December 5, 2020

INTERVIEW: PRANJAL DOSHI (MCL, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE; B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) HNLU, RAIPUR)

Mr. Pranjal Doshi graduated from Hidayatullah National Law University in 2018. He went to the University of Cambridge to pursue a post graduate specialisation in Corporate Law. He is currently working in a corporate law firm and also provide consultancy services to budding lawyers so as to maximise their chances of acceptance onto graduate study programs at prestigious colleges.

We took this opportunity to ask him the following questions.

How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers? What motivated you to pursue the field of law?

A lover of dogs, hot beverage and potatoes (in that very order)! Law is something I was subjected to, but I am clearly way more interesting than that (at least that’s what I tell myself before sleeping). A Batman fanatic, a sitcom critic, a badminton enthusiast and a man plagued by vicious humour.

Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs in a small town of central India, I witnessed financial transactions on a daily basis and naturally, found my calling in the study of commerce for my sophomore years. After my 12th examination, I moved to Mumbai to pursue an unconventional course in stock markets. However, fate had a different plan in store for me. I had to drop out of college, and move back to my hometown. Even before I could recover, reality struck me: I did not have a college. Constricted by my circumstances, I began my quest for a college in the vicinity of home when I came across Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU). I, therefore, became a law student by chance rather than by choice and thereafter began my venture with the law at HNLU. Subsequent to my graduation, I went to the University of Cambridge to pursue a post graduate specialisation in Corporate Law. I am currently working in a corporate law firm and also provide consultancy services to budding lawyers so as to maximise their chances of acceptance onto graduate study programs at prestigious colleges.

In high school, I founded an NGO for tribal and rural welfare. I believe that I have positively influenced the lives of tribal poor. We have, through dedicated efforts, distributed around 12 million clothing articles and raised over 100,000 GBP for tribal welfare and are working towards the utilization of these funds in areas such as education and skill-building.
While a part of me is a professional corporate lawyer, seemingly committed to the development in the commercial sphere and domestic politics, the other side of me is proficient expert in a folk-dance form to the extent of borderline enragement.

What do you think were the biggest hurdles and challenges in the early days of your career? How did you deal with them?

On a very personal note, my biggest challenge in law school was maintaining the mandatory attendance of 75%. Unlike the sincere lot, I always found myself in awkward positions asking my friends to “do something about it” and requesting (sometimes begging) the faculty members for the same.

On the professional front, I realised that owing to acute lack of guidance and necessary exposure, I struggled with my international internships cum vacation scheme applications. Between third and penultimate year, I was rejected by around 150 international law firms based in UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany and Dubai. I gave up on the prospects of being part of some prestigious international law firm and changed my focus to global law schools. During my time in Cambridge, I applied to nine Magic Circle as well as American Law Firms for the position of trainee solicitor and did ultimately receive an offer from one of the finest law firms of the world. All that I had lost in terms of optimism, was made up with an unwavering sense of resilience. The thing that ultimately worked out most for me was the overwhelming research I did for every firm I decided to apply to, before actually floating my application.

Fun fact: The French office of one of the largest law firms, sent me a rejection email even without me applying to them. (And you thought you had a tough time in law school).

When and how did you decide to pursue masters? Do you think that the Indian law universities need a change to match up to the standards of foreign universities? What can be done in order to make Indian Universities more conducive for learning?

My sole motivation for opting for post-graduate studies was to deepen my knowledge-base of the subjects I was particularly interested in. During my third year, I realized that if my understanding of corporate and financial laws has to evolve, it had to be reasoned and comprehended, not merely digested. After interacting with my seniors and industry experts, I came to know about the matchless exposure an international law school has to offer. I wanted to be a part of the exceptional pedagogic techniques and thrived to work and learn under the best academicians of the world in the relevant field.
Unlike the fancy B-schools’, the curriculum of the LLM program is not formulated with the quintessential objective of rendering jobs and generating employment. It is undertaken for the purpose of value addition. After spending five good years in an Indian law school, (duly acknowledging the fact that it does have things to offer), I realised that as far as imparting value-based education is concerned, we are still in the developing sphere and a lot of ground needs to be covered.
Honestly, the Socratic teaching technique differentiates the western education from the rest (including but not limited to India). Indian professors are relatively (emphasis supplied) less invested in their students as compared to their foreign counterparts. Their pedagogic style, in strict contrast to ours, isn’t impeded with organisational challenges and consequently that moulds a system, enabling the tutor to structure the entire module on a real time basis way before the actual commencement of the semester. I believe we as institution have to shift focus from memory-based tests and make a move towards application based learning.

