Mimansa Ambastha graduated out of NLU Jodhpur in 2016 with a job offer from Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Ever since then, she has pursued her LL.M. from University of California, Berkeley and now works with Infosys and the Income Tax Department. She has been interviewed by Nisha Gupta, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing her law from NLU Jodhpur.
- Hello, Mimansa! Thank you for agreeing to do this interview with us. Can you tell us a little about yourself for the benefit of our readers?
Hi! I’m a practising privacy, IP and technology lawyer based out of New Delhi, India. I’ve done my LL.B. from NLU Jodhpur and LL.M. with a Certificate of Specialisation in Technology Law from University of California, Berkeley [Mimansa was amongst the top 10 rankers of her batch at NLU Jodhpur; she was placed in the Dean’s List at UC Berkeley]. I currently work with Infosys and the Income Tax Department as a cyber crime and data protection consultant. I’ve previously worked at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, New Delhi as well.
- What motivated you to pursue law?
If you end up (enjoying) arguing vehemently as a child, then find yourself promoted as President of your school’s Debating Society, you’re probably going to end up looking at law as a solid career prospect. Jokes apart, my father taught me early on to enjoy a good debate and appreciate that there is, in fact, no black and white to life. It became the basis for my interest to pursue law.
- Your journey began at NLU Jodhpur in 2011. What can you tell us about your experience at NLUJ?
I think graduate law school becomes this crucial and magnificent turning point in most young law students’ life, and it was no different for me. We grew up and learnt so much more than just what our B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) degree professed. A premier institution such as NLU Jodhpur offers you many opportunities to excel and experiment as you go through the rigors of law school, all within the backdrop of Jodhpur’s old-world charm and 5 years of an eventful hostel life. There was plenty of tough competition amongst peers, many of whom went on to become lifelong friends. It is worth mentioning that being an NLUJ student carries weight in legal professional circles and is something I realised and appreciated (much more) once I left college and stepped into my professional life.
- When it was time for placements, you did not sit for many law firms and were very particular in your selection. You came out with a job offer from CAM. For most law students trying to enter the corporate world, that is a dream job. What would you say helped you land this job opportunity?
Opting for a specialisation in IPR Honours in my fourth and fifth year at NLUJ had drawn me to take up IP practice full time. As fate would have it, I got placed with CAM’s IP Team. In securing placement with CAM, academic performance and a good interview were leading factors, supplemented by a strong set of extra curricular achievements including debating and Model UNs. Interestingly, having only focused on litigation based internships, I didn’t have any prior corporate internship experience with a Tier-I law firm, but it didn’t work against me. Being truly clear about my interests and choice of team also helped a lot during the job interview.
- However, you didn’t have the same “corporate life” as the others usually do – you stayed quite far away from it. What did your work mostly consist of? How was it like working at CAM?
Being in the IP Team (and then the Dispute Resolution Team for a rotation) has its own pace and rhythm – its own kind of mayhem. I got a great chance to experience both transactional IP (assignments, licensing, due diligence etc.) as well as IP litigation (both district courts and high courts), registry related work and advisory matters. I was fortunate to start out under a wonderful team and some exceptionally warm mentors at CAM. Perhaps not many can wholeheartedly say this about corporate firms jobs,but I thoroughly enjoyed my first job at CAM. There was plenty of work-life balance. In addition, the job gave me an added gift – it exposed me to new developments in technology law (our team did both IP and IT law) and sparked off the interest to pursue the same in an LL.M. at UC Berkeley, California, USA.
- After spending 2 years working at CAM, you decided to go for an LLM abroad in 2018. Some people think it tough leaving their well-paying corporate job to pursue higher studies. What made you take this step and choose the specialisation that you did?
While practicing technology law at CAM, I got the opportunity to closely observe and learn about the disruptive changes that technologies such as AI, machine learning, big data etc. can (and do)bring into our lives, and the potential of law and policy to determine their future course. UC Berkeley boasts of the best technology law-based LL.M. in the world, with the added cherry on top being its beautiful Californian bay area location. So, applying there was the logical next step. My team at CAM was extremely supportive and encouraged me to apply. 2 years into a law firm can actually be a good time to leave for an LL.M – you have a decent amount of work ex and you know your capabilities and interests well enough to select the right program for your goals.
- I know it has been a few years since that time, but what can you tell us about the application process? Do you have any tips for those who might be looking forward to applying for such courses?
You need 3-6 months to prepare a decent application at the very least – so prepare well in advance. The statement of purpose (SOP) and scholarship essays take up an enormous amount of time, effort, consideration and rework! Consulting seniors who have been to the same LL.M. school is very helpful in tailoring your application. I would also recommend that you keep an open mind and be patient with your SOP – it’s going to hassle your bones and there’s nothing you can do about it but keep at it! Try working on different drafts so that you don’t get stuck with one frame of mind or structure. Importantly, research different LL.M. programs, the faculty, campus life (talk to alumni), facilities, networking opportunities and visa regulations (important if you want to work abroad post your LL.M.), research opportunities (if you aim to study further, go into research or academia or do a Ph.D. etc.) and cost of living before you decide what school is right for you. The LL.M. should ideally be a stepping-stone in your life, so make sure the school and course are the best for your individual needs and goals.
