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The Recruiters is a weekly column aimed at helping law students fathom what it takes to gain employment in a field of law they wish to pursue. This week, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan’s founder and Managing Partner V Lakshmikumaran talks to Bar & Bench about the qualities his firm looks for in prospective tax lawyers, internship and training programs at the firm, his experiences at interviews over the years and more.
Bar & Bench: Some of the criteria considered for recruitment include CGPA, moot courts and publications. In what order are they prioritized?
V Lakshmikumaran: We look at their CGPA. We also look at the subjects studied in schools and the marks obtained in those. These two are the most important. Secondly, we look at the internships they have done in other law firms, moot court participation, and publications.
B&B: To what extent are students expected to know the law?
V Lakshmikumaran: We deal with specialized subjects ourselves, and not with the general law that they learn in law school. We do tax and IP work that is highly technical. These subjects are not taught to that extent in law schools. So, it wouldn’t be fair to expect them to answer any of my questions. What I do is I look at the subjects of their interest and ask questions based on that. After we hire, we conduct a training program for the new recruits.
B&B: Tell us more about the training program.
V Lakshmikumaran: There is a two-month long training program organized for the new recruits. When they join, they have no clue about the kind of tax matters we deal with here. The Partners at the firm, including myself, deliver lectures. We give them notes on the overall type of laws we deal with and they are expected to do homework on the same. We also instil in them the values and ethics of the firm. We also touch upon etiquette while dealing with clients and methods of work. We also invite outsiders to address them on topics of writing skills, etc. Thereafter, they are distributed to various branches of our firm in different cities, depending on their aptitude and interest in a particular area.
B&B: Given the high attrition rates at law firms, how do you determine whether a candidate will stay with the firm or leave after a year or so?
V Lakshmikumaran: People generally stay at a firm provided they are doing exciting work. The encouragement and leadership of their immediate bosses is also very important. If these two things are in place, then other factors, such as compensation do not play that much of a role. I make it a point to appraise people when they do good work, and now and then, I call one of them to accompany me to the Supreme Court so I can show them around.
So, I don’t see attrition as much of a problem. But, there are situations where other big law firms may attract them with higher compensation. The others who leave may feel that if they stay in practice, they may not be able to grow. If that is the case, they have my blessing and encouragement to leave.
B&B: Does the University a candidate studied in matter?
V Lakshmikumaran: In my experience, I have found that it is not only the National Law Schools that produce the best students. There are people here who are from ILS, Pune, Faculty of Law, Delhi and GLC Mumbai. So, it’s not that we hire only from NLUs.
B&B: The firm generally hires through its internship program. Take us through the process.
V Lakshmikumaran: We have a very intensive four-week internship program, at the end of which, the interns have to make a presentation on a particular topic. At that time, we see the speaking skills, their understanding of the subject matter, how they answer questions and handle tough situations, etc. If we are impressed with them, we offer them a second internship, at the end of which they are offered a job, depending on how they perform the second time. So, we don’t gauge students based on a half hour long interview, it is a much more thorough process. This is the case by and large, but there are also people who have been recruited without undergoing the internship program.
B&B: Any interesting interviews come to mind?
V Lakshmikumaran: I once interviewed a person who came from the Hidayatullah National Law University. While I was asking questions, I found that he knew a lot, but in a different subject matter – Competition Law. When I asked him questions on Competition Law and I could see his face glow, I realised that it was his passion. I could actually feel his excitement – that’s something you tend to develop after years of taking interviews of students. In fact, we started our Competition Law practice because of him!