Advocate-on-Record, Supreme Court of India.
What is your approach or philosophy to representing a case?
My approach is to be fully prepared with the facts surrounding the case and the law applicable to the various contentious aspects of the case. A great lawyer once told me that a lawyer must read the case file not once, not twice but at least thrice. This helps you master the facts of the case, which is half the battle won. Once you have mastered the facts, you will certainly impress the client and the judge himself. Then you move on to the law applicable to the various aspects of the case. You will be able to appreciate the law applicable to the case in all its variations and limitations better if you have mastered the facts. Once you complete your legal research, you can go represent the client in the court fearlessly. Knowledge, of the facts and of the law applicable will help you secure victory for your client, more often than not. All the best.
How dangerous is your job? Have you ever been threatened?
I wouldn’t rate a lawyer’s job as particularly dangerous, unless you go awry and get to the wrong side of the law by involving yourself in dangerous activities. I was only once threatened by a person who I was cross examining in a case of criminal nature. However, I snubbed him then and thereafter he was always daunted by my presence in the other cases between the said person and my client. Thereafter it’s never happened again thankfully.
Other than a law degree, what kind of special training or knowledge do you have?
Other than a law degree from NLIU, Bhopal, I hold the following qualifications and accreditations. I have been designated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India as an Advocate on Record of the Hon’ble Court. Further, I am an International Arbitration practitioner and an International Trade consultant certified by International Chamber of Commerce, Paris. I also hold a diploma in International Trade and Investment Law from IEEM, Macau. I am also an accredited International Civil and Commercial mediator accredited by the ADR Group, UK. More important than all this, I hold ten years of experience at the bar and experience, and the knowledge attained as a consequence thereof, is the biggest asset of any lawyer.
How did you decide you wanted to become a lawyer?
Let me give you an honest answer to that question. It happened by happenstance. I wasn’t always clear on being a lawyer. One fine day after my father returned from office, he mentioned to me that there are certain National Law Universities in the country; and that if I would be able to get through one of these NLUs, I could have a good career in law. I asked him to get me something to read on that proposition. He ordered a set of Law School Tutorials (LST) for me, which used to be very good study material in 2005 when not many students used to be keen on taking law as their option for higher studies. After the material arrived, I quite liked the contents of the study material on law of torts and contracts. I then commenced my preparation and then eventually inter-alia, got through NLIU, Bhopal in 2005 and registered myself as a lawyer 5 years later.
Who are your typical clients? Do you have a set strategy to approach them on the first meeting?
Typical clients are individuals and companies. Since it’s no hunt, there is no set strategy. You don’t get clients with strategy, you impress them with knowledge. Once the client gets the impression that you know your work and can handle then dispute, the client will certainly stick with you.
What type of skills does it take to become a successful lawyer??
The most important skills that will make a successful lawyer, in order of my recommendation are: Honesty; Hard Work; Expression and Gumption.
How do you deal with failure in the courtroom?
First of all, there is no failure in the courtroom, once you have given a case your honest hard work. The judge may rule in favour or against your client, but rather than your failure, it may be the weakness in the case of your client which is the usual culprit, provided the condition which is mentioned above is fulfilled. Be that as it may, one must always reflect upon the whole process when a case is decided against one’s client. One must think if at all any strategical mistake was committed. If yes, then learn from the same and vow not to repeat it again. If not, then study the judgment carefully at least twice and prepare for filing an appeal against the same (if the order is appealable) and advise the client accordingly. In this way, until you have extinguished all your rights to appeal under the law for the time being in place, ‘failures’ in the courtroom may only ephemeral.
What advice would you give to a law school aspirant?
I won’t talk about the various subjects pertaining to which preparation is needed as that knowledge is well available in the public domain. The most important advice that I would give to a law school aspirant is that you should start early. The kind of competition that exists today would not allow anybody who makes up his/her mind later than after the conclusion of Class X, to secure a spot in one of the best law colleges in the country. So I would say that once you are done with Class X Board Exams, make up your mind and start preparing. Enroll yourself in one of the good tutorial courses preparing students for CLAT. Apart from that, simultaneously keep working on your vocabulary and general knowledge for the next two years. I am reasonably confident that anyone who prepares this way will be able to secure a spot in one of the prewferred law colleges in the country.
What type of cases do you generally handle?
Broadly speaking, I handle all kinds of civil, arbitration and a select category of criminal cases.
How do you see your job evolving in the future?
I foresee a paradigm shift in the practice of the legal profession. In the future, AI will substitute human endeavour with regard to a number of aspects of the practice of law. Tecnology will substantially change the face of the profession and how we do things today. Lawyers will foreseeable rely on AI especially for the drafting of contracts and the legal research, which will obviate the need of human labour with regard to these aspects of the profession. However, in my opinion, the skill based aspects of the legal profession will still be entirely dependent on human labour and therefore those are the skills which must be continuously honed and sharpened by the new age lawyers.
What was the most challenging moment in your career?
The most challenging moment by far was when I was to argue an International Arbitration matter in London, with little time at my disposal for preparation of the case file, which ran into several thousands of pages. Nevertheless, the good part is that we succeeded in the matter concerned, eventually.
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What are the 3 things every successful lawyers must-have?
