Raveena Sethia talks about her journey as a Cambridge Trust Scholar and joining competition law practice in India

Ms. Raveena Sethia completed her undergraduate degree from Jindal global Law School (Bath of 2017) and went on to pursue her LLM for University of Cambridge as a Justice Pratibha M. Singh and Wolfson College Scholar for the batch of 2018. While at Cambridge, Ms. Sethia secured a training contract at Herbert Smith Freehils, London but decided to return to India and join the Competition Law team of Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co, New Delhi. Ms. Sethia continues to share her experience with practitioners and students by way of her participation in Webinars, Paper Presentations, Editorials and Mentoring and strongly believes that being pro-active is the key to make the most out of any role.

 

  1. Would you kindly introduce yourself to our readers?

I presently work with the competition law team at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co., New Delhi, and also co-head content at Her Forum, a platform connecting women in the legal profession.

By way of background, I graduated as a silver medallist from Jindal Global Law School in 2017. After that, I pursued my LLM from the University of Cambridge as a Justice Pratibha M. Singh and Wolfson College Scholar between 2017-2018.

While at Jindal, I was on the board of the moot court and ADR societies, class representative and an editor for the Jindal Law Quarterly Journal. During my time at law school, I had the chance to participate in several moot court competitions and was awarded the best oralist at the national NLU Jodhpur Antitrust Moot and international King’s College London-Herbert Smith Freehills Competition Law Moot. My team also won the best memorial at the latter. With respect to ADR, my team stood semi-finalist at the International Intercollegiate Mediation Competition, Glasgow. I was also an avid adjudicator and participated in several national debate competitions during my initial years at law school. I have also been a research assistant on various academic projects and published academic pieces through various journals. I secured a PPO with Trilegal and worked there for a short while, before leaving for my LLM.

At Cambridge, I was an editor for the Cambridge Law Journal and also contributed to The Varsity, the independent newspaper for the university. I also secured a training contract with Herbert Smith Freehills, London, during my LLM, but chose to return to India.

At present, I continue to contribute to various fora through opinion and academic pieces, mentoring programs and by participating in webinars and conferences. For instance, I recently mentored four underprivileged children as part of a Teach for India project; and I am coaching a moot team for the 2022 edition of the King’s College London-Herbert Smith Freehills Competition Law Moot.

  1. You have had the chance to pursue your masters from University of Cambridge and were a Cambridge Trust Scholar and the recipient of the Justice Pratibha M. Singh Scholarship. Please tell us a bit about your time at Cambridge?

I had the fortune of pursuing my LLM at Cambridge immediately after completing my undergraduate degree on account of the generosity and vision of Justice Pratibha M. Singh and Wolfson College, as part of the trust scholarships pool.

My time at Cambridge was nothing short of extraordinary. Cambridge offers an experience that is unparalleled, both in terms of academics and also in terms of day-to-day life. The university was founded in 1209 and has since expanded to 31 colleges, with each having its own charm, history and traditions.

While my time at Cambridge was special and remarkable for several reasons, in the interest of brevity, the following few experiences stood out. First, while one may be affiliated to a specific school such as law or medicine, this does not limit interactions with students and faculty from other streams in any manner. For instance, college memberships are not restricted to any specific school or course, and often, one finds students from various walks of life and vocations in their college. In addition, each college periodically organises “formal halls” or formal dinners, where students and faculty wear their respective academic gowns and dine formally (much out of a Harry Potter movie – in fact, some colleges even have Harry Potter-themed formal halls). Students may attend certain “formal halls” of colleges they are not associated with such as those organised for a specific occasion or if they have been invited by a student of that college. This increases the scope of interaction with a larger number of individuals and also allows one to experience the architecture and culture of a different college. Such an experience stood out for me as an international student as I was able to take in the traditions of various colleges and increase my scope of interaction with a larger number of individuals, including current and former students as well as faculty members.

