Deeksha Malik graduated from NLIU Bhopal in 2018 and is an Associate at Khaitan and Co, Mumbai.
In this interview she talks about her early law school days, her internships, working with KCO and starting her own law review.
Tell our readers about yourself.
I am an Associate working with the Employment Labour and Benefits practice at Khaitan & Co (KCO).
As part of the team, I advise domestic and international clients on key labour law compliances and work on issues relating to hiring and exits of key executives, managerial remuneration, domestic inquiries, labour audits, drafting of employee-related policies and agreements, restructurings relating to workforce and compensation, prevention of sexual harassment and other forms of misconduct, and other ancillary matters.
I also work with the corporate teams in the firm in conducting diligence on companies as part of commercial deals.
In 2018, I graduated from National Law Institute University, Bhopal (NLIU), post which I worked with the Capital Markets team of the firm for around six months.
I am also the Founder-Editor of The Indian Review of Corporate and Commercial Laws (IRCCL), a blog I started with my friends from NLIU to encourage law students to make active contributions to the current debates and discussions relating to corporate law and related subject areas.
How was your journey as a law student?
My experience at NLIU has been an amazing one. I consider myself fortunate to have spent five years of my life with the Batch of 2018 which, in my view, is one of the smartest and most passionate batches NLIU has seen in recent times. My batchmates, seniors and some of the faculty members ensured that I stay motivated and eager to seek new and challenging opportunities.
Tell us about the internships/activities that you did in law school.
In the first two-and-a-half years of law school, I interned with a few NGOs, the Madhya Pradesh State Human Rights Commission, the Madhya Pradesh State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and the offices of the former Chief Justice of India, Justice (Retd.) T.S. Thakur.
The idea of interning at different kinds of organisations was to gain as much exposure as possible to various areas of law in order that I am able to discover my interest areas.
From the third year, I began narrowing down the scope of my internship experience to law firms as I began developing an interest in corporate and commercial laws. I feel privileged to have interned at KCO, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM), L&L Partners (formerly Luthra & Luthra Law Offices) and Kochhar & Co. Post these internships, I received job offers from KCO and CAM.
As regards other activities, I participated in moot court competitions, the most cherished of them all being the NLU Delhi-UNCITRAL Insolvency and Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition 2017.
However, I was always inclined more towards writing and wrote for several national and international publications including The American Review of International Arbitration (Columbia Law School), the Arbitration Brief (Washington College of Law, American University) and the London School of Economics Undergraduate Political Review.
Amongst these activities, the most cherished experience was collaborating with Trilegal and Cambridge Scholars Publishing, with whom I released my book titled as Emerging Challenges in Mergers and Acquisitions. This was part of our endeavours as members of the Centre for Business and Commercial Laws (CBCL), which is the corporate law committee at NLIU.
I must add here that the reason for the successful launch of the book is the sincere and relentless efforts of the members of CBCL, who had to bear with me through the process as I constantly reminded them of the crazy timelines!
Tell us about your experience of working at Khaitan & Co.
My experience at KCO has been amazing thus far. One of the best things about working at KCO is the approachability of those at the top of the corporate ladder. My Partner and seniors are always ready to teach me things, be it filling my timesheets judiciously or managing relationships with clients.
If your work is good, you are appreciated; if your work is not up to the mark, you are encouraged to improvise. I can say without a doubt that through this one-year journey in the firm, I have emerged as a more responsible and disciplined person.
How did the idea of starting The Indian Review of Corporate and Commercial Laws hit you?
Funny perhaps, the idea of starting IRCCL struck me while I was vacationing during my post-graduation period! However, in the course of writing for several publications while in law school, I realized there is a dearth of good and accessible legal publication platforms. Blogs are underrated in India.
Moreover, students in India would often look forward to getting their articles published in international legal blogs as they believe the same carry more value as compared to the Indian ones. For what it is worth, I wanted to change the perception by creating a blogging platform which would set a good standard of publication.
My team and I at IRCCL feel lucky to have received a tremendous response from both law students and practitioners to this endeavour.
How should anyone, who has a goal of working for tier I law firms, go through law school? What are the activities/internships they should prefer?
