The feature for this week’s What Industry Says is Mr. Siladitya Dasgupta. As an individual, he claims he is an introvert, who was forced to become an extrovert due to demands of the career he chose to pursue. He comes from the city of joy, Kolkata and is based out of Mumbai at present. Currently, he is working as an Attorney with Ernst and Young.
When most of his school-mates were going for Engineering or Medical, he was thinking of pursuing law. The subject of law and social sciences had always been of great interest for him. Since he comes from a family of lawyers, it made his decision just a tad bit easier. In fact, he was certain of this path even when he was giving his Class XII board exams.
Mr. Siladitya regards his years at law school as the best 5 years of his life, both academically and socially. He claims that his college life has completely transformed him as an individual; from an average student in school, who was at times below average because somehow he never liked what he was studying in school. However, when he got into his law school out of nowhere he became a topper of his batch. He realised that this was because he loved what he was studying and that was getting reflected on his mark-sheets. This was the first-time he believes he tasted success in his life. But this academic fame also leads to having to live upto expectations which were a double-edged sword. His juniors started looking upto him and his professors thought no matter what he will be excelling in the upcoming semesters. Situations like these have taught him to handle unnecessary man-made pressure on a regular basis. Most importantly, he claims that he met some amazingly gifted minds during his college days. He has a very high regard for them, going to say that he had studied with them after college hours never felt the need of taking any private tuitions. He still looks upto them and feels proud of them.
Five years of law college can be a pretty daunting time for any student with their own highs and lows, and phases of motivated hard work and phases where you lose focus of the bigger picture.
We took this opportunity to ask him a few questions about his transformational journey from a law student to a legal professional.
So what/ who was your motivation throughout the journey?
“I always try to draw inspiration from my own experiences. However, alongside that, I took inspiration from a lot of people during those five years of college. My father was definitely one of them. Seeing him practice law, the fame he has in his field of practice, the discipline despite all the fame – these were the things that kept on inspiring me.”
Law school is not just about academics. It entails different extra curricular and co-curricular activities that shape us as legal individuals.
What are the things you enjoyed doing in law school?
Precisely I enjoyed everything in my journey as a law student. But the most exciting part was my journey as a student leader. I was an integral part of the Students’ Union of my college. I also had the opportunity to contest in college elections. Winning each of those elections and knowing that the amount of trust and faith my class-mates had in me was overwhelming. Probably that was the booster I needed as an individual. As the Executive Council member of the Students’ Union, I took part in organizing various college events. And in order to do that I had to interact with a lot of people within and outside my college. Now when I look back, I feel that those interactions started making me confident as a person and also helped me acquire a much required soft skill of “people management”.
In addition he also says that extra-Curricular activities will always help you to groom yourself. As a student you are anyway under a lot of pressure to do well in your exams which is a fair expectation. But the problem comes when you don’t have a life outside your classroom. Starting from singing to dancing to sports to current affairs, your extra-curricular activities can be anything. There are so many activities that a law student can choose from, including debate, moot-court, legal aid camps, taking independent courses (on law or any other subject of your interest). Extra-Curricular activities will not only help you to acquire new skills but it will also help you to better your time management skills.
For him, the journey to who he is started with his internships. When we asked him about how did he develop an interest in corporate law he mentioned,in his fourth year of graduation he decided to do something different. Aggressively he started looking for internship opportunities within the corporate sector. In the quest for this he came across an advertisement of an interview for a paid internship opportunity at Lexplosion, a Kolkata based Legal-tech Company. After clearing two rounds of interview (Managerial and then the final round with the CEO) he got selected for that position and Lexplosion signed a contract with himfor a year (which got extended for another year later on). And that was the most crucial break of his professional life he would say. From thereon he started gaining interest towards the corporate sector. Interestingly when he was doing his internship at Lexplosion, people in Big 4 already knew about his existence through his ex-colleagues and seniors. And this was the time he realised that he has made his own brand and reputation within the industry. He realised that once you make your own brand and reputation you get noticed by the big players of the industry very easily. Right after his graduation he started getting calls from the corporate houses and eventually got an offer from Ernst and Young after four rigorous rounds of interview. And when you get an offer from one of the four biggest consulting firms of the world you can’t really do anything else except accepting that offer.
