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[100 Emerging Women Leaders] How celebrity lawyer Priyanka Khimani braved hardships and scripted her own success

In conversation with HerStory, celebrity lawyer Priyanka Khimani talks about her journey of becoming a lawyer and finding her niche.

[100 Emerging Women Leaders] How celebrity lawyer Priyanka Khimani braved hardships and scripted her own success

Friday August 19, 2022 , 4 min Read

While most of us are busy being teenagers at 15, Priyanka Khimani then had not only written her first TV show—a 60-episode thriller called Tamanna House—but was also involved with professional Marathi theatre.

However, the teenager was forced to grow up when her father suddenly passed away, leaving the family to struggle.

“I had been preparing to be a doctor since day one. But I couldn’t afford to not earn for the next 10 years,” she recalls. 

“To make ends meet, I took up anything—from sangeets to soaps,” she jokes. She wrote a radio show hosted by Archana Puran Singh that aired in Dubai, and assisted on TV reality shows like Dus Ka Dum, Khatron Ke Khiladi, etc. 

The young achiever was now the sole breadwinner of her family. “I was a Mahim girl with less than Rs 10 in her pocket who hung out with South Bombay college kids who had no idea what I was going through,” she shares.

Eventually, she cracked the Government Law College entrance in Mumbai. While all her classmates secured apprenticeships at law firms, she continued to write and act as apprenticeships would pay a pittance as a stipend and she could not starve her family from her income. When the time came to actually start her career, she realised the media industry was not conducive enough. 

She decided to switch to law, only to realise she lacked the necessary experience. “Luckily, a lot of being a good lawyer is about your writing skills and your ability to draft well. One of the interviewers actually told me they only shortlisted me to see who the person behind this bizarre and colourful CV was,” she says. She eventually went on to be recruited by Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe in Mumbai.

As destiny would have it, she got an opportunity to represent the late Lata Mangeshkar.

In no time, Sonu Nigam, Kalyanji Anandji, Alisha Chinai, Rajesh Roshan, Milind Soman, and various other celebrities and artists came on board as clients. 

This was the foundation for ‘celebrity law firm’, Khimani & Associates. To date, the firm has represented the likes of Arijit Singh, Shreya Ghoshal, Shakun Batra, Karan Malhotra, Shankar Ehsaan Loy, Shruti Haasan, etc.

A noteworthy case she fought was against Rahasya, a movie whose trailers and publicity portrayed it as a tell-all about the Aarushi Talwar murder case. 

Giving a word of caution, Priyanka advises women to be on their toes in the legal profession. “If the client is not willing to respect your conditions, it’s no good to have that relationship. Secondly, a lot of people will say things like ‘I'll always be there for you’ or ‘if you need anything, call me’. I would say test it now and don't wait for a crisis; chances are 99 out of 100 times, that person will not deliver.”

Having been in the profession for the past 10 years, Priyanka has faced many ups and downs in the journey of building India's first female-led law firm. Close to 99 percent of the attorneys in Khimani Associates today are all females. 

"Being the first female-run and led law firm in the country itself speaks volumes about the kind of journey last decade would have been for me to single-handedly get to this stage," says Priyanka, and we agree. 

While Priyanka believes that professional opportunities are gender-neutral; however, she also adds, "I've realised that as my role or place in this profession has evolved, so has the treatment."

She believes the biases that exist root both in sex and age-related perceptions. "I think it's years of how we perceive women." 

According to Priyanka, how one is treated depends on how big a threat they are perceived to be. "As soon as people start realising that she is here to stay, that's when it starts to become difficult." 

A considerable part of her speciality is to deal with crises. Even after having successfully emerged through "wildly-witnessed media trials", Priyanka shares, "I find myself having to justify that I can get the job done and that they don't necessarily need a male lawyer or someone older for the same.”

Drawing on her learnings and experiences, Priyanka advises women to learn to articulate what they want. "Be clear about it," she asserts. 

Adding to the same, she says, "You also must ensure that you're in relationships that are willing to pay your price. Question yourself on whether the conditions you put forth, both personally and professionally, are being respected or not."

Edited by Kanishk Singh