In conversation with Tanvi Dubey, Advocate, Supreme Court of India

Ms Tanvi Dubey is a practicing advocate at the Supreme Court of India and associated with Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. (SAM) for over half a decade. While her association with the legends including late Shri Ram Jethmalani, she has extensive experience in disputes resolution. While in her law school, she had a perfect mix of internships involving chamber practice and experience with renowned law firms, it is an understatement to state that Ms Dubey had best of both the worlds. She has also been vocal on the issue concerning the legal empowerment of women and has raised her voice on various national and international platforms regarding the same. She is also a visiting guest faculty at national and non-national law schools.

She has been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Mandavi Banerjee who is currently pursuing law from KIIT School of Law

  1. It has been over half a decade you have been working at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. Congratulations. If you could please share your experience at the firm?

It has been an absolutely incredible journey at SAM over these years in terms of experience and learning the nitty-gritties of law. I have been fortunate to be part of some of the biggest litigations and arbitrations of recent times, in terms of value and significance. Each matter gave a new experience and a reason to learn and know more. I strongly believe that working in a law firm gives immense exposure to different fields of law and is not centric to one. In my days at SAM, I have been involved in wide range of matters from civil, commercial disputes to arbitration, taxation and also criminal matters. I will fall short of words if I am to comment on the work ethics of the firm, which provide positive and an extremely healthy environment to both men and women, equally. Here I would want to give all due credits to Ms Pallavi Shroff for providing opportunities and the platform to young women lawyers to develop and to always motivate them to do better. I strongly believe that the most important thing in any profession is fondness towards the work one is doing. To ensure excellence in work, it is very important for a resource to know about the work environment, ethics, value system of the firm/chamber, which one seeks to join. One must primarily keep the following areas (among others) in mind, in the initial years:

  • Getting hold on the facts of the case.
  • Do not shred away from any kind of work, even if it involves minutest tasks like preparation of a brief, researching on a proposition or preparation of ancillaries.
  • Focusing on learning the right method to research.
  • Ensure active involvement in the filings before different courts and do not blindly rely on the court clerks.
  • Bringing multiple issues on table (even in an internal team discussion).
  •  Apply innovative and lateral thinking, despite time pressure.
  1. You have done a numerous internships in the litigation side of the legal profession – notably, with luminaries like Shri Ram Jethmalani, Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Shri Mohan Parasaran to name a few. After which, you had pursued a career with a tier 1 law firm – literally best of both the worlds. How does the work culture differ in these two domains of profession i.e. litigation and law firm? What would be your advice to students who are ambiguous to choose aforementioned as career option?

Thank you for such generous and kind words. According to me, for a law student internships are the best way to get practical experience in the field of law. I feel a student should judiciously utilise the five (5) years of the law school journey and plan all the internships in advance. In couple of interviews, students have asked me as to how they should plan their internships. To begin with, a NGO internship is good for first semester followed by a trial court experience in the second year. Third and fourth year may be utilised with High Court and Supreme Court internships. I would say fourth year is most crucial as by that time, you tend to know your area of interest. Therefore, fourth and fifth year internships must be chosen on the basis of area of interest – for some it may be a chamber internship, for others it may be a firm internship. Even in a firm internship, one has to be decisive as to whether to go for a corporate internship or an internship with a dispute resolution team. I would suggest if you have an inclination to litigate in the future – one must intern in a dispute resolution team in a law firm.

Coming on the second leg of the question, in the law firm there are different verticals from dispute resolution to arbitration and to corporate. However, in a chamber an intern would work under a particular senior advocate or an advocate or an advocate on record (depending on the office one is interning). While interning in a law firm, one can expect work from other teams as well apart from the team they are interning in. However, in a chamber you are given a brief to work on by the lawyer under whom you are working. I would also like to point out that in a law firm one gets diverse exposure while working on various matters involving different branches of law. However, in a chamber it may restrict to the area of expertise of the lawyer you are interning with. Law firm internships also entail a student to submit a research paper at the end of internship. If one likes the work culture of the team in which they are interning, then it is important to get a call back internship which helps in further participation in the pre-placement offer (PPO) process. The only room to clear ambiguity is experience. Between joining a chamber or a law firm, I would say one can only be decisive after having experience in both. There is always a lot to learn in the profession and thus experience is the key to make you confident.

