In September 2020, our Founder, spoke to Mr. Bhumesh Verma, who is the Founder of Corp Comm Legal among others, to understand what it takes to be a good intern and other nuances about internships.
Interview Series – Interview with Mr. Bhumesh Verma, Founder of Corp Comm Legal
SEPTEMBER 14, 2020
MR. BHUMESH VERMA
(FOUNDER OF CORP COMM LEGAL)
An Interview On His Expectations From Young Professionals.
Internship Bank’s interview series aims at diving deep into different ways on how to ace internships. As a part of the series, to get more clarity for our readers, we bring you an interview with Mr. Bhumesh Verma, founder of Corp Comm Legal. He is an international corporate lawyer with more than 25 years of experience specializing among others, in areas of mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcy, copyright, entertainment, information technology, IPR and taxation.
Mr. Bhumesh Verma graduated from Delhi University in 1994 and was a Chevening Scholar at the College of Law at York in 2000 and worked with Ashurst LLP in London, United Kingdom. He was a partner at some of the biggest Indian law firms prior to establishing Corp Comm Legal and has over the years authored several books in the area of law especially contracts. He is a strong proponent of online internships for law students and is a guest faculty with some of the best Indian law schools on Contracts and corporate law subjects.
In this interview, our founder Ms. Debolina Saha tries to understand Mr. Verma’s expectations from his interns and what sets good interns and internship applications from the many others.
We hope aspiring professionals find this interview helpful.
1. What professional qualities you expect from an intern?
One does not expect outstanding legal proficiency or acumen from an intern from day one. However, the morning shows the day. Your behaviour and dedication to the assigned tasks at any law firm more or less is a good indicator of your next 40-50 years in the profession.
One could broadly divide the expected qualities into the following categories:
- The qualities that you already possess, through your background, education, upbringing, learnings, atmosphere around you and so on. Almost in-built and engrained as a part of your personality, whichever profession you may go to. These would include sincerity, dedication, candour, patience, honesty, hardworking nature and so on.
- The qualities that you can learn on the job. While interning with a lawyer / law firm, you get into a ‘practical’ side of the profession which is very different from the academic world. You can learn how to develop an eye for details, team work, leadership, a proactive approach, time management, meeting deadlines, drafting, reviewing, proofreading, coordination, ability to convince rather than to argue, etc.
- The qualities you wish to imbibe by learning from other professionals. It could be your fellow students, teammates at your internship, senior lawyers, academics, mentors and so on. Each one of us possesses different qualities, some of which may appeal to different students.
A good intern is one who has a good, judicious mix of these different attributes. No firm expects a top legal eagle sort of abilities from interns, but they should at least be willing to listen, be coached and guided in the right direction, if falling short in any domain.
This is where mismatch appears. Students doing exceptionally well in studies or moot courts or essay competitions feel they know all – like someone scoring a 100 in English in Class 12 may feel he knows everything about the language. However, would it be a correct assumption ?
Practical life in courts and boardrooms is very different. You have to keep your ego back in college and start from point zero.
2. How important is it for an intern to develop his/her soft skills?
Very important. Not only what you say or do, what is important is the how of what you say or do.
The presentation is very important now, more than ever before in this world. Be it your words, presentations, drafting, speaking, body language, team work, all these aspects require very careful cultivation and nurturing.
The role of a lawyer is now no more limited to arguing a case in courts and winning it for the client. It is much wider – you have to play different roles at different times and in different atmospheres – may be a negotiator, an arbitrator, a mediator, a team leader, an in-house counsel in charge of deals and so on.
Unless you possess good soft skills, you cannot be confident of delivering your best, securing your client’s interest, taking your team along or convincing your employer (corporate or firm) or clients.
You need to develop a congenial personality. It helps you in overcoming so many hurdles at different stages of your career – as an associate, partner, entrepreneur or whatever.
Most importantly, it helps you in breaking ice with anyone unknown. Most of the times, lawyers are dealing with hitherto unknown professionals in every new case / business deal.
3. What is different about an internship at Corp Comm Legal.
We were among the first Indian law firms to have a 100% online internship program from the inception of the firm on April 1, 2017.
Based on my experience, I realised that the prevailing internship system was not very productive in the sense that the majority of the students did not get internships at their native place or in the city they were studying. Shifting to a new city, incurring expenditure on travel, stay, food etc. imposed a financial burden on the students. In addition, due to all this, students could not devote adequate attention to the work assigned to them under the internship at the law firms.
For many students, the idea of a traditional internship was to chill out in a new city, freak out with friends and visit the law firm office for a formality some time and get a certificate anyhow.
So the system was no good for a majority of students or law firms.
