Campus Journalist Neeati Narayan interviewed her alumnus, Mr. R. Arunadhri Iyer (Batch 2005-2010) about his law school journey and prepared a cheat sheet for the “real world”.

Mr. Iyer recently left Khaitan & Co. to pursue his Masters degree and then enter practice whole-heartedly. Read along to discover funny secrets and misgivings.

Part I of the interview is here.

1. What according to you should be the focus of the law students at law school? How should they shape up their potential career graph? 

I’ve heard a lot of students complaining about how they don’t know what they want to do at the end of their five years.

I find this quite understandable in freshers, surprising in sophomores and positively bizarre in people finishing their final exams in a few months.

One needs to work their career plan out at least by the time they are in their third year (of the five year law course) and work towards that for the remaining time.

There’s not much point “chilling” through the five years. The whole point of spending megabucks on premier institutions is so one gets a respectable placement / job and one has to be a fool of elephantine proportions to not even know what they want to do at the end of the fifth year!

The only focus a law student needs to have is on how to sell themselves better to the prospective employer at the end of the fifth year (fourth year now, I believe, in some of these better ranked colleges).

2. What survival instincts should lawyers-to-be develop? 

One ought to learn to be very, very afraid of stagnation of one’s learning; to abhor mediocrity; to take pride in ensuring quality of work, even if it means you are working that couple of hours extra to proofread the hundred page document for a third time, just to remove one superfluous comma; learn to compartmentalise professional and personal life; and learn the art of diplomacy.

you can either be successful or be a polar bear
you can either be successful or be a polar bear

3. What is the real world like? Please throw some light on your schedule. 

With 25 years in the world and 30 months at the bar, I’m hardly an authority on the real world!

I have, however learnt that clinical professionalism, responsible authorities, overqualified mentors, exceptional brilliance, due appreciation, hefty paychecks, extended holidays and the like are as much a part of the workplace as are the likes of corruption, nepotism, unmerited appreciation, unwarranted demotions, idiotic powers-that-be, overworking, underpaying, thirty hour days and dispirited performers.

I’ve usually found myself clocking an average of about twelve to thirteen hours a day with the occasional eight hour day being a rarer species than the occasional sixteen hour days.

It’s an inevitable part of any litigation lawyer’s life, I guess, that one works six hours of the day in court and gets an opportunity to actually sit down for drafting and other chamber work when most employees will be discussing dinner plans.

4. How was it working at Khaitan? What are your future plans? Are you apprehensive?

I found Khaitan & Co. to be not very different from most organisations; it has its own positives and negatives.

For instance, I always felt that 20% of the people do the work of the entire firm at any given point of time. However, on the whole, I’d say it’s a brilliant place to work in, if you are lucky enough!

In the litigation department, I found myself being given an unexpectedly high level of freedom to conduct my own affairs, with the seniors only hauling me up only when I majorly botch something up.

I also found that as a junior, it’s not very difficult to find quality mentors if you know where to look for them. Indubitably excellent infrastructure, albeit with a few holes yet to be plugged, the firm tries to provide pretty much most of what a professional would need to make his life easier. I however find myself unqualified to comment upon its policies and practices.

I’m yet to fully finalise my immediate plans but I do plan to try and do my masters and then get into practice wholeheartedly. As for apprehension, I’ve never felt it. With competition the way it is, a competent lawyer hardly has any cause to worry, at least about getting work.

5. What would be your 3 biggest piece of advices to law students entering the profession? 

I once again find myself unqualified to answer the question. I can, however, provide advices I was given and that I try and follow:

1. The profession has a large gestation period; if you find yourself a nobody in five years, just keep working without a worry, but if you are a nobody even after fifteen years, you haven’t tried hard enough. If you manage to remain a nobody after twenty five years, you seemed to have tried exceptionally hard to remain so.

2. Decide whether you want money, power or authority and work towards it. One of the other two will perhaps follow.

3. Impeccable quality of work, unfailing adherence to deadlines, pleasing people; a professional needs to achieve only any two of the three and people will ignore their inability to achieve the third.

There’s not much point “chilling” through the five years. The whole point of spending megabucks on premier institutions is so one gets a respectable placement / job and one has to be a fool of elephantine proportions to not even know what they want to do at the end of the fifth year!

Disclaimer – The opinion expressed by the interviewee is strictly his own.

Image from here.

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  1. Hey, as a part of career advice, I needed to know whether corporate law involves dealing with finance?
    Does one need to have a strong numerical ability and whether a significant part of corporate law deals with finance?

  2. A person is not expected to know what he/she will do with their life, but they should at least know what their short-term goals are.
    One often comes across people who try to attain top grades, secure great internships, etc, etc, but they don’t even know what they’re gonna do after they leave law school.

  3. I don’t think it’s fair to judge a final year law student for not knowing what they want to do. There can be SEVERAL factors involved. He/She could’ve just recently discovered they had an aptitude in a particular field, they may be disillusioned by their initial choice of career. They could have faced an adverse situation which forces them to rethink their choices. So while there are some who coast through life and don’t think things out, that shoe doesn’t fit everyone who’s undecided!

  4. The response to the first question is quite funny and demonstrates that the individual doesn’t have perspective on life. Hopefully, litigation will give him some. How a 22/23 year old is supposed to know what they want to do with their lives is beyond me!


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