In Conversation With Nishant Prasad, Chief Compliance and Legal Officer, Wint Wealth| BW Legal World 30 Under 30

In this fireside chat with Chandril Chattopadhyay, Junior Correspondent, BW Legal World, Nishant talks about his journey in law. He talks about his mentors, the importance of AI in Law and much more

Many congratulations on winning the BW Legal World 30 under 30. How has been your initial reaction after joining the elite club of BW Legal World 30 Under 30 Lawyers and Legal Influencers? How was your experience interacting with the Jury and of the event?  

NP: It has been an honour and a very unexpected surprise that I was chosen by the Jury to join a club of such accomplished individuals i.e. the other members of this elite club. Seeing the past members and those who are part of the club with me this year, I was ecstatic to be part of this group and it is a feeling of great satisfaction knowing that our work as young lawyers is being recognised and appreciated. This goes a long way in giving us the confidence that we are on the right track and pushes us to keep moving forward. 

The interaction with the jury was phenomenal, the questions and the discussions were enlightening and healthy leading towards a stronger sense of self conviction as well that I am meritorious and deserve to be a part of this club.  

The event was fantastic and the opportunity to meet the brilliant people, awardees, jury members and attendees alike was phenomenal. It has created a good strong bond in the young lawyer community and also there were some known faces whom I didn't know would be present and it was a very nice surprise to be able to catch up with them as well. 

Please walk us through your journey in this field of law? When did you first realize that law was your life’s calling? 

NP:A cliched part of the response is that my interests never lay in the mathematics or science department hence I was always attracted to languages and social sciences. However, I grew up listening to stories about my great grandfather, Mr. Nawal Kishore Prasad, who was an eminent lawyer in the British era in Patna and my grandfather Mr. Chandra Moulishwar Prasad, who was a lawyer and a district judge as well in the 1960’s until 1980’s.  

Listening to those tales and furthermore, I think it was also pure academic interest in a certain type of subjects and dislike of certain others that led to law. I had great support from my parents and my brother to just pursue what I wanted and that's the simple story of how I came into the legal profession. The idea behind law as a profession was just a keen interest in the civic sense of the nations which are run by the laws of the land and having the ability to be a part of that ecosystem gives a sense of fulfilment.  

Who, according to you, has been your guide and mentor when you started working as a lawyer and what did you imbibe from him as a junior? 

NP:Well firstly it was a ‘her’. I started my career at Khaitan & Co. and it was a tough start. First job, big law firm and minimal practical experience. The challenges of doing multi million dollar transactions while you are thinking “ Do I even know what I’m doing?” is very challenging for a young associate. 

But while I credit every member of Khaitan I worked with for learning everything I know and how to read and understand the law, my senior associate then, Radhika Agarwal, who is now a Partner at Khaitan & Co., was someone who I consider as my mentor and guide just due to the sheer amount of work I also had with her as she was on the deal teams.   

The patience and understanding she has shown towards me and her approach was not a throw in the deep end and he will pick it up - which is how most law firms train. She had the right mix of making me do the tasks on my own basis instructions and post that, she would take the time out even if she was super busy to run through the work with me and patiently explain what I could do better, where I was wrong and most importantly appreciate the good things I did.   

This appreciation was what built confidence in me about myself  which in turn became her confidence in me in terms of the work I was doing. She taught me to be a truly humble professional but a good professional. I have imbibed her work ethics and her way of functioning immensely. 

How did you decide on your practice area when you started looking for a job? How much do you think internships helped in carving out a pathway for young lawyers who intend to get in the profession? 

NP:I think internships are extremely important and gives a student the opportunity to explore a few areas and then take an educated decision on what they want to pursue, be it litigation, corporate or alternatives like policy or specific in-house sectors.  

