New Delhi based corporate lawyer Sourish Mohan Mitra is a long-standing Contributing Writer to Asia Law Portal. In this interview, he details what motivated him to pursue a career in law, his passion for writing, his observations about India’s economic future and legal market liberalization – and his advice to law students as they look forward to a career in the law.
What inspired you to study law and what motivates you to practice law today?
The inspiration to study law came after careful consideration of the results of my career counselling sessions. I had tried the most opted-for career options in India back then, such as science and commerce, but did not find any interest in either of them. I was almost pushed to a corner when my destiny eventually led me to a career counselor, whose accurate advice and brilliant analysis has made it a most singular experience for me. With a twinkle in the eye and a bright smile, I can confirm that there is indeed never a dull moment in a lawyer’s life.
The ability to inculcate new learnings on a daily basis, voracious appetite to resolve knotty issues and be served with ample opportunities to arrive at out of the box solutions, motivates me to practice law today.
How would you describe your areas of legal expertise? And which do you enjoy the most — and why?
I have been fortunate to be exposed to a potpourri of legal matters and practice areas very early on. This laid the foundation for my insatiable curiosity to acquire knowledge and transition beyond law firms to a Big4 Four firm. The fascinating mix of matters here gave me insight into business functions, importance of commercial considerations to close a successful deal and abundant occasions to collaborate with professionals other than lawyers. This also paved the way for advising on numerous global deals and M&A transactions.
Over time I have come to enjoy M&A the most. The sheer variety, fluidity and uniqueness of such transactions appeals highly to my interest and I guess they bring out the creative best in my capabilities. The thrill of the twists and turns in a M&A transaction is unparalleled and closing a deal gives me utmost professional satisfaction.
You write frequently including a lengthy tenure as a contributing writer to Asia Law Portal. What motivates you to write so much?
I am very passionate about communicating my thoughts and ideas to the larger world. My first contribution was an article in Hindi which was published in my school magazine. A few years later I sent an article to a leading English newspaper in India and after a few weeks, my eyes popped out to see that it had made it to the cover page of the newspaper’s supplement. This gave me the confidence to write further and diversify into numerous topics. I am thankful to all editors, especially you John, who have continuously reposed faith in me and considered my articles worthy of publishing in their esteemed platforms. This is my motivation to write further and hopefully make a difference in the lives of my esteemed readers.
You’ve often written about legal market liberalization in India. What is your sense of where this oft-changing issue is now?
There was a lot of progress made with respect to legal market liberalization during 2014-18. The thrust was maximum around that time and even the ardent opposed to the same were convinced and changed their views. Thereafter, we have seen a downward shift in our economic growth and that has possible taken the focus away from the initiative. With the country now battling to revive the economy it appears that this is now on the backburner.
What changes have been made to India’s legal regime that have most contributed to economic growth – and what further pro-growth developments in law do you see ahead?
The foreign direct investment policy has been regularly liberalized which has enabled inflow of foreign investment and contributed to economic growth. We have a large presence of foreign companies and equally competent Indian companies who have fueled economic growth. There have been large scale regulatory reforms which have enabled India to climb higher in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings. Despite so much effort on the regulatory front, the economic growth declined 2019 onwards and Covid-19 has made it worse. I feel that we are lacking in adequate enforcement of contracts and effective alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. Any steps taken to bridge these gaps would tantamount to suitable pro-growth developments in law.
How has the coronavirus impacted India’s recent economic growth?
As I have mentioned above, India was already facing a slowing economic growth in 2019, which has been hit very hard due to impact of Covid-19 related Government actions. When it was launched in March 2020, the lockdown seemed the best option to contain the spread of the virus in India. The economic impact of the lockdown began to be felt after a few days as industrial output and commercial activities came to a complete standstill. Most global financial institutions have predicted zero or negative economic growth for India in 2020. They have mentioned that the financial stimulus package announced by the government has not been very effective in uplifting the growth forecast. The silver lining seems to be a rebound in 2021 and the same is dependent on several factors which can change over a period of time. The lockdown restrictions are being gradually lifted but the exponential increase in Covid-19 cases has hampered resumption of business activities. With a recession staring at us now, the road to recovery is long, unclear and uncertain at this time.
What advice do you have for law students who are now looking forward to a future in law?
I feel that law students have an array of areas of practice available to them after they graduate. It may be prudent for them to proactively explore various options through internships and arrive at a specific legal career choice before they graduate. Alternatively, it is fine to change or add practice areas in the first few years post law school. Law students should take full advantage of the latest cutting-edge technology available to expand their horizon. Another aspect to be explored is dual qualification and exposure to diverse legal systems.
Apart from academics, I feel that while in law school, the best foundation that can be built is to create a strategy for your life. There is a detailed discussion on this critical area in a 2010 Harvard Business Review article titled ‘How Will You Measure Your Life’ by Clayton M. Christensen, professor at Harvard Business School (HBS). For convenience, here is a suitable extract from the article ‘I promise my students that if they take time to figure out their life purpose, they’ll look back on it as the most important thing they discovered at HBS. If they don’t figure it out, they will sail off without a rudder and get buffeted in the very rough seas of life.’ It may be a good idea to think deeply about what one aims to do in the future, during law school days itself, and work towards that goal on stepping out into the professional legal world.
What are your hopes for the rest of your legal career?
I hope to continue upskilling myself, learning every day and ensuring the well-being of all my internal and external clients. I also feel that this is the right time to interact with young lawyers and law school students to understand their vision and goals, equip them with practical knowledge and solutions to embrace complexities and steer them on to the path of achieving their goals. I feel triumphant to see budding lawyers rise to the challenges of a dynamic business environment and succeed in carving out a niche for themselves.