In Conversation With Mini Gautam on Pursuing a Corporate Practice & The Need To Persevere for Young Lawyers

Mini Gautam, with over a decade of experience, has been recognized as one of the Business World top 40 lawyers under 40 and one of the top 40 rising stars by Legal Era. She has been given an honorary position as Vice President Legal at the Indian Chamber of Commerce in the Slovak Republic, due to her contribution to the betterment and development of the Chamber.

Currently the founder of Arthavat Law Offices, Mini Gautam has been appointed as the legal and compliance partner of many forums, chambers and incubators, including MSME Business Forum India, AIC Raise Startup Incubation Center, KIIT Technology Business Incubator, ISB Incubation Center, Utkal University incubation center, etc.

1. When you reflect on your path, it may seem like a mountain climb, but how did it all begin? What were the first motivators for you to pursue law?

Mini: I always wanted to be a lawyer since school. I used to be a top debater, and many assumed that the gift of the gab would translate to excellent lawyering. However, argumentative skills aside, I felt that law was a career option with endless opportunities and a lot of common sense to go on. Everything in law has practical use, and that’s what attracted me the most to law.

2. Your decision to pursue an LLM demonstrates a commitment to furthering your legal expertise beyond your undergraduate studies. Could you share what motivated you to pursue an LLM, and how you believe it has enhanced your skills and career prospects in the field of law?

Mini: LLM may not add immediate tangible benefits in terms of unlimited new job options, especially in corporate law. But the intangible benefits are quite substantial. There is great exposure in pursuing LLM and studying abroad. The education system in the UK is highly evolved with excellent teaching practices. There is a lot of importance given to the practical aspects of education and the application of law. I pursued LLM in international financial law and that has helped me get a lot of exposure in the international markets (especially European). This has helped me tremendously in cross-border transactions and deals. I would recommend LLM to anyone in a stage in their career where they can spare the time and resources.

3. Pursuing both your undergraduate degree and LLM undoubtedly required dedication and perseverance. Could you share some of the challenges you encountered during your academic journey, and how did you overcome them to achieve success in both your undergraduate studies and LLM?

Mini: There is often a challenge in completing deadlines with respect to paper submissions and assignments. Some of the biggest challenges encountered include completing assignments on time, while at the same time being a part of internships which are both relevant and useful. I tried to identify my areas of interest at an early stage so that I could build on that over a period of time and did not have to waste time figuring out what I wanted to do.

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4. As a lawyer, you’re constantly learning and evolving. Can you recall a mistake or setback you encountered early in your career, and how did you turn it into a learning opportunity?

Mini: One of the biggest mistakes every new lawyer makes is not putting in longer hours. The pursuit of law is such that it requires more effort and time, especially in the early learning stages. It is not possible to gain expertise in any area of law without being a part of the grind, or without spending time on it. There is absolutely no shortcut. So I always feel I should put in more hours, and keep doing that. Having said that, smart work is also essential; and with time one finds a great balance between the two.

5. You have likely encountered various cases throughout your career. Could you share a particularly memorable case that taught you valuable lessons or significantly impacted your perspective on the legal profession?

Mini: I have done almost 4-5 deals and transactions in the last 3 months alone. These deals have helped me work on various private equity investments, and I have enjoyed closing deals on an urgent basis. I think these are excellent learning curves for corporate lawyers, the more transactions and deals you close, the more you learn about the value of the corporate counsel in the corporate world. You are a very essential cog to the machinery, and without you crores of transactions can get stuck. Let that sink in and let that move you towards taking the responsibilities that are cast on you seriously.

6. Reflecting on your journey to becoming one of the Top 40 Lawyers Under 40, is there anything that you would have sought to do differently if given the opportunity?

Mini: I am quite content with the journey I have been through, because this is precisely what has got me here. I have a lot of plans for future, and whatever I could or could not do earlier, I plan to do now.

7. As a successful lawyer and entrepreneur, what challenges did you face in establishing Arthavat Law Offices, and how did you navigate those obstacles to build a thriving legal practice?

Mini: There is a huge challenge in building a practice for a first-generation lawyer, since everything is from scratch. But as they say, the harder the climb, the more satisfying the view at the top. Being an entrepreneur means having to combine all roles in one’s own, it requires 24/7 kind of availability. There is pressure of deadlines, along with tremendous pressure on managing one’s bandwidth, since one is always flooded with a flurry of calls, meetings and appointments. Time management becomes key, and also prioritizing the kind of work one wants to take up, and the kind one can let go.

8. Balancing a demanding career with personal commitments can be challenging. Can you share some strategies or experiences that have helped you maintain a healthy work-life balance while excelling in your professional endeavors?

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Mini: I always say that being your own boss means all days are the same. I do not have weekends or national holidays. I have Sundays when I am packed with work, and some Mondays may be relatively free. It all depends on the work. This has led me to take breaks, when possible – even if it’s a fruitful two-hour break, it can be quite rejuvenating. The lines between personal and professional time are very blurry, and it is not possible to divide it clearly anymore.

9. Networking and building relationships are crucial in the legal profession. How has networking influenced your practice?

Mini: Networking is critical, but the right networking is more so. Networking for the sake of it, is of no use. One needs to build on the relevant network, which can add value to one’s practice, and which is aligned with one’s own goals and aspirations. The right people can make a huge difference to your professional journey, and I’m not speaking only in monetary terms.

10. As a leader in your field, did you have a mentor who deeply influenced your growth as a lawyer or entrepreneur? How do you pay it forward by mentoring others in your profession?

Mini: Absolutely, I have had more than one mentor, and more than one influencer. The profession is such that we cannot grow alone, and we cannot learn alone. In my own way, I work towards mentoring as many young minds as possible, I have been over the last decade. I have taken up professional teaching assignments, and I have also given sessions, both offline and online as part of the knowledge sharing. It is truly fruitful when you see someone you shared knowledge with, using it to the utmost and making the best of it. I love working with humble and curious students who have a desire to learn, as well as contribute to the growth of the profession.

11. Finally, looking ahead, what are some personal and professional goals you aspire to achieve in the coming years, and how do you plan to pursue them?

Mini: The biggest goal is to create a corporate legal practice of sustainable value, and which can be truly problem solving for its clients. We are looking at finding innovation in law, doing some out of the box thinking, and creating solutions which nobody has before. Law is ever evolving, and we intend to be a part of the evolution.

12. What is your advice to young legal professionals who are looking to venture into an independent corporate law practice?

Mini: Be prepared for hard work, and be prepared for not always getting the results you want. Independent practice may sometimes feel like one step forwards and two backwards, but be persistent, there cannot be enough importance ascribed to persistence in practicing law.


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