Through an online internship model, we have been able to assemble the brightest and best of Indian law students scattered in different law schools spread across India without dislocating them. They can work at their own place and at their own pace. Due to the online model, many students have been engaged with us on long term basis (else the internship is confined to semester breaks).
We are also among the first (or may be the first) Indian law firms to give due credit to student researchers. Whenever an article is published based on students’ research and contribution on any website or even journals, we are happy to credit them author or co-author, depending on the extent of their involvement with the research.
I am happy that we’ve been the trendsetter in online internships. However, the path was challenging in the beginning. Most of the universities did not understand the concept, nor did the majority of the students. They did not believe internships could work that way.
Post COVID-19, everyone had to shift to an online internship model, which we were pursuing for many years.
The universities / students not understanding or making fun of our internship model have been queueing up … we feel vindicated. May be we were ahead of the curve in 2017.
4. Having mentored so many students, have some interns created a good / bad and lasting impression on you?
It’s been a mixed bag for us, by and large good.
For internships, we have never discriminated on the basis of law school, city and other parameters. As a result, students from almost all credible law institutes have interned with us during last three and a half years.
We have observed that talent cannot be assumed just because you cracked CLAT and got an admission in an NLU. We have seen many bad apples from NLUs taking everything for granted, thinking they are doing a favour by interning with us, not submitting anything and insisting on an internship just by virtue of their engagement. This attitude isn’t taking anyone anywhere.
On the other hand, many non-NLU students work extra hard to bridge the gap. We find them second to none when it comes to skills and dedication.
Therefore, students must concentrate on doing what they can do best regardless of metro-non metro, NLU – non NLU, English – vernacular, rich – poor or similar monkeys on their back.
I would not like to name the outstanding students because there are too many and some 50 odd are interning on different projects right now. Many of them keep working with us as researchers and / or guides for younger students even after passing out of college. You can see their names with us in our articles every now and then.
5. What type of certificate courses, research papers and workshop courses help students stand-out in their internship applications?
Our law universities’ curriculum is very cramped and fast paced. Students hardly get any practical exposure. Therefore, students must endeavour to pursue additional vistas to broaden their knowledge in the subjects they are interested. However, they should take care that what they do results in real knowledge and not only a certificate.
I am sad to notice many unscrupulous elements exploiting students by organising useless seminars, webinars, certificate courses and so on. It has become fashionable to collect participation certificates by paying Rs. 50 or 100. You should focus on attaining knowledge, not certificates. At least we do not pay much attention to participation certificates.
I even stopped delivering guest lectures at some of these events realising that organisers were making money, speakers were not getting anything out of it and participants were not interested in any knowledge but only certificates. Sad to notice the organisers were exploiting some of the best professionals and academics in this shady business.
Everyone has turned into a guru for students these days – cv guru, internships guru, interview guru, dating guru and so on, charging Rs. 50 to 500 for webinars. So many students have confided in me that these webinars are an utter waste of time.
I also see many firms have cropped up engaging every applicant as intern so that their name is known on LinkedIn. So many firms turn out to be non-existent in reality and some of them ask students to solicit business for them without assigning them any research or other legal assignment.
You should be judicious enough to make out what is useful for you.
A long term course or workshop devised to impart academic or practical knowledge may stand out in your cv and enhance your engagement potential (as an intern or in a job).
6. Few colleges in India offer ‘specialization’ in certain subjects. Do you think students should opt for such specializations? What’s been your experience of being guest faculty for such courses?
Absolutely. If you feel you have a knack for a particular subject or practice area, such a specialised course will help you delve deeper in the subject and expose you to better understanding.
I have first-hand experience in this regard as I am engaged as a guest faculty with so many premier law institutes. Some of these colleges engage me as the resource person for specialised courses – I keep getting students’ feedback that how much such courses have helped them as a student as well as in their professional career.
7. Many corporate law students are keen to pursue a Company Secretary degree. Does an additional Company Secretary degree help law students in their corporate career, as well as in their internship applications?
It depends on your priorities and mindset.
CS may be good for students who wish to pursue a stable corporate career. Legal practice is much more exciting yet challenging and has a longer gestation period.
Attaining additional knowledge by pursuing additional courses is not a bad idea. However, how it helps someone has a lot to do with what you do with such knowledge or whether you have actually imbibed some of that knowledge and can implement it in your practice.
In the race to collect qualifications (like fake certificates I mentioned earlier), you should not become a Jack of all trades. Rather concentrate on your strengths.
8. What is your advice to the graduating class of 2020 who have been worst hit by the global pandemic of COVID-19?
All of us, economy, times, good things, bad things – everything has a lifecycle. Whatever goes up, comes down and the other way round – that is why it is called a cycle.
Keep learning new things / subjects till we come back to (new) normal.
Keep the faith.