This interview has been taken by Areej Abdul Samad, Campus Leader at Lawctopus and a second-year learner at NALSAR University of Law.
Umang Bhat Nair is a V-year student at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. His areas of interest include International and Domestic Arbitration, Corporate Law, Public International Law. He has represented his university and won accolades in multiple moot court competitions across the globe in the subject areas of international arbitration to public international law.
He has also been a research assistant to foreign practitioners and assisted an arbitration law research center in preparing a White paper on Virtual Arbitration Hearings. Apart from his academic pursuits, he has played basketball at the National school level and now is on his college team. He loves listening to music and reading books in the fantasy genre.
Please tell us about yourself.
To briefly introduce myself, I am a V-Year student at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. I am a first-generation lawyer; my mother is a speech therapist running a clinic for children with autism and my father is a Rear Admiral in the Indian Navy. My hobbies include reading, largely fiction, binging TV shows and playing basketball. I have played basketball at the CBSE National and inter-University levels as well.
How did you realize that law is what you want to do?
If I’m being completely honest, my initial attraction towards becoming a lawyer was in the 8th standard from watching legal dramas such as Suits and Boston Legal. It was only in the 12th standard that I started to seriously read up more about law student experiences on websites such as Lawctopus to make a more informed choice with respect to my career.
A common theme I noticed across experiences was that most students had a love for reading. This was something I had in common as well. In addition, I was an avid debater in school, and I always found analytical thinking to be one of my strong suits. These were skills that I felt would hold me in good stead in the study, and eventually practice, of law, and 4 years later, I am happy to confirm I made the right decision.
You study at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, one of the best law schools in India. How is life at NALSAR? And your experience?
Thank you for your kind words about my university. Hailing from a military background and living a life constantly on the move, I have mostly had to change schools and cities every 2 years. NALSAR is probably the one place so far, I could stay in for 5 years in a row. Life at NALSAR has been one of the best experiences of my life. The college has seen many changes in the past 4 years that I have studied there.
It has continuously expanded their infrastructure and hired more faculty to an already existing impressive list. As far as student experience goes, I feel it is the same as any other experience. It could be good or bad, it’s up to how you wish to go about it. One of the benefits of attending a university like NALSAR is the environment it creates.
Students either know or figure out what they want over the years, and they work hard towards achieving their goals. On a lighter note, I have enjoyed almost every minute of my time at NALSAR. Whether it be taking part in sports tournaments or our very own college fest (Carpe Diem!), every activity has given me amazing memories to cherish. I have also made friendships that will last a lifetime.
What are your plans? What do you want to do in the future, and why?
I intend to join the Dispute Resolution team of a law firm after I graduate. I have been fixated on working in a Disputes practice from early on in law school due to my experiences in arbitration moot courts and disputes-focused internships.
During these experiences, I came to the realization that I genuinely enjoy researching the laws most often tackled by a Disputes team. I feel that being a part of a Disputes team often pushes one to think critically and analytically to make a winning case for a client.
Oftentimes, something that one reads months or even years ago may become relevant for a client’s case today. Making that connection and strengthening your case in such a way is a truly satisfying feeling.
As far as what the future holds for me, this is something that only time will tell. However, I hope that wherever the future does take me, it never ceases to stimulate and excite me on a daily basis.
If you look back, what were the things which have helped you become a better law student today?
If I were to look back, I attribute a lot of my success to the guidance I received from my seniors. I mentioned earlier how universities like NALSAR create a certain environment. While how this environment is perceived differs from student to student, I personally am grateful to the seniors who mentored me and gave me guidance constantly in my formative years of law school.
I cannot stress enough the importance of finding the right set of mentors in your initial years. The right mentorship can prevent you from making many mistakes. On an unrelated note, time management is something that is super important when in law school.
I was always clear that I did not want to spend my days with my face buried in books and wished to enjoy my years in college. Allowing myself time for pursuing interests outside academics, whether it be mooting or simply enjoying with my friends, helped me maintain a healthy balance in life.
You have secured prestigious internships at places like Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co., Khaitan & Co., Trilegal, AZB & Partners etc. Please share your experience working with them. The department you worked with and the kind of tasks you got to do.
Apart from my internship at SAM where I worked in the Projects & Project Finance team, I worked in the Dispute Resolution teams at Trilegal, AZB, and Khaitan. My work mostly comprised research and drafting.
