Clarissa D’Lima, Real Estate Practice

CLARISSA D’LIMA

Clarissa, alumni of Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, is an associate at Fox Mandal. Her specialisation lies in Real Estate. She has also previously held the position of Editor-in-chief of the Publication Committee.

Interviewed by Ghazal Bhootra

INTERVIEWER

Please tell us about yourself.

CLARISSA D’LIMA

I am a 2021 batch graduate of KPMSoL. I joined NMIMS in 2016, and at that time, the college was new. Law school itself was a very new concept to me. But I think I just had a wonderful bunch of friends around and wonderful faculty who were always there to guide me. The five years with friends, faculty, and the learning I have had, have all built me into what I am now. With regard to my career path, somewhere in the fourth year, I gained an interest in real estate, and then a couple of internships in real estate worked out for me. Currently, I am an Associate with the Real Estate Team of Fox Mandal and Associates.

INTERVIEWER

Considering your past experience, how did you gravitate towards internships in the real estate area? Why did you choose real estate?

CLARISSA D’LIMA

So, till the third year of law school, our college itself had a pattern wherein every year we would have to intern with a stipulated type of institution. For instance, in the first year the mandate was to do an NGO internship, thus, my first year went completely for NGO internships. Then from the second to the third year, I took up internships in litigation and my third internship in litigation was in real estate litigation. This was in the second semester of my third year. Then, I got the opportunity to intern with CAM (Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas) in the first semester of my fourth year. As you know, at CAM, everyone’s first option is likely to be corporate law. But because of the impression of my preceding internship, I wanted to explore real estate on the transactional side. So, at CAM, I gave real estate as my first preference and it worked out because, in CAM, you might not always get as per your preference. Moving forward, I got my internship and I did really well. That is when I realized that real estate was the practice area I wanted to go forward with. One more reason for this is because I never had a commerce background as I had taken Arts in higher secondary as well. Therefore, my only area of interest was in the social sector, but litigation was not a viable option for me as a first-gen lawyer. I wanted something which could balance out not going for corporate and wanting to go for litigation. Another factor was that I also liked the kind of work it had. So, that is just how it worked out after my internship at CAM.

Then, I tried applying for other internships in real estate to make sure that this was actually something I wanted to go for and not just a momentary fascination, and I got an opportunity to intern with Hariani in May 2020, but due to the lockdown, I missed out on that. Later in May 2020, we had a virtual webinar conducted by the current Practice Head of Real Estate of Fox Mandal and Associates, which was conducted by the Placement Cell. There, I just asked a random question to clear a doubt and that became instrumental in getting an internship with the Real Estate Team of Fox Mandal. Thereafter I interned with the Real Estate team for about five months in between July 2020- Februaruy 2021 (with a break in between). This internship was a virtual one but everything worked itself out!

INTERVIEWER

What, according to you, are some qualities or skills that enable a first-generation lawyer or law student to get into a top firm as you did?

CLARISSA D’LIMA

I think as a first-generation lawyer, the most important thing you need to understand is research, as you do not have the privilege of having law being discussed at your dinner table every day. It is not like you know how it works on the practical side. What you need to do is read books and do research online. If you learn how to navigate through that and research, it will help you to a large extent. This is because if you join a firm as an intern or a trainee, your seniors would not have the time to go and check out cases and see what fits where. You should be able to grasp what the matter is and what kind of cases you can bring out. You should be able to do the same even in terms of laws, as there are numerous statutes and no one knows all of them. Even if you are able to bring out which statutes and policies apply to a particular matter, that will help a lot.

For research, one of the things you will also need to do is paying attention to lectures in class. Many will not be paying attention because it is theory based learning. But you never know when the theory taught will come to your aid. Listening in class is something you can do very easily, so make up your mind to do it. Your faculty has gained a level of experience and when they give you anecdotes of what they have learned, it helps. For example, the faculty gives an illustration in class and two years down the line, if one gets a research query on a similar issue, then at that point, if what the faculty said clicks, it is much easier for you to understand what to search on. If a particular case or a landmark case has been discussed in class, one may also connect that to the matter at hand. Doing research and being attentive is something that you have at your disposal and you can make good use of it.

