LexTalk World Interviews Richa Dewan. Richa graduated with a B.A.LL.B. degree from ILS Law College, Pune and is an Advocate enrolled with the Bar Council of Delhi, India. During her time in India, Richa specialised in criminal litigation across the various Courts in New Delhi where she successfully represented numerous high-profile clients in white collar crimes/economic offences cases valued at more than USD 500 Million. She now resides in Dubai, UAE, where she advises her clients on Litigation and Corporate Commercial matters under the Laws of UAE and the GCC Region, and in Dispute Resolution and Arbitration before the DIFC, DIAC, LCIA, ADCCAC, and ICC to name a few. Richa has over 7 years of experience in corporate advisory and trial advocacy in GCC, India and UK which has equipped her with skills that are transferable across the realm of legal practice. Her extensive research skills, ability to understand the nuances of procedural law and the interpretation of substantive laws, coupled with the oratory skill to present a case to a full courtroom and the proficiency to handle high profile matters, have helped Richa hone the art of gentle yet effective communication."
Host: You have experience in criminal law in India and corporate laws in the UAE. You are also nearly qualified as a solicitor in English and Wales. How would you say you have adapted to the myriad of jurisdictions you have been exposed to?
Richa: It has been challenging of course. Each jurisdiction is culturally different and comes with its own set of complexities. They key while moving from one jurisdiction to another or learning a different set of laws is to use a comparative perspective. As the foundational components of law remain the same, assessing how these foundations manifest in each system of law helps in adapting to the nuances of each system. At the end of the day, it is important to remember that your learning as a lawyer never ends and as long as you continue to put in the effort and remain flexible, adaptation is less of a challenge as it would seem.
Host: What would you do if you were asked to work on a case, contract, or business scenario that gave you ethical qualms?
Richa: I believe that preventing conflict of interest, maintaining confidentiality and protecting the interest of a Client, are few of the main principles lawyers must adhere to. While we all have our personal beliefs, we have a duty to fulfil. In fact, when I practiced criminal litigation and defended individuals accused of white collar crimes, I had to set my personal beliefs aside and put the best defence forward for my client. In my profession it is important to remember that often our efforts determine the future of individuals and even companies and clients rest a lot of hope on our advice. As such, it's crucial to put the Client's best interest ahead, while creating a balance with our personal integrity.
Host: How do you handle a disagreement with a superior over a legal matter?
Richa: Disagreements happen in the practice of law and is in fact, very important for a development of a lawyer. . Two lawyers can reach different opinions about an issue and both can be correct. It is even more difficult when one of them is senior to the other. Part of being a successful lawyer is learning how to make one’s voice heard without being overbearing. I would attempt to articulate my conflict, know when to agree to disagree as long as I know I have been able to put my point across. I was lucky enough to have seniors who always encouraged me to express my disagreements and opinions. Young lawyers will find that sometimes their seniors need them to voice alternative opinions. Eventually, it is only through debate and discussion that you can arrive at the best strategy for your client.
Host: Some would say that criminal litigation is a boys’ club. What would you say to women aspiring to be in criminal litigation?
Richa: It is, but just like most things, we're better at it (Haha). Maneka Guruswamy, Seema Samridhi, Karuna Nandy, Indira Jaisingh, Misha Chowdhary, Vrinda Grover. They've all shattered the glass ceiling and become the who's who of litigation in India. You have to be relentless and determined. There are often chambers that don't hire women, simply because of preconceived notions. But staying determined with the eye on the Prize is imperitive. There are, of course limitations I felt, like I couldn't go to the police station or ED at night out of safety concerns, but it never deterred me from ensuring my client's needs are met.
Host: Time is money in any profession and in legal it's most of all. How do you ensure to make the best of your time as a lawyer?
Richa: There are two key elements to this: Prioritising and Client Management. As a first step, it is essential that a lawyer understands the needs of the various clients and the urgency of the work needed to be done. While every client is equally important to me, I also know how flexibile each client is. I realised that while clients much prefer a response on the same day, even a clarificatory mail after spending 10-15 mins on a matter buys you enough time and yet gives clients an assurance that their needs are being taken care of. After assessing these factors, I am able to prioritise my work with the help of a tracker. Certain online tools like Trello are immensely helpful.
Host: To end on a lighter note, what is a stress buster for you?
Richa: Painting! I love painting, and have been doing it since school. Often work gets too hectic, I just need to get a few hours by myself and a canvas with some music and somehow all the stress and related fatigue etc withers away. I'd recommend everyone to make time for their hobbies as they did when they were younger. I have learnt from experience that doing so also allows one to approach their professional challenges with renewed energy and focus.
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