Interview with Lynn Lazaro, Partner at Kochhar & Co., Bengaluru

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Ms. Lynn Lazaro is Partner at the Bangalore office of Kochhar & Co. and heads the Intellectual Property Law Practice in Bangalore. She graduated with B.A. LLB (Integrated Course) from University Law College, Bangalore University and pursued her Masters in International Business Law (M.I.B.L), La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.

Lynn practices intellectual property law (IP) and commercial law with a strong emphasis in the specialist areas of trademarks, patents and copyright, design registrations and prosecution, IP agreements, licensing and monetization. She has broad experience in advising clients, ranging from MNC’s and SME’s, on various aspects of IP laws in India and globally for over a decade. She started her career as a Legal Executive at Manthan Services in 2006. She also has experience of working as a Legal Consultant at Lipton Weinberger & Husick and was Head of Legal at Kirusa.

Lynn is very active in the domain of anti-corruption and compliance training. She is certified in legal risk management for MNCs by the Boston University School of Law and regularly advises clients in FCPA compliance and strategies to combat legal risk for U.S subsidiary companies. Lynn actively conducts short training sessions on FCPA compliance internally for management and staff of Indian subsidiaries of American companies.

Lynn is a regular speaker at various seminars and conferences held within and outside India. We got an opportunity to interact with Miss Lynn recently and know her up close. Below is the transcript of the Interview.

Apuroopa: Were you always passionate about taking up Law as a Career? Did you have a mentor or guide who motivated you to pursue law? Also, how was attending law school in India more than a decades ago? In your opinion, how is it different for today’s law students/law graduates?

Lynn Lazaro: I’ve always been a bit of an advocate for the underdog and going into law seemed like a natural progression. I’m the first lawyer in my family so I didn’t have the help of a law library at home or parents who were lawyers or judges like most of my classmates. I didn’t really see it as a disadvantage at the time though, because my parents always taught me the importance of hard work, which is all you really need in law school. In my second year, I interned with Mr Rego, a reputed criminal lawyer in Bangalore, who took it upon himself to be a teacher, counsellor and father figure. I suddenly had a mentor and a law library at my disposal and there was no going back from then. Law school was a lot of fun. Probably, because I found a passion for mooting and spent most of my days researching and travelling for a moot.  Long hours, debates and lifelong friendships were the gains.

I think law students/graduates today have a lot more information at their disposal. Internships in our day were limited only to law firms or private practitioners but law students now undertake internships in law societies, companies and with global organisations, like the U.N, which in my opinion is excellent exposure. Also, there are several alternate careers in business development and in recruitment for law graduates that provide brilliant opportunities and pathways for non-traditional legal careers for those that feel so inclined.

Apuroopa: You have represented your college at many prestigious moot court competitions. How do think these moot court competitions helped you in shaping your legal career? Do you think mooting is very significant for law students?

Lynn Lazaro: Mooting was essentially the highlight of law school for me. Apart from being immense fun, I was exposed to legal experts, students from other universities and healthy competition. The knowledge gained from that experience was invaluable and strengthened my confidence in my chosen career and in myself. I definitely recommend that all law students moot during their course. The process is designed to teach analytical thinking, development of constructive argument and attention to detail. All of which is essential in a successful law career.

Apuroopa: You have penned down a few articles published by renowned websites and also co-authored two books. Were you always passionate about writing? Despite your busy schedule how and when did you find time to write articles and books?

Lynn Lazaro: I absolutely love writing and for that matter reading. You’ll never find me without a book or two at my disposal (just in case). As my schedule has gotten busier, I’ll be the first to admit that it has been increasingly difficult to make the time to write. That said, once I get started on a new topic, it absorbs and relaxes me, so I find writing therapeutic and a release of sorts of the pressures of work and home.

Apuroopa: You did your Masters in International Business Law at La Trobe University, Australia. How was your life at La Trobe University? What inspired you to choose International Business Law as your specialization for LLM? Also, how did you feel when you received the Dean’s Commendation Award for Academic Excellence? What kind of skills should be developed to win such a prestigious award?