Thirdly, if you are good at your networking skills, that also helps. I think after the pandemic, you have platforms like LinkedIn that have become more popular and help you with this, but you need to be cautious about whom you are going to connect with and how you interact with them. Networking is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some might be good at interactions, and some might not be. But that being said, research and being in class is something that is always there with you. These are things that you can work around with.

INTERVIEWER

So, what do you think made your resume particularly stand out, like in terms of your internships or whatever you did in your extracurricular, co-curricular activities? What was the highlight?

CLARISSA D’LIMA

In my case, my resume did not help a lot because what my mentor saw was my interest and keenness in real estate. So having a real estate engagement helped me out. I think that is one thing firms will also look out for. If you have an internship experience towards your fourth/fifth year in  a particular area, that helps a lot. Secondly, the top firms, will also see your marks. So, no matter how much you say that marks do not matter or that marks are just a sheet of paper (though at times, that might be the case), recruiters they will consider your marks. If not your marks, then they will see how your mooting is. My moot experience has not been great and there is not much to it. But if you are good at moots and have gone for international moots, that helps out.

So, marks, moots, and also your research papers. If you have published in a good journal, especially an NLU journal, that helps a lot. These three things should be a part of your resume. It might be the case that one thing is more and other thing is less. In my case, grades were comparatively good but there is not much on mooting and publications. Everything might not be there, but make sure that there is one area that you are good at, which shows up and stands out. You can work this one thing to your advantage.

INTERVIEWER

What are the lessons you think your juniors looking to enter the field of real estate should know? What are your experiences that they can learn from?

CLARISSA D’LIMA

This will take me back to my previous answer again. Firstly, pay attention in class because your first connection with real estate, if you do not have the chance to intern with a real estate firm, is going to be your lectures on land law. Ninety percent of the students will find land law to be a boring subject. In my case, out of the forty-eight students in my class, hardly five of us had the interest to learn the subject. If you want to go for real estate, I would suggest pay attention in land law lectures and do not go with the herd that thinks it is a boring subject. At least give it a try and explore the subject. You have a course of, say, four months. At least try it for one and a half month and see how it goes for you. If you feel like you have no interest in the end, then you can walk out. Secondly, try it out through an internship. These are the two main points.

Then there is one more point if you are really interested in real estate. There is a lot of scope under RERA [Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016] now. As you know, RERA has come out quite recently and has made the process of dispute resolution faster for home buyers. There is a lot of scope for real estate litigation in this area. You can also try it out in combination with litigation and real estate both. You will have that leeway where you can also do more of real estate compared to other litigation matters. RERA is an excellent area to read up on. Since it is a new law, cases are still coming up. If you keep track of it, it will considerably help you in your internship interviews in real estate practice as well.

INTERVIEWER

The real estate sector is probably one of the areas that have been very gravely affected by the pandemic. So, did you see any representation of that in the legal aspect? How was it through the pandemic?

CLARISSA D’LIMA

So far what I have come across is that builders are very cautious with what clauses go into a contract, particularly on ensuring that change in laws and policies on account of a situation like pandemic should not count in the period of their default towards completion of a project. Not just builders but also for companies investing in commercial projects, industrial or even residential projects. Across all sub-sectors, one point of caution is that the Client’s interests are secured in case of a situation like a pandemic. All kinds of indemnities and termination clauses are given closer attention to take care of the pandemic aspect. That is one thing I have seen. Secondly, I have seen it affect rent because, as you know, it has been a very long lockdown, and it has caused many landlords to lose out on their chance to get their rent. That is something to  take care of,  but it should be a safeguard that is built into the contract itself. I think one of the major changes that have come, for me, is that people are paying more attention to these areas for the first time. The main thing to remember is how you safeguard your interests through contracts. Right now, during this period of lockdown, the correct type of clause is not there, so there is not much to contest. On the litigation side, things have been rather calm. There is not much happening there till now. However, once clauses are open, you might have numerous cases coming up and a new distance coming in. That is a thing to watch out for but, again, it is based mainly on the contract’s safeguards.

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