Mithel Ramesh Reddy on life in law school and importance of internships and subsequent learning experience

Mr. Mithel Ramesh Reddy is currently pursuing his 5th-year B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) from School of Law, CHRIST (Deemed to be University) (SLCU), Bengaluru. As an avid mooter, he has led the Moot Court Society of SLCU and has successfully taken part in many moots, trial advocacy, and ADR competitions. In November 2018, he secured a pre-placement offer (PPO)from the prestigious Tier-1 law firm, AZB & Partners, Bengaluru, and was retained to commence work as an Associate from July 2020. He has been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Mr. Anirudh A Kulkarni on life in law school and how fruitful internships prove a long way forward for any law student.

1.Hello Mithel, how would you describe yourself to our readers?

It seems a little complicated to describe myself in a couple of words, but I’ll try my best. I come from a very orthodox, simple nuclear family and that has had a huge impact in shaping what I am today in terms of my personality. My father is a businessman by profession and having seen him work from close, I’ve learnt a lot about being passionate and disciplined in what we do, which in turn would automatically reap results. Likewise, my mother, a homemaker, is an epitome of hard work, simplicity and patience. Similarly, my grandmother personifies grit and perseverance. I personally feel that I’ve been successful in being inspired and picking up these characteristics from my parents and have absorbed them into my personality, and into what I am today. In short, I am always in the ‘head down, work hard’ mindset in everything I do. I prefer keeping things simple and organised in almost all aspects of life. In my free time, one can either find me in the gym or spot me listening to music or with The Hindu newspaper. My love for sports is never ending and consistent throughout the year, and if given an option to choose a different career, then I would see myself as a cricketer or anything associated with cricket.

2. What drives you towards the field of law?

To be honest, law was never my career option. I had chosen science stream (ISC) in my junior college and was simultaneously undergoing coaching for JEE. Somewhere down the line, I realized that it was not what I really wanted to do. I still did attempt the exams but failed to make it to an IIT. Neither did I have a backup nor did I settle for NIT. At that juncture, my father suggested law as an option. I wrote CLAT with just 2 days of preparation, and made it to 2,000 odd rank.

I then joined SLCU, having absolutely no idea or maturity to understandwhat I had gotten myself into, in terms of the course. I was able to attend only 3 days of the orientation in my first semester and then I was hospitalised for almost 3 weeks due to dengue. Once I returned to class everything around seemed new and it was hard for a science student in me to cope with the Arts subjects. So clearly my entry into this stream was not a first choice, but a consequence of a failure in the competitive exams. Experience has shown how laws are important in every minute aspect of ones’ life, and I’m glad I fell into this field by chance, yet stood as tall as I possibly could.

3. How would you describe your four and a half years of journey at SLCU? 

In the first year at SLCU, I did feel like a fish out of the water, and at least till I went on to win my first trial advocacy competition in the same year. But, during all these years I just made it a point to put in all my efforts and understand what was happening around. These four and a half years have been hard and gruesome, yet satisfying amidst all the CIAs, attendance requirements, semester exams, internships, events, competitions and what not!

After almost half a decade, I can safely conclude that I did manage to survive law school. Our semester breaks are merely internship breaks and as law students we do not have any holidays as such, i.e., if one intends to work every internship break. I myself have not missed a single opportunity to intern during our internship breaks for four continuous years. It was only after the PPO at AZB was confirmed that I spent time holidaying in the summer that followed.

4. Our first interaction was in your second year of law school while we were volunteering for our SLCU NMCC in 2016 and today we are here. How have the times changed? 

Probably more 1000 plus page judgments to read?  

Well, yes I do remember the volunteering days which set the platform for me.  I was not only subjected to first-hand experience of mooting in these competitions we hosted, but also assisted our seniors while drafting propositions or trial advocacy problems as well as bench memorials, which in all ways developed the skills of advocacy, research and drafting.

In my fourth year, I got the opportunity to head the MCS. This was a crucial year as we were to host an International Investment Arbitration Moot in association with Surana & Surana International Attorneys, as well as our flagship National Moot Court Competition. After hosting them and successfully completing the administrative workassociated with MCS, the experience and knowledge gained, not just professionally but also personally, by the end of my tenure, is unmatched.

5. After hosting and taking part in many moots and trials, which do you think is more challenging, participating or organizing?

Organising is more challenging, comparatively. No doubt as a leader you are given over 75 volunteersto assist you in hosting and organising competitions in law school, along with yellow (co-curricular leave) forms, but the fact remains that at the end of the day you are accountable and answerable to the management and faculty. This kind of pressure makes organising more challenging.

However, in the case of participating in moots and trials, this kind of pressure is non-existent. In my opinion, participation in moots or trial competitions is a part of the learning curve where one ends up researching on all aspects of the subject matter of that competition and arguing before well-known members of our legal fraternity. Winning or qualifying in a moot or trial does not finalise anything. However, it is pertinent to ensure that you strengthen key areas and weaknesses in your next competition, compared to the previous one, from the feedback we get.

In case of organising, there is no second chance, like in moot and trial competitions. Hence, in my opinion, organising is more challenging.

6. While one part of law school revolves around academics, moots, organizing events, research papers and the list is endless, on the other side is the practical exposure that we receive through internships. How important are they? 

Organising or participating in moots is a mere step to better yourself in terms of research and advocacy. It’s more like the practice games before the World Cup or any bilateral cricket series. Like I mentioned a while ago, one needs to ensure they better themselves in each aspect related to moots/ trial competitions, considering it to be a part of the learning curve.