Managing college and a full time internship could not have been a cakewalk however he makes it look easy. He claims that fortunately he had a morning college and that is why he could easily accommodate a working schedule. It was very a tough schedule, and he used to be working and studying for over 15 hours each day. He had to literally sacrifice all his college life “fun” for the last two years ofhis graduation. And now when he looks back, he doesn’t regret doing that. Because those long tiring days were his investments which will give him dividends forever.
We also asked Mr. Siladitya about the importance of grades.He says that the importance of grades can be taken up in two perspectives. “First: if you’re getting into litigation as an independent practitioner nobody is going to look into your mark-sheets. Second: if you intend to join the corporate sector then your marks would be the first thing your profile will get evaluated upon. So in a firm like ours when we go for a recruitment drive the first thing we do is, we set up a cut off mark to screen candidates. Because it’s humanly not possible to interview an entire batch of 200 students. If your score is below that cut off mark then you will not even get a chance to give an interview. But you have to keep one thing in mind, your marks will only fetch you that one interview. Rest is upon your knowledge and technical skills. During your whole interview process nobody is going to ask you how much you have scored. They already know that you have scored well enough to sit there for the interview but that’s not going to get you the job”.
Further he mentions, “When I was giving my interview at Ernst and Young nobody asked me about my marks. I had to give four rounds of interviews. They didn’t even mention my grades in those four rounds, except in my final round when my partner said, ’I heard you are a topper. But that’s not going to help you as a professional!’. I didn’t know what and how to reply to that statement. So yes, marks are important from a Corporate Sector perspective. And if you have any intention to get into academia then having good academic credential is a mandatory requirement.” However, as an individual, he says that when you have a decent scorecard it definitely helps you to create a positive perception and increases your credibility infront of your colleagues and seniors. And trust me in this profession you don’t want your peers or seniors to question your credibility orto have a negative perception about yourself.
But, one thing he can assure you is that, “NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR HIGH SCHOOL MARK-SHEETS”.
In the last phase of this interview we asked Mr. Siladitya about what alternative career options are available for law students who although have a keen interest in law but are not interested in working in law firms or courts.To which he said, “The biggest advantage of being a law student is that you’re never out of career options. If someone is not interested in working in law firms or courts, then he/she will have options like working as an in-house counsel, or getting into consultancy, or working as a contract specialist, or becoming an IP professional or pursue a career into legal journalism, so on and so forth. You just need to find your area of interest. Rest can be taken care of once you’re sure about your career path / stream.”
“Also if you’re planning for an LL.M from any of the prestigious Universities based out of UK/US/Singaporethen, your graduation marks will play a very big role.. Unlike India, most of the colleges abroad do not have an entrance examination for an LL.M. course. They will have a cut off marks for all the applicants, which is a 2:1 degree in most of the cases. Along with that you are required to have a high score in IELTS. Apart from these scores, you need to have a very strong Statement of Purpose (SOP) accompanied by three to six (depending upon the college you are applying to) strong recommendation letters. Also, the top UK universities will always look into your extra-curricular activities and the social work you have done for the upliftment of your fellow citizens. And a lot of times students do get evaluated on the basis of this particular aspect. On the other hand, in India it is a pretty straight forward process. To do an LL.M. from a National Law University you just need to appear for CLAT and secure a competitive rank.
His words of wisdom:
“I want you to know that your professional life is going to be harsh and ruthless at times. Studying for five years is way easier than your upcoming professional life. I want you to be mentally prepared for that. As a student you always have a defined syllabus and you will never get a single question beyond that defined boundary. But the moment you become a professional your clients will ask you to provide a solution for anything and everything under the sun. And remember one thing, you have to have an answer for every single question that have been raised by your client. And the client I am talking about will have decades of industry experience and on the other hand you will have zero industry experience during your initial days. Its going to be decades of experience vs. zero experience. Do you see the imbalance there? The only way you can compensate this imbalance is by gaining as much knowledge as possible. Never stop being a student of law. Law as a subject is so vast in nature that it’s humanly not possible to know everything about law. That’s why the day you stop being a student of law is the day you stop learning anything new.”
“You have to have that passion to survive this high stakes’ corporate world where weak people gets wiped out on a daily basis. You have to have a conviction in whatever you’re doing. I have friends who have become food critics after quitting law. An ex-colleague of mine is now pursuing sports management studies. I have a friend who is pursuing a career in the media & advertisement industry with a law degree. What I want to tell you is that, it’s absolutely okay to not pursue law as a career even after completing your LL.B. Your primary job is to find out what you like. Don’t force yourself into anything that you don’t believe in.”