  1. What is a skill set required from an intern? What are the areas an intern must keep in mind while interning?

This is indeed a very important question. As briefly mentioned earlier that internships are the only way a law student realises his/her area of interest. Internships must be planned in a manner that  gives exposure to a law student in both litigation and corporate in the initial years of law school, so that he/she may be decisive if they would want to enter into litigation or would want to settle as a corporate lawyer. Certain key pointers which one must keep in mind while perusing the internship include:

  1. Try and involve yourself in discussions with the other team members including the partner.
  2. Try and take ownership on the work allocated to you.
  3. Try and not restrict your interaction with the team members to ought 30 days while you are interning and therefore one must make efforts to continue interaction with the team members even after the internship is over.
  4. Make use of every single opportunity and do not shred away from putting forward your point. No one is perfect and it is human to make mistakes and thus, one should never shred away in sharing his/her viewpoint.
  5. Lastly, do not shred away in engaging in miscellaneous tasks being allocated to you as part of preparation for a hearing. Trust me, if you aim to be a litigator, you have to be an all rounder and that only comes with experience.
  1. Would like to give a quick advice on drafting of a resume, which is one of the most frequently asked questions among the law students?

Developing and on the same hand updating the resume with all the recent activities is very important. The resume must essentially, among other things include a key description on the areas worked on, matters one was involved in, brief description on the kind of work one was involved in during internships, key publications, etc. While drafting a CV, even the minutest details must be filled with utmost care. Every single sentence must have a reasonable basis and also the person must have a thorough understanding of the areas been captured in the resume.

A law student while applying for an internship, should always accompany a covering letter with his resume. A covering letter in brief must specify prerequisites including college name, year, period of internship, area of interest, previous experience and also the reason why one intends to intern in that particular chamber/firm/organisation.

  1. What are some of the important observations you have found regarding the moot culture, when you have acted in the capacity of a Judge?

From mooting to judging, it is of course been an interesting journey. 4 major things which the mooters must keep in mind include:

  • Read the moot problem thoroughly. Every time you read, it gives you a new perspective of thinking.
  • Be absolutely thorough with the research.
  • Do not interrupt the Judge, listen patiently and then give your answer.
  • Consider some interesting ways to illustrate your point, may be giving some real- life examples.
  1. You have several publications to your credit.  You are also working on a book, soon to be published. Can you please enlighten us with the importance of writing and also the research in a lawyer’s career?

I think research is a must have for a lawyer. I think legal writing should be exhaustively researched. Research and also legal writings in the law school, definitely help you once you are in the profession. Drafting is one of the most crucial aspects of lawyering and a well-researched draft is always appreciated. The points one must keep in mind while researching:

  •  Be aptly clear with the research proposition and the factual background.
  • Choose the right material to proceed with the research.
  • Do not forget to read the bare Act and the commentary before initiating the research.

Regarding publications, I feel it is voluntary. A student will have to be absolutely updated with the legal journals, etc. for publication purposes. For the annual publications, in various platforms, one has to keep a close tap on the deadlines and has to initiate preparations for drafting, research, etc. accordingly.

  1. What to prepare yourself while briefing a senior counsel?

There must be absolute clarity on the factual matrix. Always try and have a briefing note, list of dates and a table of cases with you, while you brief a senior. It is important to be abreast with the recent authorities surrounding the subject. It is important to have all the orders, office reports, etc. handy with you. Even during the hearing, one must keep all the judgments, pleadings and notes handy, which may be required by the senior counsel while arguing. Coordination between a briefing counsel and a senior counsel was one of the major problems during virtual hearings. But we all have to find out different ways to overcome that as well.

  1. Ma’am you have indeed been an idol and have motivated a lot of young women lawyers, who intend to make their career in litigation. What is your advice to them?

Only one – hard work and self-confidence. I think we have progressed enough and the profession has to offer a lot to anyone irrespective of gender if you are determined and self-motivated.

  1. What would be your parting message to our readers, especially law students reading the transcript of your interview? Based on your experience, please do prescribe dos and don’ts dosage for students who wish to build a career in litigation?

My advice to all the young minds, is to understand, at the very outset, that it will be a journey which requires a lot of devotion, patience and hard work. Every brief will come with a new experience and learning. Therefore, the learning process never ends for a lawyer.

  • Try and make small realistic goals.
  • Do not be risk averse.
  • Never be afraid of failures.
  • Readers are leaders; read as much as you can.
  • A matter is not a merely a “file”. It is a human life and thus take it seriously.

Lastly, do not forget to live. It is very important to maintain a balance between your professional and personal life.

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