'Fireside Interview': Allen & Overy's Pallavi Gopinath Aney Answers Some Common Questions of Law Students

Prior to her role at Allen & Overy, Singapore, Pallavi worked at other international law firms in Singapore and also at S&R Associates in Delhi, India.
Pallavi Gopinath Aney
Pallavi Gopinath Aney

Pallavi Gopinath Aney (Partner and Joint Chair of the India Group, Regional Diversity and Inclusion Partner (APAC), Allen & Overy) sat down with Debolina Saha Narayanan (Editor, Apprentice Lawyer-Bar and Bench) for our “Fireside Interview Series”. Fireside Interviews are exclusive chats with senior partners and regional heads of international organizations.

Prior to her role at Allen & Overy, Singapore, Pallavi worked at other international law firms in Singapore and also at S&R Associates in Delhi, India.

In this interview, the National Law School of India University graduate talks about her legal career and answers some common questions that law students frequently ask.

Do you need a master’s degree to work for a foreign law firm?

Pallavi emphasizes, “different strokes, different folks”. She candidly says that she was relieved to bypass studying for a master’s degree in law and happy to directly join a Magic Circle firm in Singapore as an associate from S&R Associates in India.

She says that she was unsure about pursuing an LLM degree but was confident that she enjoyed capital markets and wanted to work in that area. Therefore, it was a natural choice to take up a trainee solicitor position and skip doing the LLM. That being said, she acknowledges that that was a personal choice and driven by the fact that she was thoroughly enjoying private practice and didn’t want to break that momentum by taking time off for an LLM.

Pallavi adds that while an LLM degree undeniably “opens up opportunities and gives students access to peer groups and knowledge of where to actually interview”, it is not an absolute requirement to secure a position with an international law firm. Opting out of a master’s degree though is definitely a “riskier option” when trying to secure a job in a foreign law firm. This is because an LLM degree does expose a student to broader networking opportunities and places you in an eco-system where many people will be evaluating similar jobs and honing interview skills.

How to prepare for interviews for international law firms?

While admitting that her first interview with an international firm was over 16 years ago and that she does not remember much about the preparation process, Pallavi recalls making notes as a junior lawyer on the approach taken by international counsels in capital markets transactions. With this insight she was able to illustrate to the interviewer that she had a good understanding of what was expected of her in the new role and that she was also willing, and eager, to learn.

“When you are looking at a role that is not exactly the same – whether it’s a change of the laws you might advise on by moving overseas or a change in practice area, it’s helpful to put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer and have a think as to how you can get them comfortable that you have what it takes to make the shift”, she says.

She stresses that it helps to approach an interview from the perspective of the interviewer and understand what apprehensions or concerns they may have and try to address those. “It’s a good skill in general to develop; as you go along in your career, it helps to put yourselves in the place of your clients and colleagues as well”, she says.

How is capital markets as a career?

While Pallavi enjoys every bit of being a capital markets lawyer, she does note that zeroing in on capital markets as an area of focus was not a conscious decision. She explains that the practice of capital markets law excites her, as it gives her an opportunity to get to know all about a company’s overall business including risks, financial performance and all the nuts and bolts of a company’s operations, within a legal framework. “Very few areas of law offer an opportunity to develop such a close understanding of a client’s business”, she emphasizes.

What are important qualities for a good intern or junior associate?

The Allen & Overy Partner adds, that she does not assess interns only, or even to a large extent, on their technical skills. She assumes that technical skills relevant to a particular practice area have to be taught.

“It is important though that interns and junior associates show a willingness to work hard and learn. I am always impressed if a junior team member shows an interest in investing in their own career – that could be in any number of ways – an eagerness to learn and ask questions, to teach yourself by reading and not waiting to be spoon-fed or a willingness to learn from your peer group and wider industry sources”, she says. Also, she adds, it is important that interns train themselves to see the big picture and try and understand how their piece of work fits into the larger jigsaw that is the transaction!

How should one work towards building a profile for a capital markets job while still at law school?

Students should try and opt for any securities laws courses while still at law school. Additionally, Pallavi stresses that students might benefit from keeping a look-out for courses offered by professionals in the field of securities laws that specifically focus on matters such as due diligence, reading the financials of a company, etc. It is also important to keep on top of financial news and generally follow market developments, she says.

Does the brand name of a college matter?

Pallavi acknowledges that the “brand name” of a law school does still play a role in the initial screening process. However, given that there is currently a huge push for greater diversity, equity and inclusion within international law firms such as Allen & Overy and social mobility is a key aspect of that.

Pallavi stresses that the experience that students bring in terms of internships and extra-curricular activities and their overall attitude matters much more than the name of a particular college and adds that what ultimately counts are the qualities in a student that she previously highlighted in the interview.

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