Ms Nalini Mishra is an Associate Partner at Singhania and Co. LLP. She has qualified as an Independent Director on the board of a listed company and is the youngest female Independent Director on the respective board. In addition to that she has been named as the Vice-President of the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Business Council).
She recounts her journey from deciding to pursue law as a professional route to holding several key positions and significantly impacting the legal sector.
She has been interviewed by Tanya Sharma, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from Amity Law School, Noida
Please take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers.
I am currently working as an Associate Partner at Singhania and Co. LLP, a premier full-service international law firm in India. My areas of specialisation are international arbitration, mediation, international contracts, maritime laws, shipping and corporate laws. I have represented domestic and foreign clients in complex arbitration matters relating to substantive and procedural law aspects under Indian and English law at pre and post-arbitration stages under various rules in Singapore, the UK, New Jersey, UAE, India, and other countries.
I was recently qualified and appointed as an independent director on the board of members of a listed company and was named Asian Legal Business Rising Star of 2022. I was also recently appointed as the Vice President of the WICCI, the India-Austria Bilateral Business Council.
- Please tell us about your formative years in the industry, particularly your time in law school.
I did my bachelor’s degree in law from Jitendra Chauhan College of Law, Mumbai, after being convinced by my father to enter the field of law after holding an economics and accounting degree from Sydenham College Mumbai. Law school was a different kind of experience altogether, given I was from a non-arts background. The teaching and the nature of law subjects kindled me to inquire critically about topical issues with massive socio-legal considerations, especially the changing environment. I actively engaged in moots, debates and other extracurriculars and was interested in legal violations and their negative impact on the community. I fondly remember my discussions on topics from headlines of the newspapers among classmates and teachers. These discussions really widened my understanding of the law on issues like assault or terror attacks.
- What did you do in law school that set you apart from the crowd and that you feel is necessary for a law student to do?
As mentioned earlier, I was actively engaged in moot court competitions and debates, which most of the students did not at the time. I engaged myself in many legal discussions that widened my knowledge horizons which further helped me in my journey as a lawyer.
A law student should develop their content writing and research skills more, as these skills will aid them in their profession while preparing case files or in providing legal opinions. When I see law students writing blog posts and developing their skills, it makes me feel incredible. Of course, moot court competitions are the best way to hone one’s argumentative skills; however, writing must be given equal consideration. I have seen many students perform extraordinarily in prepping for their cases. So much information is available on the internet that students should make good use of it and prepare their projects or articles by consulting books or comprehensible blogs.
- How far do you believe solid legal researching abilities can carry a law student or someone pursuing a professional path similar to yours? If so, how do you think these abilities can be mastered?
Classroom knowledge gives you a cursory understanding of the law through the bare act and the jurisprudence behind the same. This is important as it forms the base or foundations upon a particular legal principle. Participation in law school extracurricular activities such as the moot court, ADR, client negotiation and essay competitions improve the critical thinking aspect. Internships offer practical experience over what can be gained through classrooms and extracurricular activities. These abilities can be effectively mastered through time with dedication, effort and a zest for learning.
- What drew you to maritime law and international arbitration as a practice area?
My tryst with maritime law occurred by a stroke of chance. My work at Singhania initially focused on international arbitration. During the course of my practice, I had the opportunity to represent the National Stock Exchange among other clients, to name a few. I took up the matters regarding maritime law in 2013 – when my colleagues practising maritime law were on vacation. This stroke of fate affirmed my interest in maritime law, and my later experience in maritime law speaks for itself.
- What are your thoughts on the increased use of arbitration to resolve maritime disputes and how effective is it?Any dispute arising under Maritime also forms part of an international commercial transaction and impacts the world economy and therefore, it is important that the parties resolve their dispute without opting for lengthy litigation. Further, the effect of covid-19 has resulted in substantive public policy challenges, even in the legal sector. In the field of maritime law- covid-19 has disrupted supply chains across the globe. This disruption gives rise to substantive legal considerations such as determining if covid-19 is considered a force majeure event, effect of port closures and bankruptcy, to name a few. All these give rise to disputes on a novel area of law- usually left undecided by Courts. On the other hand, arbitration offers greater autonomy to both parties and the arbitrator in determining such novel issues in a cost and time-effective manner. The establishment of India’s first Maritime International Arbitration centre at GIFT City, Gujarat, reiterates the growing use of arbitration to resolve maritime disputes.
- You were recently listed in the Asian Legal Business Indian Rising Stars, 2022 list, making you one of the country’s youngest cohort of lawyers making an impact on the legal arena. What do you think significantly contributed to this journey?
I believe that hard work and determination are the keys to success. My senior and mentor, Mr Pradeep Kumar Jain, as well as my family and friends, were instrumental in helping me overcome problems throughout the COVID-19 pandemic through their diverse perspectives.
- You are a qualified independent director and appointed to the board of a listed company as an independent director. Please tell us about your experiences as the board’s youngest female independent director.
Historically the participation of independent women directors in companies in India has been very marginal. Recently, in 2019, a new law has made it mandatory to have a one female independent director on board of a listed company. My experience as an independent director has been overwhelmingly positive as it gave me a valuable platform to contribute to the company’s performance and deepened my understanding of finance, economy, and other regulatory laws.
- Maintaining a work-life balance is a common concern for advocates working in law firms. In addition to becoming an associate partner, you also write academic articles. How do you cope with professional stress while still contributing to academia through writing?
Writing academic articles on new areas of law reflects a practitioner’s expertise as it covers a core area of law, and I feel good to share my opinions on my favourite law subjects in my circle or among citizens of our country. Writing keeps me going, and I encourage everyone to take up a task that helps them blow off some steam. Being an editor of Café Social magazine, I have dedicated a legal corner having a monthly issue wherein we give a platform to law students to write and publish.
- You are active in a variety of social work and have influenced a lot of individuals to help others through your posts. What inspires you to help others and make a difference in their lives?
I believe lawyers, over other professions, have a greater social obligation to give back to the society; given the nature of our profession itself primarily, I feel that every citizen of our country should not be deprived of their legal rights, and education is essential for underprivileged section. Therefore, I became a part of the various foundations namely, Lions Club, Inbook Cafe and Inbook Foundation, wherein I had the opportunity to empower women and set up libraries for kids in villages and provide legal aids.
- Would you have any concluding words for law students?
This is an excellent career choice for individuals who enjoy reading and researching. Students and young lawyers must recognise that their success depends on their understanding of various laws. They must not be picky when reading laws and interning with their seniors. In the words of my senior, “A decent lawyer invests a few months in his career, while outstanding lawyers invest years in their profession.” With this, I want to urge the students to stay focused and strengthen their skills in writing and research. In your journey as lawyers, it will take you miles ahead. Keep actively participating in co-curricular activities like moot court competitions, ADR, and negotiating competitions; it will refine your critical reasoning and argumentative skills. Work with someone that can provide good practical knowledge and impart skills.