Mishaal Nathani is a lawyer by education and an entrepreneur by nature. He graduated with a B.A., LL.B from the Jindal Global Law School in 2018 and is currently an incoming student at Harvard Business School for the MBA program.
Q. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your law school experience?
My name is Mishaal Nathani, and I’m a lawyer by education and an entrepreneur by nature. I graduated with a B.A. LL.B from the Jindal Global Law School in 2018. I’m currently an incoming student at Harvard Business School for the MBA program. My law school experience was slightly different from most. While I did ten legal internships during my five years of law school, I also explored other fields – most notably, entrepreneurship.
When I entered law school, I was working on a startup of my own. While I never ended up launching the company, it served as my introduction to the world of startups. Around the same time as I was working on the company, the Jindal Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship (JSiE) opened up on campus. Almost immediately, I started working there as a research assistant. The year after, I launched a program called “Startup Academy”, which was a course on how to go from idea to launch, taught by professors and entrepreneurs both on and off campus. In my third year I co-founded the Legal Entrepreneurship Cell. I also ran an entrepreneurship discussion group.
Law School for me ended up being a time of discovery. It gave me the opportunity to try out several different things and helped me figure out what I’m passionate about. People often ask me “did you not like the law?” or “did someone force you to do law?” That was never the case. I loved studying law and I still enjoy it till date. I just wasn’t as passionate about working in law, as I am about working in entrepreneurship or venture capital.
In my final year of law school, I co-founded a creative consulting agency called Plane Crazy (www.thisisplanecrazy.com) with one of my roommates. I ran that full time, until December of 2019. Post that, I worked at Dr. Vaidya’s – a D2C startup, in the CEO’s Office, until January 2021. Afterwards, I worked at Kae Capital as an investment analyst in a pre-MBA role. I’m currently consulting with a couple D2C companies before I start school!
Q. You started the Legal Entrepreneurship Cell in your law school campus. What is legal entrepreneurship and what were your responsibilities there? What other activities were you involved in?
I co-founded the Legal Entrepreneurship Cell with one of my seniors when I was in my third year. The idea was to apply all the theoretical knowledge that we were learning in the classroom to the real world. Since law students can’t give legal advice or practice law, we limited our scope to legal research. We were fortunate enough to have support from some of our lectures who are practicing lawyers. We got to help NGOs, small startups, and even startups who had raised funding! You’d be surprised – even startups that have been operating for a while are often confused about basic points of law. Till date, people ask me, “How do you register a company?”, “Should I choose a partnership?”, “Should I choose an LLP?” – these are questions that don’t necessarily get into complicated points of the law.
I think it was a win-win for both sides – we were able to help a lot of organizations that wouldn’t have been able to afford lawyers for the legal work they needed, or, sometimes for such small issues, it’s not really easy to find lawyers that are willing to help. For us, it was a great learning experience and an opportunity to actually work on interesting points of law with practical application. Personally, it also gave me an inside view into what the entrepreneurship world was like.
JSiE has a partnership with the Tibetan Entrepreneurship Development Initiative, and we got to help Tibetan refugee entrepreneurs set up their companies, which I definitely think was a highlight of the work we did at the cell! Another milestone was being associated with a large ed-tech incubator.
Q. You worked extensively in the legal sector, including as a legal intern to the Chief Justice of Supreme Court, Hawaii. Could you tell us a bit about your experiences in the legal field and how they shaped your career?
My experiences during law school gave me a lot of exposure. I was fortunate to receive several interesting opportunities through university. For instance, I got to go for a semester abroad to Paris where I studied Economic Law at the Sciences Po law school. I also got to intern with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii. These experiences were life-changing for me in many ways. The experience with the Supreme Court really stands out because until then all my litigation experience was India focused. The internship opened up my eyes to what the US legal system really was like, and how it differed from India. I think the most useful learning was that it taught me how to think and approach issues in a different way.
Another question people ask me very often is that, “Oh, you studied law? How did you move to entrepreneurship?”. Ironically, I think that law school and all my experiences really helped me how to approach and solve issues in multiple different ways. Even with entrepreneurship you’re taking a problem and you’re trying to solve it. Within that larger issue, you’re trying to tackle the many small issues that come up every day, every week. That’s what law school really helped me with – the ability to take one issue, break it down into smaller questions, and figure out how to best approach each of them.
