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Charu Mathur: Hello and welcome to EBC learning. Today we have a young professional with us, Ms Manisha Chaudhary. She is going to tell us about Setting-up Your Practice. This talk is essentially for the law students. 

Hi Manisha! Welcome to EBC learning.

Manisha Chaudhary: Hi Charu.

Charu Mathur: So why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

Manisha Chaudhary: Charu, I manage a small boutique firm called UKCA & Partners. It’s essentially named after my father. It's UKC and Associates at one time. But he was designated senior some odd 22 years back and since then the firm has been with his junior. And now, eventually, I have taken control of it as a managing partner. The firm does all sorts of work. I would say that we do not do hardcore criminal laws but everything else—the firm handles through different partners and managing associates and myself. I believe that I’m doing a decent job at running it and would like to see it grow further in the future. We have applied for a lot of rankings, got through some. So as a young firm, we are very proud of the work we are doing. So hopefully we’ll be doing much better in the future.

Charu Mathur: Ok, so just tell us your journey as a lawyer—How did you start, where you did your law from? I understand, you have done your LLM also.

Manisha Chaudhary: Yes! So, how it all started is that my father wanted me to be a doctor.

Charu Mathur: Ok 

Manisha Chaudhary: He did not want me to be a lawyer. That’s what his aspiration for his daughter was. And I somehow convinced him, probably by the time I was in the VIIIth or IXth grade that I want to be a lawyer. He said that it’s a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of reading, it’s a lot of sacrificing, a lot of personal time of your’s or family time. You might not be able to pay so much attention to your friends, your future family, husband whoever that may be, etc etc. And I was like, I do not care about all of that, I want to do law, I want to practice as a litigation lawyer. He said it might be a difficult journey for women but if you are for it, please go ahead. So, I chose my subjects accordingly. I ensured that I do not need to do math. I said that’s ok. I mean, I took commerce because I wanted to be in the corporate law field. That’s how I chose my school subjects and finally I got into Amity Law School, Noida. I did a lot of time there because it also helped me at that time because the college was young. I could do a lot of internships. I spent a lot of time in different offices, to understand how they work. Litigation has its own charm but I consider myself in love with transactional law as well. I try to balance out both—sometimes litigation takes over transaction, sometimes transaction takes over litigation, but I do not want to let go of both and that’s something which I’m doing right now. Then came the time for my masters but prior to that I had already decided that how our law schools unfortunately are set, as there is a lot of theoretical work but there is no practical experience. Whatever little bit of experience I would say I gained in internships, was also not enough to be a good lawyer or to be even a decent lawyer. I worked for 2 years with UKCA under other partners as an associate, I learned a little bit of Company Law, little bit on Mergers, little bit on—back then there was no Insolvency, little bit on Civil Laws. I then decided to go for my masters to Cornell. The idea was always to go to an Ivy League and no other college, so I chose Cornell, went there, did my masters in General Corporate, picked up all the subjects that I like. Fortunately, I was trained by the best from New York City and it helped me gain an experience of what actually entails in the work. I did a lot of clinical work instead of doing theoretical subjects in Cornell. So that’s something of a very conscious decision that I had made during my Masters. Once back, I unfortunately could not jump right into transaction and law that I had learnt but it helped me tremendously in my NCLT/NCLAT practice, it also helped me a lot in the arbitration practice that we have. So, I would say in all the masters experience was more like a pseudo internship than it was a scholarly course. But I do suggest everybody that you need to work/know a bit of the law, know exactly what you need to do your masters in. Otherwise it just might not be a good fit for everybody.

Charu Mathur: So, now coming on to setting-up the practice. Though you are fortunate to have your father’s office, but you can give advice to the students who are starting it.

Manisha Chaudhary: Right! So, I do believe that the firm is entirely changed, since I stepped in. Earlier, we were more like an extended chamber for the senior, then we were a law firm by itself. After a great battle or an internal civil war, things change. We introduce new partners, we expanded our practice, we expanded our entire setup, I would say. We even detached entirely from my father. Our all systems were then changed. We ensured that the basics of what a law firm means, which is to create associates, a setup of our own, our own accounting system, our own server systems, everything was separated, made sure that it is just UKCA & Partners. I wanted to keep the name, I did not want to change the name at any time because I believe the legacy of my father should go on. And it is after all his baby,I’m just taking it over. So, I kept it like that. Believe me, law firm setup takes a tremendous amount of work. It's very easy to say that we will start our own practice, it's very difficult to see that even one step you take has a million consequences,the financial consequences being the first one and then the general thing, as if what if it fails. Fortunately, I had the background to fall back on, to ensure that even if a mistake was made or some finances were needed, I know where to go. But to set-up a practice might not be the easiest thing to do. I also genuinely believe that it's about time in India that individual lawyers should come up together, either as a chamber or as a law firm. Maybe even different professionals like Company Secretary and Chartered Accounts with lawyers, should have their own law firm which is not yet allowed but if it were, that would be a great set-up.

