Subhayu Sen Curated
Partner at Khaitan & Co
CURATED BY :
What type of cases do you generally handle?
I am a corporate lawyer, with a focus on equity capital market transaction. I’ll explain briefly what this means: Every company requires money (capital) to do business – it is their lifeline for survival. Capital is available in the following forms (a) loans from banks and financial institutions (b) money from private equity investors or institutions (c) profit made by the company during the previous years which can be ploughed back into the business and (d) public money – money raised from the members of the public through an initial public offering (IPOs), follow on public offering (FPOs), rights issue, qualified institutions placement (QIP), etc. My specialisation is (d) – I undertake and advice on capital market transactions such as IPOs, FPOs, rights issues, QIPs and any other transaction through which a company or body corporate can raise funds from the public markets in India
What law books or journals would you recommend reading?
That would really depend on your field of practice. I would recommend Mondaq as lots of articles and journals are available online for reading.
What are the realities of a lawyer's job that cinema never depicts?
The long hours, the hard work, the actual technical points of law on which matters are discussed and negotiated – I think cinema has to depict the cooler parts of the profession for the viewing to be largely entertaining.
What are your primary job responsibilities?
As the partner, I am primarily responsible to the client for pretty much everything on a transaction – therefore, I have to be on top of every important aspect of the deal. On a day to day basis, I have to review and sign off on all important documents, such as key agreements, key public disclosures, conceptualise and approve transactional structures, issue legal opinions, take views on questions of law and oversee the execution of the transaction. As a partner, I am also expected to generate business for myself and the firm.
What do you dislike about your job or the industry?
I don’t dislike any aspect of the job or the industry worth mentioning – however, like any person, wouldn’t we like to earn more?
How stressful is your job?
It’s a mixed bag, depending on the transactions that I am working on - but generally, it is more stressful than most professions. That’s a reality we have come to live with – because we are passionate about the subject and the profession.
What does a typical day at work look like?
Getting into work and first checking my emails on the day’s deliverables, making a plan for the deliverables based on certain parameters, team discussions, calls with clients, negotiations with cousels, drafting and review of documents, research and reading and keeping one self updated on all relevant aspects of the law – and not necessarily in that order.
What is your approach or philosophy to representing a case?
Make sure I do my best for each client.
What advice would you give to a law school aspirant?
With the benefit of perspective, I can offer the following advice: 1. Unlike what some movies or television shows may depict, the legal profession is not as glamorous as it may seem. It is largely an academic line – involves a lot of studying, not only in law school but through out your life. You should be prepared for that. 2. Unless you come from a family of lawyers (where a parent can advise you), I would recommend that you speak to a career counsellor and honestly evaluate if you have the acumen to read and practice law and then take well informed decision. 3. Once you graduate from law school and wish to opt for a career in private practice (law firms) or litigation, the first ten years of your career is going to be tough. It involves long hours (you are expected to clock over 2000 hours a year at the very minimum), tons of documentation and lots of reading. In private practice, but only in the top law firms, you would be remunerated well – it is one of the best paying professions in the world. However, may I request that you don’t get into this profession because of the money – you genuinely must be passionate about the subject – or else it may disappoint you later. 4. If you do enjoy the subject, it can be very satisfying as a profession.
How do you deal with failure in the courtroom?
As mentioned earlier, I am a corporate lawyer – therefore, my day in court is actually a day in the board room. It involves negotiations and argument with counsels from other law firms on corporate transactions. While I have appeared before SEBI and the stock exchanges (who are the capital markets regulators in India) during certain occasions, my day to day work does not involve appearances before a court. Nonetheless, if I may equate my day to that of a litigator and speak of how I deal with failures - here are a few things that I do: 1. Failure would involve the other lawyer getting better of me because of the following reasons – (a) he is better prepared with his matter (b) he is better aware of the law or (c) he has a better case. If he is better prepared than I am, then that is the worst thing that can happen to a professional – you cant be underprepared. No harm in being over prepared. With time and experience, I have learnt to always over prepare. 2. To be aware of the law, which is the subject matter of discussion – research is a cornerstone of this profession and a thorough research into the law and precedent is imperative. If my research has not be complete, it is very disappointing. Even with the best laid plans, one tends to have a bad day at work from time to time – trick is to learn from them, rather than hold them in as disappointments.
What type of skills does it take to become a successful lawyer?
A lot of hard work and a strong legal acumen.
Who are your typical clients? Do you have a set strategy to approach them on the first meeting?
My clients include large companies, which are in a position to access public funds (there are parameters to be met) and investment banks, who assist such companies in fund raisings. Every lawyer has a strategy for engaging with clients – it is something that becomes more relevant once you become a partner. It’s a complex and elaborate process – I would not be able to elaborate more at this point.
How did you decide you wanted to become a lawyer?
I do not come from a family of lawyers – though back a few generations, there were lawyers in my family (my great-grandfather and his father before him). While evaluating career options, I came across the legal profession as a career option – I undertook some online tests which told me that I may be a fit in this field. Once the cleared the entrance examinations, there was no looking back.
Other than a law degree, what kind of special training or knowledge do you have?
I have a masters degree in law. The masters degree included a degree in accounts and finance, which has quite benefitted my chosen field. Its not imperative to have a working knowledge of accounts and finance as you will pick it up on the job as a corporate lawyer but it did certainly give me an edge.
How dangerous is your job? Have you ever been threatened?
Fortunately, corporate law is not a dangerous profession and I have not come across aggressive situations – except from aggressive negotiations, which can naturally get heated as everyone is trying to do their best. I have had to travel to different parts of the country during my formative years in the profession – in order to undertake due diligence. Some of those parts of the country can be considered to be unsafe – however, I have not come across any regrettable situations.
What is the toughest decision you had to make at work?
The day I decided to quit my job and go for a master’s degree – that was a tough call to make for someone in their mid-20s. Also, the decision to let go of an employee can be tough for anyone – in any profession.