Rachika A. Sahay is currently a partner in HSA Legal, a law firm based in Delhi that specializes in Energy Law and Project Financing which are also her forte. She has garnered great experience by working with some of the top legal firms in India that specialize in Energy Law including serving as the General Counsel at OstroEnergy and a Counsel and Senior Associate at Trilegal. Rachika A. Sahay has been awarded for her achievements while working under OstroEnergy and has been recognized by Legal Era Gennext 2020 as one of the leading lawyers in this area of law.
In this interview, she throws light on her experience as a law student and gives advice on how to deal with the pressure of being a law student.
Kanika Goswamy: How was your journey as a law school student? What encouraged you to specialize in the area of energy law?
Rachika A. Sahay: As a child, being the daughter of a chartered accountant. This raised my curiosity and I became more interested in pursuing corporate law practice, rather than litigation. I was very clear in my head when I entered law school that this is what I want to do. I would not say that lawyers should not explore other practice areas. In fact, it is best to do so because eventually, they converge with each other. This is precisely why magic circle firms offer every graduate a six months seat in various practices during their initial training years.
When I was graduating, the Electricity Act had just come into force. I was fortunate to become part of some newly developing practice and started working on projects, a lot of work-related to energy law started flowing in. I had previous experience of working with energy law after which my focus completely shifted to dealing with legal issues of electricity, oil and gas, as well as mining. Gradually I gained more experience and found my strength in this area.
Kanika Goswamy: In a field like law, it becomes a little easier to lose hope if you’re not doing well academically or getting internships that you see your friends or your colleagues getting. How do you stay motivated in such situations and what advice would you give to all the students through which they can motivate themselves?
Rachika A. Sahay: Well, I would say it’s difficult and with time the competition has greatly increased. But I would strongly suggest breaking any situation into issues that
(a) you have control over, and
(b) issues that are not under your control.
Your academic performance is something that you have control over. You have to make sure that you are attending your classes regularly, you are doing a lot of self-reading as well and keeping yourself updated. Internships are something that you can keep track of and keep trying for. I strongly believe in the fact that the cream of every college is the same. If you are one of the top graders in your college, then, internships are likely to come through. If not, there are a plethora of law-related activities to get involved in, like moot court and other competitions, article writing and indulge in blog writing. These activities are under your control. This is what I keep in mind when I’m taking people for internships, or recruiting for jobs. I’d like to see how you write because, at the end of the day, that’s also a very important aspect of our profession; it not only demonstrates your writing skills but also your research skills.
So if you write well and if you’ve published a lot of articles, it definitely shows that you have interest in the practice and the way you analyze the topics chosen gives an insight on how well are your research capabilities. Therefore, even if internships are not coming through, for whatever reason, do utilize the time to do something, something that is under your control.
Kanika Goswamy: How do you stay at the top of such an oversaturated market? What is your style of working that allows you to stay at the top?
Rachika A. Sahay: It is very generous of you to say that I am on the top. However, I believe that it is a long way to go. I strongly believe that there is no substitute to hard work. Wherever you are in your career, even when you are really doing well and people may be giving you a lot of regards, you have to keep on working hard. Every lawyer who you would see are on the top of their game, never give up working hard. One should never stop putting in lots of effort.
Kanika Goswamy: Since you pursued your masters from the London School of Economics and Political Science, did you observe any major differences between education which is imparted in India and outside India? And do you think we need to inculcate certain changes that they have in their education system, which India desperately at this point of time?
Rachika A. Sahay: Well, I think to a certain extent there were two things which I really liked while I was pursuing my masters at LSE. First and the foremost, the stress on self-reading. Students are required to do a lot of self-reading before going to the class which makes the classes more interactive rather than the professor delivering the lecture. This motivates none of the participants.
Secondly, people teaching you are not only academicians but also, policymakers, or senior partners from firms who also want to contribute towards academics. That brings a lot of practical perspective to the teaching and if that’s something we can build in into our own academic system, it will greatly benefit students.
Kanika Goswamy: Before joining HSA Advocates, you were the Head Legal at Ostro Energy and were also awarded the GC Powerlist Teams 2017. What functions did you perform as Head Legal of the Group?
Rachika A. Sahay: My role at Ostro Energy required me to be involved in every aspect of the business, whether it was acquiring projects, building new projects, resolving an employee-related issue, ensuring compliance with all laws, etc. So every aspect of the business had to be managed. It was an enthralling role but I was fortunate to work some of the best business minds in both private equity as well as renewable energy space and I learned a lot.
Kanika Goswamy: As a representative of HSAE advocates outside India, can you share with the readers your role in the firm? And what is the ambit of your position that you’re currently in? And what areas do you cover and as a representative?
Rachika A. Sahay: I’m a partner in the firm’s corporate M&A as well as projects practice. My forte is to do M&A transactions, largely in the projects practice. I bridge the gap between an M&A lawyer and a project lawyer because I have an understanding of both areas. Having said that, I also take care of transactions in other sectors. I also advise clients on issues relating to general corporate, insurance, FinTech, and also overlook work related to oil and gas.
Kanika Goswamy: Lastly, oftentimes, students underestimate or rather fail to understand the scope of other areas of law and mainly focus upon conventional areas of practice. Can you help our readers understand the prospects of this field and how it can be beneficial for them?
Rachika A. Sahay: Well, I think that the approach towards more conventional areas of law is now changing. In fact, I meet a lot of fresh graduates who tell me that they want to pursue corporate law. One of the reasons quoted is also payouts, which I believe is a very temporary concern and should not be factored in to determine the course of my career. But yes, when it comes to specializing in a particular area, whether it is oil and gas or electricity, for that matter, I think that’s a very conscientious choice. People often do not make that choice because these students are not exposed to these areas in law school. I strongly believe that one should choose a career which allows you to do what you want to do. So if you don’t like what you are doing, you will burn out easily. And that’s not an ideal situation to be in, especially because lawyers tend to spend more time in the office than at home.
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