Second, I took on certain short-term extra-curricular activities such as being editor for the Cambridge Law Review, writing for The Varsity, the student-run newspaper at Cambridge, joining the Cambridge Union as a member and even helping in organising an event for them, and helping in organising the University’s Arbitration Day, which brought leading professionals from the field together. These activities, albeit short term, added a new dimension to my experience at Cambridge. I consciously chose to associate myself with activities that were relatively new to me, and those that I did not have the opportunity of pursuing at an undergraduate level. Apart from trying my hand at relatively new things, these activities provided a platform for me to interact with students from various schools and fields, younger and older than me, that really helped in broadening my interactions. The LLM barely lasts 9 months, and therefore, often, students may find their interactions and experiences limited as compared to others who pursue longer courses. These activities proved to be time-efficient and bridged that gap for me in terms of receiving a holistic experience. For example, as part of The Varsity, I was able to attend a Beethoven-inspired piano concert by the Cambridge University Music Society and express my takeaway from the same with a wide audience, spanning students to residents of the town. This power to feel at one with the community despite a short course, sincerely elevated the experience for me.

Third, from an academic standpoint, I realised that the class structure and format was very different to what most Indian law schools follow. Having completed my BA LLB from Jindal, the class format at Cambridge did not come as that much of a stark contrast for me as it did for other students from India. The format most professors at Cambridge followed during my year and with respect to the courses I opted for was as follows: there would be a main lecture led by the professor, and then there would be weekly or fortnightly discussion groups if one wanted to delve further into a module. Students were expected to pre-read and have a basic understanding of the topic prior to the lecture and could opt to do voluntary practice essays during the year if they chose so. There was no minimum attendance requirement or ongoing coursework – only one final paper/thesis due at the end, which the student was responsible for. This implies that onus and focus on the course opted for, is the prerogative of the student, and not the professor – a concept that can be daunting and empowering in equal parts for a product of the Indian education system. That shift in culture teaches one to be more responsible and prioritise one’s time and goals in a rather mature manner, even for a 23-year-old.

  1. Having studied at University of Cambridge, what prospects does an overseas LLM offers to law students?

From my experience, an LLM from a university outside one’s home country is beneficial for the following reasons: first, it helps in expanding your horizons in terms of thought process and way of life by briefly being part of a society different to the one you have been used to. Second, it gives you exposure to a different culture, which helps in developing your personality, especially in your twenties, as you develop a higher maturity in terms of understanding various nuances of human behaviour. Third, you meet and interact with people from several spheres of life and ages who may be pursuing the same course as you, which helps in establishing bonds with people across several walks of life while simultaneously, even resolving of any conscious or subconscious stereotypes about age/ vocation. Lastly, from an academic standpoint, it provides you with the opportunity to look into the laws and processes of another country, which helps in developing comparative and critical thought processes.

  1. What advice and tips do you have for our readers who wish to apply at University of Cambridge?

For what it is worth, from my experience, I would only suggest the following: first, make the most of your statement of purpose (SOP) – often, I receive requests on LinkedIn or from acquaintances to review their SOPs and find that they replicate details on their CV in their statements. I would not advise that, given that any reviewer can already gain the information on your CV from the CV itself, and the SOP should be used to focus on specific instances, why Cambridge is the right fit for you and any specific reason for applying, instead i.e. aspects that one will not be able to gather from the CV.

Second, your referees should ideally be individuals who have known you in a direct capacity and could allude to specific academic results or practical circumstances that make you a great fit for the university. Their recommendations may really turn the ball in your favour.

Third, there may be a difference in terms of how you approach your application based on what stage you apply at. For example, the application and referees for someone applying straight after law school would be different from the aspects one would want to focus on, if applying after a few years of work experience.

  1. Coming back to work, you have had a rich internship experience during your undergraduate law school days. What areas as per you should interns focus on to get the most out of internships?

In my view, it is very important to be mindful of your role and value-add to the team. You should view the opportunity as one to “assist” rather than to “self-serve”. Once that perspective is clear, you will be able to better contribute to the team and assist them in the best possible manner, which will be most appreciated. If you consider the opportunity only as a means to secure what is best for “you” rather than the team, that myopic vision may lead you to overplay your hand and lose out on long-term benefits.

