In this interview Mr Gaurav Nair, a graduate of 2011 batch of D.E.S. Law College, Pune University recounts about his odyssey from being a law student to being recognised as one of the top individual lawyers (below 10 years – exp) in practice areas of litigation as well as banking and finance, at such a young age. He is the founder of Saga Legal, having over 10 years of first-hand experience in motley areas such as banking and finance, contracts and agreements, insolvency and bankruptcy, securities and regulatory laws, insurance, societies and trusts, labour and employment and white-collar crime; he exceptionally chips in towards assisting, strategising and risk mitigation.
He has been interviewed by Shambhavi Anand, EBC/ SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from Amity University, Lucknow.
1. To begin with, if I may request you to please share with our readers something about yourself, your journey in the profession and your early years.
Hailing from a defence background I am one of two boys, raised by a father who retired as a Colonel in the Indian Army and a mother who was a school teacher. My brother and I were the archetypal military kid – disciplined, competitive and adaptive. Having lived PAN India through each of my father’s postings we finally settled in Pune. From parts of my primary education to secondary and higher secondary education, all the way to a law degree, I pursued it all there. Eventually, having completed the same, I moved to Delhi to pursue litigation and have remained here ever since. Having had a taste of litigation during my internships, that I had undertaken during my time at law school, I realised that it is where my interest lied. I began my career as an associate at K.J. John & Company and it was by far the most enriching of experiences. It is the invaluable insights that I received there which enabled me to eventually begin Saga Legal.
2. What made you pursue a career in the legal field and what is your response to being included in the Forbes India Legal Powerlist – Top Individual Lawyers?
There was something that stayed with me growing up. There was an innocuous aptitude test which I gave in high school. I scored fairly well in subjects that indicated proficiency in matters of analysis and verbal reasoning. The occupations suggested via the test were those related to journalism, education, psychology and law. Consequently, after the completion of my higher secondary education, I did consider journalism long and hard as well. However my father encouraged me to pursue law eventually. His reasoning was that I was quite adept at having the last words in arguments at home. “Might as well put those skills to good use in life”, were his exact words.
Vis-à-vis the Forbes India Legal Powerlist, I would like to say that to be recognised is always welcome and encouraging, especially if such recognition is bestowed by luminaries in the profession. I feel inspired to continue on the path I have set out on.
3. Since you have been in the field of litigation and banking and finance for quite some time, so according to you what set of skills law students and graduates must possess in order to be successful in this field and what shall be their key focus areas during their time at a law school?
It would be advisable, regardless of the practice area, to be meticulous and methodical in one’s approach. This is to say that one should devise simple and efficient structures to address issues, and then in turn, implement them carefully. These systems could be concerning time management, research and data upkeep, etc. In a profession as dynamic as ours, one’s organisational abilities will play integral role towards eventual outcomes. Furthermore, whilst working within such a system one should pay attention to detail. In my opinion it is what separates a good lawyer from a better one.
As far as the question regarding what law students should focus on is concerned, it is best to give one’s all to all and not focus on a particular area of practice. Knowledge that is gained through the general discourse at law school plays a vital role in practice areas of litigation as well as banking and finance, if pursued eventually.
4. Can you please share with our readers any personal thing or trait or something which you enjoy about you?
Professionally, I would like to think that I am a go-getter. I do set myself difficult, yet achievable, short and long-term goals and go about my work accordingly, inching towards both. I think this has held me in good stead thus far and I hope it continues to. I set out to accomplish all that I have envisioned and find a way to supplement the will.
5. How much weightage would you give to proper legal research and the tools used for doing it? How should law students equip themselves with legal research skills?
I would, without a doubt, give it utmost weightage. “Be prepared” as the scouts would say is not to be lost on any advocate worth his/her salt. Prepare, perform, learn from your experiences and repeat. In my opinion, that is a sustainable way to maintain a successful practice. Insofar as the tools available for research are concerned, I do believe that they have been a game-changer and have completely transformed the approach of lawyers and students, alike. Nothing is out of reach anymore and that goes a long way insofar as the preparation for matters is concerned, be it practical matters that a lawyer is handling for his clients or research on subjects that a student is carrying out.
As far as building a skill is concerned, the only way is to practise. Legal research is by no means rocket science and especially with the advent and availability of these particular tools at hand to conduct the same, it has simplified things further.
6. Can you please give our readers some insight into founding and operating Saga Legal at such an early age? And how has Covid-19 affected client interaction and service in your field?
It has been a labour of love to create something from the ground up. We are very keen to build and sustain the right culture at the firm and take active steps towards such an endeavour. There are certain principles that we believe in and hope to continue building the firm on. Internally we are committed to creating a nourishing environment at the firm and contributing to the growth and skill sets of individuals. Externally we hope to continue prioritising situational adaptiveness and convenience of access for the sake of our clients.
As far as the pandemic is concerned, just like the rest of the world, our profession too has been forced to choose the virtual route. Not to say that it has been an entirely terrible turn of events. On the contrary, clients who were not as forthcoming to engage online have had a change of heart. If anything, it has been liberating since we are able to address clients’ concerns, across jurisdictions, despite being miles away. Having said that, one does miss the joys of collaboration that emanate from working in close quarters.
7. How important in your view is commercial acumen for corporate lawyers?
A lawyer’s commercial acumen is extremely important for clients today. It is not only counsel from a legal perspective that a client seeks, but guidance in business decisions on a day-to-day basis. If lawyers are equipped with industry insights and can provide direction from a commercial perspective, within legally sustainable parameters, it can be beneficial to clients in more ways than one.
8. How much, according to you, is the impact of “exhaustion of research” in the fields of litigation and banking and finance?
I would like to believe that the ever-changing nature of such practice areas do not give rise to such a phenomenon. There is something to learn afresh on a day-to-day basis, leading to negligible stagnation. If the mind is constantly being engaged, one should not have any qualms in engaging in an activity over and over again.
9. Any advice which you would like to give to the law students, interns and graduates?
Persevere. No matter what, persevere. The only way out of the storm is through it, and each one of us has to manoeuvre through his/her fair share of choppy waters in the profession. Especially at the beginning of one’s professional journey, it seems to be a lot tougher, but one must keep his/her head down and work hard. Remind yourself of your goals and you shall achieve them.