For students who have just started off, my recommendation would be to explore as many areas within the legal field as possible. One way of doing this is to intern in different organisations, including NGOs which deal with specific legal issues (for instance, those dealing with refugee rights) and policy research bodies (such as Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy). Another way is to participate in legal writing competitions on specific themes.
A third way of going about this is participating in moot court competitions. The point I am making here is that one should, in the initial years of law school, be open to learning and exploring various areas of law.
Instead of charting a course which one’s seniors may have taken, one should create his/her own journey through the law school.
For students who have determined that they would like to work in a tier-one law firm, my suggestion would be to start working towards the said goal preferably in the third year of law school (assuming a five-year undergraduate course here). Your resume should reflect how actively you are working on a certain subject.
For instance, if you are keen on working in the corporate practice in a tier-one firm, you should aim at participating in moot court competitions which are based on a corporate/commercial law issue (for instance, a moot court competition based on a corporate governance issue).
Similarly, you should consider contributing articles to national and international publications which deal with burning corporate law issues.
You should also connect with people (especially experts working in the area you are interested in) through professional networks such as LinkedIn and come up with collaboration proposals for a possible publication in a good journal/book series (tip: several good international publication platforms may not accept articles from an undergraduate student; in such cases, collaboration with an associate working in a law firm may help you!).
These activities should, of course, be accompanied by several internship experiences at law firms. Here again, my suggestion would be to take small steps and work with tier-two law firms first (platforms like Chambers and Partners will help you identify which tier-two law firm you should look for).
Some of these firms do amazing advisory work (as opposed to the transactional work typically done at tier-one firms), which will help you significantly in learning the relevant subject.
What are the questions one should ask themselves before joining a law firm which deals with corporate law?
I would like to answer this question in a slightly different manner. I will not throw up questions which you should ask yourself – rather, I would like to give you a perspective that may help you ask the right questions to yourself.
You should be aware that the work you do as an intern may significantly differ from what you do as an associate in a law firm. Sometimes, your work as an associate in the corporate practice could be quite mundane (such as checking licenses and registrations of a target as part of diligence).
Hence, you should be prepared to do all kinds of work as a junior. Be ready to join a law firm with an open mind. If you follow this, you will find even the most mundane of the tasks to be a good learning experience.
What are the main challenges/barriers a fresher faces in tier I firms dealing with corporate law and how can they overcome them?
One major challenge, of course, is the lack of knowledge of the basic concepts you would come across while working on a transaction. While some of the practical aspects require time and can be learnt only through experience, certain basic concepts (for instance, different kinds of transaction documents) can be understood simply by reading.
Subscribe to websites such as VCCircle and ET Prime to know what is going on while you are glued to your laptop screen. Apart from reading the news, check official websites such as those of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the Securities and Exchange Board of India and the Reserve Bank of India and share any update(s) you come across with your team members. Also, set Google Alerts on topics relating to your practice.
This will set you apart from your peers and also enable your seniors to know how passionate you are about the subject.
Another challenge is that as juniors, your work could be pretty dull at times. You may not be exposed to the more advisory side of the corporate practice. This challenge can be easily overcome by attempting to have one-to-one communication with your team leader/staffing partner.
Also, actively participating in internal sessions on new developments and offering suggestions (do not worry about how stupid your suggestions might be, please!) may prompt your partner to involve you in interesting client advisory matters.
What are your comments on the compensation a fresher draws at a tier I law firm in corporate law as compared to the smaller law firms working in the same area?
Compensation, of course, is a big motivating factor for the freshers to consider joining a tier-one law firm and even continuing there for some time until they are fairly senior in the hierarchy to be offered an attractive package and position by a smaller law firm. Having said that, the question of satisfaction ultimately rests on your preferences.
If there is a boutique law firm out there that has a brilliant profile in the area you are interested in, you may derive more satisfaction working there.
What is your advice to our readers who want to pursue corporate law?
There are several students who aim to make it big in the corporate practice. As mentioned earlier, the trick really is to be an enthu-cutlet. Being a law student, you cannot do without reading and staying updated.
In addition to the above, maintain a fully updated LinkedIn profile, just like your Instagram one. Connect with experts working in your interest area. It really helps sometimes.
Parting message to our readers.
Always be willing to explore and learn.