In Conversation With Anirban Bhattacharya, Partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.

In this interview with Ashima Ohri our Managing Editor, Anirban shares his journey in law, his thoughts on joining the BW Legal World Elite 40 Under 40 Club of Achievers 2021 with the prestigious BW Legal World 40 Under 40 Best Lawyers and Legal Influencers Award and much more.

How and when did you know becoming a lawyer was your life’s true calling?

As a law student, I got the opportunity to work with Hon’ble Mr. Justice Madan B. Lokur (as a research assistant) and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Vipin Sanghi (as an intern) at the Delhi High Court. I used to spend a lot of time jumping between courtrooms, and I got to witness some of the top legal luminaries argue with clinical logic and articulation. However, what caught my attention was the hope in the eyes of the litigants who would be sitting next to their counsel, especially in criminal matters. For many litigants, an order by the Judge, basis the strength of the arguments proffered by counsel, could change lives. The entire scene was human, and humane, it its rawest form – the courtroom seemed like a temple where humanity was being preserved through the deliverance of justice and righteousness. My moment of realisation: that law is a powerful tool, but the humility in recognising that power while practicing law yields results that could have far-reaching impact on society. Even though I am a corporate lawyer today, my heart is still there in the courtroom. And it is the courtroom that convinced me that my life will be devoted to the practice of law.

Would you please tell us about your specialisation and the array of work you handle at your firm? 

My practice area is General Corporate, and I specialise in public M&A and private equity transactions. My work involves advising investors and companies on fund raises and corporate governance issues. My practice area particularly revolves around mergers, restructurings, investments and capital market transactions (other than public offers).

What are your predictions for 2022 in the area/s of specialisation mentioned above? What are some of the upcoming trends of the industry? 

The Indian economy has come a long way since the market crash of 2008. The years right after the crash saw foreign investors becoming guarded while assessing an Indian investment thesis. However, some recognised that India had become a buyer’s market and capitalised on the opportunity. That era also saw the rise of some brilliant start-ups, which have now transformed themselves as unicorns. I see a lot of market churn happening in 2022, with some interesting IPOs, investment flips and healthy exits. The market is also tired of the depressed economy since the pandemic started, and hopefully 2022 will be the break-out year for the Indian economy, and the deal market, to bounce back again.  Q2 of 2021 has been promising, and hopefully the trend will only get stronger in 2022.

One recent landmark judgement or the best judgment of 2021 that you’d like to share a word about. 

The recent NCLT judgment which clarifies that conversion of equity shares into preference shares is permitted under law as it is merely a reorganisation of share capital is, in my view, a significant judgment of 2021 that has given a fair bit of clarity on structuring investment and exit models.

As a new age lawyer, what to your mind is the one thing in the current legal ecosystem at the Bar, Bench, or in the Law Firms that needs our attention. 

Usage of technology and artificial intelligence in legal practice is inevitable. One can see the benefits of digitalisation of public records (say, for example, land and revenue records) first hand, where judgments of courts are readily available and even registration of property conveyance happens digitally (with mutation as an automatic parallel process). However, the development and implementation of artificial intelligence in legal practice is lagging and, frankly, not in a particularly intelligent manner. AI has untapped potential that can streamline legal processes in fantastic ways!

Many Congratulations on joining the BW Legal World Elite 40 Under 40 Club of Achievers 2021. What to your mind has helped you get to where you are and what advice would you have for others who want to set off in a similar direction? 

Hard work, humility, knowing that I don’t know much so I have to keep knowing, and never saying no to work. All work is important and ought to be respected, and no work is small or big.

As a final note, would you please recommend to our readers your favourite book that left a lasting impression on you. 

Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda, and the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, have left an indelible impression on the very core of my existence.

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