Lynn Lazaro: University life was wonderful. The course that I had chosen had students from seventeen different nationalities with two of us from India, leading to very interesting cultural differences and opinions. The first semester focused on international business and the second on international law. Our assignments and collaborations concentrated on establishing and managing global business and the socio-economic factors that evolve from that. My biggest take back from this course was the understanding of the role of a country’s culture, history and social experiences play in a commercial negotiation.

The award that you mention was the icing on the cake. I didn’t expect or set out to achieve it. My sole focus was trying to gain as much as I could from the experience and in the process make as many friends as I could. Some of whom I’m still very close to.

Apuroopa: You worked with a U.S law firm, Lipton Weinberger and Husick as a legal consultant at their offshore office. How was your experience working in a foreign law firm? In your opinion, what kind of profile should be maintained in order to work in a foreign law firm? Also, what kind of differences did you see working at a foreign law firm and an Indian law firm.

Lynn Lazaro: Working at LWH was an educative experience. As you know, each firm or company has its own life and culture. At LWH, the emphasis was always on client servicing. I reported to Ashok Tankha, a U.S patent attorney and senior partner at LWH. Fairly early on, he became a mentor and guide. I think one of the major differences between Indian and foreign firms is that there is much less hand-holding in a foreign firm, as compared to an Indian firm. As a junior associate and newcomer, I was expected to manage clients without much supervision. And with that, also came the freedom to work in my area of interests, publish and research. I believe that that experience pushed me to the frontline very early on in my career. I learnt business development and networking as a junior and those skills became very useful to me later on.

Apuroopa: The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt worldwide and across all business sectors. The pandemic is also leaving an impact on the protection of existing intellectual property rights (‘IPRs’) and on IPRs in the process of acquiring protection. What is your take on this? What kind of issues and challenges did you face at work as an IP attorney during this pandemic?

Lynn Lazaro: It’s been a few months now since the pandemic has hit us and I’ve been busier than ever. Infringement and counterfeit products have been on the rise and a lot of businesses are eager to protect their IP. There have been a considerable number of challenges though and we have had to create several workarounds. The courts have been physically closed and moved onto hearing only urgent matters through video conferencing. A special petition detailing urgency is required to be filed and only if approved, the matter will be heard. Another issue has been the lockdowns and curfews in the states. This has caused delays in administrative issues like the printing and scanning of documents, obtaining signatures, and other minor tasks which we always took for granted. The IP offices are also closed but all our filings and hearings have always been conducted electronically so we haven’t felt the impact here. In fact, we’ve been able to get extensions on deadlines in light of the pandemic with the IP offices.

Apuroopa: You did an advanced certificate course on “Legal Risk Management Strategies for Multinational Enterprise”, offered by Boston University. What was the course about? How was your overall experience and how far the course helped you in your legal career?

Lynn Lazaro: The course focused on the U.S FCPA policy, rules and guidelines. FCPA is essentially the Foreign Corrupt Practises Act that has overreaching jurisdiction on all companies within the U.S and their subsidiary companies globally. Several U.S based clients have an affiliate or subsidiary companies within India. This course helped me understand the legal obligations of these companies in India and the consequences of violations of the FCPA.

Apuroopa: Lastly, what would be your word of advice to the law students or law graduates looking forward to doing LLM in foreign universities and want to work at foreign law firms? Also, what are the career options for a person who want to pursue International Business Law or Intellectual Property Rights for higher studies?

Lynn Lazaro: My advice to anyone who wants to work in a foreign firm or obtain a foreign LLM is always to go ahead and do it. Even if you choose to practise in India after, you will always carry the skills and experience gained with you. I also want to mention though that several excellent lawyers that I know never did an LLM or worked in a foreign firm so your success as a lawyer is not dependent on that. It comes down to your level of commitment, ability to learn from your mistakes and hard work. With the growth and need for new and updated technology, IP lawyers will always be needed. However, the law as a career choice, in IP or otherwise, requires constant learning since it is so dynamic. Hence, the completion of an LLB or LLM isn’t the end of a law student’s education. I’m still a student and learning every day through my work.  My advice is to read as much as you can, even if not related to your chosen field.

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