UKCA AND PARTNERS, NEW DELHI
- Featured as a “Shining Star of Indian Legal Fraternity” in a coffee-table “Constellations” book published in the year 2019, by the Corporate Counsels Association of India (CCAI).
- Featured by Start-up City magazine as “Women Entrepreneur of the Year 2019” edition in the law firm category.
- Featured as one of India’s most “Trusted Corporate Lawyers” in the 1st edition of a coffee-table book “The Vanguards” published in the year 2017, by the India Corporate Counsel Association (ICCA) with support from Ministry of Law & Justice and Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
- Ranked by IFLR1000 as Tier 4 Firm for Mergers & Acquisitions practice;
- Ranked by Asia Law Profiles 2020 as “Notable” Firm for Corporate and M&A practice;
- “Winner” of “Best Law Firm in Insolvency & Bankruptcy Practice” by India Law Awards, 2019;
- Emerging Law Firm of the Year (Dispute Resolution) in the year 2018 by Indian National Bar Association.
- Featured in Silicon India Magazine as the “10 Most Promising Corporate Legal Consultants, 2018”
- Featured by Business Connect Magazine as the “10 Most Promising Corporate Legal Consultants, 2018”.
LawSutram (LS): Why did you choose law as a career?
Manisha Chaudhary (MC): This question comes my way more often than I would like and I have only one response to it, “I was born to be a lawyer”. My childhood experiences have shaped me to be the professional I am today and some may even say that being a lawyer “is in my blood”. I have had the inclination towards the right subjects, an inquisitive attitude towards life, and the constant need to learn and try new things, which are inherent qualities of every lawyer.
The aura of a successful lawyer is something I always admired and having met many since childhood, I was drawn to the profession like a bee to nectar. I have followed the life and professional trajectory of my father and many other accomplished lawyers and have taken inspiration from them.
Growing up, I have had the opportunity to know and learn what is entailed in being a successful lawyer i.e. the sacrifices one has to make, need for a routine and work-life balance, the need to stay up to date and other very stringent parameters to follow in life and profession. I have always been inclined to practice law from a young age and have based many of my life’s decisions towards the pursuit of the same. From one day to another, my will to be a better lawyer only increases.
LS: A brief about your work and what you do?
MC: I am the Managing Partner at UKCA and Partners (formerly known as UKCA Law Chambers). The law firm was founded in the year 1986 by my father, Dr. U. K. Chaudhary, an eminent Senior Advocate. The firm provides legal advisory, transactional and advocacy services to its clients in diverse sectors and subjects. I specialise in matters relating to corporate such as company law, insolvency, mergers, securities law and transactions.
Apart from practicing law, I also handle all aspects of running the firm and am proud to call myself an entrepreneur as well. I am very particular about each aspect of the firm and its working and pay undivided attention to court work, client relations, accounts and strategy.
LS: Any special challenges you faced during initial years?
MC: As any young lawyer would have it, the struggle to prove oneself is real. Many people would like to believe that being a senior advocate’s daughter would make things easier, however, it was the other way around. I had “big shoes to fill” and there was a constant comparison right from the initial days. Some people did not take me seriously, and I was afraid to make even the smallest mistake. There are always those who pull you down and those who push you to do your very best. I am a formidable person when it comes to the profession and all these challenges made me work harder and I endeavored to achieve my personal best.
At the Firm, the initial challenges were to work my way up. I had to prove myself to the seniors at the firm so that the transition of management could be smooth. There were many who were skeptical and averse to the changes brought in by me, however, over time I built internal structures, hired great talent, expanded the client base and finally earned my position as the Managing Partner. Since I have taken the reign, the ranking of the firm has improved significantly. The firm has bagged many awards and accolades, has expanded its client base exponentially, is at par with big law firms in infrastructure and is steadily and firmly making a name for itself.
LS: How do you balance Professional & Private life?
MC: A constant unsolicited opinion I get is that women cannot have it all, and proving this statement wrong became one of my many aims. Practicing law is demanding. I believe that any person who wishes to opt for the legal profession must understand that achieving work-life balance is a challenge one faces every day. Hard work and consistent quality work will give avenues to find the balance between work life and private life.
Building a great team, adhering to timelines and schedules, constant reading, personal time, small breaks etc. helps one to recuperate and double back to do one’s best in professional life. Personally, I believe that women can naturally multi-task, pay attention to details and problem solve at a much higher level than most men but what it requires is relentless effort towards achieving a work-life balance. I like to believe that I have achieved that as of now and would continue to do so in the future.
LS: Out of the busy schedule, how much time do you take out for yourself?
MC: I believe that finding some “me” time is as essential as being devoted to your work. I devote Saturday evenings and Sundays entirely to my family and friends, unless there is a dire need for me to be present for a client. During the week, an afternoon or two is available for me to run personal errands or catch up with a professional colleague. In the near future I see myself giving more time to my family yet ensuring that all commitments are met on the work front.
LS: How do you manage Work-Stress?
MC: I have a great team at work and an exceptional support system at home which hardly lets me feel any work stress. I believe in smart and efficient work that helps me meet my targets and deadline thereby significantly reducing stress. My father once told me that a fit person is an intelligent person and I agree with him even more since I started paying attention to my physical and mental health. I practice yoga in the morning, a proper workout in the evening and I meditate and read a book before going to bed.
