In conversation with Mr. Raghav Kumar Singh on How to Plan your Career as an In House Counsel?

Legally Flawless has started this drive to aware law students and young lawyers for them to achieve in the field of law through strategies from the achievers themselves.

This blog post is part of our “Gyan Series“. In this interview, we get to know everything about the role of an In- House Counsel in the Banking Industry from Mr. Raghav Kumar Singh.

Mr. Raghav Kumar Singh is a graduate of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow. Currently, he is the Deputy Manager (Law) at the Local Head Office, State Bank of India, Bhopal.

How did you decide to become an in house counsel?

To answer this question, I have to take you back to my college days. So, when you enter into a law school, there are so many opportunities that you look forward to. One of the best things about law school is the exposure that you will be getting not only in regard to the highly competitive environment but also in form of internships. So I had a very diverse experience, be it in respect of participation in various competitions or my internships. In addition to adding value to my resume, all these experiences helped me to meet professionals from various fields and practices of law, and interaction with them helped me to widen my horizon in terms of the opportunities that exist for a law student after graduation. I assimilated all these experiences and after some contemplation, I came over to the conclusion that the profile of an In-House Counsel aligns with my professional goals.

What all places did you intern at?

Clerkship under the Hon’ble Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court, Standing Counsel for the State of Madhya Pradesh at Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and in litigation, corporate, IPR teams of various Law firms at Delhi.

What are the major responsibilities an in-house counsel at a bank undertakes?

That’s a very good question since not a lot of people are aware about public sector banks as such. There are majorly three limbs of work which shall come to a law officer. Firstly, drafting and vetting of documents which includes financing documents relating to consortium loans, SME loans, project finance, builder tie-ups, Lease rental discounting, etc. Secondly, litigation management where it is the responsibility of the law officer to manage the litigation (including arbitration) filed at various Courts and forums against the Bank including the Supreme Court, High Court, District Court, Consumer Commissions, Central Govt. Industrial Tribunal, Debt Recovery Tribunal, Labour Commissioners, NCLT, etc. right from ensuring that engagement of the advocate to the filing of replies and ensuring the compliances of the orders. And thirdly, giving legal opinions on various legal references sent to the law officers by various branches and regional offices in regard to issues of General Banking, Credit, HR, etc.

How to prepare for Banking Exams to be a Law Officer?

There are two kinds of exams, one is Assistant Manager (Law) that is scale I which is equivalent to what we call a Probationary Officer (Bank PO). This exam is conducted every year by IBPS. So, if any aspirant qualifies for this exam, he/she will be selected as Law officer Scale- I. For SBI, generally, there is an exam for Deputy Manager (Law) which is for Scale-II.

When it comes to the preparation part, we know that people are now more aware about these exams than people used to be. Today, there is more inclination towards government jobs because of the ongoing pandemic. People nowadays need stability and work-life balance. Obviously, the competition is tough. It’s not a cakewalk but at the same time, if one prepares with intent and focus, they can get through.

The right approach is knowing about the exam and what are those factors which are predominant in order to clear this exams. So, a Law officer exam is conducted in two parts. At the very first instance, one has to crack the first paper which is only of qualifying nature and merit won’t be prepared on the basis of this paper. The first paper includes questions on English, reasoning aptitude, general knowledge in terms of law. In order to prepare for this, one can refer to the previous year papers of IBPS PO for particular sections for example, English and reasoning section.

Those people who qualify for the first paper will have to appear for a second one and this is the paper on basis of which merit is prepared. There will be questions based on law in regard to banking, for example, SARFAESI, Recovery of Debt Due To Banks and Financial Institutions, Negotiable Instruments Act, Contract Act, Partnership Act, Insolvency, RERA, Banking Regulation Act, etc. One of the useful guides which are available in the market is the IIBF book on cracking the 3rd paper of JAIIB i.e Legal and Regulatory aspects of Banking.

How can an intern make his/her internship fruitful?

One needs to understand that internship is not only an opportunity to collect a certificate but an opportunity to learn. It’s an opportunity to imbibe the culture of the place where you are interning. Some of the ‘dos’ that can help you to get the maximum out of your internships are:

  1. Listen: What your superior is saying and what he/she wants from you. Better to frame specific questions in regard to what assignment is given to you.
  2. Confine your Research: When a particular problem is given to you, do not go outside the scope of that issue. We all understand that we need to resolve an issue within a specified limit and a time frame, so you should not go out of its purview.
  3. Efficiency: In order to show efficiency, your assignment should be within a specific and reasonable time frame even if it has not been clearly stated to you.
  4. Willingness to learn: So, if you are having the drive to learn, that will reflect in your work as well.  Just think of it as you are a part of the institution, and the problem which is given to you, you need to resolve as if you were an employee of the institution because that would make you involved in the process. So, until you are able to involve yourself in the process, you won’t be able to understand the culture, you won’t be able to understand the requirements of the job.
  5. Break your limits: If an assignment is given to you on a subject which haven’t gone through in Law School, do not say that you can’t do that assignment. Remember that you go in a law school to learn the interpretation of law and not just to cram some provisions.
  6. More about the experience than the Certificate: Internships are always about learning the work, knowing the culture, meeting new people, gaining new perspectives rather than just getting a certificate of internship.

What is the role of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities in grooming ones personality?

I think what most people do when they get into a job, is that they forget about their extracurricular activities. There is always a reason to hold on to it because these activities help you to grow as a person and act as a means of escape from the monotony.

When I judge a moot Court Competition, so I not only manage time with my present professional engagements but also get an opportunity to learn about a new area of law and interact with the professionals as well as students. I’m able to share my experiences and know their experience which is adding to my existing knowledge

What sort of internships should one opt for if one has decided to be an in-house counsel?

Really good question; many students contact me through various social media sites and ask me this question. So, if you want to be an in-house counsel, obviously in-house internships. If you get an opportunity to intern in a company, for example, say, Telecommunication Company, banking company, an insurance company FMCG companies, all these are in-house companies. Even if it is a small company, even if you are getting to vet contracts, I think still you should go for it because you’ll be able to understand the environment in which you shall be working. Your decision should be more work-oriented rather than just some fancy ‘Company’s name’ oriented.

What skills should one acquire before graduating to be an in-house counsel?

To be an in-house counsel, firstly, you need to be a very good Legal Manager. Apart from law, managing is a very relevant aspect. Obviously, you need to be good at, drafting, due diligence, subject matter knowledge, ability to grasp the problem and resolve it in a time-bound manner, good inter-personal and communication skills, etc.

So, that is why I say that those people who are good at publishing articles, who have done moot courts and have drafted a lot of memorials, who have participated in competitions where research ability is tested, all these things will factor in, when you become an officer and things will become convenient for you.

What would be your final advice for law students or young law graduates?

I know that times are very tough, particularly because of Corona; everyone is sceptical about the future when it comes to opportunities but I just want to tell them just back your abilities and know that if you are trying, you will get something. Just do not be persuaded by rumours and naysayers. Remember that it is not what you have, but what you do with what you have. That is the ultimate factor that determines the difference between success and failure. So, whatever you have, know that it is enough and if there is a benchmark that you have set for yourself, just carry on, if not today, then some day certainly all your hard work, sacrifices, efforts will take you there where you deserve to be.  Until then be hopeful and keep moving towards your goal.

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