Second, it is not essential for you to have a great background or experience in the subject-matter or practice area assigned to you. Those reviewing your work are mindful that you may not have the perspective they do on the subject, and often, may not have any background regarding it either. The key aspects they are often looking for is your willingness to learn, ability to understand the assignment, professionalism and time management. Please ask if you do not understand an assignment – now being on the other side of things, I can vouch from experience, that attempting to clear doubts is often more welcome than you would imagine.

Third, often, interns with one team feel a sense of unease if an intern from another team receives more work than them. Given that it is a time-sensitive role with only a few weeks to prove your mettle, it is natural to feel a bit uneasy in such circumstances, although it may not necessarily be a disadvantage. From a practical standpoint, it is important to keep in mind that each team will review its interns independently, and it therefore, does not matter if you received more or less opportunities than a fellow intern from another team. The team you have been assigned can only offer you with as many opportunities to assist as they may have at a given point of time. Therefore, your reviewer is going to be mindful of that and will review your performance in light of the same, independent of anyone else. Thus, it is important to remain proactive and assist where possible, keeping these practical aspects in mind.

  1. You currently work with the competition law team, at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. What advice do you have for our readers who wish to pursue a career in the field of competition law?

Personally, what drew me to competition law was its basis in logical reasoning and economics. As a practice area in the Indian context, competition law offers perspectives and involvement in both, litigation (through defending entities against investigations, for example) as well as M&A (through merger control or advisories). Further, it also helps in developing a deep understanding of specific markets and industries, giving one a great practical insight into how businesses in a particular segment function. This understanding then helps in developing possible relevant markets and assessing the scope of the industry that should be under consideration from a competition law standpoint in any given case. Therefore, there is immense scope for innovative and challenging solution-driven thought, which continues to allure me to the subject area. Thus, anyone with a knack for these facets would be a great fit for this field.

  1. Competition law has a more active role now with the developments concerning big tech. What role do you think will competition law play in the coming decade and what avenues does it open for those willing to explore the domain?

Competition law will play a leading role in the coming decade, especially in ensuring that big tech companies, among others, tread on the right side of antitrust principles, which will in turn, facilitate the growth of new entrants. The ongoing development of the law and increased awareness will create a conscious compliance culture amongst enterprises across various industries. It will also become increasingly important to startups and new age platforms in terms of ensuring compliance with the law from the very beginning and establishing a pro-competition culture.

I also reckon that the Director General’s office will be entrusted with greater responsibilities and will expand on the areas of investigation in the coming decade, including with respect to monitoring an ongoing compliance culture by certain strategically powerful companies.

Once the Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is passed by Parliament, we can expect these changes to kick in sooner than later.

  1. It appears that the hybrid work mode is here to stay for a while. What tips would you like to give our readers in order to help them secure internships and do well while working in a hybrid mode?

Hybrid internships may instil the feeling that one is at a disadvantage because of lack of face time with the team or experiencing the office day-to-day environment. However, given the circumstances surrounding Covid and evolving work models, it is important that anyone keen on interning in this environment embrace the changing modes of working.

In order to ensure that you can make the most of a remote or hybrid internship, it is important to stay connected with the team and remain proactive in terms of expressing your willingness to assist.

Often, there may be circumstances where a team may not be able to share certain documents or loop you into a matter completely due to confidentiality. In such circumstances, try to gather as much non-confidential information and a broad bird’s eye perspective of the assignment in order to produce the best work product.

Further, in the event that the period during which you have secured your internship is one where the team may be relatively light on work and you find yourself having some spare time, it may not be a bad idea to discuss whether you could submit a short presentation or written piece on a topic relating to that practice area. Such an exercise will build your knowledge on the field and also serve as a practice guide/presentation for the team once you leave. It also provides an innovative medium to hone your presentation skills and engage with the team on an all-in basis rather than dealing with members on a 1-on-1 basis only.

Lastly, while submitting your worksheet at the end of the internship, do outline your role and assistance provided in detail and demarcate the scope of work along with the person that assigned it to you so that HR has an easy guide on whom to contact for feedback regarding your time at the firm.

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