Shilpa Bhasin Mehra: A Trailblazing Symbol of Unyielding Determination and Courage

Shilpa Bhasin Mehra
Shilpa Bhasin Mehra


The greatest fear plaguing the human psyche is the fear of the unknown. It is the lingering dread of what lies beyond our comprehension, the shadowy spectre of uncertainty that casts its influence over our lives. Yet, it is often said that the antidote to fear is knowledge. As we accumulate wisdom and insight, we are empowered to replace our trepidation with enlightenment from the ceaseless pursuit of understanding.

Throughout the annals of human history, fear has been a persistent companion on our journey. The fear of what we do not know, the unfamiliar and the enigmatic, has spurred us to delve deeper into the realms of wisdom. And in this unceasing quest, a dire need arises for fearless individuals, particularly women, to take the helm.

In a world increasingly recognizing the value of gender equality, the call for fearless women to break down barriers and pave the way for future generations has never been more urgent. As we embrace the idea that women, too, can be architects of change, they must enter and transform every sphere of human activity. One domain that urgently requires the infusion of fearless feminine energy is the legal, judicial, and administrative realm, where the principles of justice and the rule of law hold sway.

Enter Shilpa Bhasin Mehra, a trailblazer and an inspiration. She epitomizes the fearless woman in legal services, standing apart as a symbol of unyielding determination and courage in a traditionally male-dominated arena. With her exceptional resilience and unwavering commitment to justice, Shilpa Bhasin Mehra has blazed a trail that countless women aspire to follow. She serves as a beacon of hope, illuminating a path for the next generation of fearless females to tread upon.

Praised by Clients

From the various roles she has played, as a legal consultant to an in-house Head of Legal, praises have been heaped on Shilpa.

One of them, Bob Heath, says, “I had the pleasure of working with Shilpa at Smit Lamnalco, where she was Group Legal Adviser, and I was Commercial Manager and subsequently Commercial Director.

Shilpa had a great flair for understanding complex situations and commercial realities, presenting them clearly and succinctly to her non-legal colleagues. Coupled with her enthusiasm, hard work and winning personality, these skills enabled her to find solutions and facilitate agreement in some very difficult contractual negotiations involving parties who came to the table with widely divergent viewpoints.

In addition to her extensive legal knowledge, Shilpa’s ability to create practical solutions to difficult problems makes her stand out from other legal advisers.”

Another client, Fawaz Abdulla, says, “I have consulted Ms Shilpa on several occasions for legal advice and contract preparation. Express Group companies have often engaged her services to negotiate legal disputes. She has consistently given us excellent, practical and timely advice and legal documentation, and she also has a vast network of lawyers in UAE and India to consult for any specialized requirements. I would recommend her services to anyone, and she is my go-to person for all legal matters.

One colleague, Pankaj Kankan says, I was lucky enough to work with Shilpa on two occasions. Previously in Smit Lamnalco and then recently with Svitzer. Shilpa is super professional and comes with years of experience and knowledge. Being in the Commercial and Operations function, my interaction with Shilpa was on a day-to-day basis. Generally, as a head of Legal, it is easy to point out the shortcomings or red flags in the various transactions with Customers, Stakeholders, JV partners, Vendors/Suppliers etc. but Shilpa is different. She comes up with solutions and has a great problem-solving attitude. She comes across as a Business Partner supporting growth and a high level of customer centricity. To add to this, her empathetic nature makes her a great team player. Thank you so much for being a great colleague and more important a friend for life.”

In gratitude, Shilpa says, “It is extremely gratifying when one’s work is appreciated.”

Realizing Her Dreams

Shilpa’s exceptional journey in the legal profession had its roots in a childhood dream that began when she was just ten years old. From a young age, she envisioned herself as a lawyer, and this aspiration was not merely a fleeting whim but a deeply ingrained passion. It’s a dream that took firm hold, nurtured by the surroundings she grew up in, for Shilpa is the fourth generation in her family to be intimately involved in the legal world. In her words, “The legal profession has always enamored me with its knowledge, logic, black coat, and the respect it commands.” This fascination with the multifaceted aspects of the legal field, from its profound understanding of the law to its dignified attire and reverence in society, served as the bedrock of her journey.

For Shilpa, the legal profession was not merely a career but a lifelong pursuit of learning. She understood that as lawyers, they are perpetual students, and the journey of acquiring knowledge is a never-ending odyssey. She adds, “I started my career in the office of the legendary Mr. K.K. Venugopal. I visited the Supreme Court of India daily and watched him argue many landmark constitutional cases.”

