Nikhil Narendran


1. I see that you graduated from one of the first batches of NUALS, and your batch was instrumental in starting the Student Council, Moot Court Society, and other student bodies. Did this influence your career growth in any way?

We had to be entrepreneurial and self-starting to ensure that the university gets shaped as a national law university. We had to create Moot Court Society, Recruitment Committee, etc. and had to draft the rules for these, which were fair, just, and purposeful. This was my first legislative drafting experience, taking feedback from stakeholders and finally convincing the management. This has helped me significantly during my professional life.

When we started off, it was an institute and not yet a university. It included getting involved in politics, strikes and lobbying to ensure that we get a university status. I could not have wished for more for my college life.

2. I believe you graduated during the 2008 housing crisis in the USA, which caused a recession in the economy. How did that affect your initial years of finding a job?

I graduated just before the crisis. Having said that it was tough to get placed in a good firm given that our university did not have any pedigree. We were an unheard of university. I was on the Campus Committee for Recruitment, CCR, (also named after my favourite band of those days) and for internships and recruitment, we all had to struggle a lot. Finally, we managed to place over 25 candidates in a batch of 48, but I did not have a job. I would have written at least 200 e-mail applications for jobs, before I finally landed an interview call.

3. Do you think there is a difference between what law graduates are looking for and expecting from the job nowadays as compared to when you graduated?

Frankly, despite the resources available now (such as better internet, websites, google and LinkedIn), the new law graduates have it tough, because of the competition. This is more for graduates from lesser known law schools and colleges.

However, I feel that many do not do basic research before reaching out to law firms. I get plenty of internship requests/job applications for corporate law roles, or even request for my e-mail id even though a simple google search would have thrown up these answers.

4. Were you always interested in TMT, and what prompted you to pursue TMT?

I dropped out of engineering to become a law student and tech was always of keen interest to me. I have also tried my hand at Indie films and short films, so the sector naturally appealed to me. I had a keen interest in tech, cyber laws and IPR when I was a student. The fact that tech was always evolving and kept you on your toes, interested me. Rahul Matthan was one of the few lawyers practising tech law at that point of time. His book was my first book I purchased before I joined law college. So, I jumped at the opportunity to work with him when it was available.

5. You are a regular speaker at various forums, have you ever considered teaching as a profession?

Yes, I love teaching. It helps to combine my passion for law and theatre and shape bright young minds. I was a visiting faculty at a private university for close to 2 years. I intend to continue lecturing at various universities on a part-time basis. I hope the Bar Council soon relaxes the rules to allow practicing lawyers to be academicians and legal academics to be advocates. Both the Bar and the academia are losing out due to the archaic rule.

6. You are based in Bangalore. Is the law firm culture in Bangalore different from the other cities? If yes, how?

I believe a city’s culture will influence a law firm therein. Bangalore is entrepreneurial, informal and is a knowledge hub. It is also going through a tremendous growth phase. Keep in mind that Bangalore is one of the fastest growing cities in India, if not in the world. The legal profession in the city has also grown alongside and I had the privilege to be part of it.

7. What is your opinion about the BCI rule prohibiting foreign law firms from setting up law offices in India?

I believe this will enable more competition, access to more technology, knowledge base and improve the quality of our legal system. The young lawyers will benefit more. We all saw how the pandemic-driven technology drive of the courts benefited the young lawyers. A similar shift will happen.

I know there are fears of cannibalisation by foreign law firms amongst many in our profession, like the fears before liberalisation in the 90s. Having said that, our Indian legal sector is huge and price sensitive. It is unlikely that foreign law firms will have a negative impact. For instance, take a look at Germany and Canada.

I feel the Bar Council should take an active role in ensuring that market opens.

8. If the Kochi market were to improve, would you consider bringing a Trilegal Kochi office and shifting practice here?

This is a partnership decision, and I am not authorised to speak about it at a firm level. Having said that it is an enticing thought to practise law in Kerala. The standard of Bar, the Bench and law enforcement in Kerala are stellar and the rule of law infrastructure is arguably the strongest in India. Kerala should set up an alternate dispute resolution center given the number of high quality legal professionals and retired Judges to attract arbitration and mediation from elsewhere in the country. Most companies dread the average Indian court process and with the right push they will flock to Kerala.

But I am not sure if Kerala markets these well enough. Kerala also needs more higher education institutions which are above local level politicking to truly unlock its potential in the knowledge economy.

9. What is your advice to students wishing to pursue their careers in TMT?

TMT is a broad practice area. I did all three because the sector was not as big compared to now when I started my career. I would urge students to focus on tech, telecom, or media specifically. Find your interest and build knowledge about the sector and the law. This is a knowledge-centric practice area and give it all to achieve the command over the subject.

To young lawyers specifically, to be an exceptional lawyer, you need to give law the time and attention it deserves. You will start reaping the rewards afterwards.

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