Abhilipsa Panda graduated from NMIMS, School of Law, Mumbai. She is currently working as a Commercial Associate in one of the best startup law firms in the Silicon Valley.
She has been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Vanshika Doshar who is currently pursuing law from NMIMS, School of Law.
I. Can you please share with the readers of SCC Online something about yourself and your college experience?
Hi SCC Online readers. My name is Abhilipsa Panda and I graduated from NMIMS, School of Law, Mumbai with a BBA LLB (Hons.) in the year 2018. Right after graduating, I left for California to pursue my masters in intellectual property rights (IPR) at Santa Clara University (SCU). After years of hardwork and patience, I am working as a Commercial Associate in one of the best startup law firms in the Silicon Valley. I call myself a “humanist” because I value human welfare, dignity, and health over all other divides that exist in the world.
My experience at NMIMS, Mumbai was quite different from that of SCU, California. While pursuing my LLB, I used to daydream about pursuing my LLM in the US. While other kids enjoyed their first-year college life, I used to sit in my hostel room figuring out what I want to specialise in, what are the job prospects in the US post LLM, and what can I do to make my resume stand out from that of others. The first four years of law school, I made sure I topped every trimester exam, participated in competitions, interned during each school break, completed various certificate courses, and read about all the new advancements in the field of intellectual property before sleeping. In my final year, after I got admits from all the US universities I had applied to, I enjoyed hangout with my friends and did everything I missed during the years I was preparing myself for the life I wanted.
If I talk about SCU, it was something that I did not experience. The challenge was not only to study and score but rather to survive as an international student, deal with visa situations, and still sleep with a lot of hope to become an attorney in the United States of America. My ultimate goal was always to sit for the California Bar Exam and get myself to a position where I could pass it in my first attempt.
To be honest, for the 7 years that I was in law school (5 years – LLB and 2 years – LLM) I have worked extremely hard ranging from 16-18 hours a day. I am a firm believer that nothing just happens “out of luck”, you have to make it happen. Today, I am very proud to say, I made my dream life happen for me and it is exactly how I imagined it to be.
II. You have been an IP blogger for the past 4 years and still continuing with that. Please share your experience related to IP blogging.
Oh, this is a long story. I will try to make it short. When I joined NMIMS, my Dean Dr Prof Gorane introduced me to the field of intellectual property (IP) in my first year. When I told him that I had left some of the best engineering colleges in India and decided to do law instead, he thought that someone with a science background would enjoy IP more than any other field. He was right.
I think it was a Harvard Law School Journal that was sitting on his table that had a trade mark and copyright article in it. I literally stood outside his office and read that article like I have found purpose in my life. So, in my first year of law school, at 17 years old, I knew I was going to make a career in the field of intellectual property rights.
Well, after that there was no stopping me, I read every IP-related book that was there in our library, took up all the certificate courses available online, and made sure that I was keeping up with any new development that was happening in any part of the world.
IP blogging was a midnight idea of mine when I was trying to sleep. I thought that since I have researched and read so much about this field, I should try to make it a part of people’s day-today life and hence started writing.
III. Looking at your professional life it seems like you have a stout inclination towards IPR. What interests you in IPR?
Like I mentioned before, it was just an immediate connection. I could read and understand patents, I liked the commercial applicability of trade marks, the fact that I could make copyrightable content myself was exciting, and trade secret laws were like science-fiction novels.
“Intellectual property is the only right that we gain because of our own conscience and intellect and there is no force better than the capability to change the world with the reflection of our own ideas.” This is my website tagline that I came up with and I think answers this question pretty well.
IV. Dual qualification is not commonplace, but the awareness around it is increasing today. What prompted you back in the day to pursue US Bar qualification?
I am a very goal-oriented person. Meaning, if I do not set up a goal for myself, I cannot function.
So, my thought process was something like this, what after graduating with BBA LLB (Hons.) at the top of my class? My answer was LLM with scholarship. What after LLM? Get a dream job at a law firm in CA. What after the job? Pass the California Bar and become a licensed attorney in the United States of America.
My list will always go on…. At present, I am in the process of setting up my new goal. I have a few things shortlisted but I am taking it slow and trying to enjoy what I have for now.
IV. Is there any story or some individual who inspired you to sit for the California Bar Examination?
No. I have no one from my family who is a lawyer, I do not know anyone from India who has even appeared for the California Bar Exam.
When I was pursuing my LLM, I knew my next goal was going to be the Bar exam. I had heard so much about how hard it is, how people study for it, how people take multiple attempts to pass this exam, and how all of it is worth it. I wanted to be a part of the process, I wanted to push my limits, and I wanted to achieve my goals.
V. How did you prepare for the California Bar Examination? Is there any strategy or something that you would like to share with us?
Honestly, I went crazy. As a background, I am an Indian lawyer, I have only studied the basic Indian laws. My LLM was in intellectual property rights, not the basic American (Federal and State) laws. Which means, I had to study all these laws from scratch making sure that I do not forget the Indian laws that were drilled inside my brain.
The process was extremely hectic and the only strategy I have is, work hard.
I studied for the Bar for 4 months, 3 months along with full-time work and one month only focusing on the exam. For the first three months, after finishing work around 4-5 p.m., I used to study for at least 9 hours on weekdays and 15-16 hours on weekends. In the last month, I do not think I did anything else but study, so it went on to 18 hours of studying a day.
To make sure I am focussed throughout, I went off all social media platforms, never kept my phone next to me when I was studying, and followed a rigorous time table I had made for myself, and most importantly, practised every question I could even lay my hands on.
Honestly, it was the most difficult thing I had to do with so much anxiety that I could not sleep. But, I knew I want to pass in my first attempt and I will do everything to make that happen. I am not saying that everyone’s process has to be like mine, but I know what worked for me.
When I saw my result, and it said “pass”, my world stopped for a few moments, all my prayers, all that hardwork, all those hours of self-doubts were paid off. I did it. I got my results on 7-5-2021 at 6 p.m. but everything is still sinking in. This is the best feeling in the whole world, I am floating.
VI. What are your future career plans?
For now, I am focussing a lot on my job. This is a job that I always wanted, I practise intellectual property, privacy, and data protection laws. My short-term plan is to become a part of International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) and will appear for that exam soon.
VII Apart from this is there anything else that you would like to share with the readers of SCC Online?
I think I have already said a lot but if there is “one thing” that I would like the readers to take away from this read is, please believe in the power of working hard and being persistent. Sometimes luck might just take you to “one place” but only hard work will take you to “places”.
Also, in these testing times, please stay safe, stay home, and help in any little way that you can.
Please feel free to contact me if you want to pursue a path similar to mine.