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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are of the fictional Indian lawyer in London, Nandii Reywal.  The author has no political or other agenda and may or may not agree with Nandii. Disclaimer 2: Let me make it clear...
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Greetings! A very happy Friday to all you fine people out there! Some of you will be relaxing this weekend (good for you, well deserved!). Most of you, sadly, will be working this weekend (tough luck, I feel your pain). To...
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You love some. You hate most. Given that you will spend most of your adult life working for them, the associate life unfortunately is such that you cannot ignore them. Bosses. Having worked for a wide variety, I’ve put together some...
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Disclaimer 1: The title for this post has nothing to do with Opal Mehta. Kaavya’s got the all the intellectual property for that one (snigger snigger!) Disclaimer 2: This post was conceived a couple of months ago. Recent occurrences have no...
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It’s been a long time since my last post. 508 days to be precise as Thomson “without a P as in Venezuela” might say. 508 misery-filled, back-breaking days spent hunched over my keyboard at Bradbury and Laithrose churning out meaningless documents...
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  Ever since I quit my job at Colby, Hewitt & Richards LLP last year to take up employment at the London office of the US firm Bradbury & Laithrose, it has become increasingly clear to me that things are looking...
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[Aside from the jokes begging to be made about the lead singer of U2, I would like to state for the record that this is a very serious post.]   Before the QLTS scheme came into effect this month, qualifying in...
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As I sit in my ergonomically designed chair and look out of my office window (a favourite pastime), my mind wanders to the dangers of being a lawyer in today’s day and age.  While lawyers of the past have faced angry...
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It’s been exactly a month since my last post. 

In the meantime, I have worked on and closed three multi-million pound deals, forgotten several important family birthdays, missed social events and temporarily lost the ability to tell which day of the week it is.

While in itself this is not particularly shocking, it inevitably leads me to the question- are corporate lawyers happy with the way their lives are turning out?

I asked around and while most of our ilk basks in the glorious sunshine of the corporate life, the few that are disgruntled have certain complaints.

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1. Ticket to Ride (Year: 1965; Album: Help!; Authors: Lennon with McCartney)

 Any journey to Dante’s Fourth Circle of Hell (Avarice and Prodigality) starts in law school where (without the services of Chris Nolan’s dream-inducing protagonist) the idea is planted in young, impressionable minds that picking up a corporate job is the ultimate mark of success in law school. The brightest, i.e., who land a job with Ramachand & Saunf are regarded with the sort of awe that was previously reserved for the dashing opening bat that knocked off a century in the first ten overs of the final house match. The mental picture painted is one of a room full of geniuses pulling ideas out of the proverbial hat to solve complex legal problems that would boggle the ordinary mind. Inevitably, one aspires to be the object of such reverence.

In most cases, however, what follows is disappointingly anti-climactic. As Folly Nariman points out in her entry Due Diligence and Dreaming Beyond It., the work can be desperately mind-numbing and after a while even the most enthusiastic worker is aware that he/she has been lured into and trapped in an Indonesian sweatshop. Upon identification of this fact, some quit pretty quickly and take up the fine arts. Others switch firms every couple of years hoping that they come across something that excites them. The rest grumble a bit about being sold a dummy pass, but decide to take one on the chin and continue on with the ride.

2. I’ll Keep You Satisfied (Year: 1963, Single; Authors: McCartney with Lennon)

Corporate lawyers are in a service industry wherein the retention of clients is a significant aspect. Fulfilling every little client whim and fancy is the corporate lawyer’s avowed goal and mission. If the lawyer doesn’t deliver to their exacting expectations, clients will simply up and go someplace else humming the Rolling Stones signature anthem. To guard against this, the corporate lawyer sleeps with one eye on his/her blinking red BlackBerry and when he/she buys a suit, he/she buys two jackets to go with it- one to leave on his/her office chair in the rare instances he/she goes home, just to make sure everyone knows he/she remains at their beck and call at all times.

3. A Hard Days Night (Year: 1964; Album: A Hard Day’s Night; Author: Lennon)

As a direct offshoot of my point above, it is a well known fact hours can be pretty bad at law firms leaving lawyers little time for anything else. As a result, law firms see some of the highest attrition rates across the board. In India, it is rumoured that a huge factor contributing to this is the conscious understaffing of law offices to boost profitability, the operating logic being the abundance of eager law graduates waiting and willing to step into the shoes of those who refuse to bear the donkey-load any longer. Each time, however, the fact being conveniently ignored is that the investment made by the firm in training these people is lost when they leave, thus exacerbating the understaffing issue and a pretty vicious cycle ensues. While conditions in the UK are slightly better, the billable hour centric law firm model ensures that associates keep their nose to the grindstone. From bonuses to appraisals to redundancies, it all comes down to the number of hours recorded.

Since the corporate lawyer bathes, brushes, eats, sleeps, prays and parties at the office itself, I am severely tempted to ask the question why they end up working a job they abhor to pay the rent for that fancy apartment they don’t even get to live in.

