A 2011 graduate of ILS Law College, Pune, Tanya Appachu is better known by her Instagram handle @yourinstalawyer..Before beginning her journey on social media, she worked with a Big 4 company and at the chambers of a designated Senior Advocate in Jodhpur.In the past two years, Appachu has carved a niche for herself as a legal content Instagram influencer. Through her handle, she advises people on how to navigate the often intimidating world of law. She made it to the Forbes 100 Digital Stars list in 2022, and won the Cosmopolitan Blogger award and the Hindustan Times “She Slays” award for content with a cause..In this interview with Bar & Bench's Jelsyna Chacko, Appachu shares her journey in the legal profession and as a legal content creator thus far..Edited excerpts follow..JC: How was your experience working in-house with the Big 4 and at the chambers of a designated Senior Advocate in Jodhpur?.TA: Both are like chalk and cheese. Someone who is interested in getting into the courts wouldn’t really think of joining the Big 4. But strangely, I feel like it has kind of made me more well-rounded. The Big 4 gives you a lot of exposure into industries and I’m very thankful for that. Also, going to courts, learning what happens in courts, learning how the system works, I feel it personally helped me develop more holistically. Although I wouldn’t suggest any student to think of such diverse career options, it worked out well for me..JC: When did the idea of creating bite-sized legal content on Instagram come to you?.TA: There are a couple of things that drove me to creating content. The thing that really pushed me was my postpartum. I had just had a baby and I had stopped working. So I was going through a phase where I was continuously doubting myself. I couldn’t go back to practicing traditional law, because it’s very very difficult to do traditional legal work when you have a baby and you don’t have any support system at home to take care of the child. I also never lived in cities, so to hire nannies, etc was very difficult for me. I was consuming a lot of content during that phase - the pandemic and my postpartum. I saw a lot of doctors and therapists online and that’s when I felt, why are there no lawyers online?Of course there are lawyers doing a lot of work online, on YouTube, creating content with students or aspirants, but nothing really for the layman. Nothing breaking down and making it really simple for the layman. Those couple of things pushed me. I wanted to create something very simple, fun, easy for just regular people to understand. Not just for lawyers, not for law students, but for regular housewives, students going to college. As citizens, we need to know our rights, we need to know the law. But unfortunately, it’s a very small crowd of people who are aware of the laws….JC: Did you expect getting featured in the Forbes 100 Digital Stars list and winning the other accolades as a content creator? .TA: Not at all. I never thought that as a lawyer, I would get into mainstream blogging. These awards are given to mainstream content creators, influencers and I still don’t consider myself one. For me, somewhere at heart, I’m still a lawyer. I treat myself like one. So when somebody came up to me and said, “Hey, you’ve been invited to the Cosmopolitan Awards, you’ve been nominated for it…”I thought, “Cosmopolitan? Aren’t they about fashion and lifestyle?”I think people are realizing that there is a different kind of content out there and it is helpful to people, it is helpful to women. These experiences are something that I would have never got as a traditional lawyer, nobody would have called me for a Cosmopolitan Award. It was quite an experience and I’m thankful for every one of them..JC: How would you describe your journey from zero to viral within two years?.TA: It was hard. Firstly, I am not a camera person at all. I don't know how I garner the courage to switch on the phone everyday and get online. You somehow get over it. It’s been great. It had its ups and downs and a lot of problems with consistency, because it’s really hard to be consistent on the net, on social media. It’s really difficult to be relevant, because in 3 to 6 months, trends change. There are so many people coming in..JC: What are your thoughts on building a personal brand? Are there downsides to the engagement you get on social media?.TA: First of all, it’s not easy to build a personal brand. Being on Instagram, being amongst creators and influencers, that is a huge industry in itself. Until and unless you are relevant in that industry, create a niche and name for yourself, there is no personal brand. You could be one of the thousand lawyers that are creating content on Instagram, but you need to be one of those lawyers that everybody knows. You have to put in that effort to network with people, be present at events, do a lot of free work just to be seen and heard. All these matter in creating a brand.The downside of it is that you’ve created something for yourself, but then you need to stick around. You need to be able to continue. That is really