Ipshita Dey, In-house law practice

IPSHITA DEY

Ipshita is a corporate legal attorney and is one of the best in her field. Rightfully recognized for her expertise in corporate affairs, drafting, and alternate dispute resolution skills, Ipshita has interned for Supreme Court advocates and various legal firms and is currently a legal manager at a U.S. $2.7 billion enterprise Welspun Group.

Interviewed by Ghazal Bhootra

INTERVIEWER

What intrigued and drove you to follow the profession of corporate law?

IPSHITA DEY

You would have noticed how people are driven and want to idolize Harvey Specter and be like him when they enter law school. It was not the same for me since I was never interested in corporate law and law in general. My first brush with lawyers was at an embassy party where the Indian ambassadors I met had initially been lawyers and then went into foreign services. I was sure I wanted to do something of that kind. When I joined law school, I was confident that I wanted to become a lawyer and move to civil services. I also during the course of time, considered joining the judiciary or practicing law. Then in my 3rd or 4th year, I did an internship with this mid-sized but long-established firm called Manilal Kher Ambalal, but work given was very intense and hands-on. This was around 2017 or 2018, when the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code had just been introduced, and everyone was excited about it. Despite my reluctance, I joined the insolvency team. I realized that there was so much more to corporate law than mere dry transactions, it also deals change in the market and how it drives change in people.

I had a prejudice towards corporate law as a subject, coming from a traditional law school like ILS Pune which has given the country and the world several fantastic litigators and judges. Still, I started getting a drive towards it due to my experience. I started reading about it, why a particular law was introduced, how it will work, and how it is different and then started researching it. I did my diploma in corporate laws from ILS whilst completing my law degree. I found it fun and then took up securities law as an elective and had a fantastic professor who was a practicing C.S., Mr. Gaurav Pingle. It was entertaining, and I was inquisitive to find out more about it, and this was basically how it started.

INTERVIEWER

Coming to your conversation about diplomas, you have done two or three diplomas?

IPSHITA DEY

Yes, coming to that, I have done three diplomas in corporate law, media & telecomm laws and cyber laws.

INTERVIEWER

So how have these diplomas helped you in shaping your career in the present?

IPSHITA DEY

Firstly, I did not pick these diplomas thinking how they would look on my C.V. which I have realised a lot of my peers do, I did it because I wanted to know more about them and because I wanted to explore the depth in modern fields and explore if I would want to pick it up for my career. I would like to tell you how they have helped me very early on. They give a perspective on the practicality aspect of law. The course structures were excellent, the best faculty and practitioners coming and interacting with you, you learn a lot. The field contains far more than 150 to 300 pages of your bare legal text. The law today is in place due to the current economic conditions. Then you have these practitioners who tell you about this elementary stuff about strategies, transactions, proceedings. This tells you very minute and crisp details, which leads to perfection of your end goals like: if the transaction has gone through, is the matter solved, and if you close a specific deal.

This is why I would suggest that when you choose a diploma, choose it not because it adds to your resumé but because it makes you more interested in a particular field. And the most important thing about getting a good diploma is having a good faculty, good practitioners, and a good course structure. I have seen so many courses which have come up online which I would implore everyone to take, keeping in mind that it does not only add to your C.V. but also your interest. It would not be as significant as a degree. Still, it would give an excellent impression to your employer that you care about your academic education and are willing to go beyond what is mandatory. Finally, my advice would be to pick a good course, do a little bit of research about it and learn more.

INTERVIEWER

This is an excellent piece of advice because I have not seen lawyers advising us to do a diploma or to do a particular course of such kind.

IPSHITA DEY

No, when the lawyers would tell you not to do a diploma, they would mainly mean that it’s just a piece of paper that would not decide anything. I would agree that it has to make you more interested and helps you learn something rather than just doing it for its sake. So yes, quality over quantity, in my opinion.

INTERVIEWER

What advice would you give to students who would be looking to go into being an in- house legal counsel in terms of their C.V., Resume, or skill-building?

