LexTalk World interviews Ms. Sushmita Gandhi. Sushmita has over 13 years of extensive experience advising clients on a variety of commercial disputes across sectors, including Banking & Finance, Insolvency & Restructuring related matters and arbitrations including construction contracts arbitrations.
She has advised lenders, borrowers, advisors, and other intermediaries in complex local and cross-border financing transactions across major debt financing disciplines. Sushmita has handled several domestic and international arbitrations, representing clients in institutional arbitrations in India and abroad. She has also advised on corporate and commercial disputes, appearing before a variety of forums, courts, and tribunals.
In particular, she has expertise in handling proceedings against some of the biggest debt defaulters in India. Sushmita has extensive experience in insolvency litigation and does a lot of advisory work relating to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. Sushmita started her career in the stressed assets division of Kotak Mahindra Bank and was part of the team, which set up Phoenix ARC (an asset reconstruction company promoted by the Kotak group).
She then moved to PKA Advocates where she worked for 7 years and then moved to HSA Advocates as a Partner, before joining INDUSLAW. Sushmita has authored articles and publications on the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, Arbitration and Conciliation Act, Banking laws etc. which are published by leading journals such as India Business Law Journal, SCC Online; Manupatra and Mondaq. She is a regular speaker on the subject at various events and summit and her views on various legal issues are often published in leading newspapers
Sushmita was nominated by RSG for its “EmergingLeader50” 2019 edition. She was one of the “Recommended Lawyers 2019” list for India by RSG. She regularly features in client recommendations given to several legal research journals such as Asia Law, IFLR and RSG.
Host: Please brief us about your journey as a Legal professional so far.
Sushmita: I am a first-generation lawyer and come from a family of non-lawyers. The journey from there to being a Partner with a leading law firm has been a long and gratifying journey. The journey has sometimes been difficult and sometimes been a smooth sail. I started my career with the corporate legal team of a bank and primarily worked on stressed assets related disputes and deals. After being there for a couple of years, I felt that in-house practice is not to my liking and therefore moved to the other side of practice. Ever since 2009, I have worked with a couple of law firms. Being in this profession has allowed me to broaden my perspective and has given me the chance to look deeper into people’s lives, their problems and am glad that I could be a part in solving some of their problems too. Not many professions give you a chance to interact with people from several fields of life and understand their varied issues and look for a solution or give advice. In my journey so far, my clients have been from various strata of society, geographically dissimilar and came to me to with peculiar problems and facts which, all different from each other in some way. Interaction with such clients and working with them for last several years has been a memorable experience. The feeling of wholeness and happiness, which I have felt on successful completion of a matter or assignment is unparalleled.
Host: Tell us about your most memorable case and what are your key takeaways from there?
Sushmita: All the cases that I have done are memorable in some way or the other. Obviously, the ones in which you succeed holds a special place. Each matter has taught me some lesson so there is a takeaway from each of them. A matter which is most memorable in recent times is a dispute between a bank and a large defaulter, which also attracted a lot of media attention. A key takeaway from this matter and for from most of the matters is that you know there is a way to come out on the top even when your back is against the wall and that this practice is full of surprises and one needs to be ready for them.
Host: How do you look at Banking and Finance Disputes in 2021 and how it's going to change 5 years down the line?
Sushmita: The banking industry has evolved immensely. I have seen that change and evolution in the last so many years. I think that with the robust growth of the financial industry in India and a resurgence in lending and investment opportunities, the banking and finance disputes will also grow commensurately and would go on to become one of the larger practice areas in disputes. With the growth of the banking and finance industry, there is going to be a visible growth in funding, defaults, stressed assets and eventually all of these would lead to an increase in banking disputes. Even with the insolvency and bankruptcy laws coming in force, the banking and finance disputes practice has grown immensely. Although there has been a slight set back in 2020, the banking and disputes practice is again picking up. As a vertical, the banking and finance disputes cover almost every forum in India, which makes it a very viable practice for legal practitioners.
Host: You are a first-generation lawyer. What do you think are the challenges faced by them?
Sushmita: Legal profession has evolved over the years. From being a profession of generation lawyers to being a profession where first-generation lawyers are making it big, it has come a long way. Challenges are many. From learning the basic nuances of law to establishing a name for yourself, I cannot say its an easy journey. It is a tad bit easier for people who come from a background of legal practitioners, to start off. In their growing up years, they are already exposed to the basic legal principles which is what a first-generation lawyer starts only at a much later stage, mostly in their law school days. It is also a challenge to connect with people and let people in the profession know you or recognize your mettle. There is hardly anyone to guide a first-generation lawyer in the beginning of their career. Having said that, I must admit that I have been very lucky to have great friends and mentors because of whom my journey from a young first timer to a go-to lawyer has been possible.
Host: How has your experience of working at IndusLaw been in the last 2 years?
Sushmita: I have had a wonderful experience with IndusLaw. IndusLaw encourages young lawyers and that is why the firm has many young and dynamic lawyers. IndusLaw has broken from traditional legacy law firms and created a mark for themselves, which is commendable. the growth trajectory of IndusLaw is noteworthy which has also helped all of us to build our respective practices. With an expert in all fields of practice, it’s a one-stop shop for most clients which is also beneficial to each of the Partner. Most lawyers come from different law firms and backgrounds and each of us learn so much from the other’s experience.
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