HYDERABAD: She epitomises the word Lady Boss, be it the way she ascended the career ladder, the candor she displays when someone asks for advice or as someone who doesn’t sugar-coat her words or the way she takes the challenges head-on in breaking the glass ceiling. At 36, this Hyderabad- born, Pavani Reddy is one of the few (female) Asians to manage an international law firm in London.
From receiving the Woman of the Year-Asian Achievers Awards in October 2010 and the Glory of India Award in January 2012, Pavani has mastered the art of striking a balance between a happy family and the legal arbitraries. She remains rooted to Indian culture and reflects the same in supporting the Telangana Jagruthi UK, a non-profit organisation of the Telangana community in Britain.
“My father was an army officer and we were always on the move, every few years. My mother was courageous, looking after three children while my father worked in remote locations in northern India. We had a stable and comfortable lifestyle like any army officer family would have, but my parents always taught us we had to work hard to achieve the success in life and that we should never take anything for granted,” says Pavani, who is currently the managing director of Zaiwalla & Co.
She had to go against the system and prejudice in choosing law. “While my family appreciated my choices and encouraged me to follow my dreams, a few friends and relatives chided me. I still remember the day I went for lunch at a family friend’s house and the host with a sympathetic tone, told my father: ‘I always thought your daughter was bright and it is unfortunate that she has decided to do law instead of engineering or MBBS.’ I never gave up,” she smiles with sparkles in her eyes.
In a natural progression, she moved to UK to pursue her dreams and to be with her husband. And as an Indian in the early 2000s, she had a new experience altogether. “I enjoyed a new-found freedom in the society which was more accepting and welcoming, but then again everything was new. I had to learn the basics of law. Even today, as a lawyer working in a globally renowned law firm, handling various high profile cases from across the world involves challenges, but owing to my past experiences I am able to manage anything that comes to me,” she shares.
Over the years, she started to understand the political and legislative parts of the country; there was a frustration within me as she noted that things had to be changed.
“When I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree, I successfully applied for a part-time position at a big law firm in New Delhi. I was not only studying at college but also actively participating in court proceedings, getting a first-hand purview of case-building to arguments. As I wanted to gain an international experience, I ventured out of India after I completed my law degree to the UK and started to intern at Zaiwalla & Co solicitors, founded by Sarosh Zaiwalla. Having started as an intern, today I am the Managing Partner at the firm,” she shares with a sense of joy.
“When I first stepped into London for my internship, Sarosh became my mentor. Early in my career, I had to take up a high-profile case for an Indian client. Today, I am handling complicated cases in the country in relation to international sanctions,” she adds.
Pavani heads the litigation team at the firm handling multi-million pound disputes in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. Despite a high number of women working these days, reports state that discrimination continues to exist even in western countries.
“I have noticed instances of unconscious bias which I have been able to overcome. Early in my career, people thought that I may not be able to handle cases firmly because I am a woman. It took a while to prove that I had the equal confidence or the audacity to face challenges.Today, it is no longer the case. Maybe times have changed, or maybe people have learnt I can be equally fierce. Funny, isn’t it? Sometimes being a woman, you need to make twice the effort to prove you can do it too,” she smirks, questioning the reality.
Pavani believes she is a compulsive planner. “I start my day at 6:30 am with a two-minute meditation and then go down to the kitchen for a fresh cup of tea. I ensure that my husband and I have tea together. Then I scan my emails which would have arrived overnight on my phone. Since we are a law firm with a largely international client base, my inbox is generally filled with emails from clients around the world: including India, Dubai, Singapore, Iran, Russia, and Kazakhstan. I quickly scroll through the emails and mentally schedule the day ahead.
Having grown up in India, I continue the tradition taught to me by mother - I get ready and pray by lighting lamp. However busy the day is going to be, I ensure I spend time with my nine-year-old son to get him ready for school and briefly run through his schedule. I guess it’s a mother’s instinct,” she beams.
“I actually use my 50-minute commute to work to read a book, listen to music or, if there is a court hearing or deadline, I read case documents. I get to the office, my mind then completely turns off from worldly things to focus on cases and office work,” she further shares.