4. With A Little Help From My Friends (Year: 1967; Album: Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band; Authors: Lennon and McCartney)

Any law firm worth its salt has a highly charged, competitive atmosphere. It’s what you get when you put a set of very bright, ambitious and politically astute people in an enclosed environment. A law firm isn’t a place for the lily-livered. The soft underbellies are identified early and slaughtered mercilessly. While Darwin’s survival of the “fittest” theory doesn’t quite fit the bill here (See Volenti "Non Fit" Injuria), Mario Puzo’s advice on chilling more with your enemies than your friends is practised widely. For example, since being slightly paranoid makes better lawyers, newbies are advised to be wary of each other, as a verbal slip during a night out drinking could make all the difference at the next round of promotions. Often, it does and life lessons of distrust are learnt.

5. When I’m Sixty-Four (Year: 1967; Album: Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band; Author: Lennon)

A lot of corporate lawyers are now concerned about how they will feel when they take a look back at their lives. Ironically, it’s this maniacal self-obsession that makes them such great lawyers in the first place. Their main worry, of course, is that they won’t have too much in their biographies which will be rated PG-13. Few corporate lawyers (for no fault of theirs I might add) have had time for things like justice, making a difference and helping the disadvantaged. Bill Gates (who ranked 8th as a “Hero of our Times”) and his humanitarian philanthropy, therefore, is now turning out to be a dangerous influence on corporate lawyers. 

Also, there are only so many pages over which one can stretch hostile takeover negotiations, irrespective of how brilliantly they may have been carried on.

6. Can’t Buy Me Love (Year: 1964; Album: A Hard Day’s Night; Author: McCartney)

The natural retort any semi-intelligent reader would have is why all the complaining when the corporate lawyer is paid so handsomely. Some would call it being hypocritical since the corporate lawyer was under no obligation to sell his/her soul. Undoubtedly, the argument has its merits, but as any self-respecting life guru will tell you a hefty bank balance will get you a titillating lap-dance but the nice lady won’t be waiting up to listen to you whine when you get home after a bad day.

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Admittedly, I probably fall on the more whiny side of things so my vision might be slightly skewed. But my limited survey tells me that I’m not alone.

Happiness, they sang, is a warm gun.

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[Click here to read The Recruit: Part 1]

It was a bright and sunny Monday morning. Dressed nattily in my best suit and carrying my certificates in a lucky folder, I stepped out of my hotel to catch the tube to Moorgate station. I already knew that the journey should take me about seventeen minutes and thirty-one seconds door-to-door having used a stopwatch to time my earlier expedition. This gave me an hour to spare- enough time to reach there and compose myself mentally.

Then, two things happened:

One, when I stepped out of the Moorgate tube station, I was appalled to find that it was raining. I had not accounted for the gloriously uncertain English weather.

Two, since I hadn't noted down which exit I had used earlier, I was completely lost. Moorgate station has eight exits.

After exploring each exit in turn, I found the right exit and waited for the rain to abate. It showed no signs of stopping. The clock was ticking and since I had absolutely no desire to walk into my first ever interview looking like a drowned rat, I paid a visit to the station store and was soon the proud owner of an umbrella (1 Nos., £10). I reached the office ten minutes before my interview was scheduled to start. Heaving a sigh of relief, I let the good-looking girl at the reception know that I had arrived. 

While I waited for someone to get me, I let my eye wander around the room. Expensive furniture, opulent oak-panelled doors and walls covered with tasteful pieces of art confirmed that the setting was carefully calculated to impress and/or intimidate the outsider. It definitely worked. I wondered if I belonged here.

A quarter of an hour later, I looked up to see a very thin and slightly surly looking lady walking up to me. As she came closer, I saw that she was in her late twenties but for some strange reason, she reminded me of the matron from my boarding school days. Perhaps this was because she wore her reading glasses at the absolute end of her long nose and looked at me from above them, making me feel a bit like a twelve-year old insect to be squashed underfoot. I put on my best smile and we exchanged greetings. She informed me, in her prim voice, that she was Janine, the graduate recruitment officer, and that I should follow her to the interview room. My knees shaking, I followed her obediently in complete silence.

We reached the interview room and the interrogation began:

Janine: Would you like tea or coffee?

Nandii: I'll just have some water, thank you.

(Bob's comments: I thought it best to avoid an embarrassing and potentially irreversible spillage on a suit I might need for future interviews.)

Janine: Still or sparkling?

Nandii: Still, thank you.

(Bob comments: I could not fathom for the life of me why she had offered me plain soda. I declined because I was not sure how much the combination of harmonic flatulence and rumbling noises from my stomach would impress my interviewer. However, given the state of my nerves. if she added some whisky to that "sparking water" I would have been more than willing to give it a shot.)

Janine: Shall we begin then?

Nandii: Yes, please.

(Bob's comments: The matron was my interviewer- great! This made me re-assess my place in the universe since I didn't even merit a fee-earner after being flown 6,000 miles.)

