Ms. Dev has diverse work experience in London and India as a Chevening Scholar, a Commercial Dispute Resolution Lawyer, a Conflict Coach, a Civil and Commercial Mediator accredited by the Civil Mediation Council, UK. She has conducted pioneer training workshops for experienced mediators of the Delhi government mediation centres, Art of Living teachers, young professionals, college students and underprivileged youth on conflict management skills. She has been invited by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs as a Trainer on mediation and negotiation skills. Creating value in challenging times, particularly in conflicts is her passion.

She has been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Sankalp Udgata who is currently pursuing law from NUSRL.

  1. Can you please tell us something about your journey from being a law student to a lawyer and now a leader? Please also share your interests and motivations.

In my journey as a curious law student/lawyer to a conflict coach and now the founder of YCM, one thing has been common and constant, my uncontrollable desire to ask: Why? Why is it the way it is? This “Why” became a passionate search after my dispute resolution practice with Khaitan and Co and deep dive into the adversarial (arbitration/litigation) and non-adversarial (mediation) dispute resolution systems in our country across High Courts, Tribunals and the Supreme Court as well as international systems. “Why” do disputants depend on others for resolution of their disputes and end up taking a passive role when lawyers get involved? My search took me to London as a Chevening Scholar to pursue my masters in ADR and linguistics at SOAS, to get qualified as a Conflict Coach and Mediator accredited by the UK Civil Mediation Council. I practiced mediation and conflict coaching in London for about a year and networked with experts in the field of mediation including at Brick Court Chambers, Wandsworth Mediation Service and Southwark Mediation Centre. At Siemens as an in-house counsel, I was recognised as a next generation leader for innovative ideas in the field of conflict management and data analytics – all with the aim of making business deals easier.

My advice to peers, juniors and seniors always is to not get demotivated when you do not have answers to questions but definitely be alarmed if you are not asking why and instead just accepting the system saying: it is the way it is! That statement is the death of effective and innovative solutions and a blocker to pushing the human race forward. A leader is who identifies a “Why” and collaborates to answer it with a much-needed solution to make human life easier in any domain. I have always been passionate and believe in the power of intersectional/interdisciplinary approaches to solving human problems. Experience in the field of law, linguistics and spirituality has been a power booster for my personal and professional growth as well as problem-solving.

I would like to emphasise that I have failed several times (economics class assignment to missing a court hearing to trusting people out of love or passion) but none were fatal failures because I did not let them turn into fatal ones. Believe me, failures are success boosters if you see them that way and multipliers for exponential growth of your will power.

  1. Please tell us about your project, Youth Conflict Management and Mediation Initiative. How was the idea conceived? What was the motivation?

“Why” were you and me not taught skills to navigate conflicts in every domain of our life? Do not you face differences or heated arguments or trivial fights to major disputes? These conflicts are inevitable – cross your heart and tell me that you will never have a fight or disagreement with anybody in your life ever? Not possible. Such important life skills are missing from our mainstream education system and YCM fills exactly this gap.

On the other hand, some of us lawyers were trained to make citizens dependent on us for justice or plain dispute resolution: as a lawyer am I perpetuating dependency? It is one thing to support citizens for dispute resolution and access to justice through legal representation and a whole another thing to have them “surrender” their inherent power to resolve disputes on their own as active beings. Sadly, our culture has perpetuated the latter as a fight between two children is resolved by a parent, two students by the teacher and now two adult citizens by an external authority backed by law. Instead of using these systems for support, citizens plainly surrender their power to contribute positively to reach an effective solution. If it is your problem, then you find a solution to it. YCM was conceived with the vision: You Can Resolve It.

In order to enable: You Can Resolve It, YCM is training Indian youth from diverse disciplines in skills for conflict management which can be applied in every domain of life. YCM is building India’s First network of trained youth conflict managers.

Michael Bartlet, CEDR Mediator England and Melanie Bruce, Southwark Mediation Centre have been guiding lights and inspirational in their work in mediation with young minds.

  1. What according to you are the biggest challenges to consensual dispute resolutions in India (especially mediations)?

Inability to identify the real-deal or root cause of the dispute; conditioned dependency on an external authority to tell you who is right and wrong and most importantly: absence of skills to navigate and take charge of your own dispute to find a sustainable solution are the three biggest challenges to success of meditation in India. YCM is working on all three challenges and is a believer in the process of mediation. Sadly, a 2018 study with mediation centres in Delhi revealed that users of mediation are not equipped to use the mediation process. I partnered with Delhi Dispute Resolution Society’s Mediation Centres to enable citizens to become better users of mediation by providing them basic conflict coaching.

  1. How can law firms, practitioners and law students help promote conflict management mechanisms? How can mediations be effectively implemented in rural areas?

The law community holds immense power to promote and benefit from conflict management mechanisms. Law firm lawyers if equipped with conflict management skills can support clients as strategic partners to come up with holistic and sustainable solutions grounded in law and reality. At YCM, we believe conflict management is pivotal for dispute resolution which belief was echoed by Mr. Jeevan B Panda, Partner Khaitan and Co at our launch event. As a part of induction into the law firm, all junior lawyers can be given customised training in conflict management skills based on their domain of practice (M and A, Disputes, IP, Competition, etc.)

Law students can run clinics with the aim of citizen empowerment: You Can Resolve It. Currently, YCM has collaborated with Jindal Global University to train selected youth (urban and rural) as youth conflict managers. Such trained youth conflict managers will be providing services to the institution’s community and to communities around in partnership with local NGOs and authorities. YCM-JGU centre will be India’s First youth-run conflict management and mediation centre.

  1. How important is doing proper legal research and how should law students equip themselves with legal research skills?

I consider Professor Abhayraj Naik (now at Azimji Premji University) as my guru when it comes to legal research. Follow and learn from him if you ever get the chance.

I think preparing for moot competitions especially criminal law ones are super conducive to grow your research skills. Here is why: your proposition and story gets tested by the opponents, the Judges and most importantly yourself when you speak.

The key to nailing legal research is: building a story (as full-proof as possible) and knowing where the gaps are. The “beyond reasonable doubt” weight propels you to have all corners covered.

  1. How can law students equip themselves with effective conflict management and dispute resolution skills?

Students can take up internships with dispute resolution experts, moot competitions and the standard.

Here is an obvious secret to grow your conflict management and dispute resolution skills: consciously approach dispute resolution in your personal life and observe what way of resolving disputes works and what does not. Apply adversarial and non-adversarial methods to minor disagreements at an internship, with an autowala or even with a sibling at home over where will you order-in from!

At YCM we believe in: Self-awareness to Self-empowerment. Help yourself in resolving disputes in your life, put theory to practice and see for yourself what works where! If it does not work for you then do not sell it to others!

  1. Any messages to law students that you might want to send out?

Ask yourself: Why? Ask often. The world of innovation awaits your creative mind. Law is great but take a multi-disciplinary approach to life, your and the society’s problems. After all, life is much better colourful rather than just black and white!

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