Ms Shridha Malhotra is a senior associate at AZB & Partners. She narrates her journey as a real estate lawyer and her nine years in the profession.
She has been interviewed by Tanya Sharma, an EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from Amity Law School, Noida.
1. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I am a real estate lawyer with 9 years of experience in the profession. We advise on all aspects of real estate transactions including investment in the real estate sector; diligence of land and buildings for setting up of stores, warehouses, retail, and commercial spaces; advisory on purchasing, selling, leasing, licensing, joint development, development management arrangements; and our clients include private equity investors, real estate developers, institutional lenders as well as borrowers and high net worth individuals. I have previously worked in the infrastructure (debt and equity side) and defence sectors.
2. What were your law school years like, and how do you think that journey shaped you into becoming the professional you are today?
Well, I do not think I can share what time at my law school (ILS, Pune) was really like. Despite that, though, I learned that all work and no play makes Jill (let us shift the narrative from just Jack having all the fun) a dull girl, so it is imperative to strike a balance between performance-centric efforts and enjoying the time at hand.
3. What prompted you to pursue law and practise transactional law?
To be honest had I known at 18 that one can make money out of blending perfumes, I would not be here. At that time, the law seemed like my forte for two reasons: (a) I am innately curious, so I like to dive deep into a subject I am dealing with; and (b) logic came naturally to me. Law flavoured with business is ever so dynamic which excites me, hence, transactional law.
4. In your opinion, when is it ideal to decide specialisation or career path as a law student? Do you believe that restricting to an area of interest at the outset of one’s career can enable one to make the appropriate choice?
It is ideal to experience practicing in as many fields of law as possible, especially during one’s span of internship – it helps one make a more informed decision. Despite knowing from my early days that I may ultimately work as a transactional lawyer; I did litigate for a few months right after I graduated (and before I joined AZB). Thereafter, during my initial years of practice, I was involved in several mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and defence deals, before I decided to specialise in real estate after about half a decade. Variety is the spice of life, would not you agree?
5. Any amendments in the real estate law sphere are sometimes not updated, or the websites are outdated, making it a bit challenging to find the solution to the query associated with the subject. In your opinion, how should a real estate lawyer approach an issue to find the best alternative for the client?
Agreed. To add, a lot of notifications/circulars may be in the vernacular which one may not always be versed with. In such a scenario two things become highly essential (a) research through jurisprudence followed by articles to get a flavour of the update one is looking for; and (b) a strong network of trusted counsels who can assist you in case the official websites are not updated or accessible.
6. According to you, what qualities of an intern can make them stand out during their internship?
For me, an intern does not always have to be right or think out of the box. Effort to deep dive and asking as many questions as possible (rather than assuming) are the two qualities I always look for. One piece of advice I always give to all interns – enjoy this time, life is only going to go downhill from here.
7. How crucial is it to conduct appropriate legal research in real estate, and how can a law student acquire these abilities?
Land, being a State subject, is not only intricate but highly niche, hence, I do not expect interns to know the basics before beginning their internship. I always like to brief all my interns about the basic concepts of the question at hand before proceeding to commence research. That being said, it is crucial to first examine the bare text, which is clear in most cases, to be followed by jurisprudence. If neither of the aforesaid provides an answer, and the relevant government website is not updated/accessible, communication (calls or visits) to the offices of relevant authorities often throws light on the subject and provides guidance.
8. What should law students and young professionals do to balance work and life as the discourse about mental health in the legal field grows?
I value time with my family, friends, and, most importantly, myself too much to compromise it for anything else. To that end, often I remind myself of a few things, which fundamentals I swear by. Firstly, work is a part of my life, not my identity and being, as a whole. Second, I am as dispensable as anyone for my organisation, but not for the people close to me. Third, disassociate your emotions from work and try to not take challenges at work, back home. These affirmations help me take positive steps towards balancing my life with a very demanding workspace (which is the case for most lawyers, no matter the firm/organisation one is working with and even for independent lawyers).
PS: I also like to tell myself that any of my achievements are purely for my personal gratification and others should not be obligated to put me on a pedestal for that. Helps me stay grounded, or so I would like to believe.
9. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received from a mentor and would like to share with our readers who desire to follow a similar path?
I have been very fortunate to have been blessed with some tremendous mentors; who albeit tough, taught me some valuable lessons and ways of working which I follow till date. A few pieces of advice which I received over the years and that stuck with me:
(i) If it does not feel right, it probably is not – do not sleep over it.
(ii) If, as a third person, what you have drafted can be interpreted in more ways than one, your work product is not ready to be sent.
(iii) You are as good as your last deliverable – never let your quality of work slip.
(iv) Honesty towards work and to your principles counts for a lot more than currying favour and optics.
(v) Do not take yourself too seriously (most important).
Note: For any correspondence connect with her at +91 9637576349.