Improvement of social capital requires the inclusion of more people in the field of social science. Lawyers are social scientists who can help in the development of society. They have historically played leading roles in bringing much-needed change to society. The judiciary is pivotal for a nation’s development, and lawyers are the guardians of democracy.
In an interview with Insights Success, Priti Suri, Founder and Managing Partner of PSA gave some insightful answers highlighting the influences made by her business law firm that has carved a special niche in the Indian legal market by the high-quality of its legal service.
- Brief us about your journey since the beginning of your career.
I became a lawyer in 1986; spent a couple of years in courts in India as at that time it was the norm to join a senior practitioner in the courts. Thereafter, I spent over a decade away from India, during which time I pursed an L.L.M in the US and then worked in with two different law firms – Morrison & Foerster in New York and Schiff Hardin in Chicago. Subsequently, an opportunity took me to Paris where I got involved representing French multinationals looking to tap into the Indian market. Eventually, I came to India to set up the practice. My work with large US law firms exposed me to and gave me insights on the western large firm model functioning – a deeper and different kind of professional ethics, to structured processes and systems, to development of a profound sense of responsibility for the advice we gave to clients on the basis of which corporations were going to take decisions, to concepts of negligence if our advice was incomplete or inaccurate. I realized that regardless of the country, some key fundamentals are global: if you work hard honestly with the key objective of securing the best result for your client, it will not evade you. As a first generational lawyer, who set up a firm this mantra has worked well and my global experience has provided valuable insights to understand concerns and business realities on both sides so that projects can be closed successfully. I firmly subscribe to the view that there are no short cuts to success. Let your work speak for you.
- When did you decide to become a lawyer? Why?
I am an accidental lawyer as I did not decide I wanted to be a lawyer. Instead, from age 10 I decided I wanted to be India’s ambassador to Russia, without knowing how one did that. As I grew older, my career trajectory was laid out – BA and MA in History, then the UPSC exams and joining the Foreign Service. But, after I graduated from LSR and enrolled for masters in history, I realized I needed plan B too as what would happen if I did not qualify the exams. After many deliberations, law became an option since the course work was also relevant for the UPSC exams. So, I joined the Law Faculty at University of Delhi. And, in my first year gave the exams and qualified fully in my first attempt. However, by then I realized I was thoroughly enjoying the law and wanted to stick to it!
- What did you expect from a career in the law?
As is clear from the above, I had no expectations. Keep in mind, when I joined the law things were very different and there was no internet. We did what we had to do. All I wanted at the time was to be known for my work and, yes, study further and get masters in law.
- What is that one thing which keeps you motivated?
The upbringing by my family and the faith of my parents in me which eggs me on all the time
- Which achievements are you most gratified of?
A few things:
(a) The ability to secure a scholarship for my masters in law in the US in 1988-89, which was not a mean feat those days. (b) Living and working in a country where the native language was not English and I did not speak French. I moved to Paris in a pre-google era and confronted different challenges. I had no option, other than taking up the challenge and do what I had to. Thrown into the deep end of the pool, I simply had to figure out how to swim if I did not want to drown. I did not get anything easy, and, on hindsight, I am glad it was that way. (c) Then, on my return to India and as a first generational lawyer, building a firm from scratch and doing what I had to do to make it work. Again, keep in mind this was not easy in 1997. (d) Of course, happy clients and relationships that have sustained over 2 decades is something I am very grateful for. (e) In April 2017, I was honored with the prestigious “Mayre Rasmussen Award” for the Advancement of Women in International Law by the American Bar Association in Washington D.C. It was a rare honor as I am the first Asian to receive this award in its 18-year history. (f) I have been rated for two consecutive years (2016 and 2017) as one of India’s top 100 lawyers by India Business Law Journal and in October 2017, Indian Corporate Counsel Association (body of in-house counsel) recognized me as one of India’s top 100 corporate advisers. Apart from this, I am deeply grateful for the faith and the conviction that my parents, my colleagues plus clients have in me. That places a huge responsibility.
- What differences do you see in today’s legal market compared to when you started?
The way information is available on the internet, it has both positive and negative connotations. While access to information is easy, but I find, if not used properly, there is a grave danger in using someone else’s opinion and apply them as your own to a legal problem. There is a risk of potentially retarding the thought process of people using that information without independent verification or application of mind.
- What advice would you give to students hoping to ultimately get into the areas of law in which you are expert?
Exactly what my parents imbued in me – Work hard and the results will come. Give your best, always. And, do not compromise on quality even if others chastise you for being a perfectionist.
- What law would you change, abolish or create?
More than changing, abolishing or creating, I would like laws to be enforced in a speedy and effective manner. Part of the challenge exists because there is a belief that implementation is limited. Actually, I would like speedier resolutions so that the aggrieved party has an effective access to a certain outcome.
- “Lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke.” Kindly describe.
I do not agree that it applies uniformly. I do think that conscientious lawyers aim to get to an outcome, the best they can.