Kritika Padode Bhandari is an alumnus of National Law University, Delhi. Currently she is the trustee of IFIM Institutions and Member, Governing Council of Vijaybhoomi University- India’s first Liberal Professional University. She is also an advocate at the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court of India. Her vision is to democratize access to good quality education and build world class institutions in India.
Q. Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your life at law school? What extra-curricular and co-curricular activities were you involved in?
My name is Kritika Padode Bhandari and I am a first generation lawyer in my family. It was a little bit of a struggle to get to Law School due to some resistance but eventually when everyone saw me doing well at Law School things fell into place. My five years at National Law University, Delhi was a defining period of my life- it really helped me realise the kind of lawyer I wanted to be and finding my purpose in life. My journey was marked with amazing experiences and lasting friendships. I made sure that I made the most of every opportunity that came my way in Law School. I mooted extensively and represented the country twice at International Moot Court Competitions- Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition and Stetson International Environmental Law Competition. Apart from mooting I was also actively involved in working at the Centre for Constitutional Law, Policy and Governance at NLU Delhi- this experience as a student fellow really made me value the importance of research as a law student and gave me a chance to work with inspiring legal academics like Prof. Mrinal Satish and Prof. Aparna Chandra. I made sure to intern every semester and found myself lucky to be meeting with some of the most exemplary legal practitioners and judges like HMJ Justice Gita Mittal, Senior Advocate Rajshekhar Rao, Senior Advocate Dayan Krishnan, Senior Advocate Siddharth Aggarwal and Senior Advocate Trideep Pais. During my stint at Law School, my roommate and I also got a chance to set up the first IDIA chapter at NLU Delhi which probably ignited my passion for education while working with the scholars and interacting with Prof. Shamnad Basheer.
Q. Since graduating from NLU Delhi, you have been working as an Advocate at the Delhi High Court and at the Supreme Court of India. You have also been affiliated with various educational institutions. Did you ever envision this? How do you manage your time balancing these very different commitments?
While I was in Law School I was very clearly that I was inclined to practice and litigate rather than opt for a desk job. I was very lucky early in my career to find a mentor like Mr. Jawahar Raja in the profession. My experience while working with him in his Chamber made me realise how strongly I felt about doing something impactful with my life. Seeing how selflessly he had dedicated himself to standing up for the right causes and running a largely pro bono practice motivated me to introspect and find a cause that aligned with my vision and purpose. This is how I found my passion to be education and I realised it is very important to democratize access to good quality legal education to create more inspiring and committed legal professionals like the ones who left a lasting impression on my life and choices. Once this realisation dawned upon me, automatically education took the centre stage and everything fell into place. We first set up IFIM Law School in Bangalore affiliated to Karnataka State Law University and two years later we set up Vijaybhoomi School of Law at Vijaybhoomi University, Karjat. Our vision for both institutions remains same to create continuously employable, socially responsible legal professionals.
Q. Could you tell us a little bit about your affiliations with Vijaybhoomi University and IFIM Institutions? What was the inspiration/motivation behind deciding to be a part of these?
Being a first generation lawyer in the family has given me a great opportunity and platform to be involved with the conception and growth of both institutions. I work very closely with both teams (who I must share are actually the driving force of both institutions) to develop the curriculum, work on faculty/ student recruitment, international partnerships, placements, internships, students activities- basically the entire works. I love the entire process, there’s so much to unlearn, re-learn and grow with the team when you are building something from scratch.
Q. What were some of the challenges that you faced as a part India’s First Liberal University that offers education in various fields? How did you overcome them?
I think the biggest challenge that we have faced like many institutions is to be an institution that opened its doors during the pandemic. Nonetheless, we took on this challenge head on and adopted the virtual medium fairly early by launching VUTV to create knowledge dissemination during the pandemic and make learning democratic by taking knowledge sharing to people’s home.
As a liberal professional University that has a unique curriculum and is truly liberal in its philosophy towards learning and allowing students to curate their own learning pathways- our focus has been to sensitise the students and parents community to this unique, new age philosophy. Thanks to the virtual medium and our various school connect interventions we have been lucky enough to get access to them to take our ideas to them.
Q. Has your legal background helped you in anyway in being a Board Member of an educational institution? Are there any unexpected skills that you brought in from law school to that aspect of your career?
Personally, I strongly believe that Law School endows you with a skill set that can be useful in any pathway that you opt to pursue in life. My research skills, communication skills, ability to read and critically analyse backed with legal knowledge has been a tremendous asset in my education journey.
Q. Most of our readers are students of the law or are law graduates. What advice do you have for those who want to take up a career based on their passion but feel limited to the conventional career options in the legal field?
Most importantly I think as students we must not limit ourselves and draw any restrictions around ourselves- grab every opportunity that comes your way and be a keen learner- you never know which idea may click and change your life forever. Believe in yourself and explore beyond conventional opportunities as those hold more promise for challenge and growth. With the ongoing evolution taking place in the legal profession, there is an abundance of opportunities in new and emerging areas which are surely paving the path for the future!
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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.