Joywin Mathew (Partner, Capital Markets and Structured Investments and Head of the India Practice in the UK for DLA Piper) sat down with Debolina Saha Narayanan (Editor, Apprentice Lawyer-Bar and Bench) for our “Fireside Interview Series.” Fireside Interviews are exclusive chats with partners and regional heads of international organizations.
Prior to his role at DLA Piper, London, Joywin was an associate at White & Case (London and Singapore). He earned his LL.M from the University of Warwick and LL.B from Government Law College, Mahatma Gandhi University. In this interview the City (as London’s financial district is often referred to) lawyer of one of the largest law firms in the world shares some insightful tips on how law students can achieve their aspirations to work in a particular law firm or organisation!
Create Your Own Opportunities
Joywin says students should try and create their own opportunities and paths. He recalls the time when jobs were difficult to come by even after completion of his masters degree from Warwick. Instead of waiting for opportunities to come by, he started writing to partners of various law firms. He only asked to meet with them and ensured that his resumes and cover email whilst being tailored for each law firm showed enthusiasm and curiosity for the particular practice he was applying to.
Ultimately his efforts paid off and he was invited for a two week unpaid internship at Sidley Austin’s London office. He took this opportunity to gain his first insight into what it was like to work for an international law firm. Joywin adds, he used this opportunity to understand the expectations of a city-law firm from its associates. He must have really understood the needs of a city-law firm well, as the initial two week internship lasted for more than a month!
It is important to get the small details right, starting with that first correspondence
The key player of DLA Piper’s India practice (as Joywin has been referred to in the past) stresses that whilst there is no particular way to make one’s case across, it would help to articulate in that first correspondence, how one could be useful to that firm.
Joywin added that all law firms are keen on attracting the best talent, therefore it is safe to assume that if we put our best foot forward, at some point one may expect to receive some positive interest from a prospective employer. In the case of e-mails which is usually the first step one would take whilst making an approach, it is important consider how the e-mail may come across. Too long, too short, too cursory e-mails can result in the end outcome being negative. Therefore, it is worth spending some time to get the format of the email correct. One tip would be to list ways in which one can help a law firm, instead of simply providing a lengthy list of how a position with the law firm can help the candidate.
Joywin [smiles and] says given the fact that he came from a non-NLU background, working for a white-shoe law firm like White & Case was a distant dream for him. While he sometimes assigned his opportunity to work for White & Case London, to lady luck, the journey was not all smooth-sailing for he joined directly as an associate and did not have the benefit of a training contract.
His simple message to students is, “If you simply apply yourself to your job, you will pick up the little nuances of working in a multicultural environment and with colleagues from different backgrounds”. He adds, that is one’s hunger for success that ultimately determines one’s course in life.
Be your client’s counsel in its true sense
Joywin added that it is also important to consider the role one has as a lawyer as that of being a client’s trusted advisor. Ultimately it is when you win the trust of your client that you will have a truly enjoyable time as you would have earned a friend in the process. “Be collegial and a team player--these qualities would go a long way to advance your career” he emphasises.
Often times a client may be fighting a fire at their own end – if they feel that we are with them, it makes for a great relationship.
The most fatal mistake students or junior associates can make is to “treat a job like a job” adds Joywin. “It is important to enjoy what you do and do what you enjoy”, adds the partner who has advised on many first in the market transactions!! When one loves their job, it shows in their attitude and the manner and passion with which they handle their transactions.
Build Your Own Personal Brand
“It is important to think of oneself as one’s own personal brand and be different”, adds Joywin . You can set yourself apart from your peers with the sheer volume and quality of your involvement in the practice you are in. “Write that article that you have been planning to write for sometime, be active on social media such as Linkedin and most importantly - articulate your ideas as best as you can ” stresses , the DLA Partner who is credited with advising the Kerala Infrastructure and Investment Fund Board with its debut masala bond issuance and listing on the London Stock Exchange and the Singapore Stock Exchange.
Grab Every Opportunity-Be Flexible
Joywin emphasises, “Whether it be an opportunity to work at a bank or a non-governmental organisation or any other non-law institution, grab such opportunities. Excel at performing in such roles even if they appear to be small opportunities”. He adds, “Experience at all such places is accretive and will help you land your desired role at a law-firm”. Most importantly, he stresses, “Look beyond having a linear CV--- for every work experience acts as a stepping stone to the next opportunity.”
On being pressed for his advice to students graduating in the middle of the pandemic, Joywin adds that, there are law-firms whose business remains robust in spite of the pandemic and who have managed to grow “beyond their expectations”. This means that opportunities do exist to present oneself as a prospective candidate. As long as one is mindful, articulate and knows how to present oneself in the best possible way, securing that dream job or internship should be no difficult task.
The Partner credited with advising the first Indian sub-sovereign entity in accessing the international debt capital markets via the issuance of masala bonds, sums it up by stressing, “Aim for the sky, there is nothing to fear in trying – remember nothing ventured, nothing gained .”