IPSHITA DEY

So, I believe that the primary difference between a law firm, associate, and in-house counsel is that you will always be in a specific team in a law firm. If you have been assigned work with different groups, you will be working for a particular field. When you become a special counsel in that specific field, the level of expertise will be excellent but you might be limited to only that field. For example, if you are a fantastic Funds expert lawyer, you may not know much about labour law or I.P. law. This is what you will experience when you join a firm as an associate instead of an in-house counsel. But as an in-house counsel, you will be dealing with everything, including your labour laws, H.R., banking and finance, and making resolutions, securities, corporate transactions like M&A, etc. You get a commercial perspective because you are invested in a business since now you know what you are doing and why you are doing it in a certain way. For example, today, I want to bid for this particular company or acquire it, so as a firm associate client wants me to do that duly, so I am going to draft a SPA or an SHA as opposed to an in-house lawyer you will know why you are investing there, the market scenario will be apparent to you then the reaction of your shareholders, promoters and how they would admire it. Those who know off the bat what they want to specialise in, firstly well done to them because they are focused and know what particular field they want and, in the end, they would come out as an expert in that field and have experienced no one else has as opposed to those who are exploring, they should work as a general counsel to understand more about this field. This is the primary difference between these two and works culture is the same then you have fantastic law firm teams, pathetic law firm teams, good in-house roles, and pathetic in-house roles where you will get more of client-related work and not the job you want and a type of work where you will not need to apply your mind. Still, I would tell you that it is not much different when you start working because the deadlines are the same at the end of the day. You are still networking and socializing with the same set of people who are your colleagues and peers, and everyone respects each other. It could be toxic; empowering all this depends on the management is what I think is a difference, but the work is different from the work culture.

INTERVIEWER

Also, the second part of the question was how students should hone their legal skills or skill-building or resumes in terms of in-house instead of law firms?

IPSHITA DEY

I have seen that an in-house team wants a different variety of things. Still, according to my experience, if you are a well-rounded person, you will go far more ahead than narrowing yourself down to these specific things. My advice to anyone deciding to pursue law as a subject and then have a career in it would be to do everything – moots debates, publications. And if you are thinking that some articles and research papers are intimidating and that you may not get published, then start writing your own blog. Because at the end of the day, it is sharing your knowledge with the world and learning more in that process. Also, do a lot of extra- curriculars like drama, dance, music, etc, and do not limit yourselves to only academics. Whatever is your heart’s desire, go out and be a well-rounded person. This helps you know that you have an inclination towards something and then start reading more about that activity or improvise your skills in that particular activity and try to do everything possible you can do.

When we are interviewing freshers, we are looking for people who have an appetite for learning. For someone coming to the field completely green, I don’t expect you to have experience because that is contrary to reality. But I do hope you have an appetite for learning to want and to do better and brilliantly. This goes a long way ahead, showcasing that you want to do different things and telling you that you have done so many other things. But do some courses, moots, and publications. And if there is something you shine at, definitely pursue that and put that in your C.V., for example, if you think you are good at social work, do that and put it in your C.V. These are tiny things which catch someone’s eyes when we look at a C.V. because we are always looking for someone who is not a part of a crowd and is something more.

INTERVIEWER

In your opinion, is it possible to use e- consultation facilities to expedite policy decisions on corporate law?

IPSHITA DEY

It is an excellent move on the part of our legislators. I feel many people would get restricted from sending out their suggestions and recommendations to laws and regulations that the government and regulators put out before, when it was physically based. Now this has become much easier to share, less time-consuming, and because it’s in digital or electronic form and is far easier to collate, research, and conclude on this data for the government. Electronic communication has boomed in these last two years because we understand the importance and potential of electronic communication.

INTERVIEWER

Have you experienced a case that made you re-evaluate your thinking or perspective?

IPSHITA DEY

I will be frank with you. I think every case makes you re-evaluate your perspective.