Charu Mathur: But some sort of understanding is always there

Manisha Chaudhary: Right!

Charu Mathur: in the profession.

Manisha Chaudhary: Right. So, everybody has dual degrees but then you either practice as a lawyer or a CS. I would like to see firms where there are secretarial work departments, there are law firm work departments and then there is accountancy or auditing going on in the same firm. Might be very difficult to manage but that’s what for the statutory bodies to probably think and come together and make something like that to give a client, like truly, a one stop shop to do all of that. So, that’s something that I want to do. 

Charu Mathur: So, as a managing partner you must have the obligation to bring some business to the firm.

Manisha Chaudhary: So, the obligations are—business, associates, IT, administration, accounting. I unfortunately am very very—I try to be a perfectionist in everything. It takes a lot of my time and energy. I do believe that decentralization should be done, but I take interest in everything that I do—from choosing a painting for my office to choosing the wallpaper, to the tiles, to the administration, to how/what kind of servers we will have, what kind of security system we will have. I take pride in doing all of that with my associates. It takes me away from my litigation so I’m sitting at night and doing work as well. But I believe at this age we can do that, we can take advantage of our age. And if not now, then when?

Charu Mathur: True!

Manisha Chaudhary: So, that is something that we do.

Charu Mathur: If you can share some tips for the business generation, for the young lawyers—first-generation lawyers, it is a tough professional.

Manisha Chaudhary: It is! So, the biggest issue which I also face is networking. Networking is highly important in today’s world—be it law, be it CS, be it just business strategies, be it MBAs, everybody needs to network, unless somebody knows who you are. Even if you are brilliant at your work, it’s very difficult to find you. With so much knowledge out there in the market, for people to come to you, they need to see how good you are. It sometimes falls back because you do not want to be blowing your own horn. But that’s not what I believe networking is. You go meet people, have a good lunch, have a good drink, you should be able to meet them, you do little work for them and then you get more work for them. Prove yourself little by little. Do not try to go pitch to a huge company which already has a brilliant law firm working for them, try to pitch for little work which you are good at. And that’s how you move up, that you’ll do one case of theirs, do it brilliantly, give them the results that they want. It's not about winning or losing, it’s about doing the best for your client. You do that best, they will have faith in you to give you a little bit more of their work. And eventually, maybe in another two years, three years, four years of time, they will have enough trust to give you all their work. But take it slow, don’t try to run, don’t try to pitch more than what you can deliver. There are a lot of times, this is what I face with a lot of lawyers. They say, you know, they promise the sun and the moon and then they are not even able to give them the earth. So that’s something which lawyers should be very considerate about. Tell them the truth. 

Charu Mathur: And work-life balance, this is something that at all stages of our life we face but it is more important for young lawyers or young professionals.

Manisha Chaudhary: Like I said, “If not now, then when?”. I try to keep my weekends free, in the mornings I try to workout, it does not always help me but yes, I try to keep a work-life balance for sure. I meet my friends, I go out for parties, I meet my family, I spend weekends with my parents for sure. Sunday is a day that I’m always with my parents, always at home. Maybe when there is a significant other who steps-in, some time will be given to him as well. So, I make sure that there is time that I take out even if it’s like a coffee in the middle of a work day. I know that my one meeting is at 2 o’clock and the next one is at 5 o’clock, so that 2-3 hours I just rush to my friend’s office who is also a lawyer, just sit with her, have a coffee, chat, or have another one of them coming to my office, have a coffee with him, explain to him what he is doing, he asks me what I am doing and we just discuss, and that’s how I keep it fresh for myself.

Charu Mathur: As a lawyer we all read but do you read for pleasure also?

