As a child, Atanu Sarkar stood in awe of his father and other legal stalwarts who floated in and out of his home, leafing through dusty law books amid the clatter of typewriters. He began his career as a trial court lawyer but soon switched paths to work in-house. The group general counsel of Tech Mahindra talks to Vandana Chatlani about his early years, changing course and what it means to be an in-house lawyer.
Where did you grow up and study?
I grew up in the steel city of India, a small-town called Jamshedpur. I come from a family of lawyers … I was keen to be a practising trial court lawyer and studied law at Nagpur University Law College, graduating in 1984.
Did you always want to pursue law or did you have any other careers in mind?
I can’t recall ever having thought of doing anything else. I lost my father before I joined the profession, but when I was growing up, I witnessed him running a successful law office. I have enduring memories of the atmosphere at home. From the smell of leather and dust in my father’s library at home to the endless cups of tea served to the legal luminaries and the stalwarts of the profession visiting us. That’s the environment I grew up in. As a child I was in awe of them so it never crossed my mind to become anything else.
Practising law was a rollercoaster ride with extreme highs and lows. As a trial court lawyer practising criminal and civil law, you had to be tenacious and endure long hours of hard work. There are no second chances for a trial court lawyer. The initial phase of practising law stretches your finances and later adds stress to your work life balance. The highlight of my practising days was to be working in the chambers of one of the finest trial court lawyers, Mr BK Mitra. Not only was he a good lawyer but he was also a caring mentor and guide.