Vimal Tilakapala

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This was a BLD interview with Debo Nwauzu in May 2010. Read more about Vimal Tilakapala in the Directory

Our Lawyer of the Month is Vimal Tilakapala, a partner at Magic Circle law firm Allen & Overy and co-head of its UK tax practice.

Vimal was born and educated in London and read Law at Manchester University. He did his Solicitors’ Finals (now Legal Practice Course) at what is now known as Manchester Metropolitan University. He trained at the City firm, McKenna & Co (now CMS Cameron McKenna) and was admitted in 1993.

After qualifying as a solicitor, Vimal worked as an Associate at Magic Circle law firm Clifford Chance in its Tax Department, remaining there for five years. He was head-hunted and joined American law firm Jones Day as a Tax Associate, a period he described as “exciting and very different”. He remained at Jones Day until he joined Allen & Overy in September 2000. Vimal has been a partner at Allen & Overy since 2005 and became the co-head of its UK tax practice in September 2009.

Vimal's work is on the cutting edge, dealing with the tax issues arising from innovative domestic and international financing structures, capital markets issues and all types of financial instruments. As a lot of his work has few precedents, his legal knowledge is tested constantly.

Vimal is married and has an 18-month-old daughter.

Below is our interview with Vimal.

BLD: What was your first job?
VT: After finishing my A levels, but before I went to university, I had a typical summer job – in my case being a truck driver's assistant for two months delivering domestic appliances for Currys (the electrical retailer).

BLD: Why did you choose a legal career?
VT: At school I started off doing all Science A levels, as I was fascinated by medical things and a lot of my family were in the medical profession. However, I soon discovered that I didn't enjoy those subjects at all and so I changed after a month to Arts subjects. The logical choice for me then was Law, especially as my mother had been a barrister.

BLD: If you were to choose another role/profession other than law, what would it be and why?
VT: A political journalist. I have always been fascinated by politics and being a journalist at the heart of the action looking for a big story would be very exciting.

BLD: What was the best career advice you were given?
VT: There will always be somebody cleverer than me and I should not let that depress me too much!

BLD: What was the worst career advice you were given?
VT: I cannot recall any truly bad advice.

BLD: What career advice would you give to others?
VT: Be enthusiastic and work as hard as you can but don’t take yourself too seriously. Law is still a people business and personal relationships are important.

BLD: Who is the person you most admire (dead or alive) and why?
VT: It has to be my mother. She persuaded her family (in South Africa) to send her to study in London in the late 1950s, a time when that was almost unheard of for an Indian female. She subsequently qualified and worked as a barrister in London in the early 60s. The profession was "unwelcoming" to say the least but she was always amazingly confident and also fun.  My (twin) sister, who is a banker in the City, has inherited some of her characteristics.

BLD: What are you most passionate/happiest about?
VT: Seeing my daughter, Vaishali, developing into a lovely little girl.

BLD: What are your dislikes?
VT: People that are unnecessarily serious and sanctimonious.

BLD: What was your worst moment as a lawyer?
VT: As a newly-qualified lawyer working at Clifford Chance, I was summoned to a very large meeting to negotiate a tax deed only to find out that the lawyer for the other side was the author of the leading work on how to negotiate tax deeds! He scored every point that he could from me - which traumatised me for some time!

BLD: Tell us about your professional high point(s).
VT: Becoming a partner at Allen & Overy was a very special occasion. Although the firm is big it does operate as a true partnership and each partner is really made to feel part of a collective.

BLD: What was the most famous/interesting case(s) you have handled to date?
VT: Unfortunately a lot of the work I do is not really in the public domain and is therefore difficult to mention.

BLD: Any professional regrets?
VT: None – so far.

BLD: If you could rule the world for a day what would you change/do?
VT: Not very worthy, I know – but I would get rid of speed bumps in London. I drive to work and there are 37 between my home and the office. These make me very irritable.