However, the practical exposure one derives from the internships is immense. In case of a moot, we research on a subject-matter for almost a month and then argue the case. However, in internships we get to learn the practical aspects that are associated – be it from research to drafting applications/ pleadings/ advisory. Apart from these, internships also give us exposure on client meetings, arguments in court and examinations of witnesses. It is a platform that shows you how one ought to be in the professional work life.

In my opinion, a law student should concentrate on both, moots and internships, and the focus on the latter should be more predominant. Successful internships for a period of 3-4 weeks, each, tutor us more than what we would learn in a semester, or at least gives us practical exposure to what we learn.

7. I have seen you doing litigation internships. While you constantly rushed from one Court Hall to another, I was sure that you would end up in court, litigating. However, you later secured an internship at AZB & Partners, Bengaluru which subsequently turned into a PPO. What do you feel about it right now? Do you think your choice was right?

Yes, you’re right. One of my best litigation internships has been under Hon’ble Mr. Justice Krishna S Dixit, the then Assistant Solicitor General of India, High Court of Karnataka. In his office, under the supervision of Central Government Standing Counsel, Mr. Aditya Singh, I was made to research on an array of litigation matters for the Union of India that dealt with a gamut of Central legislations. The exposure I gained in this office reflects in me to this day, be it research or structuring arguments before the Bench as well as the importance of finding relevant precedents.

I secured the AZB internship at the end of my third-year, and it was my first corporate internship. I was offered a call-back within three weeks and subsequently, during the call-back internship, I was offered a PPO and retainership.

There is no secret behind how things transpired during the internships at AZB. The quality and quantity of cases and matters handled by them is amazingly vast. I was lucky to have received work from almost all associates and partners during my internships. I used to chalk out my own plan of action each time I received work from any associate or partner – firstly I would listen and analyse clearly on what is expected from me, be it at research or drafting; secondly, I would run a basic search and understand certain concepts which I would not know and familiarise myself with it and then run a net wide research to cover all aspects in relation to the subject-matter. One just needs to ensure that these basic steps are fully completed, in the limited time given to us interns by the associates. I have never said no to any work given to me, even while I was swamped with work from four to five other associates, and had no further bandwidth.It never depends on the hours an intern spends in office post-work hours, but the quality of work done. Personally, it was an amazing journey during my internships. Without having to think twice about the offer, I immediately agreed to be on board after graduation.

I had my eyes on AZB right from first year when I happened to see two internships on a senior’s CV during the orientation week. From that incident, to my internship application being rejected once by them in my second year, to securing an internship at the end of my third year, and subsequently a call-back and finally landing a PPO at the age of twenty-one, was quite a journey. It definitely is a sense of achievement hard to describe, but the thought of having secured myself a job to fall back to right after graduating and a great annual package, is exceedingly delightful.

The firm does not deal with core corporate matters only. Among other teams, litigation is one of them that deals with matters before all courts and tribunals. At the firm, I have heard that a first year associate is given the liberty and exposure to work in all the teams (corporate advisory, litigation, projects, capital markets and tax), for a period of three to six months, before finalizing on what the Associate deems fit for himself/ herself. Few months down the line, I do see myself running around the Court Halls the same wayI did, but as an Associate at AZB.

8. Many law students have this perception that interning at big corporate law firms at an early stage is of no help except bragging rights on their CV because the firms don’t give them actual work. Do you have any views on this keeping your own experience in mind?

Tier-1 and Tier-2 law firms have set their thresholds at accepting internship applications from students of third, fourth and fifth years only. Keeping this in mind, any internship at these top tier firms by a student in the early stages of law school only reflects entry via recommendation. The value of this on the CV would comparatively be lesser than when you gain entry through the original application process prescribed by the firm. Also, any associate or partner would bear a little hesitation in handing over an important research or drafting to these students in their first or second years, simply because they are not subjected to such laws in their curriculum as yet.Having said this, there are certain students who are keen on just corporate/ firm practice right from the start of their law school life. For such students, repetitive internships at such firms irrespective of which year they are in gives them exposure consistently, and would result in them being seasoned by the end of their law school.

However, I advise the students to use the internship breaks effectively and try every sector possible before finalising on where the real interest lies.It is also important for every intern to maintain consistency in the quality of work done when assigned. Each successful completion of work assigned adds to the accreditation that spreads around the law firm, to all associates and partners as well, which is when one ends up with more work.

9. In three months from now, you will not be rushing through Hosur Main Road to make it to the first-hour class, no more yellow forms to the rescue, how does it feel?

That’s true, but I’d still be rushing through the same Hosur Main Road onlyto punch into the office before 10 AM. As much as I am awaiting graduation and work, there exists a little fear within regarding the responsibilities coming my way. College will definitely be missed for all the yellow form times we spent and lot more, but life has to be in motion, and I’m just looking forward and preparing myself mentally for all the responsibilities that shall arise in the coming months and years. Henceforth, it will merely be leave application and no more yellow forms, I suppose (chuckles).

10. Do you have any plans of pursuing a master’s in India or abroad?

No, I don’t. I want to focus on the work at the firm, gain more from the experience, and have no plans of pursuing masters.Additionally, the Bar Council of India has come up with the rules stipulating how a practitioner has to appear for two years before the District Courts, before being allowed to practice inthe High Courts, and likewise for Supreme Court as well. These rules are set to be in place from our batch of law graduates (i.e., from March 2020). So, I would like to focus on my practice.

11. Anything else you would want to share with the readers?

Yes, of course! I would advise all law students to take part in moot courts and other such competitions. Do take the liberty to experiment with your internships until the end of third year at law school, and after which analyse and focus on what suits you best. And, while you are at it, be it competitions, academics or internships, ‘head down, work hard’ and enjoy it too! Cheers!

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