In conversation with Abir Lal Dey, Partner at L&L Partners on his experience in working at a top-tier corporate law firm in India during COVID-19

Mr Abir Lal Dey, Partner at L&L Partners (formerly Luthra & Luthra). Abir has been featured in “India Rising Stars 2021” by Asia Legal Business, “Future Legal Leaders 2020” by India Business Law Journal and “India’s Super 50 Lawyers” by Asia Legal Business in client service category. Before joining L&L Partners in the firm’s banking and finance practice, he has worked at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas and Link Legal India Law Services. He has also acted in the capacity of legal executive at Wockhardt Limited.

Abir has a rich experience in banking, projects and infrastructure, project financing, structured financing, insolvency and debt restructuring across various sectors including solar, wind, road, thermal, oil and gas, transmission, real estate, ports, hydro, warehousing, aviation, automobile. Abir is involved in advisory work related to various infrastructure sectors, including energy, transportation and mining. In addition to his roles as a corporate lawyer, he is also a Guest Faculty Member at Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Banking and Finance (JNIBF) at Hyderabad and has conducted various sessions at law schools across the country. He has also authored a chapter on “Dispute Resolution Mechanism in Sports – Latest Trends from a Global Perspective” for a book titled “Sports Law and Policy in Present Global Scenario”. Abir is also part of the Editorial Panel of Company Ninja, an online resource initiative by Jus Dicere dedicated to academic content related to company law. 

He has been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Vivek Badkur who is currently pursuing law from NLIU.

 

  1. Can you please tell us about your initial career and how you started in the field of law?

I have grown up in a family surrounded by lawyers. Therefore, pursuing career in law was always one of my preferred options. I completed my pregraduation studies in Kolkata and got admission in law colleges both at Kolkata and Pune. I preferred to study in Kolkata as at that time the idea hovering my mind was to join my father’s practice. However, my father persuaded me to study at Pune and I think this was the major turning point of my life. Studying at Pune far from my family and comfort zone gave me the strength to deal with obstacles and shaped me into the person that I am today. I never thought that I would end up settling at Mumbai.

  1. Can you tell us what made you switch from working as an in-house counsel to working at a law firm and how would you differentiate with the challenges faced at both workplaces?

I think joining in-house just out of college during my time was premature. The way we see in-house as profession was completely different during my time, hence I decided to switch. Today the options are many and far better and one can definitely choose in-house after law school. Many of us have the notion that in-house is less arduous than law firm, in reality both are equally challenging. In law firms we deal with various facets of laws, client deliverables, quality output, innovative solutions to cater to business requirements and stringent timelines. Though as an in-house lawyer  you focus on the business line of the company but again the challenges remain same with an additional pressure of the business team.

  1. Can you give us some insight into operating a commercial practices in India post-Covid 19? And how has it affected client interaction and client service in the field?

The ongoing pandemic has changed the landscape of commercial practices as well as dealing with clients. To avoid health hazards, we took utmost precautions for the team and mostly worked from home. Initially it was a very difficult phase for us. The new associates had to cope up with the virtual mode of working, but with time everything blended smoothly. During the pandemic to cater the clients’ needs, which in our case is mostly banking and financial service providers (which is considered as essential service providers), we developed new skill sets. It is also important to note that going forward we have to be more adaptive of new technologies to not only cater to the clients but to have better work-life balance.

 

  1. One of the most challenging decision to be taken by any law student is to choose between whether to be a litigation lawyer or work at a corporate law firm. With your experience, can you show some light on how one may approach this dilemma?

Today the students have more visibility, options and are more tech-savvy. I believe the key to success is to do something which you profoundly like and just not for making ends meet. You may face challenges initially but if you sincerely stick to something you like, success will surely follow you, someday.

 

  1. Considering your diverse experience while working at an MNC and a corporate law firm, can you throw some light on the different skill sets required?

MNCs and corporate law firms do not expect freshers to be experts in law and mostly look for (a) sincerity of the candidate; (b) strong fundamentals on things learnt  at law school; (c) strong interpersonal skills including communications skills (both spoken and written in the language of practice); (d) honesty; (e) sound research skills; (f) drafting skills (for some drafting is something one learns on the job); and (g) right attitude towards work and learning. In my view if someone is able to demonstrate the aforesaid skill sets there will be no hiccups in their career growth.

 

  1. What are the different parameters you take into consideration while looking for an associate in your team?

In addition to the aforementioned skill sets, we will look for a strong fundamental understanding of some foundational laws such as contract, company and insolvency laws. The candidate should possess basic skills such as an eye for detail, clarity on research, drafting skills, understanding financial and commercial terms involved in banking transactions, deep analytical skills, diligence, focused and team player. Our practice area is diverse and involves analysis of various legislations relating to contract, property, insolvency, negotiable instruments and company laws.

 

  1. Any advice for our readers and interns to implement during their internships?

Internships and practising law after law school, in my view, are completely different ball games and therefore require different skill sets. Having said that, I do acknowledge that skills learnt during internships definitely compliment when someone joins the practice. Please remember that sometime internship opportunities may not come so easily therefore you have to be persistent and create the opportunity for yourself.

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