MEET NEHA KASHYAP- Lawyer turned Legal EntrepreneurThe Grey Matter Team
This Dareact is super special to us as we bring you the story of someone who pioneered and founded The Grey Matter. A litigating lawyer turned legal entrepreneur, who explored various unconventional roles in the legal space, creating impact and leaving an indelible mark at every organisation she worked with. Neha Kashyap, holds a solid ground of 14 years’ of experience in the field and has made her mark as one of lauded legal business development professionals. She was recently recognised as one of the Top Law Firm Management Professionals in the country by the Forbes Legal Powerlist 2021.
Let us take you through our Dareact chat with her and discover how her journey unfolded.
As a young girl just out of school, she candidly admits, to being too free-spirited to give her career an exhaustive thought at the time. Her encounter with law was motivated by her father’s belief that she had what it takes to excel in this field. To test the waters, Neha immersed herself in preparing and appearing for law school entrance exams, which alighted her at one of the distinguished law schools in India.
What followed were extraordinary years, as a student who had an eager mind and keen eye to absorb all that law school had to offer. Along with the rains, poha, wada pav and an enthralling college experience, Neha took on a host of voluntary and other odd jobs to extract the most out of her time at Symbiosis, Pune. From being a cookie seller at a charity event, with the highest sales to being actively involved in voluntary undertakings, to doing odd jobs in coffee shops, she gathered life skills which proved to be productive learning encounters in her life.
During the manifold internship experiences, she realised she was inclined towards litigation. After completiing her study of the law, she decided to move to Delhi and pursue litigation, driven by her fascination towards court houses. While on the job she states “it made me realise that it is not just about the research or drafting, it is more to do with the skills that you do not learn at law school. It was about moving from one court to the other, being agile on your toes all the time, also carrying weight of heavy files. It was also about the ability to detach yourself from the subject, to push all your judgments and biases aside.”
She was quick to realise early on that she did not have the appetite for pursuing litigation as a lifelong career. “At that point it felt like everything was over for me, I didn’t know where to go from there, but in retrospect I’m very glad that it happened “.
For it was then she stumbled upon the organisation ‘Rainmaker’ and decided to pursue a different career away from the core discipline and slightly out of sync with the five years of learning. She made a brave unconventional choice back in 2006, when alternate careers for lawyers, were uncommon. Her parents trusted her instincts and extended their whole hearted support. As she ventured down a whole new path she didn’t even knew existed, she says she pursued it with the faith that, “Anything you do is unconventional, till the point you meet somebody who has already done it”.
As one of the first women hires of the organisation, she had the most beautiful five years of her professional life working with Rainmaker, fortunate to be one of the early, core members. Summing up the most valuable lessons that were learnt on the job she shares some of her learnings. The first learning “ You are not defined by the qualification you have or the job description you are given, when working with a start-up”. The second learning- “Hard work and listening intently goes a long way”. The third learning- “Do as much as you can, be more action oriented, you may fail but you will learn quickly”. The fourth learning- “Every function at an organisation is important, it is never about who started the race or who finished it, it is all about how to pass the baton”. From recruitment, to guiding law school students to learning the tricks of the trade, she learnt to don various hats at a personal and professional level. One major personal takeaway she still follows is to know “How to switch off from work. New ideas are always born out of boredom or slow living, it’s not always about the hustle and bustle.”
Further, she took on a role with a specialist International Legal Recruitment consultancy, which was in the process of establishing their 13th office in India. She worked closely with the managing partners to set up all processes from scratch, whether it was pricing strategy, pitching, cold calling, mining candidate database or anything subsuming the sphere. The in -house legal hiring space was fast evolving and it entailed keeping ears to the ground at all times.
She then joined India’s largest law firm as Head of Business Development, where she furthered her expertise by learning the ropes in market and led the team in practice development. The work entailed regular operational day to day marketing functions, client management and development and strategy. Neha invested a lot of time in upskilling, learning new market trends and garnering industry knowledge. This opportunity also gave her an insight into understanding the law firm culture.
“Our core of who we are as people takes a backseat because we get too busy with acquiring survival tactics at a law firm, the tactics keep changing year on year. I got an understanding about people and their personalities.”
The thought behind inception of ‘The Grey Matter’ was nurtured by her familiarity with and her vision for the medium and boutique law firms. Neha believed that innovation and trusted advisory in non-legal roles at law firms will grow exponentially, in the times to come. ”Management functions at law firms are extremely critical, a firm needs these as much as they need qualified lawyers, and the lawyers need them as well to ensure growth for all the stakeholders. They need to trust them with the job they give them. These roles also need innovation and job description to be able to make them stick.”
Summing up her entrepreneurial journey so far she says “Every single day has been about learning and more learning. From handling clients to managing finances, to taking risks, to taking financial hits, to innovating, conceptualising and executing Unsuited and Dareact, it has been an adventurous ride and I am pretty certain there is much more adventure along the way!”
From starting small, The Grey Matter is now a trusted advisor to some of the leading law firms in the industry. The road to this may not have been easy but Neha believed in herself all the way through “It comes naturally to me, I get up and I feel I can do anything. I trust my brain, keep myself fit and believe in myself. It’s good to feel like you can do anything and it keeps me going.” Her belief of being a lone ranger has been redefined after the experience of working with her team at The Grey Matter. She says “I am loving this journey and I don’t want to define a destination. It’s been fulfilling how much trust has been reposed in us by our clients. We want to continue enjoying this journey, keep innovating and bring about more happy lawyers.”