INTERVIEW: Pinky Anand on Harvard, Inlaks, Trial Courts and Success [By Manushi Desai]

Dr. Pinky Anand is a designated Senior Advocate and incumbent Additional Solicitor General of India. A Doctorate of Law, graduate of the Harvard Law School, an Inlaks scholar and Honorary Professor at Amity Law School, she is the second woman in India holding this high Constitutional Law office.

Her new book Trials of Truth is available on Amazon.

In conversation with Manushi Satyajeet Desai, she shares her journey post graduation from the world’s top law school, Harvard.

On getting into the world’s top university: Harvard

I prepared for it as I prepared for everything – I did not think of it as if it’s something too high or that I can’t achieve it. It was an ambition to go to Harvard. I was inspired by the movie Paper Chase which is a movie based on Harvard Law School and in that generation again there was a fascination to some degree as it is today to go abroad to do your masters.

Definitely again it was a step up if you went to American Universities in that time. In a manner, of course, we just did it as a course application, we applied and we got in.

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On getting the prestigious Inlaks Scholarship

I applied for Rhodes actually, I did not get the Rhodes, but Rhodes recommended me to Inlaks. I did not even apply for Inlaks and all I know is that Rhodes recommended me. Of course I filled a form afterwards.

On being a first generation lawyer

I am a first generation lawyer, I don’t have any lawyers in my family. Now it’s a different matter since my husband is a lawyer, my father in law is a lawyer, but that was very much later down the line. I started my practice before that. I don’t have any infrastructure, I did not have any benevolent hand in that sense. And all said and done that’s quite a necessary part.

On partnering with a woman lawyer

On the other hand, the reason I did not have as bad a struggle as I should have is because my friend Geeta Luthra who is a senior advocate now and I started practice together.

Hence, we were able to bear most of the rigours of the profession much more easily than if you are individuals. In fact it was very unknown of women partnering with each other in the profession. We did not have many women in the profession and we did not have many women partners either. I think partnering was a phenomenon which was somewhat different and it helped me to get past all the struggles that came one’s way.

On the struggles of being a woman lawyer

The principle struggle I think for the female lawyer aside from the fact that you know you are not part of that old Boy’s club is the fact that your friends are not necessarily working and hence you don’t have the contacts for getting work and ultimately it is important.

Secondly, there is and of course there has always been and still continues, I think to some extent, the fact that there is a prejudice against engaging women counsels. We were fewer in number and people working on their own right were even fewer in number since maybe most were working as juniors or for other people.

So I mean, there were struggles but, the first part goes past in a decade. It goes in a flash to the extent I don’t have any heartburn which I remember in that sense.

On the magic sauce to success

I think where when you went beyond a point and prove yourself, you actually were acknowledged. You have to continue to be twice a man. So the demonstration effect and the visibility or your proving your mettle is something which has to be done at the first degree level.

Having done that, you need to have people who kind of support you. My family is a very big support, my in-laws are very supportive and I think that’s a very important feature too, because professional life is a tough one. You have a very rough life balance. So how do you balance that future? But, I have come to the conclusion that you can’t be the best at everything, so it’s high time you just try to do what you can and go with that.

On the first big break

Honestly speaking, the first big break we had was from a business group which decided to support or engage one’s services and so that gave me a biggest break because I got a retainer and got exposure to various kinds of cases. B

eing a Marwadi business group, they say you learn more from them than what you learn at Harvard and definitely with the rigours of the profession, you learn far more on your feet than you learn from any text book. We got a wide exposure to wide variety of cases from that group not only in Delhi, but in various parts of Delhi. We used to go to various even district courts and in fact I think even trial courts.

On the ebb and flow of work and my “Swades” moment

One just got breaks from some waters one never solicited work. It never came like that and being convent educated, you kind of say do the Gita way. If you do righteous work it will all come through. But the real world is slightly different although we actually proceeded on that kind of presumption, working with whatever we got.

I started with Ms. Geeta Luthra’s father who was a Senior Advocate, Mr. K K Luthra and learnt quite a bit with him and then we decided to launch of on our own. The work just came from various places and once you did something that one thing lead to another. It was slow and steady, started from trial courts which was also quite a crunch and I used to work in Boston with a law firm and doing fairly well there. M

ost people were surprised when I came back. However, I was determined to come back to India and stay with my family and friends. I wanted to be first a nationalist and then anything else. Even though when I was leaving my firm in Boston, I got a little bit queasy should I go back or should I not – it was only a very minor twinge, my conviction of coming back was very certain – so much so that when I went for an interview I told them I did not want to stay for more than a year.

Also it was surprising to get into Boston since in those days, India was not as well known as it is today. The firm in Boston gave me a job, but I came back and I went to the trial courts and I went to places like even Rohtak or Tiz Hazari constantly.

Lastly- On paying your penance in trial courts

Trial courts are great fun. I think you learn the most there and it is a folly to jump straight to the Supreme Court without having done the set up because you really need to understand what law is about and law is made.

It’s like cooking, you may have pre-cooked meals available but you have to cook yourself – I think you learn a lot from there and also for young lawyers- you are trusted far more with the trial court cases than you are with Higher Court cases- so it was a relation you build- you go up the ladder.

The ladder is a very slow one- like snakes and ladders- you went up and you came down – you just struggle it out- it just kind of happened- panels and other people who supported you and otherwise.

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About the interviewer:

Manushi Desai is a lawyer associated with various voluntary organizations such as SEWA (Self Empowered Women’s Association). She can be reached via her twitter handle @manushidesai.

This interview was originally published on where you can find several other interviews as well.

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