Rishabh Sinha, Sr. Associate at Trilegal, on his experience in the legal field

1.    How would you introduce yourself to our readers?

I am corporate commercial lawyer working with a large law firm based in Gurgaon. I love learning and am driven by curiosity, suffice to say – I buy more books than I can read and sign up for more courses than I can complete.

2. When did you decide to study law and what influenced that decision? If not law, what alternate career would you have considered?

From a very young age, I was curious to improve my understanding of “how the world works”. I found myself drawn to the nuts, bolts and gears that make our society and economy work. Academically, I found I had an aptitude for social sciences: I enjoyed reading history (including the much vilified CBSE version), geography and later economics. Together with the gift of English proficiency made possible by a conducive school and home environment, a career in law emerged as the best fit. If not a law, I would have been partial towards a liberal arts education. As an alternate career, I would most likely have been involved with a tech startup – maybe in a founding/business development role.

3.  Why did you choose NLIU Bhopal for pursuing law? Tell us something about your law school journey.

Mine was one of the last batches before CLAT was introduced. This meant we had to apply to each law school independently and spend the summer writing as many entrance exams as possible. NLIU Bhopal was a highly rated institution, and of all the top law schools I applied for, my preparation peaked the day of the NLIU Bhopal entrance exam. I got through a few other NLUs and some top private law schools as well, but upon speaking with career counsellors and alumni from various law schools, I decided to go to Bhopal.

My journey through law school was an awesome experience and has had a significant impact on my personality and world-view. Born and raised in Delhi/Gurgaon, relocating to Bhopal was a thrilling experience. I immediately fell in love with the natural beauty: splendid weather, abundant lakes, lush green forests and the refreshingly low pollution levels, all in a convenient bite sized urban environment not too far from my comfort zone. To add to that, meeting and becoming lifelong friends with a remarkably diverse group of people who came from all sorts of socio-economic backgrounds – someone who grew up on a farm in rural India, shared a room with an NRI whose exposure to India was mostly as a tourist. Needless to say, the social interactions were fascinating! In hindsight, the blurring of such boundaries of class, caste, language and geography had, perhaps unbeknownst to us at the time, a deep impact on all of us and made us better, more empathetic people.

4. What is your take on the role of academics, internships, co-curricular activities and extra-curricular activities during law school? How should law students go about building their CVs?

For most law schools, I believe one should not let the classroom interfere with their legal education – academic or otherwise. This is not to say that classes are unimportant, but that they represent less than a quarter of the entire law school experience. One must try the various activities on offer on campus. On the other hand, participation in any law school activities should not be out of peer pressure, compulsion or dogma. Five years is a long period of time to focus on activities in a mechanical fashion driven solely by concerns of building a CV. I therefore favoured co-curricular activities which I genuinely enjoyed. For instance, if you do not enjoy mooting, its okay to concentrate on other activities you enjoy. It won’t be too much of a stretch to say that you are much more likely to excel at activities you enjoy. One must also avoid the pitfalls of trying to do “everything” and spreading yourself too thin. FOMO is a real problem on campus. It does pay to try everything but ultimately it is best to focus on select areas.

5.  What internships did you do during law school and what was the role of these internships in shaping your career?

In my first year at law school, I got some very useful advice from an alumnus on the subject to internships. She said that five years of law school with approximately 3 months of vacation each year will easily afford in aggregate more than a year’s worth of work experience to try out and experiment with any of area of law that I fancied. Accordingly, my first internship was with a legal-aid NGO that gave me the opportunity to assist them on a field-trip across rural Madhya Pradesh holding legal awareness workshops at local prisons and juvenile homes. It was an eye-opening journey both as a law student and as a human being. Following my participation in a tax-law moot, I interned at KPMG’s tax advisory arm focusing on advising on transfer pricing issues. An introduction to corporate law propelled me towards internships at HSA Advocates and J. Sagar Associates. It will not be an understatement to say that the latter internships have disproportionately contributed towards my training as a lawyer and I will always be grateful to these firms and the lawyers there who generously gave me their time.

6.   What do you think are the problems with the Indian education system and what would you suggest our readers to do to overcome them?

The loaded question notwithstanding, it is important to note that our education system is built to provide predictable, reliable education for the masses of India. The flipside of the same is a lack of flexibility and a resistance to innovation and radical change. As a country, there is an ever-widening gap between the prosperous and globalised urban middle-class and the majority 85% that still lives on subsistence farming in rural India. Given our limited resources, it is equally important to have policies that promote a predictable level of instruction as it is to cater to the requirements of elite students. A meaningful change in a democratic welfare society, by its very nature almost always takes several years of sustained efforts to come to fruition. However, as a start I believe identifying high performing institutions and giving them the administrative and legal freedom to implement radical change will go a long way in helping satiate the needs of both Indias.

7.   Tell us something about your experience with Ikigai Law and with Trilegal.

I was one of the early employees of Ikigai (then TRA) and had the good fortune of helping the firm go from 3-4 fee-earners to over 15 in a period of over 4 years. For most of us who were a part of the firm in its early days, our time spent there helped many of us find our “Ikigai” in that we passionately and aggressively went after our vision to build a capable technology law firm. Driven by the common objective of providing world-class legal services to emerging tech companies, my time at Ikigai led me to work with some of the most interesting people and some of the most forward areas of the law.

Trilegal, is the next big adventure for me as a lawyer. In many ways, it shares the same DNA as TRA but affords me a much larger canvas to paint on. Having had considerable experience in working with ventures in their early stages, my work at Trilegal helps me be there for companies at later stages of their life-cycle work on problems which were pipe-dreams for early-stage companies. Trilegal’s depth and breadth of knowledge and experience allows us to cater to clients comprehensively. There is always someone around who has solved the same problem for another client in a different context and they are always happy to share their experiences with you.

8.   What are the biggest challenges an associate is likely to face in the first year of starting their career and what would your advice be to fresh graduates?

I see most first-year associates go about their job as they would their internship. The internship is more like a sprint, and when you come in for your first job as an associate it pays to be mindful that here onwards it’s not a sprint but a long-distance run. So conserve your energy, take time to set your life in order and work with a mindset that you’re in it for the long-haul. Resignations fueled by fatigue or burn-outs is almost a cliché. There is nothing wrong with quitting your first job, but it’s important to make sure that it is not driven largely by fatigue that can be managed by some adjustments.

9. Is there anything you’d like to tell the Non-NLU students who face various problems such as lack of internship opportunities and Day-Zero placements?

I went to an NLU so I may not be very well-paced to give advice here. I do empathise with a lack of opportunities. From my experience, there are always opportunities for competent lawyers. I would suggest that one works on constantly up-skilling themselves and take steps towards becoming a better lawyer. Lastly, in the words of Edmund Burke, “Our patience will achieve more than our force.”

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