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Volume 2 Issue 2
Interview of Vivek Narayan Sharma (Ex joint Secretary at AOR Association)
Interview of Ashima Mandla (Advocate at Supreme Court of India)
Interview of Hemant Sahai (Founder of HSA Advocates)
A FIRST GENERATION LAWYER’S JOURNEY TOWARDS SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AIMED AT PROMOTING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AT WORKPLACE by-Debolina Saha Narayanan Designation: Registered Foreign Lawyer (Senior Associate) Dorsey & Whitney, Hong Kong
Q1. Tell us something about your early childhood and schooling?
I was born into a simple middle-class Indian family to a father who was a state government officer and a mother who continues to be an excellent home-maker.
I spent my childhood and teens growing up in the small town of Darjeeling surrounded by tall pine-trees and vast acres of tea gardens and listening to the chugging sound of the toy-train and melodious Nepali tunes! Of course growing up, I did not forget to indulge myself into steamy hot momos and spicy potatoes, which still to this day make for some very fond child-hood memories!
As regards schooling, while I was initially enrolled into Bethany School in Darjeeling, I later started going to Loreto Convent from standard one and studied at Loreto until class X. Loreto helped me shape my character and instilled in me very strong values-values which I hold dear to myself even to this day and I have no hesitation in crediting my teachers at Loreto and the institution itself for playing a significant role in making me what I am today!
Q2. Are you a first-generation lawyer?
Yes! Ours was a family that kept distance from police and lawyers so my decision to be a lawyer came as a surprise to many including my own family!
Q3. When did you decide pursue law as profession and why?
The decision to pursue law was not a totally accidental choice! I wanted to become an IAS officer and thought it would be helpful to study law at the undergraduate level. Besides, the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (WBNUJS) (my alma mater was only 10 minutes walking distance form my house in Kolkata. Besides, I could not resist the thought of not joining an institution that would have none other than Dr. N.R. Madhava Menon as the vice-chancellor himself!
Q4. How was your experience in Law School?
Law school days were busy but very enriching especially given the then very cosmopolitan culture of WBNUJS. Being a first generation lawyer with no contacts whatsoever, I knew my best bet at getting a job then was to do well in academics and excel in as many extra-curricular activities that I could get involved in!
However looking back now, the one thing I would tell my younger self is to perhaps have taken the journey a little slow and enjoyed more of the lighter moments in college and building more friendships!
Q5. How do you think that the Law School education has changed since then?
At least at the corporate law front, there is definitely more emphasis, care and focus on equipping students with the right tools that they would require at their first job! This was not the case when I studied law. The emphasis then was more on the litigation side of law and guest lecturers invited to the college would mostly be legal professionals engaged in civil and criminal litigation matters.
Therefore, I definitely see a welcome sea-change in focus from a purely theoretical approach towards corporate law study, to a more practical approach. Many institutions are now regularly inviting practitioners in the field of corporate law to apprise students of the hot-topics, drafting techniques and plain-vanilla deal structures in various areas of law including banking and finance, capital markets and mergers and acquisitions.
Also, nowadays I see students doing a lot of internships in a single semester even when their colleges are on-going. The students seem to have received a message from somewhere that the only way of getting a good first job is to have many number of internships on their curriculum vitae (even if such internships are for a period of two weeks)! In our time, we did one internship every semester and engaging in internships while classes were ongoing was very rare. While I agree that with the number of new law colleges sprouting up every year, the competition has toughened, I personally do not think a two week internship or for that matter any internship less than a month can add real value to a student’s learning. Recruiters can see through this and therefore at Internship Bank, we encourage students to only apply for internships above four weeks.
Q6. What area of practice interests you?
Without a doubt, I would say it is International Debt Capital Markets! This is the area of law, I widely dealt with in my almost five year stint at Allen & Overy’s Hong Kong office and I still continue to enjoy dealing in this area of law at my current position as a Senior Associate at Dorsey & Whitney’s Hong Kong office.
Q9. Many law students do not get internship in big law firm as they do not have ‘contacts’. What would you suggest them?