Let me answer this assuming the word ‘things’ refers to ‘qualities’ in your question. This is because there is no limit to the things you can have once you become a successful lawyer, so what matters more is the set of qualities that will lead you to that success as a lawyer which you have referred to in your question. Since you have asked for 3 qualities, I will limit my answer to the top three qualities which are the absolute sine qua non for success as a lawyer, in the order of their importance in my opinion: They are (1) Ability to work hard; (2) Deep knowledge as opposed to superficial understanding of the first principles/key concepts (3) The art of expression. I can tell you a couple of other qualities as well, but let’s limit it to 3 in accordance with your question and reserve that for another day. (Note: Please pardon any inadvertent spelling mistakes, since this was typed on the phone).
What does a typical day at work look like?
Thanks for the question. A typical work day begins with a routine journey to the court(s)/tribunals/judicial forums to attend the cases listed for arguments/further proceedings. From the court, I head back to office for client meetings and completion of drafting work/procedural compliances w.r.t pending cases. Thereafter, I prepare for arguments in the cases listed on the following day.If I am fortunate enough to get some time before packing up, or if the following day is not a Court day, I do a little bit of extra reading, pertaining to my legal interests of course. Isn’t that enough for a day? :)
How stressful is your job?
A ‘job’ is usually stressful but if you find your job stressful, you aren’t likely to attain much success in whatever you have undertaken. You will succeed and shine in anything which you don’t consider to be a ‘job’ but your passion. I don’t consider my legal practice to be a ‘job’ strictly sensu. In fact I chose the practice of law from the inception, as I did not want to take up a ‘job’ in the traditional sense of the term. Litigation is both my passion and my interest and on account of this reason, it’s not stressful for me. You have to take your work seriously but be light on yourself at the same time. Stress will impact your performance adversely and therefore has to be kept at bay as far as possible. Further, let me tell you a way in which you can tame the stress to a great extent. Hard work is your answer to stress. When you work hard on your cases, you gain tremendous knowledge, which eventually results in confidence. And confidence, vanquishes diffidence and conquers the stress which arises therefrom. Pardon my verbosity. I hope you find this helpful.
What do you dislike about your job or the industry?
Inter-alia, I don’t like the following facts pertaining to my industry. Firstly, the fact that young practising lawyers aren’t paid enough in the initial years of their practice. Secondly, the fact that some lawyers actively misadvise and mislead their clients, sometimes possibly under the influence of the party they are opposing, which may lead to disastrous consequences. Thirdly, some lawyers don’t keep their clients informed with regard to the progress of their case, even despite enquiries from the client. Fourthly, some lawyers on various pretexts try to extract more than the agreed fee from the client. Fifthly, some lawyers aren’t professional with their clients and would like to take up every case which comes their way, without having much knowledge in regard to the subject matter. Sixthly, some lawyers would unduly criticise their colleuges at the drop of a hat. These ill practices, amongst others have earned a bad name to the noble legal profession. That said, a famous lawyer once implied that as there are spots in the sun so are there some unscrupulous elements in the bar. However, that in no way reflects on the profession, which according to me, is one of the noblest and the most learned professions in the world.
What are your primary job responsibilities?
The primary responsibilities include advising clients, issuing legal opinions, drafting cases, representing clients before courts and other forums.
What are the realities of a lawyer's job that cinema never depicts?
Indian cinema by far, hasn’t gotten close to depicting the life of a lawyer, though sometimes a note or two have been struck right. The Indian cinema has by far depicted lawyer as a crafty, funny, dishonest or unethical individual who behaves in the court as per his whims and fancies. For example in ‘Jolly LLB’ and ‘Kyuki mai jhooth nahi Bolta’. However, Indian cinema by far has failed to depict a lawyer’s everyday life accurately. A few myths should be busted. Judges don’t keep cracking sad jokes in the courts. Judges are honourable and learned persons having a wide knowledge of law. Indian judges are anyways overburdened with judicial work and don’t have much free time during a work day. A great majority of lawyers are suave and serious individuals who perform their duties as entrusted by the client with a great sense of responsibility. Inside the court, people remain within the limits of civility and maintain decorum of the court. Negative portrayal of lawyers in movies leads to the fabrication of negative stereotypes of lawyers in the society, which is a condemnable exercise. On the contrary, American television series like ‘suits’ have depicted the life, role and job of a lawyer with a great degree of seriousness and accuracy.
What law books or journals would you recommend reading?
To answer this question, you need to tell me the stage at which you are in your life as on date. My answer to this question will differ for a law student, a fresh graduate or a young legal professional.
What is the toughest decision you had to make at work?
As a lawyer you have to take tough decisions everyday, given the fact that either your client’s liberty or his property will get affected on the basis of your bonafide strategic decisions. Regardless, one of the toughest decisions that I took was to let go of a high stake matter brought by a well paying client by truthfully advising the client that the proceedings he was wanting to initiate had extremely low chances of success. As a consequence, the client left me to find legal advice which would please his ears, found the same, but lost the case. Since then, the client has stuck with me for years now. I have made many such decisions regardless of consequences. Although at the time when they are made they seem very difficult, they are always beneficial to your reputation in the longer run. As a lawyer, one should render legal opinion truthfully and fearlessly. Some clients may leave you as a consequence, only to be misled by someone and to return to you eventually. On the contrary, if you mislead the client, the client may stick with you for the duration of the case, but once the case is adversely decided, is never likely to return to you.