“I am probably a rarest of rare cases as I am now part of a family of lawyers, but am someone who never considered the law as a career option. I would like to share three learnings from my experience which gave me the confidence to make the switch.
1.) A Liberal Arts Degree
Having lived my entire life in New York, I was exposed to people from different walks of life, cultures, backgrounds, professions etc. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Barnard College of Columbia University. I was on my way to pursue a career at one of the leading art and jewelry auction houses in the world, but as fate would have it I married and moved to Mumbai, India where I would be surrounded by a family of lawyers. While I could have easily pursued a career in the business of art in Mumbai – the cultural capital of India, there was something magnetic about what everyone around me was doing- be it dealmaking in corporate law or finding collaborative solutions to client problems.
I certainly did not have any hesitation in changing careers (which was a drastic change in reality) as I was equipped with a liberal arts degree that taught me skill sets rather than a subject per se- and I found it very common in the United States for students to pursue a liberal arts degree followed by a law degree. With confidence and my briefcase in tow, I was ready to attend Government Law College, Mumbai (“GLC”) which was the culture shock I needed to build the character and grit I have today. Studying a different subject matter was one hurdle, but studying in a very different education system was a different challenge all together! However, as most students do in a morning college routine at GLC, I too did most of my practical learning from my internships.
While a liberal arts degree is sometimes undermined in the Indian education system, I will always have a lot of gratitude for the degree I hold as it gave me a toolkit to deal with all kinds of subjects, matters, concepts, and ideas in an everchanging world!
2.) Agility and Adaptability
When I joined Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas as an attorney, I was clear in my head in only wanting to do mergers and acquisitions related work or be part of the larger corporate practice. As time went by, while working with a variety of partners who do wonderful work in their specialized areas- I got exposure to public M&A, private M&A, corporate governance for listed entities, and private equity- control deals and growth stage equity. While not building consistent expertise in one area during my early years did hit my confidence at times, a range of experience has widened my skillset as a generalist in terms of handling curveballs on a matter and having some basic knowledge. Glad to say, I was able to play catch up later in terms of building my expertise- dappling and considering careers in advising venture capital and growth stage equity deals, along with ESG, an emerging practice area!
Do I ever wonder what life in litigation would have been like? Certainly, as that is arguably “real lawyering”; however, after a short experience in litigation which taught me the secret sauce to being a good transactional lawyer, I soon realized it may not be for me at the moment but I do value and take litigation inputs from my colleagues.
3.) Think Global, Act Local
Keeping track of trends and judgements of what is happening in the legal industry in the United Kingdom and USA and then thinking about it in the Indian context has always interested me- whether this be a trend in dealmaking, a practice area that is emerging in the West, or a workplace trend. To an extent, it helps me stay connected to the West but it also adds another dimension to what we do as it shakes up our thought processes which can become mundane after a while.
Articles written by leading lawyers of the world and ways of working followed by international law firms have been good gateways in understanding the global perspective. This was further highlighted by my yearlong secondment to Kirkland & Ellis’s New York office where I was part of the M&A/PE group as a foreign attorney. The Kirkland experience taught me the art of lawyering and project management by working with international colleagues on global transactions..
While I am still in the early years of my career, I do think these learnings will continue to get me through the next few decades of my career. And as for my views on the practice of law, I think it is a safe and multifaceted career option for women in the long term.”
Saloni Shroff is an alumna of Barnard College of Columbia University and Government Law College, Mumbai. She is a Principal Associate at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, Mumbai, and is a doting mother to two lovely daughters.