There is no better way for me to de-stress than to meet my friends and family. I am also guilty of binge watching my favorite TV shows in order to let go of the week’s stress.
Finally, I plan two-three weekend getaways and a long vacation once a year to get my much-needed break.
LS: How do you prepare yourself before any tough/ complicated/ high–profile case/ matter?
MC: A lawyer does not get to decide what is a tough, complicate or high-profile matter. Every matter is important because it can be a life altering event for the client. For each of my or the firm’s cases, I conduct extensive research, prepare for contingencies during arguments, make precise case notes and mark all files. I am, at all times, through with the facts and law on the matter.
Sometimes I fall victim to insomnia when going over the arguments in my head trying to pre-empt the opposition, but it is quite natural and one can never be fully prepared.
LS: Your normal day will be like?
MC: My day starts with Yoga and while I have my tea I look at posts from family and friends on Instagram (I am addicted to it). Once in office, we begin with breakfast table conversations where instructions for the courts or conferences are given out. The court hours are planned before time and everyone works as a team with a synchronized approach especially when working on big cases or large transactions involving complex issues.
Post breakfast, I usually leave for court, and the next step is to check emails and messages from clients. Evenings are usually reserved for conferences and drafting, and I end my work day around 8 PM. I spend some time with family and then head to gym for an hour. I then head home, talk to my parents and usually am in bed by 12 PM. I read a book, meditate and then go to sleep.
LS: What would be your goal to accomplish in the next THREE – FIVE years?
MC: My goals have been very clear from day one of me joining the profession. I know exactly what I want and am constantly looking at way and means to achieve it. As an entrepreneur I wish to grow the firm and expand it into a bigger and better entity. I want our clients to know that they have come to a reliable firm that can handle all challenges.
Ensuring client satisfaction and delivering the necessary service, is what I wish the firm to focus on and I will work with everyone involved, i.e., the partners, associates, our support staff, clients and all intermediaries to grow the name and capabilities of the firm.
On the personal front, I am focusing on bettering myself each day and taking on more responsibilities especially in litigation. I am aiming at arguing more cases before various forums and to get on the path to getting designated as a Senior Advocate. Simultaneously, from an entrepreneur point of view, I intend to run the firm and ensure its survival, even if I have to disassociate myself from it in the future.
LS: How do you differentiate yourself with your competition?
MC: Speaking for the Firm, I would say we operate very dynamically. We are accustomed to the work culture of both small and large corporate clients and their expectations. We also maintain a huge private client practice and the Firm is accustomed to handling all sorts of legal issues.
We believe in giving due attention to our clients and always being available for our client with prepared contingencies and thought-out plans. Our emphasis on sensitivity to the needs of clients and high-quality legal services has been the genesis of our success.
LS: Best piece of advice you have ever received in your legal career?
MC: “Never stop learning”; this I have learnt from my father – Dr. U. K. Chaudhary, Senior Advocate. He has instilled in me a drive to read, learn and understand new subjects and to re-learn something that I think I know. He ensures that I question his advice (or of other seniors) and have a proper discourse, without the fear of being reprimanded, on varied subject of law and life, to ensure that I appreciate all aspects of an advice or argument. I have been called Ms. FYI by my family and friends and I have always strived to live up to this moniker. I might not know it all, but I do my best to know what I ought to.
As law, economy and the industry evolve constantly, so must a lawyer. The advice we give to a multinational corporation may not be the same we can give to a start-up. One has to mold oneself and be open and tolerant to different ideas, cultures, situations etc. and to always evolve. This is an advice I have always kept close to my heart and practiced diligently.
LS: Famous quote you go by?
MC: I have read many authors and luminaries talk about inspiring ideals. In “To kill a Mockingbird”, when Scout had questioned whether Atticus was wrong in defending Tom, he quite sagaciously answered, “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience”. That day he had instilled in his daughter a deep understanding of the difference between doing the right deed and doing what everyone tells you to be the right deed. This is something I have always abides by.
Ethics and kind conscience is something a lawyer must never give up on. I have learnt the same from my father and that is why I value this dearly.
LS: Any advice for young lawyers or students?
MC: Law is an arduous career, come to it fully prepared to give it your all. Make conscious endeavors to improve your court craft, drafting skills, analytical abilities and knowledge of law. Try practical application of law outside the book, research like your life depends on it and always back up your arguments or legal opinion. Draft while you think of possible consequence of every sentence that you have written.
Be honest, fair and never suppress any document or information. Be candid with your clients and work on every case as if it’s your only case. Do not take bury yourself in work for the sake of making money and then making your clients suffer because you could not give your 100%.
Set and meet deadlines, priorities are important. Humility goes a long way, always be respectful to juniors, seniors, judges, staff, etc. Maintain decorum in court and in office. But remember, you deserve to be treated with respect and do not let anyone make you believe otherwise.
Most importantly, enjoy being a lawyer, and take it as your life’s passion. It is an admired and respected profession but if you do not love it, you will always be miserable.
SPECIAL MESSAGE FOR LAWSUTRAM GLOBAL?
I wish everyone at Lawsutram all the very best for the bright future ahead. It has been a pleasure engaging in this interview.
Keep up the great work and I hope that we all are able to contribute to the legal knowledge bank.