Ms. Pragati Sharma is a student from AIL’s Class of 2016. She is currently working as an Associate (White Collar Crimes and Dispute Resolution) at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, Mumbai. She was the Institute Prefect for the year 2015-16 and was also awarded the Chief of Army Staff Award for the Best Student (Class of 2011-16).
She has won numerous accolades for the college in various extracurricular activities. She won the Best Researcher Award at the 15th Henry Dunant Memorial Moot Court Competition. She won the award for the Best Memorial , at the 3rd RMLNLU SCC Online International Moot Court Competition. She was awarded the Best Judgement Writer, at the 4th SVKM National Trial Advocacy Moot -Court Competition, 2013, at Mumbai. She also won the award for the 3rd Best Respondent Team and 2nd Best Team (INDIA ROUNDS) at the 4th Leiden Sarin Space Law Moot Court Competition, 2013 at Abu Dhabi.
TBP :- First of all, heartiest congratulations on joining Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Thank you for agreeing to do an interview with The Blue Pencil.
TBP :- What was your motivation behind pursuing Law?
PS : I was preparing for medical when one day I decided I didn’t want to pursue it any further. AIL was one of the non-medical entrance exams that I had given, and much to my surprise I got in.
I think it was while I was preparing for the Novice Moots, I felt this surge of excitement. It just felt thrilling and awesome to be able to read the same sentence and interpret it in multiple ways. As an 18-year-old, I was mesmerized by the big words and complicated sentences. The fascination with law and the curiosity it inspires, is my primary motivation, aside from my mother, who also wanted to study law. She provided the biggest encouragement to me when it came to pursuing a career in law.
TBP : How was your experience while you were in college? Are there any memories that you want to share with us?
PS: If I started reminiscing I don’t suppose I would be able to stop. But my most cherished memories are related to moots. Qualifying for the International Rounds of the Leiden Moot as a second-year researcher with two amazing fifth year seniors. I still remember being shocked and numb when the results were announced, being hugged and congratulated by everyone in the Hall, going to the stage and being congratulated by the Principal ma’am. It was incredible. Looking back, for a second year me, this was an epic moment.
Other than that, mooting with two of my closest friends, getting to win the Best Memorial at RMLNLU; winning the Best Researcher at Henry Dunant are few of my most cherished memories. I think for me moots were the best part of the five years. The three-month long preparation, the joy of seeing a new place, the adrenaline rush of the questionnaires, the nervous breakdown before the results, and of course, winning laurels for the college.
It will sound nerdy, but I think one of the best parts of college was attending classes, B section was considered rather mischievous, and pretty much once a day, somebody in the class would do something hilarious, and the professors would be left slightly irritated and amused at the same time.
TBP : How do you think internships and co-curricular activities contribute towards the overall development of a law student?
PS: As a law student, you cannot discount the importance of internships, not only does it give you a peek into the real world, but also gives you a sound exposure of the practice area you wish to choose and an understanding of what is expected of you. I got my first brush with White Collar criminal law while interning.
While internships give you a glimpse of the real world, co-curricular activities such as moots and research papers help you hone your advocacy skills and develop a better understanding of laws.
I would say it’s important to dabble in all kinds of co-curricular activities not for what it adds to the resume, but for the experience of it all. Quizzes, dances, debates, research papers, youth fests, moots, sports everything adds to the wholesomeness of those five years.
TBP: Could you throw some light on the recruitment process and how should one prepare for the same?
PS: It is fairly straightforward, you are shortlisted on the basis of your CV, followed by interview with the HR and the Partner that you will be working with. The HR interview mainly assesses your overall personality, the work experiences you have and what you are expecting when it comes to work. The idea is to see how well you fit into the firm’s culture and its requirements. The Partner interview is mainly about your previous work experience and your knowledge.
The best way to prepare is to know your CV and be aware of the latest important legal developments. It helps to know the firm’s work, too. You need to know the details of the work you have done (without disclosing any details), since I am in litigation, it is important to know the legal issues, the arguments you put forth, the counters put forth by the opposing side, the existing law and what happened in the said matter. It is important that you know your resume since it is the only way for them to know you, and for you to present yourself as a suitable candidate. And of course, you really need to have knowledge of law, great work ethic and zeal to carry on no matter what.
TBP : How do you think the work environment of a law firm is different from a purely litigation office?
PS: Having worked for two years in counsel practice, I can say that there is a vast difference between the two. The office setup, work culture and the structure differ. Counsel practice is usually a much smaller setup where you pretty much learn everything by doing it yourself, be it drafting, filing, researching, taking prints and photocopies. So, it definitely teaches you a lot about self-reliance, being quick on your feet, and time management.
However, there are similarities, too. Both have long hours and are demanding. Counsel practice in my experience is more grueling and demanding compared to an average day at a firm. Going to court every day from 10 to 5, and then coming back and preparing for the next day plus, you are also working on weekends.
On a regular day at a firm, you have your work cut out, you’re working on certain cases that are coming up, preparing your briefs, and when there’s a short deadline or something urgent, of course you work longer to finish it in time. There is more clarity at work. Also, your responsibility increases exponentially at a law firm. The two have their pros and cons, but at the end of the day, it all depends on you and what you want.
TBP: Could you tell us something about the subject of your practice area?
PS: White-collar crimes is not a mainstream subject and it is not taught in great detail in our curriculum, so it is important to get a hands-on experience via internships and maybe a comprehensive study of Anti-Corruption and Anti-Money Laundering laws. Anti-money laundering and anti-corruption legislations in India is intricately woven with CrPC, IPC and commercial laws, so for anyone looking work in white-collar crimes, it is important to have a fairly good understanding of the criminal and commercial statutes.
At first, it is slightly difficult to wrap your head around, but once you understand the basic modes of laundering of money and how the laws operate and apply, it gets easier. I was lucky enough to have found a senior counsel who worked in this field and mentored me.
In this field there are a lot of options available, you have counsels working on both white-collar prosecution and defence, law firms advising clients on the regulatory and compliance side of the laws, in-house counsels doing forensic investigation, due diligence, accounting and audit and risk assessment. This area is definitely demanding, requires a lot of patience and time, however, the joy of understanding your first complex money laundering scheme is unparalled.
TBP: Lastly, what advice do you have for our readers and the students of AIL as to how should they invest their five years so as to meet the benchmark set by the top law firms?
PS: It depends. For those who get the opportunity to intern at a good law firm, it is important to have knowledge of law (whatever you have learnt so far, that is), but also have an eagerness to learn more, be efficient at whatever task you get. Like I’ve said before, your work ethic, your manners, your enthusiasm, it all counts. The idea should be to do your best.
Even if you don’t get the opportunity to intern at a big law firm, you should make the most of what opportunities are available, intern with an advocate, senior counsel, judge at the High Court, a small law firm in city. basically, wherever you can learn more about your desired practice area. In my experience, no matter what the circumstances, there is always a way. You only need to ensure that you are adding to your worth as a lawyer and a human being.
Ha-ha, that was a lot of preaching. I would just say that enjoy the five years at law school, and maybe once a semester, do something serious like intern or write a paper or do a moot.