Pranay Lekhi is an India qualified lawyer, currently working as a Legal Adviser at Allen & Overy. Having graduated from WBNUJS, he has also been one of the youngest members of the Drafting Committee of the Law Commission of India and a part of a part of the expert sub-committee analysing India’s 2015 Draft Model Bilateral Investment Treaty.
He has been interviewed by Sankalp Udgata, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from NUSRL.
- Please tell us something about your journey from being a law student to a lawyer? Please also share the nature of your position at Allen & Overy.
I graduated from the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata (NUJS) in 2019. I am very grateful for the opportunities I received during my undergraduate degree, which provided me with a fuller picture of opportunities following a law degree. Considering it has been a lifelong ambition to become a lawyer, I tried to make the most of my time at NUJS on honing my skills of advocacy and research, with a specific focus on academics. During the course of my degree, I applied for the India Vacation Scheme at Allen & Overy, London (A&O) as I was keen on receiving the highest quality of international exposure and A&O’s practice, values, and global reach are unmatched. After a gruelling application process, I was selected for the vacation scheme at A&O, following which I received an offer for a training contract. Since August 2020, I have worked as a Legal Adviser and I am currently in my second seat (or rotation), working in the restructuring and insolvency group.
- What motivated you to pursue a post-graduation in law and a career as an international attorney?
During the early years of my undergraduate degree, I was focused on becoming a litigator in India. However, after researching key areas in public international law through academic courses and co-curricular activities, I developed an interest in the field and wanted to pursue it further. I was specifically interested in international dispute resolution and investment treaty arbitration. This served as my primary motivation to pursue my master’s degree and venture into the international legal market. I also believed that receiving greater exposure to the finest minds in the world whether as part of the LLM programme at the University of Cambridge or indeed while working at a premier law firm like A&O would be greatly beneficial for my overall growth as a lawyer. I can now attest that the belief has absolutely been vindicated.
- Besides the classroom education what are the other opportunities available at Cambridge which are worth exploring?
Cambridge has over 500 clubs and societies – when combined with the truly magical academic environment, one would never be short of opportunities to broaden their interests. However, illustratively, I was a member of the Cambridge Union (which espouses to be the oldest debating society in the world) and had the opportunity to be a speaker at the “no-confidence” debate at the start of term. Additional opportunities for international lawyers to explore include being on the Editorial Board of the Cambridge International Law Journal and the Pro Bono Society. For those interested in sports, Cambridge also provides opportunities to partake in those ranging from rowing to croquet.
- What is your advice to students applying for a training contract or vacation schemes?
The most usual route for Indian law students to receive training contracts at city law firms is through the India Vacation Scheme process. For the application, I would recommend being very true to yourself and not attempting to portray your interests in a disingenuous manner, often the best applications come out of an honest reflection on the questions. In my experience, the process is calibrated in a manner to recruit the brightest and most well-rounded individuals. Accordingly, if you are interested in applying, it is always a good idea to start early in your undergraduate degree with a focus on your academic performance, co-curricular activities as well as showcasing leadership. I am of the firm belief that if you are committed to making the most out of the opportunities presented to you during law school, you will be able to make the best case for yourself.
- How important is doing proper legal research and how should law students equip themselves with legal research skills?
It goes without saying that research is the backbone of the legal profession, irrespective of the role you occupy in it. As lawyers, it is our job to be well versed in our practice area while providing coherent and correct advice to those seeking it. The importance of legal research cannot be over-stressed. First, I would recommend that every law student must develop an intellectual rigour to not just read an assigned topic but also read related points to understand it in context. Second, I must also emphasise the importance of books – I think leading commentaries and reference books (and not internet searches) must continue to be the first port of call for any research task. Finally, the presentation of research is as important as the skill of researching itself, so I would recommend writing as often as you can, always attempting to write in a manner that is lucid and avoids the use of unnecessary legalese.
- Any other messages that you might want to send out?
The parting advice I would give to those who have read this far is that it is fundamental while pursuing any goals that you do not miss the woods for the trees. It is often very easy to think your immediate circumstances are those that are most important and it often leads to forgetting about what you need to do for the future. For students, do not try to spend your time being the best (or indeed the most popular) student in law school but use your time in developing the skills that would put you in a position to be the best lawyer once law school ends. Finally, while it is great to be inspired by people be fearless of your individuality, I would always think it is better to be a prototype than a forgery