Law Student Perspectives: From Spreadsheets to Law – It Started at a Makeup Giant

By Samarth Chaddha, Graduate Law School Student, New York University School of Law 

Moving to New York City from India to attend law school was no easy feat for me. It was a decision many thought was crazy. But as I am pursuing my LLM at NYU Law School after having graduated from my LLB in India, I can confidently say that I am glad to have taken the plunge.

Before my law study, I was working in the New York Global Business Planning Department at a large cosmetic chain. They needed people to manage the makeup category for their brand and having interned with them in the past, I saw this opportunity as the perfect chance to gain work experience after having graduated from college with an Economics degree.

Most of the time I spent crunching numbers. I lived with spreadsheets. But I also learned the art of correct stapling (all staples must be in a straight line) and reading numbers with a ruler on a tiny spreadsheet. I learned, every day. However, I missed interacting with humans, and it was then that I realized that I wasn’t cut out for number-crunching. What I enjoyed was taking someone’s query or question, and trying to come up with an answer. I was also missing the policy-related articles I read in my Political Science and History classes. Or the exchange of arguments between economists. So, I began considering law school.

While the amount of reading in law school was quite much, I truly enjoyed finding “solutions” to someone’s problem. A bail application, an injunction, a court order, or a fine. It’s what they call in America “being a problem-solver.” I also felt connected to the discussions I had in my liberal arts career, in religion, politics, philosophy, and economics, as the legal field depends on all these subjects.

All this is not to say that the lessons I learned at the cosmetic company were useless. To the contrary. The countless hours I spent trying to calculate variances between makeup forecasts helped me when I was trying to parse through archaic legal principles buried among statutes. The ability to take notes quickly was helpful, as well. The various debates in my monthly team meetings strengthened my negotiation skills. Clearly, human interactions are always multi-faceted, with many versions of a correct answer, and not just “one solution.” Cultivating the habit of making notes in a little journal, and scheduling regular status meetings, helped me later as I interned in law firms. The habit of writing a thank-you note after meeting someone or seeing through the lens of “upper management” concerns have cultivated not just good habits but real-world business perspectives that I carry with me always. The lessons I learned during my time at the cosmetic chain may not have been in a legal environment, but they are lessons for life.