hard. Being consistent, being able to create and give something new to the audience every single time. You can sustain something for three months, amazingly. You keep doing the same cut-copy-paste, you’ll do great for three months and then you need to change it. .JC: Did you receive any flak from the legal community or friends from a legal background when you started off on social media?.TA: Yes. We are a serious community, we do serious work, at least we do think that. I have done good work in my life previously. So when my colleagues and people around me saw me foray into social media, I’m sure they were surprised. I had a couple of them who even asked me “What is wrong with you?” But not anymore. When they see that something works, somebody has taken a chance and done something totally out of the box, as long as it works, everything is great. If it doesn’t work, then it will be like, “What was she even thinking?” A traditional career is not easy for everyone, especially women, in all stages of life. We have to face the fact that if we are trying to have a family or have a kid, it’s very difficult. If I was practicing in court, there are no day-offs, there are no timings, so how exactly do you come back and take care of your family and home, unless you are a great hustler, have some great support and you’re managing everything? There are some people like me who cannot manage it. It is okay if I can inspire someone to do something entirely different from what they’re doing….JC: You run a consultancy where you bridge the gap between the law and the layman’s understanding of law. How and when did this practice start and pick up?.TA: So when I started making content, I had a lot of people reach out to me on my direct messages (DMs) asking me questions. I was naïve, so I addressed all their issues, and gave out all the answers, and was spending so much time on it. That’s when I realized that there is an interest. People feel comfortable talking to me and asking me things. I was personally investing a lot of time and energy in addressing their queries. I thought why not convert this into something profitable to me as well? I always feel that when somebody is giving you a certain amount of money for something, they value it more. I was getting in a lot of queries and that’s how I started consulting. .JC: How is this consulting different from the role of a lawyer in an office or law firm?.TA: Imagine a first meeting between a lawyer and a client, that’s what I do. The thing is, not many people are comfortable going and approaching lawyers, and they don’t even know what kind of lawyer to approach. They don’t know there is something called a criminal court or civil court, or criminal lawyer or civil lawyer. If you are starting from there, they don’t have the courage to go up to a lawyer or even understand whether the issue that they are facing requires a lawyer or not. That’s where I come in and bridge that gap. They feel comfortable talking to me because they see me everyday online. They see this lady seems approachable and she’s also consulting, let me ask her some questions. I help them figure out what is going on, whether they can take some action, what next step they should take, who they can contact, do I have any contacts, etc. I refer them to lawyers in different cities, because I also have a network from work, from college, from alumni..JC: If a lawyer or law student chooses to do similar work as you on social media, can they make a living out of it?.TA: Yes, they can. It’s important that they create a personal brand. Only when you’re relatable to people can you start getting promotional activities on your channel. Mostly, that’s how creators on Instagram make money, by promoting brands. If you’re on YouTube, it pays you after a certain amount of time. You can use social media to get clients. Or you can create something like I did, start your own consulting, that could help you earn. It’s also important to understand that I started in my 30s. I was 34-35 when I started doing this work. I already have life experience and work experience with me. As a lawyer, you’ve spent 5 years studying, you’ve put in so much effort, so do take the time to get work experience. It doesn’t make sense to finish college and become a content creator because then you’re just reading out of a law book or article and making content. You’re not really giving much value because you don’t know much yourself. Law school hardly teaches you anything which is relevant in the real world, so you really need to go out there and get some experience. It can be a really great side hustle. Once it takes off, or when you feel that you’re doing really well with it and it is earning you enough money and is going to be sustainable in the future, then yes, you can go full-time with it. .JC: Do you see yourself going back to traditional lawyering any time in the future?.TA: Yes. I’d like to keep my options open, and I’d love to take any opportunities that come my way. If a great opportunity comes up at some point, I would love to go back, because I really did enjoy doing that too.