I did not have any contacts when I started my internships but ended up interning twice in Amarchand Mangaldas’ Delhi office, once at the office of the then Additional Solicitor General of India-Gopal Subramanium, once at the office of Apeejay House in Kolkata, another time at a Kolkata based non-governmental organization as well as in the office of a Senior Advocate in a trial court in Kolkata. Therefore it is possible to get good internships on sheer merit!
What you lack in contacts, you need to make up for by a well-written curriculum vitae that shows a consistent track-record of achievements which an internship offeror will find difficult to ignore.
Also a go-getter attitude and a zeal to participate and excel in all internal and external events of the university will take you a long way! And, no opportunity is small. A good internship performance at a small law firm or organization may get you a job offer quicker and also accelerate your career progression within the organization once you have joined them as an employee, in addition to giving you a better work-life balance! Besides, one well-done internship will in itself open doors of future references and opportunities!
Lastly please remember that “perseverance” and “self-belief” are important assets! Believe it or not, but I tried for three years before making it as an Associate to Allen & Overy!
Q10. What was the purpose of starting your own popular venture called Internship Bank?
I have captured my motivation for starting Internship Bank quite succinctly in Internship Bank’s official webpage at www.internshipbank.org So I would strongly encourage everyone to visit the webpage and read the objective for themselves.
However, to put it briefly I became sorely aware of the fact that opportunities are severely restricted to students coming from lesser known colleges and such opportunities become even more restricted for female students coming from such colleges or first generation professional students and students from humble backgrounds.
Therefore, considering the skewed up gender ratios at many work-places in India and abroad, I was keen to build a platform that would encourage senior women professionals to offer internship opportunities to those female students who were often ignored and simultaneously help build a mentorship program designed to inspire success and provide a safer working environment to women. That is what led to the birth of Internship Bank on 12 December 2019.
Q11. Describe your team?
I have the best team of four very bright young minds and I am confident that all my team-members upon their graduation will be invaluable assets to their future work organization!
Shubhaankar Ray and Mansi Meena, are third year students at NALSAR University of Law. While Shubhaankar is currently brainstorming about Internship Bank’s Youtube Channel, Mansi is our star photographer & Tsui On sang (Alice) is a third year law student at the University of Hong Kong who is our star blogger for Internship Bank.
Q12. How does one offer internships via Internship Bank?
To offer internship opportunities please visit https://www.internshipbank.org/offer-an-internship and complete the form that takes less than 10 minutes to complete.
Internships can be paid, unpaid, in-person, remote, and in any subject area (need not be law) and any location (i.e, not just limited to India)! We strongly encourage internships to be for more than four weeks as that is the base time we feel the candidates would need to make any meaningful contribution to the organization offering the internship.
Also, while Internship Bank will review and conduct a preliminary interview of the candidate before forwarding the details to the internship offeror, the internship offeror is always free to conduct its own interview or background check on the candidate before extending an internship offer. Also there is no compulsion at all to accept the candidate profiles sent across by Internship Bank!
Q13. How does one apply for internship via Internship Bank?
To apply for an internship, please visit https://www.internshipbank.org/find-an-internship and then scan through the advertised positions. Please then complete the application form that is available at the bottom of the page.
Also, it is important that you click the follow button on Internship Bank’s social media platforms including twitter(https://twitter.com/internshipbank/), Facebook(https://m.facebook.com/internshipbank/) and LinkedIn(https://www.linkedin.com/company/31056653/admin/). This is so because, the social media platforms are updated first with the latest internship opportunities before the webpage itself!
Q14. What would you like to say to the young students from less-privileged backgrounds?
Spend more time finding out ways to overcome the challenges in your life than mourning at your less-privileged situation. If I and many others like me could have come this far as a first generation lawyer, so can each one of you!
Remember it is always walking on the narrow-road that brings more satisfaction and pride, as anyone can walk on the wide roads!
Burnished Law Journal(ISSN-2582-5534) Peer Reviewed National Law journal Indexed in Manupatra with open access aims to provide a number of legal journal articles,& practical update of law. We actively invite people to share his/her research on contemporary issues of law, so as to enable the growth and understanding of the aspects of the law to the individual in the society. The main aim of Burnished Law Journal, includes, topic on socio-legal, socio-economic, or any other law related topic or social issues.