Manisha Chaudhary: Yes! I read what I call is fiction trash. Every night, I have a kindle on my phone, so I’m very bad and I lose things all the time. So I have just one phone on which I have a billion sort of apps. Out of them one is kindle, and I read all sorts of things on it. From mythology to fiction, to murder mysteries but I do not read anything which is very serious. All that was kept for the younger years through college and all the literature, all the good books, all the classics,I have already read them at a young age and that was imbibed by my parents and my, I guess english teacher at school to make sure that I read all the important books. Now I read, I do read a lot of things on feminism. That’s something which is very close to my heart. I don’t say that I’m a feminist who hates men, that’s not how I preach it. How I say it is that they are just supposed to be part of the moment as well. It’s all about equality not... 

Charu Mathur: exclusivity 

Manisha Chaudhary: Yes, exactly! So that being said, I read a lot. And I love Indian mythology, I love reading about other cultures as well—I read about islamic culture, I read about christianity, judaism, orthodox (christianity), I read about everything. So, anything which keeps me busy.

Charu Mathur: That’s nice! So for the young law students, if you can suggest three or four-five books.

Manisha Chaudhary: Oh my god! Ok, so something that I want to pitch out these days is there’s a trilogy, called the Shiva Trilogy and Ram Trilogy, everybody has to read that. It’s a brilliant take on how our mythological books have been given a fresh take. And I keep calling Shivji a rockstar, and I was like, I’ve fallen in love with him, and how this book is, it’s brilliant. I think by Amish Tripathi, it’s brilliant. So I would recommend everybody reading that just to take a fresh look at how brilliant Indian mythology can be. Apart from that, there are classics which I believe anyone needs to read. There are classics like Ayn Rand, if you understand her, it’s just brilliant. You have to understand her books to know what it is. You can read all the fun books from Ernest Hemingway. These are all classics, you should go for. Read Great Gatsby, it gives you a great insight into how 1920s were and how 1930s were. I am not very familiar with a lot of Indian literature, I would like to get to start reading that as well, but yes soon. So these are some books apart from for lawyers yes, read everybodies biographies. So if you read those biographies, you understand how lawyers mind’s work and how these great seniors have set the laws for us. So that would be great as well.

Charu Mathur: So Manisha, one very important question I want to ask you is about the internship. So, what do you look for in the interns when they come to your office or when they apply.

Manisha Chaudhary: Right! So Charu one of the biggest things I see in an intern is that how much..., what year they are in. Because, the kind of work that we do, I expect them to know something about Company Law or Insolvency Law or how companies work, just the background of all these things. So we prefer 4th and 5th year students. However, there are times that I’ve hired 2nd year, 3rd year students as well. I do not look at anybody's colleges, that is something which is very unfair. I have seen brilliant students come out from very mediocre colleges. I have seen mediocre students come out from brilliant colleges. So, for me it is just who applies well, that's it. For us it is a first come first basis and we do not keep more than four or five interns because that’s it, that’s the only people we can actually help. My associates are very hand-on with their interns, they teach them a lot. For me, you should apply on time because six months seven months prior, is how we fill up our positions already. That’s it, that’s all I can say.

Charu Mathur: So, do you look at if they have some writing or they have participated in moots.

Manisha Chaudhary: I think, mooting is very important. It gives a person a lot of insight on how they need to present themselves as a lawyer or what all facts they need to see in a case, at that time. Because not everything is supposed to be presented on a platter to the judge. So, mooting experience, we do see. We do see what sort of courses they may have done, anything specific like cyber laws or if they have worked on any Company Law courses. I had an intern who had done things on tender, which was very interesting for me. She had taken a course on how tenders are to be filled up. That is something which really helped her understand our work to help our clients. And I thought she was a brilliant addition to the team and today she’s my associate.

Charu Mathur: That’s wonderful!

Manisha Chaudhary: So, that is something which really pushes the envelope for an intern to bring something great to the table or something new or innovative to the table.

Charu Mathur: So even at EBC learning, this is what we are trying to bridge the gap. And we have different segments of courses, one segment is to bridge the gap between the law school learning and the actual practice. So, if a student comes with a course from EBC learning that will add value for hiring him as an associate or even as an intern.

Manisha Chaudhary: Charu, definitely! Because like I earlier also said that what we are taught in the law schools and what we actually have in practice is very different. I always try to pitch it to anybody I meet, whether they like to hear me or not, that the idea of what we are taught in the law school needs to be changed. We need to have more practical training, we need to have courses like yours to be introduced into the system itself and ensure that all students are getting practical knowledge from actual real life lawyers. With due respect to professors and to even scholarly people who are teaching in the law school, they do not know what the judge requires or what a law firm requires or what even seniors or individual lawyers require. I myself have faced that issue and I have heard this from every lawyer out there. 

Charu Mathur: True!