Q. You were the Co-Founder and CEO at Plane Crazy Studios. You then worked in the CEO’s Office at Dr. Vaidya’s New Age Ayurveda, and at Kae Capital in venture capital. Drifting away from law to entrepreneurship is a big leap. When did you start thinking that it might be a good idea? What elements did you factor in while contemplating this switch?
I entered law school when I was 18 years old, and while I was quite sure I wanted to be a lawyer, it is a very young age to decide. As I progressed through law school, and explored different industries, I realized I was most passionate about entrepreneurship.
With the number of options we have nowadays, it is tough to not be confused! A close friend of mine wrote a book recently, titled the “Seductive Illusion of Hard Work”. One of the concepts he talks about is confusion based on a theory first spoken about by Professor Dr. Sidney D’Mello, where she discusses how confusion can lead to both personal and professional growth. The key is to channel the confusion in a positive manner. Use the confusion in a way that it augments learning, as opposed to damaging learning. That’s something that I have tried to do. At both Plane Crazy and at Dr. Vaidya’s, I got the opportunity to witness several parts of not only my own business, but also all the clients that we worked with at Plane Crazy. So we worked with companies all over, we’ve done some work with, you know, the Ed-Tech startup upGrad, we’ve worked with MIT University, Cambridge University, we’ve worked with several startups in India, we’ve worked with several companies in the US in the UK, so just getting that exposure, just learning about how things really function out in the world, was really helpful.
Another skill that I think is very important moving into the next few decades in the future of work, is your adaptability quotient. People talk about your intelligence quotient, your emotional quotient, and of course, they’re both very important. But I think the adaptability quotient is something that is becoming increasingly important. We’ve seen that this year, in 2020, with the pandemic and everything else that’s happened. But the adaptability quotient, which is basically that no matter what life throws at you, you’re able to adapt to different scenarios, even if it’s unanticipated. I think by working in different fields, doing all my 11 internships – 10 internships in law and one internship in venture capital in my time at Jindal, and my work at Plane Crazy and Dr. Vaidya’s prepared me for a lot of things. I still have a lot to discover and learn, undoubtedly. However, I think that by exploring so many different opportunities, I have been able to truly figure out what I’m passionate about and hopefully be better prepared for the future.
Q. Did you face any challenges or set-backs while switching from the law to entrepreneurship? How did you push through those?
Very honestly, there were several challenges. But that’s expected as an entrepreneur – life is full of challenges! At the outset I was extremely fortunate that my parents were very supportive. There was obviously a lot of skepticism when I started Plane Crazy – both of us were law students without any traditional education or background of what we were trying to do. We often heard “Oh, why are two law students starting a creative agency?”, “Oh, it’s fine. They’re doing it as a hobby, but it won’t last, they won’t really be able to do much”. And obviously, that’s not something you really can blame people for even thinking, but I think for us, and for anyone out there, if you’re truly passionate about something, given the resources that we have nowadays, there’s nothing really stopping you from doing what you want in a professional sense.
There are always going to be challenges, there are always going to be setbacks, and there’s often going to be people who don’t believe in what you’re trying to do. I think that would have been true whether I had continued with law, whether I had moved to entrepreneurship, whether I decided to do something else. The way I approach it is that life is a series of obstacles, but how do you use that to your advantage and use it as an opportunity to grow?
Q. Most of our readers are either students in law school or just graduated. What advice would you like to give them especially for pursuing careers out of passion rather than just mere compulsion/convention?
If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, you’re never going to be happy – no matter how much money you make or how successful you become. From what I’ve learned from my experiences, my biggest takeaway is to never be afraid to try new things. For students in law school – you have five years, which is a long time. Make the most of it. When you’re passionate about something, you’re likely to give it your 110%. You’re better off exploring all your passions while you’re still in college and have fewer responsibilities. Embrace the confusion, build your adaptability quotient. You can learn anything by watching free YouTube videos nowadays – use it to your advantage.
Stay curious – and most importantly stay happy. You’re far more likely to be successful doing something you enjoy as opposed to do something because someone else is telling you to do it.
Find out more about Mishaal Nathani –
- LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/mishaalnathani/
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 LAABh Foundation.