Embracing this ethos, she considers herself a work in progress, constantly evolving and refining her skills. Her niche within the vast realm of law is in contracts and resolving disputes, areas that demand meticulous attention to detail, a keen understanding of contractual intricacies, and the wisdom to navigate the labyrinth of legal disputes.

When starting one’s career, watching the stalwarts and absorbing life lessons from them is great. “My specialization has been the law of contracts. The beauty of contracts is that the range is so wide, from simple to hugely complex, from a few pages to hundreds. Speaking my mind and giving my honest opinion (always in the interest of my clients) gives me the confidence of being fearless,” she states.

From her early fascination to her current specialization, Shilpa’s journey in the legal profession is a testament to her unwavering dedication to a dream nurtured from childhood and her commitment to the pursuit of knowledge.

From Inspirations to Being Inspirational

Shilpa’s wellspring of inspiration flows from the profound influence of her father, Dr. Lalit Bhasin, who stands as her foremost source of motivation. As she reflects on the forces that have shaped her journey, she candidly expresses, “Inspiration was all around me, with my father being my biggest inspiration.” Dr. Lalit Bhasin’s guidance and unwavering support have imparted invaluable wisdom and fueled her passion for the legal profession. It is a testament to the profound impact that a mentor, especially within the family, can have on one’s life.

However, Shilpa’s inspiration is not a solitary endeavour; she believes in the power of sharing knowledge and experience to inspire others. She says, “My clients tell me they appreciate my proactiveness, accessibility and genuine interest in their welfare.” In her own words, she recognizes that there is no better way to inspire others than by disseminating the wealth of wisdom accumulated through one’s journey. As a result, she remains open and approachable, always willing to engage with younger lawyers embarking on their path in the legal profession. “Clients, for me, are not just a one-case matter. They are relationships that I nurture. I think they can feel the honest connection in my approach,” she adds. She actively participates in talk shows and contributes articles to encourage and guide others in their pursuits. By sharing her story and insights, Shilpa exemplifies the idea that true inspiration lies in personal success and the willingness to uplift and empower others, leaving an indelible mark on those who seek to follow in her footsteps.

A Brilliant Distinction

Shilpa’s exceptional distinction in legal services stems from her unique and multifaceted perspective, allowing her to traverse both sides of the legal spectrum seamlessly. With experience working in law firms and serving as an in-house legal advisor, she has occupied positions on both sides of the table – as a lawyer and client engaging law firms. This invaluable dual perspective has equipped her with a profound understanding of the intricacies of legal matters, as well as the insight to gauge client expectations and needs.

Shilpa’s exceptional distinction is further underscored by her pragmatic and no-nonsense approach to her profession. She prioritizes efficiency and cost-effectiveness, recognizing that clients seek swift and economical results. Her commitment to streamlining legal processes and delivering outcomes in the most efficient manner possible has earned her a reputation for being a legal practitioner who understands the intricacies of the law and respects her clients’ time and resources.

One of the standout features of Shilpa’s approach is her advocacy for mediation to resolve disputes. Even before entering the arbitration realm, she diligently seeks amicable solutions to her clients’ legal issues. This perspective showcases her commitment to reducing the burden of lengthy litigation, preferring to find a common ground that benefits all parties involved. She truly believes in her father’s famous quote, “A poor settlement is better than a successful litigation.” In her view, a well-negotiated settlement is often preferable to a protracted and potentially costly legal battle. This forward-thinking and collaborative approach sets Shilpa apart as an exceptional legal professional, dedicated to winning cases and achieving resolutions that serve her clients’ best interests.

Leading Her Team

Shilpa’s leadership style is a testament to her belief that a leader is only as effective as the team they lead. Her approach to leadership is marked by a profound understanding that the success of any endeavour hinges on the collective efforts and cohesiveness of the team. She embodies a philosophy of leading from within, opting for a subtle and nuanced approach to convey the message without resorting to overt aggression or dominance.

Shilpa’s control is characterized by her open-mindedness and willingness to embrace fresh ideas and diverse perspectives. She values the power of discussion and brainstorming as catalysts for innovation and problem-solving. Her leadership encourages an environment where team members are encouraged to share their insights and engage in constructive dialogue. She recognizes that such discussions bring forth new ideas and shed light on existing challenges in a different, more comprehensive manner.

In essence, Shilpa’s management panache is rooted in the principles of collaboration, openness, and the empowerment of her team. Her unassuming and inclusive approach fosters an atmosphere where team members feel valued, and their contributions are acknowledged. Through her leadership, she ensures the team’s effective functioning. She creates a culture of continuous improvement and innovation, where every voice is heard, and collective brilliance is harnessed to achieve success.