 Janine: So what influenced your decision to study law?

Nandii: Well, I have had a passion for logical reasoning and a flair for language from an early age. It seemed logical to combine the two and law presented me with the perfect career option.

(Bob's comments: Of course, I cleverly omitted to mention the part where I did abysmally in my board exams so no other college would touch me with a barge pole. Also how I I fluked the entrance test and scraped through four years of law school.)

 Janine: Why did you choose London?

Nandii: London has historically been an important international business centre. Also, since it is a cosmopolitan city and is reaping the rewards of the current financial boom it would be the ideal place for me to start my legal career.

(Bob's comments: In 2005, each British Pound could be traded in for 88 Indian rupees. For a fuller list of reasons of why I chose London please see- All aboard the Brain Drain Express?)

 Janine: Why did you choose Colby, Hewitt and Richards? What makes us different from our competitors?

Nandii: Apart from being known world-wide for its transactional expertise, Colby, Hewitt and Richards is reputed to be the firm for the go-getter. Unlike other firms, being highly ambitious is not seen as a bad thing here. As hard work, vision and creativity are rewarded richly here, it seems a natural choice for me.

(Bob's comments: Competitive cut-throats employed by the firm did not figure in my decision-making at all. Simply put, the firm had paid for my friend's trip to Madame Tussuad's and it seemed like an easy con to pull. Other firms were smarter and did not fall for it.)

 Janine: What would you say is the main thing that motivates you?

Nandii: The desire to learn and prove myself the best in my field is my greatest motivation.

(Bob's comments: A blatant lie. Sex with hot chicks- even the possibility of it- was and still is my greatest motivator. Money comes in a close second.)

 Janine: How do you react to high pressure situations?

Nandii: One of my best assets is the ability to thrive on pressure. I am a calm and collected person who focuses on solutions and reaching the best results for all concerned parties. 

(Bob's comments: I've always reacted well to such a situation. I face it every morning. Sometimes twice or thrice a day when I have eaten a dodgy curry. In fact, I sensed a high-pressure situation building even as I answered the question.)

Janine: What is more important- your job or your salary?

Nandii: Money is important but only to an extent. I think I would be quite happy doing what I love even if it wasn't very lucrative. Money always follows success.  

(Bob's comments: I didn't know why I was being asked this question. If I didn't love the money, I wouldn't be at the interview. I would be working with an NGO in a remote village, helping people who were distressed by more than the latest rise in customs duty.)

Janine: If you were an animal, which one would you be?

Nandii: A horse, because horses are hard-working, versatile and dependable.

(Bob's comments: I think the sloth bear would have described me best since I regularly spent 20 hours a day in dreamland. My greatest fear has always been the TV remote being out of reach.)

Janine: If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Nandii: That's an easy one- it would have to be you, because that way I would be able to learn all sorts of things about the firm from an insider. Also, the firm would pick up the tab.  

(Bob's comments: Why on earth would I want to fantasize about taking a dead person to dinner? Creepy. Also, this way I could poison Janine's drink while she powdered her nose and rid the world of the matron menace.) 

Then, two things happened:

One, she turned a deep red and smiled when she heard my last answer. She was blushing.

Two, I realised that unless I said something really stupid, I had got the job.

The rest of the interview was a breeze. We discussed, among other things, the merits of Brick Lane's Chicken Tikka Masala and analysed England's chances on its upcoming cricket tour of India (if you remember we trounced them in 2006). We parted half an hour later on cordial terms.

Three weeks later, I got an offer letter from Colby, Hewitt and Richards LLP along with a handwritten sticky-note from Janine which said simply "Dinner when? My treat". I vowed never to overdo the famed Reywal charm again. This was a price too great to pay. Since the offer letter had no date by which I had to accept, I put it aside...for the moment. Life went on.

A few months later, I received an email from Colby, Hewitt and Richards LLP saying that Miss Katie, the new graduate recruitment officer, would be replacing Miss Janine (who was leaving the firm) and that Katie would be answering any queries I had.

"Bom Chicka Wah Wah" was playing in my head as I couriered my signed acceptance letter to London. 

Nandii Reywal, Trainee Solicitor. I really liked the sound of that.

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When I started law school in the year 2001, most of us would have sold our souls to land a job with Ramachand, Saunf & Family which paid the princely sum of Rs.30,000 per month.  Then, two things happened: One, with...
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It wasn’t always like this. I was a fit, healthy 17 year old when I went to law school. I entered at an underweight 63 kilograms. Seventy-two subjects, three seminar papers and several eating and sleeping disorders later, I exited weighing...
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[The following newsletter found its way into my Spam folder. I thought it was worth sharing.] Barelylegalindia.com/Issue 1 Dear Readers, This has been an eventful week in the industry. Lots to tell. So let’s dive straight into it.  News Waves were...
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[WARNING: This is a longish, dull-ish entry because the weekend has started and I have not many more interesting things to do.] [There you go again, reading this blog entry in the hope of somehow getting through the next five minutes.] It’s...
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