- UC Berkeley – School of Law. There is certainly a ring to it! I am sure you have got some amazing stories to share so what would you like to tell our readers about life at Berkeley?
UC Berkeley is an amazing place to be, to learn and to grow. The Law School has some incredible faculty, especially for its technology law program. The campus is beautiful and vibrant, and you get to meet fellow students from all over the world and learn alongside them. Bay area housing can be pretty costly, so you may spend a great deal of time finding housing near campus. But once you are settled in, the one-year program tends to fly by. Between classes, events and travelling (plenty of places within Bay Area and USA to travel to), it makes for an unforgettable experience. Pro tip if you’re going to Berkeley – Never, ever, miss a sunset. Also, visit all the vineyards you can – there are plenty in California!
- Being a Certified Information Privacy Professional is another feather in your cap. For the benefit of those who aim to clear it themselves one day, do you have any tips?
Note: CIPP-A is a global credential awarded to lawyers with demonstrated proficiency in key data privacy laws of major Asian economies, including India, Singapore and Hong Kong. It’s awarded by the IAPP (International Association of Privacy Professionals), the largest global association for privacy professionals.
Preparing for CIPP examinations can be extremely gruelling and requires dedicated studying for several weeks. CIPP-Asia requires expertise in data privacy and protection laws of 3 major Asian economies – India, Singapore and Hong Kong – as well as preparation on global privacy principles, latest laws such as EU’s GDPR, and accountability mechanisms such as national data protection authorities. Apart from CIPP-A, there are separate exams for CIPP-EU, CIPP-USA, etc. if you are interested in getting certified for expertise on data privacy laws of said jurisdictions.
There are plenty of free study guides, information on examination structure, syllabus pointers, and paid study material available on IAPP’s website which I made use of. I also kept abreast with latest developments in the privacy laws of major Asian economies. You can sign up for latest data privacy updates using any number of applications or search engines as well. Importantly, focus on applicable based skills because the examination is focussed on testing your ability to apply law to complex fact situations resembling reality. With India getting ready to pass a data privacy legislation of its own, CIPP-A can help certify your expertise on subjects of data privacy which are grabbing everyone’s attention.
- From NLUJ to CAM to Berkeley to working as a Cyber Crime and Data Protection Consultant with the Income Tax Department. What exactly led you to this job with the IT Department and what is it that your work mostly consists of?
Most of the specialisation subjects I studied during my LL.M. were focussed on cyber crime, law enforcement, surveillance, data protection and privacy. I also worked at UC Berkeley’s flagship Cyber-security Clinic, which gave me hands on experience in dealing with some very real threats in the cyberspace and helping victims with their digital safety. That work became a big motivation to return to India and explore how I could contribute to this field back home, considering that billions of Indians have embraced cell phones and gadgets, yet know little when it comes to cyber hygiene.
I shared my resumé with seniors and experts in the technology law field and expressed an interest in seeking out profiles relating to cyber crime, cyber security and data protection. Eventually I found out about this opportunity through a senior in the field and applied, interviewed, and got through the final selection.I got recruited as a cyber-crime and data protection consultant with Infosys and the Income Tax Department.
It is an incredibly interesting and dynamic job. I consult on cyber-crime detection, prevention, law enforcement coordination and post-fraud analysis, amongst other things.The job involves immense exposure to emerging technologies, upcoming conundrums in the digital security and cyber law fields, and a chance to learn from some of the brightest minds around at Infosys and Government alike. As instances of cyber-crime go up in India, so do efforts to prevent and prosecute them. There is truly never a dull day!
11. Can you throw some light on the growing opportunities in the field of cyber and data privacy?
A career in cyber and data protection laws in India can soon become a popular choice for young lawyers, because the conversation around data processes and life cycle management has already started amongst businesses and government agencies. More and more human activities today leave data footprints and create potential asset and liability perspectives for enterprises handling data. The Data Protection Bill and amendments to the Information Technology Act, 2000, are already being extensively reviewed and discussed. Since cross border data transfers are common, external data protection frameworks, such as EU’s GDPR also need to be studied for ensuring compliance. It is thus a question of when, not if, we will need a growing number of legally tech-savvy professionals amongst our bar and bench to address upcoming conundrums surrounding big data, AI and intellectual property, ethical hacking, cyber security etc.
Thus, if young lawyers are looking to enter the domain of cyber security, cyber laws or data protection, now is the time. Increased digital hygiene is one of the primary requirements of our time, and a wide range of professionals will be required to fulfil this demand. Added bonus – you get to combat cyber crime, help in its prevention and detection and enjoy a sense of service, in whatever little or big way, to your clients, victims and society in general!