How to prepare for a law firm interview?

Is the idea of appearing in a law firm interview on Day Zero making you panic? Are you clueless about what will be summoned in a written test or a telephonic interview for a top Indian law firm? There is a lot at stake since a top tier law firm job could fetch you a pay package of INR 15 lakh upwards in a year, whereas a 3 tier law firm won’t pay more than INR 3 lakh per annum to starters! Well, don’t worry – now I am going to tell you how to plan for interviews at top tier law firms and absolutely nail it so that the hiring partners will remember your name for a while!

While maximum students have a fair amount of time to prepare for their recruitment interviews or written tests, they are in a state of mental frenzy, tension, and agony all the time. Irrespective of how much time you spend preparing, anyhow the anxiety never abates until the interview is over. The reason this happens is probably that many students do not realize what to prepare, and when they do realize it, they are completely lost with respect to how to prepare. The inevitable mix for success appears to be scattered in corporate law books, news articles and a myriad set of regulatory law, all of which is extremely difficult to fathom all at once.

Master Circulars from RBI

Banking and commercial activity in India is very heavily regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). As a corporate lawyer, you will often be referring to regulations, circulars, notifications, and guidelines issued by RBI on various banking-related issues – situations, where you are needed to refer to the Banking Regulation Act or the Reserve Bank of India Act, will be very rare.

Tracing multiple policy developments on an issue through numerous circulars and notifications of the RBI can be a slow task – to simplify this exercise, RBI releases combined instruments numerous banking-law related issues on an annual basis.

Website of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) is effective for releasing the regulatory policy (and updates) pertaining to foreign direct investment in India. The Consolidated FDI Policy (which is now released once every year) published by the DIPP is a commercial lawyer’s bible to M&A and investment-related transactions (the current FDI Policy for 2013 is accessible here. Any consequent developments to the policy in a particular year are covered by way of “Press Notes”. For instance, the developments on FDI in retail were covered under various Press Notes in 2012 (links to the Press Notes can be obtained from the DIPP website.

Regulations on SEBI website

Capital markets, M&A and the General Corporate practice in a law firm often deal with various SEBI Regulations from time to time. The 2 most regularly used regulations are the Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements Regulations and the Takeover Regulations.

For advanced reading: Other regulations you could go within are the Mutual Funds Regulations, Stock Brokers and Sub-Brokers Regulations, Alternative Investment Funds Regulations and the Investment Advisers Regulations.

RSS feed updates from RBI and SEBI

The best way is to support to RSS feeds in a reader. Supporting to RSS feeds also enables you to follow issues as they evolve and hence cultivate a deeper understanding, which is much more helpful as compared to last minute preparation.

The Holy Trinity of blogs and websites for business law supporters in India

Knowledge of global (and Indian) M&A, capital markets and financial transactions can be quite significant – if used correctly in an interview, it can display an awareness of contemporary business developments and a deeper understanding of the issues at hand.

Reading business newspapers can be quite disorganized – While business newspapers are useful for senior officers and industry professionals, an inexperienced law student may need to track them continuously for months before he or she can start making sense of things in a way that is useful for a corporate lawyer. The internet is fairly unregulated, and not knowing what to look for or where to look is one of the biggest problems faced by law students.

Fortuitously, there is a simpler and more organized method of acquiring relevant knowledge of commercial developments – all you need to do is to follow 3 websites.

1. The New York Times Deal Book (for international transactions)

Knowledge about modern international transactions – the scale, number and variety of transactions can enable you to substantiate the motives of commercial actors and regulators with appropriate instances in an interview. The New York Times DealBook enables you to know about the latest cross-border M&A transactions in the US, EU, and the UK in an instant. Few of the descriptions are extremely simple and easy to grasp. It is also my personal favorite for cross-border transactional knowledge.

2. Moneycontrol

Moneycontrol is an excellent site for updating yourself on news pertaining to commercial and regulatory developments in India. It has a primary component, called The Firm (also aired on television) which actually contains interviews with senior partners of India’s largest law firms and general counsels of blue-chips on regulatory developments affecting businesses. Except you have relatives in multiple law firms or a journalist covering legal news on a daily basis, The Firm is a great place to read about the impact that specific regulatory developments have had on companies.

3. Indian Corporate Law

So far, what was illustrated was the ability to understand and keep track of regulatory developments. How can you show the ability to Are these skills important?  Many students are aware of the latest developments, and some can investigate constitutional law or criminal law provisions fairly well. However, when it comes to framing an argument on a provision in commercial law, most students flounder, which is mainly owing to lack of initiation and prior training in the subjects. While the domain “The Firm” of Moneycontrol contains a practical analysis, the Indian Corporate Law blog is a great way to begin sharpening your ability to analyze and interpret provisions of commercial law.

Optimizing your usage of Indian Corporate Law

The Indian Corporate Law Blog usually contains an analysis of various judgments and orders of regulatory authorities. The posts on the Indian Corporate Law blog can be fairly technical and often law students stop following the blog systematically very soon. Consequently, knowing how to use the blog is very important.

At a law firm, you will usually not engage in exercises which debate the quality of judgments, but will be more judged about the existing position of law on a particular issue, and whether there is uniformity in the legal position in different parts of the country. For this inquiry, I support using the Indian Corporate Law blog for information about updates and new developments. You need not comprehend each and every line of argument in a post. After viewing the article, it may make sense to read the actual case, or some simpler articles to understand the basics. You may read the post in greater detail if you feel inspired, but it is not necessary from the point of view of interview preparation.

How much preparation time do you need?

Regrettably, utilizing the tools mentioned above effectively is a very different task from, say, reading the whole of Avtar Singh, as the information on the New York Times DealBook blog is not easily measurable in finite terms. At the same time, you should remember that you are using the tools not to learn about each and every transaction that has taken place in the world, but ‘to get a hang of’ financial transactions, which is a demonstrable attribute in an interview. If you start reading materials on the above tools carefully, you should start noticing a significant difference in your understanding of commercial law in as little as two weeks.

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