The research propositions were highly varied in level of difficulty, ranging from something that could be found in a few minutes via Google to something that took me hours, or days even. Most of the research work demanded that one be comfortable with the case search engines such as SCC Online, Manupatra etc.
As for drafting, some teams were kind enough to allow me to prepare the first draft for plaints, replies, statements of claim and defence etc. This would be followed by a review of my work where I would get constructive feedback on how I could improve the quality of my work.
According to you, what helped you get those internships at Big 6 law firms in India? What can law students do or must do to get internships at such firms?
The bigger firms tend to have very streamlined processes when it comes to hiring interns. This involves shortlisting of students from a particular college followed by a telephonic interview. Breaking it down into two parts, shortlisting students usually involves looking at student CVs.
While there is no ‘one size fits all’ formula to figure out what these firms look at, there are a few things students can do to improve their chances of getting shortlisted. Maintaining a good CGPA is a start. I had a penchant for performing in moot court competitions as a way to sharpen my knowledge and skills and this was reflected in my CV through my achievements at these moots. It is not necessary that a student must do a moot to stand out.
Academic writing, debating, ADR activities are other good examples of activities one may do to strengthen their profile. One thing I was particularly focused on having in my CV was a strong narrative. I wanted my CV to reflect the story of my endeavors in law school and indicate a clear focus on Dispute Resolution as a career.
As a result, if one were to look at my CV, whether it be looking at my publications or moot achievements, it would be clear to them that I was focused on Dispute Resolution. But this is not necessary. If one is still undecided and wishes to keep their options open, it might be useful to tailor your CV in such a manner that shows that irrespective of which field you pursue, you possess the necessary soft skills to learn fast.
For telephonic interviews, these interviews are usually taken by a Partner of the firm and HR. The questions largely include CV-based questions and basic questions from the subjects one has already studied. It is imperative that one knows their CV inside out.
Any claims made on your CV, should be something that you can confidently expound upon if asked. Try to keep your CV as detailed as possible. As far as the basic questions go, there are many resources available online that help in revising the basic concepts in these subjects.
You have an excellent mooting record in Arbitration. How was your experience, and how does it feels to represent NALSAR there?
Again, thank you for your kind words. My moot court experiences have been a highlight of my time at law school. I was fortunate enough to join an inspiring set of seniors to participate in the NLS – Trilegal International Arbitration Moot. While I prepared for this moot, I learned more about a set of laws than I ever had by just sitting in class.
Mooting forces one to dive deep into the complex and contemporary ‘hot topics’ of a subject and make arguments both for and against the proposition advanced. Such an experience develops a student’s ability to think outside the box because applying the law is never straightforward when it comes to the facts of any moot case study.
In my second year, I represented my university at an international level at the 17 th Willem C. Vis (East) International Commercial Arbitration Moot. I was lucky to have an excellent team comprising of some of my batchmates and seniors who coached us.
The almost one-year-long endeavor undertaken for this moot greatly impacted me, for the better. I still remember how our coaches drilled into us the importance of taking pride in our work by ensuring that each iteration of our written and oral submissions reflected our best efforts. Being able to argue between the lines of law and reason is something that is inculcated into students participating in these moots.
Mooting is thus an activity that I personally recommend that a law student must try for themselves at least once while in law school, especially those wishing to pursue Dispute Resolution as a potential career path.
Representing my university at these reputed moot court competitions was an honour. The icing on the cake would undoubtedly be performing well at these competitions and bringing laurels back home! Most recently, I had the opportunity to myself coach a talented bunch of juniors for the Vis East Moot mentioned above.
What do you like most about Arbitration?
This is a rather tricky question because I don’t think I have ever thought about this myself till date. Something fascinating about arbitration, both international and domestic, is party autonomy. Consent is hailed as the cornerstone of arbitration, and it is amazing how arbitration legislations offer almost complete autonomy to participants to tailor make their dispute resolution process to suit their needs.
If I were to talk about international arbitration, it is amazing how the participants from different jurisdictions and cultures come together to resolve cross-border disputes. This is something that I hope Indian law schools are able to tackle in their curriculum in the future, so law students are better equipped if they are to participate in international forums.
This Interview is a part of our Star Student/Faculty interview series wherein our campus leaders interview the star student/faculty of their college. Stay tuned for more!