Techno-Transformed Law

Being an experienced leader, Shilpa shares her opinion on how adopting modern technologies impacts her industry and how they adapt to the change at her firm. “Technology is constantly changing, and we must adapt to it to be relevant. We must befriend technology and not treat it as a challenge threatening our work or importance. Technology and AI can do the research and filing work, for example, in seconds that would take us so many hours. We need to be open to change and embrace it. We have to be in a constant learning and adapting stage to truly benefit from technology.”

According to Shilpa, Legal transformation is very crucial. And it is happening as we speak. “What was considered the same for centuries is now being updated frequently, and the tools available to us at present are something that we could never have imagined. Either we adapt to the transformation or be outdated and perish. I personally like to learn and keep abreast with the rapidly changing landscape of legal transformation. By sharing my experience and successes, I would like to encourage others in my profession also to adapt and upskill themselves.”

A Monumental Wisdom

In her advice to budding entrepreneurs aspiring to venture into the legal sector, Shilpa says that the legal space is enormous, with new branches ever evolving, like Legal Technology. ‘Find where your interests are, put in the hard work, be open to learning, and grab opportunities for real-life learnings from the seniors in the profession. Be receptive, yet have a mind of your own.’ “Especially for the younger generations, be respectful to the leaders of our profession, who did all the hard work and carved a name for themselves without Google and AI.”

On envisioning scaling her services, solutions, and offerings in the future, Shilpa divulges, “The most important gift that technology has given us is that of time.” The word Legal has always been associated with long-drawn battles, delays and most time-consuming processes. She wants to offer her clients better, more efficient, cost-effective solutions. Disputes are best resolved, and settlements are the way forward. “A believer in negotiations, I would advocate this path to my clients.”

Shilpa’s journey in the legal services sector is a testament to the power of knowledge and the courage to face the unknown. Through her relentless pursuit of legal expertise and unwavering dedication to the cause of justice, she has shattered preconceived notions and carved a name for herself. Her fearless advocacy for the rights of the vulnerable and marginalized has made her a formidable force in the legal profession and a role model for those who dare to dream beyond boundaries.

A Flame Ablaze

Shilpa’s fearlessness has been evident throughout her life’s ups and downs. In her own words, “My life has been quite a rollercoaster ride. From shifting base to a new country in 1993 after I got married and starting my legal career there, to being declared dead in 2003 and a long rehab to now working for myself. I have truly lived a very interesting life (to say the least).”

It has so happened that after a year of starting her professional career, Shilpa got married and shifted to Dubai, UAE. Shilpa’s journey was nothing short of an adventure, as she embarked on a new chapter in her life. The year was 1993, and she had just stepped into the United Arab Emirates with wide-eyed wonder. Everything around her was novel–the country, the people, and the culture. Adding to the thrill was the fact that she had recently tied the knot, making this experience a uniquely shared one with her partner. In contrast to the modern skyscrapers that the UAE is famous for today, the landscape was simpler and slower back then. Shilpa had to start from scratch, immersing herself in the local way of life, adjusting to the nuances of a different culture, and embracing a world full of new experiences. Despite the initial challenges, the UAE’s welcoming atmosphere made her feel at home sooner than she had expected.

Dawning the Darkness

Within no time she established herself as a lawyer in the foreign country, eventually learning about the many intricacies of UAE’s civil law jurisdiction. Everything was going fine until Shilpa’s journey took an unexpected turn in March 2003 when she was struck by viral meningitis. This harrowing experience left her in a coma for a staggering 40 days, and when she finally emerged, she faced a new battle – being paralyzed from the waist down for two-and-a-half years. Her life was turned completely upside down, and the road to recovery was slow and challenging.

In 2006, Shilpa made a courageous return to some form of work, with clients who were understanding and considerate enough to visit her at home for discussions on legal matters and contracts. By 2010, she had made a full-time return to the marine company she had been working with back in 2003.

Despite the physical challenges she had to overcome, Shilpa’s determination knew no bounds. In 2015, she founded her own consultancy firm. Although she still requires support to walk, her unwavering spirit and steadfast work ethic have kept her professional capabilities and achievements completely intact. Shilpa’s remarkable story of resilience is an inspiration to all who hear it.

All Battles Aren’t Legal

The best way to fight personal and professional battles is by becoming introspective and retrospective. As a teenager, the idea of being a writer never quite resonated with Shilpa, despite her mother’s belief in her writing skills. Her early writing experiences were confined to birthday cards, and she didn’t take it seriously at the time. As a lawyer, her writing was primarily focused on legal opinions and contracts.

However, a significant turning point came when her life was disrupted by illness, and she embarked on a journey of introspection and self-discovery during a prolonged period of rehabilitation.

