Nikita Panse is a final year law student at ILS Law College, Pune. She takes a keen interest in family law and criminal law. She is a belly dancer, an avid reader of all genres and an optimistic fitness enthusiast. She bagged a PPO with Jaykar and Partners, a reputed litigation law firm in Mumbai.
- What makes you want to pursue an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career such as career law?
The reason I chose this field has got a lot to do not just with the field in itself but also with the lifestyle it contemplates. The first time I found myself drawn to this field was when I stumbled upon certain provisions of the Constitution of India while studying Political Science in Junior College and I remember buying a copy of the Constitution, reading it and falling in love with the depth of the subject and the pervasive effect it has on our daily lives. That is when I started giving this field a serious thought.
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I spoke to a few acquaintances who are lawyers and it was their response which made me surer of my choice. They described how life after graduating would be like, the work hours and the kind of discipline and hard work that the field demanded. At the time (and even now) I believe that it is essential to pick something challenging. I truly believe that it is only when you are challenged to the very extreme that the best emerges out of you. And I have realised today that this philosophy worked quite well on me. Coming from a family with no legal background, the field was an enigma to me. And I was entering it with considerable stage fear so it was a shot in the dark. But I am happy to say that it paid off.
- Why have you opted to work particularly in Bombay city?
I am from Pune and the reason I considered Bombay at first was just to get out of my comfort zone. But two factors made me choose Bombay after having interned there. The first one is the Bombay High Court; the kind of skills it expects from you and the cadre of lawyers that practice there. I cannot wait to be a part of them.
The second reason is the city in itself. While interning, I noticed that the lateness of the hour was not an excuse that any senior seemed to tolerate from female interns to avoid working and I found that incredibly empowering. Obviously, safety is a factor that can never be underestimated but this kind of privilege can be offered by very few cities.
- You completed a diploma in International Business Laws and Corporate Laws in India from Symbiosis Law College, Pune. How did this course help? Would recommend it to other students?
The field of law is incredibly vast and to narrow down on an area of interest can prove difficult. Some subjects might seem interesting in theory and not in practice and vice versa. I decided to choose the method of elimination and that was why I pursued DIBL & CLI from Symbiosis; to know more about Corporate Law. The course covered a variety of subjects and included compulsory moot courts and presentations. The true benefit is one which I, however, noticed much later which is that the course made me read the law. In our pursuit of building good CVs we often forget to read the law and learn just for the sake of learning. At ILS, we do not have assignments as a part of the curriculum. The Pune University marking pattern often deters students from really studying hard. All of this puts us at a disadvantage. In subsequent internships and even while studying company law right now, I realized that the Diploma had helped me because I remember concepts. So any academic exercise that will make a student read the law will be something I strongly recommend.
- How it was like to have interned in Pune?
I interned three times in Pune and all three experiences were very different and highly educational. My first internship was with an extremely experienced arbitration lawyer, Mr. Banhatti. The perks were getting to observe a lot of arbitral proceedings which helped me learn a lot about the subject. Mr. Banhatti always introduced me to all lawyers present at the proceedings so it also helped build contacts. My second internship was with Mr. Prasad Kulkarni who has a criminal law practice in the district court. This internship helped me immensely in learning how the trial courts function. He also encouraged the interns to draft and research and this was my first litigation experience. My third internship was with Ojas Legal wherein I got the opportunity to draft a lot of legal opinions on unique questions of law.
The advantage which I noticed was the personal element involved. The contacts I made are ones who I am in touch with even today; whereas in cities like Bombay and Delhi the sheer number of interns makes it difficult for the personal element to exist.
- You have interned both, with Counsel and firms. How were both these experiences different?
Before I begin, I would like to stress the importance of experiencing both for any person who wishes to pursue litigation. Because I believe that the joint working of both produces an excellent case to put forth before a judge.
Interning with a firm helps a lot in learning how to study a matter. There will be massive paperwork to go through and learning what to read and how to prepare the matter for the counsel is a very important skill. Observing how a solicitor briefs a counsel is also a helpful learning experience because it teaches one the value of brevity which is essential for our field.
Interning with a counsel was a wonderful experience. One is expected to deliver good research and good drafts in a short span of time. Also, getting to watch a counsel argue is a golden opportunity.