Manisha Chaudhary: That they did not know what they were doing the first day they stepped into the office. So, such courses will definitely help, in fact they should be part of the curriculum.

Charu Mathur: Right! So, we have even developed courses on legal skills. We have developed courses even on how you are supposed to present yourself. How you are supposed to read a file, how you manage a file.

Manisha Chaudhary: Right.

Charu Mathur: That is one course that we have done on the legal skills, and then we have got other basic courses and very niche courses also, like, just to tell more about our courses we have got a niche course like on our Sports Contract—how to draft one, we have courses on merger control, we have got courses on insolvency and many more. So you see a value in...

Manisha Chaudhary: Yes! I do definitely see value in this, like I said filling up a tender. There are so many people who do not know how to do that. Even seasoned lawyers may not know how to do so. 

Charu Mathur: True

Manisha Chaudhary: When she came to me with that, I was baffled. I was like what is this course that you have done, please explain. I took 45 minutes from her just to understand what her course was and I thought it was tremendously great, that she had done that. Similarly, like you said file management, it is so important for people to know how file management is supposed to be done. Because in court, once you're there and the file is before you, there is no time to fumble up or mix up anything. 

Charu Mathur: Right.

Manisha Chaudhary: We have our internal systems, of course, you know there are platforms which help with litigation management now. However they're still much physical filing because all the old seniors, they have their old school ways and you still have to abide by those rules. So file management definitely is very important. I believe courses in practicals/knowledge is what is needed and it’s the need of the hour for students.

Charu Mathur: Right, so we are doing that thing only.

Manisha Chaudhary: Right, you are doing great work on that.

Charu Mathur: So, any other legal tools that you’d like to share, which a law student or a young professional can use, managing a firm or managing his own practice.

Manisha Chaudhary: So, research is very very important. Drafting is very important. Your draft doesn't need to look like a work of literature, it just needs to be very very crisp and very very to the point. Judges come from all stratas of societies. You need to understand that nobody is sitting with a dictionary to read your fancy words on that. They just need great points to be presented to them. Also they are reading 50-60 files a day, yours need to stand out. How you are going to make your stand out is all about drafting and pleading, and how you present it before everyone—with proper headings, with proper fonts and proper formatting. All of that is very very important when it comes to drafting. With legal tools, I think it’s better to know all sorts of word files and presentations because how to even make charts, make tables. I mean there are students, who are lost at that as well. 

Charu Mathur: Right.

Manisha Chaudhary: They should also maybe know how to use the litigation management softwares which the firms are using. Of course, the firm has their own training session as well, but knowing that in advance would also be very helpful for a firm to just incorporate you into their everyday life or at the law firm.

Charu Mathur: So Manisha, like when an intern comes, what do you look at in him, how should one conduct during internship?

Manisha Chaudhary: I believe everybody has internship guidelines, so do we. One of the biggest things which matters to me is that the interns should induct themselves as an associate with the firm. Nobody is going to come to you to give you work. Why don’t you approach your seniors? Maybe the first step is to approach the associates, then the senior associates, then principal associates. Maybe then if you still do not get good work, approach the partners. They’re very receptive, trying to understand younger people and to help them understand the law and what the firm does. Act as an associate, do not act as an intern. Also, be very very sincere in your internships. You have got in through internships, to which, with each seat, at least hundred people apply to them. Please do not waste that opportunity. In that one month, it is your job to learn, it is not anybody’s prerogative to come to you and teach you. Sometimes interns miss deadlines given to them which is very important. Deadline is very important to the profession, please maintain that. They do not come on time, that is also very unfortunate because if you are rushing to the court or if you have a meeting in the morning and you have given somebody some work, you need them to be there to deliver that. Please follow every guideline which is for an employee, usually applies to an intern. They should follow it, they should be there, they should induct themselves, read up, try to understand. Everyone is there to help, you need to make that effort to get that help from them.

Charu Mathur: So the takeaway is—you have to speak, you have to ask. 

Manisha Chaudhary: Yes! Sitting in a corner is not going to help you. There are times when interns have come and gone, and they wish me in the court, and I’m like—I’m sorry, who are you? Because they’re like—we’ve interned with you, and I’m like—but you did not make yourself, you know, important enough. 

Charu Mathur: You have to make your presence felt.

Manisha Chaudhary: Right! And there are interns whom I cherish and remember, that Oh my god, they were so brilliant. I wish them all the luck and I’m sure they will become good lawyers, get great jobs. You know, so you have to be important in the firm by yourself.