I decided my road through internships. I did a mix of NGO internships, litigation internships and corporate internships and felt most comfortable, engaged and at home in my corporate internships so that's the way I went. I feel today students just want the big internships and land a job but they do not give importance to getting the experiences to help them see what is available out there. One interesting thing in my internships was that there was not a single big firm internship there except for Trilegal which was also the Hyderabad office which at the time was extremely small. I purposely took internships at smaller but reputed forms and I feel I got better work experience there as an intern. It was a strategy which I thought may backfire during placements but it actually interested the interviewers and gave me a unique edge over my batchmates. It wasn’t planned that way, but at the end of the day the strategy doesn't matter, your work does. 

Do you think higher degrees like LL.M. can enhance the skill set for a lawyer? If so, according to you, which is the right time to pursue the same for a lawyer who has just entered the profession? 

NP: Any learning improves your skill set. Doing an LLM will expose you to new thoughts and new ideas and most importantly new methods of interpreting and applying the law. Personally I did not do an LLM because I chose the corporate world and have no intentions of settling abroad.  

I went on a super practical path where doing an LLM only meant losing a year of work experience and dropping one year below my batchmates. An LLM, to my knowledge doesn't bring you an automatic edge in skills like an MBA does for any other student because most good LLMs are abroad and the study there will not have any practical upskilling in the job we do here in India. Certain sectors, yes there may be a good impact such as competition laws etc. But on a whole, if you are planning to get into the corporate side of things, practical application of laws in transactions and processes within India is way more valuable than any LLM. The experience of an LLM as I said earlier is definitely something to yearn for, and I really feel I missed out on that experience to grow as a person and a lawyer, but, that was the call I took and many others will have very different opinions and views which are also not wrong in any manner. At the end of the day, it depends on personal preference.  

Also, there is no right or wrong time to go for an LLM. The time you feel is appropriate you can apply and go. Most people opt to do it earlier on in their career as there will be no other responsibilities bogging you down or making you question whether you can go later on in life.  

Do you believe that AI and Technology will supersede the lawyering skills in the coming times, especially with the recent hype around ChatGPT and other AI softwares? 

NP:While this is a worry most people have, this whole process is a cycle very well explained by my founder, Mr Anshul Gupta in a recent post where he uses the term “Creative Destruction”. It basically entails that every other time, there emerges new technology or innovation which threatens the existing professions or industries but out of that destruction, new industries emerge.  

This new technology makes a lot of jobs redundant but allows businesses to produce and deliver goods and services at massively reduced costs. Possibility of using AI in the legal field to cut down on time-consuming tasks would allow lawyers to become more efficient. On the other hand, new roles in monitoring, ethical AI, would emerge. Change will happen for sure and it will be for the better. While there may be certain jobs extinguished, I feel there is still a fair share of time before subjective applications of law in life and business can be completely overtaken by AI, and once it reaches there, you will still need a person to feed the relevant variables to the AI for getting the solution. An AI that advanced to account for all variables without any human interjection is an anomaly which is far away right now.  

What are you doing if not lawyering? What are your hobbies in general? 

NP:I am extremely passionate about sports and in my free time you’ll definitely find me playing some sport or another. Currently, I am majorly into golf and intend to start playing amateur tournaments soon. Cricket is also a long time passion of mine and I look forward to meeting my club members and playing with them every weekend.  

Apart from sports, I am someone who does not like sitting at home too much. While weekdays after work might be to relax, in the weekends, post the sports activities, I love exploring new restaurants, I am an avid foodie and also just go out and socialise, meet my friends, have a laugh and try to stay away from the video call and WhatsApp culture of friends these days. There is no replacement to personal interactions, face to face. 

As a parting note, would you please recommend a favourite book that left a lasting impression on you? What has been your most recent read? 

NP:It's probably a surprising answer to this question but reading the “Hardy Boys” series of Franklin Dixon when I was a child left a long lasting impression on me as I have always wanted to be on the right side of the line and tried to live by good principles more than anything else. The book taught teamwork, ethics and value for skill all at the same time, while entertaining me as a reader, and I try to imbibe all those as a person. Be ethical, be skilful and be a good person who people like to be around. The most recent book I read was the Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel, which is an enlightening book which I feel every person must read once in their life. If you haven't, I suggest you try it. 

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