How did you go about choosing a university? How did this influence your career?

There’s no straightjacket formula for shortlisting target universities and the criterion and methodology differs hugely amongst masses. As a starting point, one may follow LLM-guide and participate in the ongoing discussions to gain necessary clarity. World rankings [QS & Times] could be used as an indicator to refine the perspective, but that is all. Too much emphasis on these rankings may prove to be lethal. It’s important that prospective students check out brochures, talk to recent graduates, read about the universities, follow their blogs, etc. I always knew that I was applying to a particular course and not to a University’s brand value. A world class university like Harvard might not offer a fulfilling experience of Competition law while a lesser known yet specialized institution like say ‘University of Liège – Liege Competition and Innovation Institute’, might just satisfy the hunger (just an example).
Loosely speaking, deciding upon the law school is almost similar to proposing to the girl of your dreams. But, what you didn’t tell her was…you also proposed to a bunch of other girls (just in case). However, you cannot just ask everyone out on a date, simply because you have certain criteria, interests, hopes as well as future aspirations. These parameters should fit in verbatim while choosing a college too. Let’s put this into perspective. You have an admission letter from Cambridge warranting you a solid Corporate Law specialisation but you have always imagined yourself as Atticus Finch, fighting for the unfortunates and undesirables in criminal trials. On the other hand, Loyola Law School, (Los Angeles), a ‘relatively’ lesser known institutional offers a crisp criminal justice specialisation, and for a fulfilling post-graduate experience, reason mandates preferring Loyola over Cambridge, regardless of the toughness ingrained in making such a decision.

Broadly, reputation of the university, geographic location, specialisms available, teaching staff, exchange opportunities, length of the program, prospects of scholarship are some of the factors that should be considered in shortlisting in the Universities. Kickstart the research based on your preferences. Post that, prepare a list of the top 10 universities of your choice (depending upon the aforementioned factors). Subsequently, read about specific pre-requisites like CGPA (Few universities would categorically lay down the top 5 – 10% requirement on their webpage), university stipulations (Yale Law school expects you to build a career in academia and scholarship), Post Qualification Experience (few American law schools expect you to have worked for a few years in order to be eligible for the LLM program), Research publications (Melbourne explicitly offers an edge to those having publications). This university fixation shall not only foster your collegiate decision of pursuing an LLM but will also aid you in writing an informed Statement of Purpose. After the desired homework, apply to five to seven universities tops. “Pick your universities as dramatically and with ardent certainty as Ash Ketchum did “Pikachu, I choose you”

What would be your advice to our budding lawyers?

I am in no position to give any advice to budding lawyers, and therefore, at the risk of portraying myself as a wise man, I would cautiously start off by saying, ‘Invest in People’: Career, jobs and grades will all automatically follow. Look out for others. Let us please grow with each other and bridge the gap between where we were yesterday and where we intend to be tomorrow. It’s not a race and never meant to like one.
Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot get what your colleagues from other law schools can. Let’s rise above the casual approach and fight mediocrity.

Lastly, it’s high time we transform our parameters of success. Securing a PPO in big 6, an LLM from Ivy League, an illustrious career in litigation and the like, though commendable, are no definitions of a successful life. Successful is the one, who even though barely sailing through, is genuinely enjoying the work and is actually learning something good out of it.

Be kind, say please and thank you and always always always hold the door.

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