Jayantika Ganguly, better known as Jay, is a corporate lawyer, author and coach. She has worked for over a decade in three of the top law firms in India before taking a road less travelled. She is an ardent Sherlockian and an internationally published author, as well as a trained and certified coach. She loves travelling and has been to fifty-three countries before the pandemic sent her into hibernation last year.
Q. Could you tell us a little bit about your life during law school? What extra-curricular and co-curricular activities were you a part of?
Well, after you graduate, law school life is always viewed with rose-tinted glasses – it’s the same for me. Now that I look back on it, I mostly remember the good things. It was busy, that’s for sure. There was always something or the other to do! As for extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, I tried a bit of different things – art, music, dance (all of which I’d learnt before) – but what I mostly did in law school was writing – a bit of fiction and a bit of non-fiction. I loved writing for the campus magazine.
Q. You worked in the legal sector extensively before becoming a Workplace Stress Management Coach. What inspired you to take this up along with being a Corporate Lawyer?
I’ve been interested in the education and coaching sector for quite some time, and someone who has worked exclusively in Tier 1 law firms for over a decade, I’m no stranger to stress myself – although it took me an embarrassingly long time to realise how stressed I was. I muddled through quite a bit of it myself, until I learnt about coaching and realized that there were far more efficient and systematic ways of dealing with stress.
It was actually an event in 2019 which I attended on a whim that started me on my journey as a coach, and since then, I’ve explored a good number of associated areas (and learnt them). I’m also a yoga and yoga nidra instructor with international certifications.
Stress actually eats into more of our lives than we understand. It’s not just about exhaustion and lost sleep – that job you couldn’t get, that negotiation you lost, that promotion/salary hike you weren’t given, that interview which went badly – even I was surprised to find out how much of these things could be traced back to stress during my research! Initially, the research was just random questions to lawyers I knew – but when the patterns started emerging, and I found them to be different from the data I had from my coach circles (not too many lawyers there!). That’s when I decided to put my coach and yoga credentials to use and developed these workplace stress management courses specifically for lawyers – and when I say lawyers, I mean everyone from their first year in law school to a veteran who has worked for longer than I’ve been alive. And even though I call them ‘workplace stress management courses’, they also contain time/skill management, critical thinking and problem solving, goal achievement, elements of yoga and yoga nidra, music and colour therapy, mindfulness, meditation, leadership skills and many such things. The details are available at www.jayantika.net
Q. What were some difficulties you faced while becoming a professional mentor, especially since you had worked extensively in the legal field for over a decade? How did you overcome these challenges?
There weren’t really too many challenges in a transition from a lawyer to a mentor – some amount of mentoring comes naturally when you’ve worked that long, because you initially start out learning from your seniors and then, in turn, you groom your juniors and interns accordingly. The bigger challenge lies in creating awareness about the need to manage stress, because a lot of people still think it’s nonsense or that they don’t have the time to undertake a stress management course. We think that we’re stressed because of work/study – but actually, it’s not that simple. More often than not, we’re not performing at our best because we’re stressed, which makes us even more stressed – it’s a vicious cycle.
Q. You identify yourself as “a corporate lawyer by day who moonlights as an author”. You are the General Secretary and an Editor at the Sherlock Holmes Society of India and the first and only Indian member of the ‘Baker Street Irregulars’. Could you tell us a little bit about these?
I’ve been writing since I was seven, and I’ve been a Sherlockian since I was twelve (much before I even heard of the term ‘Sherlockian’). With Sherlock Holmes as my hero, I naturally tried to emulate him as a kid, and ended up with reasoning abilities without realizing it! In fact, a large number of Sherlockians are lawyers (some of us were part of an anthology called ‘Canon Law’ about Holmes and law).
The Sherlock Holmes Society of India was founded by a lawyer, too, incidentally – A wonderful gentleman by the name of Sumal Surendranath, who is the current President of SHSI. I’m the General Secretary (which effectively means that I look after our international relations with other Sherlockian societies across the world) and the Editor of our bi-annual e-magazine Proceedings of the Pondicherry Lodge – it’s available for free at www.sherlockholmessocietyofindia.com if anyone is interested in taking a look. And if anyone is interested in writing a Sherlockian article/essay/story, do feel free to send it to me at email@example.com. This publication is my pride and joy.
About the Baker Street Irregulars – it is one of the oldest Sherlockian societies in the world (the oldest being the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, where I’m also a member) and it is unique because you can’t apply for a membership. You have to be recognized as a somewhat eminent Sherlockian and be granted an investiture (I’m ‘The Great Agra Treasure’, Class of 2016), and then you become a member. I’m the first Indian in BSI but I certainly hope that we’ll see more in the future!
As for writing, I’m always writing something or the other. My anthology ‘A Continuum of Sherlock Holmes’ was released from London just last month. I do have some non-Sherlockian books to my name as well, including ‘Lockdown Blues: The Sitting Duck’s Flights of Fantasy’ – a novella written during the initial months of the first lockdown we had last year.
Q. Were there any unexpected skills that you were able to bring in from your expertise in the legal field into being an author and a professional coach for stress management at workplaces? Would you consider your legal knowledge to be an asset to you today?
Absolutely. Law school naturally helps you develop a certain way of thinking – and I don’t think anyone will disagree when I say that lawyers think differently from others. We lawyers tend to adopt a logical, systematic, research-based way of thinking – and this was exactly what helped me develop my courses.
Q. What does a typical day in your life as a professional Coach, Corporate Lawyer and Author look like?
Pretty satisfying, actually. I start the day going through my to-do list, ticking off things one by one. I’m working exclusively online these days, so all meetings are over Zoom or Google Meet – and it saves up an amazing amount of time previously lost in traffic. And I’m also much more organized these days – after all, I was my first test subject for my coaching experiments, and my efficiency is up several times as a result. A happy side effect is that I’ve managed to pick two new languages with the time saved.
Q. Many of our readers are either law students or law graduates. What advice would you like to give them with respect to following one’s dreams and passion and not get bogged down by the conventional roles within the legal field?
The most important thing is to enjoy whatever you do – whether it is work or study. I know we all have our favourite subjects and favourite matters at work, and we want to stick to those while avoiding the ones we don’t like – it’s perfectly normal and natural to do that. However, if you find that you absolutely detest everything you’re doing…you’re either in the wrong field, or you’re too stressed to enjoy it, or there’s something majorly wrong that requires external intervention.
One of the best things about law school training is that it’s not mandatory for you to be a lawyer after that. There are many things you can do, and if you have already found your passion, go for it! That’s the ideal version, though. Just because you’re passionate about something, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be good or successful at it – you’ll have to put in a lot of hard work there, too.
On a practical note, what I usually suggest to people who come to me for career-related advice is to draw up a priority list with different parameters (similar to a SWOT analysis) and then move forward accordingly with the optimal combination. For example, you may really want to learn renaissance painting in Paris, but you can’t afford it. Get yourself a job first, earn and save up, and then, by all means, go for it!
And if you aren’t sure what you want, you can get yourself a traditional job in the broad area that interests you, and then experiment. Remember two things – law school gives you more skills than you realize, and it is never too late to start something different.
Find out more about Jayantika Ganguly –
Disclaimer – All views and opinions expressed in this interview are personal and belong solely to the interviewee(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the LAABh Foundation or the individuals and institutions associated with the LAABh Foundation.