For example, with dispute resolution, when you leave law school, you have a particular perspective. I want to win this. I have this particular point, and yeah, this might take six months more, but ultimately, it’s about winning the case at any cost. While working and while litigating certain matters, I realized that it is not always about winning but ultimately getting what your client wants or, per se, in this case, what my management wants. It may not be to win the case; it may be to cut down the losses, expedite the matter, retain a relationship and quickly settle and resolve a dispute. I am telling this from a dispute resolution point of view, but every case or transaction comes with its challenges and perspective and adds value to how you view the problem and ultimately what your solution will be. There was this one arbitration I had worked on: a provisional application we were making to the High Court. We thought that we had a pretty good case and argued before the bench for 4 days straight . I thought that this was definitely in the bag, there’s no way the order can come in the opposite party’s favour. And yet, we did not get the relief we wanted. However, even in this loss, it was interesting to note how the opposite parties argued the matter, and why although the same advocate represented these opposite parties, one party took a certain stand and the other did not, how the judge had ultimately drafted the order and the little nuances that we could only realise in retrospect. It was a very recent experience. Sometimes when you feel you have all the cards in your favour, things might turn out it’s not. You cannot be 100 percent fully prepared for these things, and the best you can do is learn from them. I think every matter opens your eyes up, and you might feel a certain way while you’re doing it, but retrospectively you are most likely going to feel differently about every matter you get.

INTERVIEWER

According to the changing trends in the corporate world, which specialization do you think has the most scope today?

IPSHITA DEY

This is a fascinating question. I would say that there is no such specialization that has the best or maximum scope and I will tell you why. You have to define your goals. When you enter into the field without thinking only about how much scope there is but without knowing whether or not you’re really interest in it, you will only do so much. Try instead researching about the subject matter and field of law itself, find out which field and what about it interests you, knowing what you want to do and where you want to be. You will fulfil your goals and reach a point of success regardless of what the industry says, or what the newspapers say. For example, even in corporate laws also for that matter, there are many specializations – M&A, capital markets, competition law, insolvency law, etc.

The importance of a certain field of law is subject to change and so will the scope of the said profession. The market, economic situation, and structure are all going to be changing- this is not stagnant, it’s actually very dynamic. To answer your question, I don’t think there is any one particular subject that has most scope.

INTERVIEWER

Circling back to our original discussion about how the corporate field keeps on changing, there are new updates every day. So how do you keep up with it, and how do you keep up with so many things coming at you?

IPSHITA DEY

To be honest with you, you will not at all times be able to keep up with everything happening – it is not humanly possible. If you try to keep up with everything, you will end up overwhelming yourself I can tell you what I do though. I usually browse PRS India once a week. They publish all the bills and the acts in one consolidated page as they become available. It also tells you about the various notifications about what the government has brought about and the specific rules they are introducing. I would suggest going and taking a look at that because sometimes you may know what is happening before it takes effect and that gives you an edge.

The second thing I do is read the plain bare text of law first. Because nothing will give you more perspective than that will. It’ll help you critically analyse that the content and the context and perhaps even predict the effect of the law. After this, there are firm newsletters, articles, research papers on that particular subject or on that act or bill or amendment. These can help you see how your views are different from the next person of that field and eventually how the Courts interprets that. One of my favourite newsletters is from Nishith Desai. Their research articles and research papers happen to be quite exhaustive and in-depth, and they cover almost everything. You can keep a track of their website. You can also subscribe to firm’s newsletters, and you will keep getting regular articles. It’s how I go about it though everyone has their methods.

INTERVIEWER

Do you have any parting advice to give to our students?

IPSHITA DEY

I understand that because of attending law school remotely and online, the experience is not exactly the same, but try doing as much as you can and learning more about different aspects and career roles. If you are interested in ADR – mediation as a practice will pick up soon, arbitration has already picked up. Try looking into becoming members of various institutes like MCIA that is Mumbai Centre for International Arbitration which has its peer group called Young MCIA, where they host a lot of events for young students and practitioner like ourselves to learn more about the field. Go ahead, do more courses, do moots, debates, extra-curriculars and learn more; figure out what you want to do, and I am 100 percent sure you will figure out how to get to where you want to be as soon as you figure out what you want to do. And do not be afraid of exploring, trust me it’s never too late to start or pick up something.

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