- And now for the most awaited one, can you tell us about your internship experiences and PPO at Jayakar & Partners?
I interned at Jayakar & Partners for the first time in the May and June of 2015 and the second time in May 2016. Although I received work from almost all the partners I worked primarily for one partner that being Mr. Archit Jayakar. I can conclusively state that from amongst all the internships I have done in Pune and Bombay this was the most educational one. Apart from the fact that I got to work on a great variety of matters and there was never a single idle moment (which I loved), I got to experience what actual work life would be like. I attended client meetings wherein I had the liberty to interact with clients, I could do extensive drafting and innovation with respect to research was never discouraged. But these opportunities were granted only to those who worked hard and proved their mettle and not to every person who interned there. I learned valuable skills and work ethics and for that, I have Mr. Archit Jayakar for thank for. After having interned twice, in November 2016 I had a conversation with Mr. Jayakar where I expressed my interest in working at the firm and was thus offered a position of associate. My term of employment begins in June 2017.
- Why did you not consider Counsel Practice? What is your take on the same?
Having experienced firm practice and counsel practice, I genuinely believe that the skill set that firms imbibe in associates is one which I seek. Working in a firm gives one the added advantage of getting exposed to a variety of matters and not concentrating on a niche. Having said this, I highly encourage women doing counsel practice. It’s about time that certain age-old sexist practices change and they should definitely not perpetuate in cities like Bombay.
- Is there any reason why you haven’t ventured into the transactional side of the law?
Although I have found corporate law mildly interesting in theory I do not aspire to be a transactional lawyer. That is because my core interest will always lie in dispute resolution and provide speedy remedy to the client. It is for this reason that today in spite of trying hard to narrow down on a niche till find a variety of laws interesting and that shall continue to be the case as long as the core remains resolution of disputes.
- Tell us a bit about the importance of reading in your profession.
Reading has been a passion for me since childhood and I would give the credit for that to my parents. Watching them spend at least an hour of their day reading inculcated that habit in me and my brother to quite an extent. The importance of reading can never be overstated. In spite of knowing the obvious benefits like betterment of one’s vocabulary and refining of one’s grammar, people do not give reading the value it deserves.
There are three components to knowing any language well – reading, speaking and writing. Like I stated before, reading helps in increasing your vocabulary. And it’s not just about using fancy words but mainly about not having to refer to a dictionary all the time. We often assume that a well-read person will speak well too but that’s a fallacious assumption. To achieve true command over the spoken word, along with reading it is important to think in that language and that comes only through practice. A combination of these two aspects will definitely help a person improve their language proficiency. And I cannot emphasize this fact enough – proficiency does not mean using fancy words and making long sentences. It is the ability to be brief rather than being verbose and possibly having the choice of being either.
I happened to discuss with Ritvik the importance of writing in our field. The discussion was not about research papers but just about the ability to express oneself in the written word. This isn’t a hobby that can be forced on someone. But one can probably start by penning down their thoughts initially. The biggest advantage of writing is that it requires and boosts your creativity and imagination like nothing else. It is a helpful mind exercise and will of course help in drafting. And the first step of this entire process is to read.
- What would be your advice to a law student reading this interview?
My first advice would be something that I have already mentioned before; which is taking time out to read the law. The benefit of doing this will be one that you realize much later. Follow academic pursuits as much as possible because this would be the only time you get to do that. Study for exams irrespective of how well you score. Knowing Pune University, getting marks is based on luck anyway but do not let that be a reason for you to pick a Pathan.
My second advice would be to not underestimate internships. They bring you closer to the real nature of our profession and I truly believe that experience is a wonderful teacher.
My last, and most important, advice is that take time out to follow your hobbies. Being ILS students we have been given the gift of time in excess. Use it wisely, not just to build your career but also follow those hobbies which you might legitimately not get time to follow later. Every senior who I speak to now complains that he/she barely gets time to sleep; so following hobbies is out of the question. So read for pleasure, sing, dance, trek, travel, because you will not get the time to do any of this later.
Nikita was interviewed by Samrudhi Chotani, a final year student of ILS Law College, Pune.