In Conversation with Mohit Kapoor of Universal Legal

June 24, 2024
In Conversation with Mohit Kapoor of Universal Legal

Can you share three specific moments that you feel shaped your professional trajectory?

The decision to do an LLB (Hons) degree in the UK, and thereafter promptly return to India to work, was the first pivotal decision that I took towards a career in law. At that point of time, in the year 1999, the Indian legal landscape was going through a revolution. Liberalisation, which had been set in motion in 1991, had gathered steam. I had the opportunity to work in New Delhi with the Additional Solicitor General of India (also former Attorney General), which gave me tremendous exposure to practice in the Supreme Court, High Court and also experience the warmth of people and the divine food in Delhi.

This was followed by a move to a boutique corporate law firm in Mumbai, which merged into what is today, one of the top law firms in India. At a relatively young age, I had hands-on, frontline experience of  diverse areas of M&A, PE, corporate, commercial and IP matters, in an autonomous culture, which I believe sowed the seeds of entrepreneurship. This was the second pivotal decision.

Finally, after five years of practice, I decided to establish Universal Legal in 2004, as a boutique full-service law firm at age 28. As a first generation start up,  we had to constantly work outside the zone of corporate law firm familiarity. The learning curve in my foundation years was incredibly sharp and valuable. We are now in our 20th year of compounded success.


Describe one challenging assignment in your legal career. Can you provide some details about how you approached and overcame the challenges?

During the course of my career, I have had to step out of my comfort zone into unfamiliar terrain on many unexpected occasions. One such occasion that stands out is a complex commercial dispute before the NCLT, which carried to the Supreme Court. It involved an interesting point of law pertaining to risk capital invested by private equity fund and their  attempt to take an investee company to insolvency. The matter was heard virtually during Covid, with several stalwart senior counsels briefed and with significantly high stakes. The strategic, key and timely decisions taken by our team, in what was a David vs. Goliath fight, resulted in victory for “right over might” in what is now a landmark decision.


How do you see technology shaping the future of legal practice?

I think AI has a huge role to play in the future of law, whether it is assisting in research, managing documentation or even predictive analysis of legal issues. However, it is yet to fully evolve and cannot significantly replace the human skills and relationships and the emotional quotient of a lawyer.


Everyone gives tips on what to do. We would like to ask about the don’ts! Based on your experience, what do you feel are some of the things not to do, if one is to become a successful lawyer?

Never betray the trust of your colleagues. Never take advantage of your client’s vulnerability. And lastly, do not compromise with the high standards of ethics that are associated with our profession.


Can you share the impact mentorship had on your professional journey? In your current role, what are the opportunities you get to mentor young talent?

Building bridges with seniors takes an investment of time and effort. Over the past 25 years, I have made sure that I keep personal relationships with everyone I have worked with, whether it is colleagues from the former chambers and firms, as well as those working in other firms, and on opposite sides of matters and transactions. I considered most of them as mentors.

The growth of our team at Universal Legal has been organic, where interns have evolved into junior, then senior associates, and now partners. I have an open-door policy, and am pleased to say that my mentorship extends to interns and associates who have also worked with us in the past.

There is tremendous opportunity for mentorship within our profession, that lawyers at every level in their professional journey can tap into. Much as we like to believe, we don’t know it all!


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