prominent luminaries was a new experience for me. Being in their regular company was the icing on the cake.
However, hanging around with big shots is not what I am taking back from this internship.
I am taking back rudimentary working knowledge of how arbitrations work, and more importantly, measuring up to someone’s expectations. I would sincerely recommend this for first and second year students with an interest in arbitration, or advocacy in general.