Laws, Acts, Conventions, Regulations, Amendments, Constitution…. as lawyers, we think these are the things that matter and govern our life. We forget that these are man-made and our life is a gift of God. He pulls the strings.

Being a lawyer, everything for me was so logical, chronological and set by precedents. Until now….

An experience like mine reveals who is the Supreme Creator. We can keep making schedules, agendas and sequence of events. But we don’t know what the next moment has in store for us. I was a picture of fitness, never has any illness to talk about and suddenly I collapsed and went into a deep coma. It was like black and white, the contrast very striking.

My life was adjourned sine die. The medical experts had no answers. When I was in coma, they gave me a 0% chance of survival. When I came out of coma, during my long rehabilitation process, there was no specific time period for recovery. We are so accustomed to specific reasons, time frames, causes and effects. Now all that didn’t seem to apply. My disease was a deadly viral meningitis, which could just happen to anyone. There is no treatment as such for it. One virus and look at the consequential damages. Suddenly, my logical thinking, thanks to the legal education, was in question.

I realized that there is no logic in such time of crisis and also no answers. There are only prayers and the hope that God will listen to your prayers. It’s strange when doctors use words like ‘miracle’. I am alive because God heard all the pleadings. I must have had brilliant lawyers defending me because the judgement was in my favour. I won the case.” – Excerpts from the Book ‘All Battles Aren’t Legal,’ by Shilpa Bhasin Mehra, Publisher, Universal Law Publishing Company Pvt. Limited, 2006.

In her praise, Indian National Congress President Sonia Gandhi says about the book: “This inspirational story, which reveals Shilpa’s extraordinary qualities of both heart and mind, is a tribute to the power of love, to the strength and support that close family ties can provide and, above all, to the brave and undaunted spirit of the author.”

Being Born Again

During the challenging period of her life when Shilpa faced the daunting effects of paralysis for two-and-a-half years starting in 2003, she found solace and an outlet for her thoughts through writing. This newfound free time provided Shilpa with the opportunity to explore her writing abilities more extensively. Paralyzed on the bed, writing became her window to the world and a tool for self-expression. She began jotting down her thoughts, akin to keeping a personal diary. Her writings delved into the intricacies of her daily life, her family, keen observations of her surroundings, the kaleidoscope of emotions that coursed through her, and reflections on her unique situation.

What started as a modest collection of 10 pages soon burgeoned into an extensive document, spanning over 100 pages. In those moments of vulnerability and introspection, Shilpa discovered the profound therapeutic impact of writing and its ability to help her navigate the complexities of her life. Her book “All Battles aren’t Legal” was released by Dr Karan Singh in December 2005 in the presence of legendary figures like Mr. Fali Nariman, Mr. Kabil Sibal and Dr. Naresh Trehan. This experience planted the seeds of her future journey as a writer, allowing her to share her unique perspective and experiences with a wider audience.

In 2007, she began contributing articles to ‘Lawyers Update,’ a prominent legal magazine in India. Her writings, shared on social media, caught the attention of Khaleej Times, a prominent publication in the UAE, which offered her a platform to share her thoughts and insights with a broader audience through a regular column.

Through this journey, Shilpa came to realize the profound therapeutic value of writing and how it has become an integral part of her life, enabling her to express herself, reflect on her experiences, connect with others on a profound level, and returning to her fearlessness.

Inspite Her Petite Built, the Fearless Stands the Tallest

Her take on the traits a fearless women lawyer must possess is: “To be fearless, we need to have knowledge on our side. We need to do our homework to stand up for the case/cause we represent. Fearless does not mean aggressive or disrespectful. To be fearless, we need to have the courage of our convictions. Knowledge coupled with the courage to stand our ground, state our opinion, with the ability to agree to disagree, with the client’s best interest in mind always.”

With her exemplary work, Shilpa has torn down the walls of gender bias and opened the doors for countless women who aspire to follow in her footsteps. Her presence in the legal arena sends a powerful message: women have a rightful place in the corridors of justice, and their fearless voices are indispensable in shaping a more equitable and just society.

A legal wonder, Shilpa Bhasin Mehra stands as ‘The Fearless Woman in Legal Services, an embodiment of courage, knowledge, and unwavering determination. As we celebrate Shilpa’s extraordinary contributions, we also acknowledge the bright future she represents, where fearlessness in women is not just encouraged but celebrated as an essential catalyst for progress and justice. She is a shining example of the fearless feminine force that is transforming our world, and through her, the dream of a more equitable and just society becomes a tangible reality.

Women World India’s team wishes her ‘All the Very Best’ in her future endeavours.