Name: Shikha Sethi

Organisation: Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan

Role: Director & Legal Counsel, EMEA

Based: London

Trained at: Allens (Sydney, Australia)

Year qualified: 2012

What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?

Making my first court appearance to request a stay of proceedings. I spent the entire morning nervously rehearsing the three sentences I needed to say, which included a request for permission to appear as I wasn’t yet qualified. The judge was, much to my relief, very warm and encouraging and it went without a glitch. I remember it being an incredibly thrilling experience and I was buzzing for days afterwards. Not to mention that this brief moment in the limelight made me the envy of all my peers.

Tell us about a sliding doors moment when your career could have gone in an entirely different direction?

A key one from my early career was when I was deciding where to qualify. At university, I had thought I wanted to be an M&A lawyer but then, starting my career during the GFC where M&A activity was low and no one was rotating through that practice area, I was convinced that litigation was for me. After doing rotations in litigation and real estate, I came close to pursuing a career in litigation even though I wasn’t entirely sold on it.

After much hesitation, I made the decision to do a third rotation in M&A which potentially meant setting me back a little in my career. Ultimately, and thankfully, this was absolutely the right decision as the market had picked up by then and I knew within weeks that it was the better fit for my interests and strengths.

What’s the hardest question you’ve ever been asked at interview, and how did you answer?

Probably why I wanted to be a lawyer. Though I had paralegaled at Allens during university, that involved a lot of pushing trolleys around town in high heels, making transaction bibles from an office with sweeping views of Sydney Harbour and feeling swanky having a cool city job that paid great overtime. While I was enamoured by my law lectures at university and the role models I had in the legal profession, admittedly I did not at that stage have a deep appreciation for exactly where a career in law could take me in the longer term.

I’m not sure I recall my answer but I distinctly remember the artwork on the wall behind me was a frilly quilted blanket with the words “Pick me” and I guess that helped.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?

Being thoughtful in your career decisions doesn’t necessarily mean you have to know what you want to do next. So be open minded, look for opportunities to challenge yourself and remember it’s okay to sometimes choose your next career step through the process of eliminating what you don’t want to do.

Tell us about ONE former colleague who you miss, and why? (It doesn’t have to be a lawyer)

I was incredibly lucky to have started my legal career with one of my closest friends from primary school. Being a junior lawyer is tough and demanding so having your best friend to support you through that journey, share the late nights with, drop off chocolate-covered strawberries to keep you cheerful when you needed a boost, and to help you get out of all types of tricky situations, including wardrobe malfunctions, was a total dream.

We are still the best of friends notwithstanding we live halfway across the world from one another and have taken our legal careers in different directions, but I definitely look back now and recognise how rare a coincidence that was.