Mr Abhishek Dadoo. Mr Dadoo is a Partner at Khaitan & Co. He specialises in public mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and regularly advises clients on listed company transactions. He has been ranked amongst the Top 40 under 40 Lawyers in the Business World rankings and also featured in the India Business Law Journal Future Legal Leader rankings.
He has been interviewed by Varalika Mendiratta, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing BA LLB (Hons.) from the Faculty of Law, Aligarh Muslim University.
- Hi Mr Dadoo. To begin with, I would like to ask you, what got you interested in the field of law?
I was introduced to law at an early age, and always enjoyed discussions about anything related to law. Actually, I enjoyed discussions about anything at all – I was and still am quite inquisitive, and like to learn about new things and reasons or thought behind any existing practices. I think those were the building blocks of my journey into law. Though I opted to study science for my board exams (I was quite fond of physics) – I think at some level I always knew I ultimately wanted to study law. I was fortunate to secure admission to NUJS and have thoroughly enjoyed my journey in the field of law ever since.
- How would you describe your law school journey?
Law school for me was a magical journey – studies and grades formed an important part of course, but it was equally about discovering your interests and moulding the way you think. You learn about (and perhaps more importantly, learn to appreciate) different points of view – an essential element of being a good lawyer.
Moot courts and legal conference presentations provided an excellent avenue to travel the world and (hopefully even) learn something in the process. I recall a friend and I authored and published a paper only so we could travel to present it at a legal conference in Brazil. Overall, law school helped me discover myself and gave me some of my best friends and life experiences.
- What according to you are the essential skills which an M&A lawyer should possess?
An M&A lawyer broadly requires three essential skills – let us coin it the LDC matrix. The first, knowing the law (that is a no brainer and probably the easiest one to master). The second, understanding the deal – this is a bit more complex – to effectively guide a client, the lawyer must assess not only whether the intended transaction is legally viable but also guide his client on whether the deal conforms to the client’s values and long and short-term commercial vision. The third, create a spirit of collaboration – M&A negotiation by its nature can be adversarial – but it is important to remember that it is the beginning of a new relationship. The most successful deals are where both parties walk away winners.
Generally, a legal advisor’s role has substantially evolved over time – a legal advisor is expected to look out for the overall commercial (and not just legal) interest of her/his clients. This is the role of a “trusted advisor” looking to protect the interests of her/his client.
- You specialise in public M&A, can you tell us a bit about your practice?
Public M&A is a practice area focused on listed company transactions. I typically advise financial sponsors and strategic investors in navigating through a complex web of Indian securities laws (such as the insider trading regulations, takeover regulations, listing regulations, to name a few) which are triggered while dealing in shares of listed companies. In the age of specialisation, clients look for efficient delivery of service at reasonable costs – the HQHF (high quality honest fee) model – this is best achieved by utilising expert or specialised resources to deliver optimal output. For instance, a focused public M&A team, having already navigated various nuances and complications of listed company deals, is far better equipped to structure, execute and complete a transaction in a time (and therefore cost) efficient manner.
- How do you think the pandemic has affected the M&A market?
Contrary to initial fears of a downturn, the M&A market has thrived during the pandemic. The markets are positive and deals are on the rise. Though certain segments have languished, certain others such as pharma have found renewed interest. Overall – I am an optimist and see the M&A market only improving as India turns the corner on Covid.
- How would you describe your career trajectory from being an associate to a partner at a Tier 1 firm and making it to BW’s Top 40 under 40 rankings?
I have been extremely fortunate to receive mentorship and guidance from some wonderful people. I started my career in Amarchand Mangaldas, Mumbai, moving to Platinum Partners, Mumbai and finally to Khaitan & Co. I have received guidance and mentorship in all of these places. I have learned something new and useful from these firms.
In addition, I think I was fortunate to find specialisation in public M&A that I am really passionate about. It is a very niche arena that I have always enjoyed reading about and I love practising it. Over time, I have managed to specialise in it. Ultimately, it comes down to you being passionate and loving your work, and that is all that matters.
- Much is talked about the long hours a corporate lawyer clocks in and the stressful nature of the job. What are your views on work-life balance? How do you personally manage an extremely demanding job and your personal life?
There is, of course, an element of hard work in corporate law. To say that a career in corporate law affords no work-life balance, would be incorrect. A career in corporate law is certainly demanding – but there are ways to find balance. Some phases are tough, and others are light. Idea is to work hard when deals demand it and relax when things are light. I can tell you personally about me and our firm, we are very conscious about trying to achieve a work-life balance. It is important to have interests outside of work. It helps you mould yourself as a wholesome person. If you can strike a conversation only on the law, you are not going to be an interesting person.
However, there will be some days where you will have to compromise or cut short that vacation. But that is something which is a part of this career option. But I consciously try to make more efforts to try and have as much of a work-life balance as possible, and that is a very important factor.
- What would be your advice to law students who plan to pursue a career in the corporate world? What level of work do you expect from the interns?
From an intern, the expectation is to just be curious. As a law student, you are not expected to know the law. You are studying law right now and we understand that as we all have been there. We are aware that you do not really receive any practical legal experience in law school, it is a place where you mould your thinking process.
It is important to work hard, have the curiosity to learn and ask questions. Looking back to my internship days, I used to ask too many questions. And trust me, it is appreciated that you are interested and are willing to learn. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, it is a part of growing. We make mistakes even today. Simply put, the more mistakes you make, the more you learn.
- Tell us something which interests you apart from the law which you would like to share with our readers?
I enjoy travelling a lot. Unfortunately, it is something we are not able to do for quite some time. I am waiting to go back to an iota of normalcy, where we can travel. I have several hill stations and beaches on my list already.
I also enjoy reading. I have recently taken to audio-books, although not a big fan yet. I think it is going to take a while to get used to. And I was told that gardening is a good hobby to pursue, but I have been terrible at it until now. But hopefully, I can read up more about the skill and get some tips to be better at it.