A day in the life of a senior law professional.

How do you typically start you day?

The day starts with a review of email on Blackberry. No matter how much one tries not to pick that instrument up the first thing in the morning, the habit is a really forceful one. There are times of the year when I do not do that and simply get out for long walks – closer to my annual expedition vacations, but typically, the morning starts with a review of the burden inflicted overnight – at least for about 15-20 minutes. Then, a review of newspapers – I still get five physical newspapers – sets the tone. Browsing television that my mother watches also gives capsules of exposure to what the world is seeing in the mornings. At times, there are early morning calls with folks in the west coast of the United States or on the eastern hemisphere – ranging from Singapore to Australia. I strive to be an early riser to pack more into the morning when the mind is most alert, but miserably fail.

Describe you work or day schedule in 2-3 lines?

I get into work by around 9 am. There are days when one has to attend to hearings in the Securities Appellate Tribunal, which convenes at 10:30 am. On days of hearing, there is last-minute preparatory work in the morning. On other days, client meetings start from about 9:30. The day is perforated typically with meetings with clients. Reviewing and clearing e-mail consumes the day. Self-time and working on drafting longer memos and planning starts in the evening. I leave by about 8 pm to 9:30 pm. On some evenings, it is possible to squeeze in a gym work-out. Often, work dinners or late evening / night conference calls make that impossible. If you had to suggest one immediate change in the present legal or justice delivery system your area of daily practice, what would that be?   In my area of practice, namely, securities laws, I would think that there is a critical need for a near-fanatical reliance on empirical evidence, if any, before making any regulation. If none is available, data-gathering to see the impact of the regulation introduced and a review within a timeframe to see what the impact of the regulation has been, is critical.  This is just not done in the financial sector. Ideally, we do not need a law to say that regulators must do this – they should themselves see the value in doing it.

What is your #1 personal success mantra at work?

Not sure if there is a “success mantra” but I try and bring mindfulness into my work, and attempt to remind myself to be compassionate and forgiving in my work. My guides in this effort are HH Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, two amazing human beings.

In your workday, what is the one thing you cannot do without?

Some bit of non-law reading. Every single day has to have a fair bit of reading outside law and legal issues. Without that the mind would develop plaque.

Your favorite indulgence when you need a break from work?

Facebook. Twitter. Writing down thoughts for the columns I write. Day start - How do you ensure that your day is productive and fruitful to the fullest? I am really bad at time management and in being organised.  I wish I could do more in my day and be more efficient in how I do things.  Therefore, I do not really ensure it is productive. I could do better in this department.  Broadly, it is important to think through at the start of the day the few imperatives to achieve and complete during that day.  Prioritizing the multiple tasks on hand competing for attention is very important.   Day end - How would you conclude, if your day was gratifying or not? A day is gratifying if one has learnt something new during that day.  A day gone by without learning something new is a day wasted. By this token, practising in a commercial law firm can be really frustrating.  Managing a commercial practice often leads to transaction management or litigation planning overwhelming the capacity to spend that extra hour and that extra mile in learning more about the law.  

What is your greatest dream, professionally?

To be the best financial sector regulatory lawyer and to strive for perfection in the field.

What is the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

Read a book. Mostly a non-law book, but often this is non-fiction.

Your message to aspiring law professionals

Develop your skills as a human being. Focus on developing a taste for humanities such as political science, anthropology, psychology and behaviour sciences. Nothing can serve a lawyer better professionally, than trying to understand how the human mind works. What is one major life lesson you’ve learnt and what advice would you give to others?
  The best of human beings are those who are free from delusion of how superhuman they are.  In a profession that handles others’ life and death issues, it is easy to forget this truth. I would think the best advice lawyers can follow is not to forget this truth.

About the writer

Somasekhar Sundaresan is a securities lawyer who currently heads the securities law and financial sector regulatory practice at JSA, a national law firm. His practice primarily comprises regulatory contentious proceedings and includes non-contentious transactional practice of law. He is active participant in public policy work and has been involved in various regulatory and policy-making initiatives ranging from being a consultant to the Financial Sector Legislative Reform Commission to being on committees to write regulations on insider trading, takeovers, corporate governance, foreign capital flows and the like. He is a fortnightly columnist in Business Standard, sits as independent director on the board of Oxfam India and pursues mountaineering as a hobby.