After spending reasonable time on all the preparation, it is equally important to sleep peacefully within time and appear with a calm mind without trying to attach any emotions to your client/matter-Divanshu Gupta, Advocate, Rajasthan High Court

This interview has been published by  Priyanka Karwa and The SuperLawyer Team

Can you tell us about your journey into the field of law? What inspired you to pursue a career in this field?

I am a first generation lawyer with no lawyer in the immediate or distant family. I appeared for my 12th standard examination and parallel competitive entrance exams in 2009. I belong to a generation where the traditional career choices of medicine/engineering had just begun to phase out and emerging career choices like law, arts, actuarial science etc. had begun to phase in. Like many others, I was preparing for engineering entrance exams and used to study law/law entrance during my free time or just as a back up. Incidentally, all the law entrance exams were scheduled after all the engineering entrance exams. I could take out time and focus on the same. The one thing which intrigued me the most about law entrance was – how the overall subject was technical on one hand and yet so narrative like a story book on the other hand. I could relate very well to this unique sort of intersection.  

You’ve had a diverse career, starting with working for a prominent law firm and now running your own law chambers in Jaipur. How did you decide to transition into independent practice?

At and around the time I graduated, GNLU was one of the (and continues to be) most sought after institution for recruitment by top tier law firms from India and abroad. I too was one of the many candidates who wanted to be a part of this ‘to be hired bunch’. A position with a top tier transactional law firm brought much required and sought after financial comfort, peace and stability. However, the work was far away from how one traditionally perceives the practice of law, be it a layman or a lawyer. It was away from reading and understanding latest case laws, working on matters before the courts or even going to courts. Everytime I had an opportunity to visit any court or do anything related, it would bring in some natural excitement and eagerness. Untill I transitioned to independent practice, I realized that this was my calling which I had been ignoring forever due to different reasons. I first transitioned by shifting from transactional law practice to litigation practice within the same firm. Since I was already more than 4 years old in Bombay, I then considered where did I want to be in the long run. At the same time, I could see Jaipur (my hometown) continuing to grow as an emerging metro city. Many of my knowns/seniors were satisfied with litigation and overall career opportunities over here in the legal field. I did a detailed survey of lawyers and opportunities in the city and luckily some of them were kind enough to give me a holistic and unbiased picture of what law-life here is going to be like. I found this platform to be more full of opportunities without any compromise in scope of learning and exposure. After quitting my job at CAM in January 2019, I started with my practice in Jaipur in April 2019.      

During your time with Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, you worked on project finance and later diversified into dispute resolution. How did this experience shape your legal perspective and approach?

For all transactional law lawyers, they say that one should have working knowledge of litigation. And I feel the same other way round for litigation lawyers as well. Since the time I shifted untill now, my overall understanding of finance/transactional law continues to aid me day in and day out in ways more than one. So many litigation/legal issues these days stem from some or the other kind of emerging and complicated financial structure. In such a situation, one needs to be very adaptive to first understand the complex arrangement himself and then being able to break it down in a manner before the concerned forum that it becomes inclined to grant your client the desired relief within reasonable time.     

It’s impressive to see the range of entities you currently represent as their empaneled advocate in Rajasthan. Can you share some of the highlights of your work with these organizations?

A lot of the entitles of which I am a panel lawyer, are government bodies/corporations. In my limited experience and exposure, the case of such entities is often strong on paper but usually not properly represented. Many such cases relate to projects of public importance involving public money. Given the opportunity, I always try my best to deep dive into the entire case bunch/file such that false/frivolous claims, if any, are not allowed and what should remain for adjudication is the actual genuine claim. The work usually involves arbitration matters arising out commercial contracts, writ jurisdiction work arising out of service law issues, matters before the consumer forum etc.

Dealing with complex legal issues to find simple solutions is an intriguing approach. Could you share an example of a particularly challenging case you worked on and how you managed to simplify the legal complexities for your client?

As part of project finance practice, one works on lot of financing documents like – loan, guarantee, mortgage, pledge etc. many of which find their roots in the Indian Contract Act, 1872. I had drafted and negotiated these documents extensively for almost 4 years. Cut to 2022, I was dealing with a case of a widow lady ousted from her home by the lender bank on account of being a defaulting guarantor in a loan arrangement. While under general principles of contract law, it possibly appeared to be the right thing to do by the bank, however, her legal arrangement fell within the purview of the Rajasthan Cooperative Societies Act, 2001 which created an exception to the general rule of subrogation/co-extensive liability (Section 128 of the Contract Act) – i.e. recovery from the guarantor could only have been done after exhausting recovery mechanisms against the borrower. This is how my overall experience at a law firm doing financing documents day in and day out came in handy and based on this one point itself, we could secure back the possession of the house of our client.

Apart from your legal practice, you also provide training for law students in various areas. What motivates you to engage in academic activities, and how do you balance them with your legal practice?

As a law student and even before that in school, I always faced issues with respect to proper practical guidance – especially on things not available in any books or the internet. What motivates me to engage in academic activities is to eliminate fear and anxiety within then student/graduate community to take up new challenges/roles. Law for everyone including students should be a tool and not a mystery. Whenever I feel saturated or worked up with my regular legal work, it is actually the work of legal training which keeps me motivated and going.

As a successful advocate, you have valuable experience appearing before different courts and tribunals. What advice would you give to young law graduates who aspire to excel in litigation and advocacy?

Thoroughness in everything in my view matters a lot in litigation and advocacy. However, you cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of good (something which I also recently learned from my father). One will never feel prepared enough to appear for any kind of matter. After spending reasonable time on all the preparation, it is equally important to sleep peacefully within time and appear with a calm mind without trying to attach any emotions to your client/matter (easier said than done). The more objective your approach would be, the more you’ll be at peace leading to overall positive legal consequences.

Your journey seems to have taken you to various cities and law firms through internships. How did these internships contribute to your growth as a lawyer, and what key lessons did you learn from these experiences?

My internships formed the backbone of what I should be like an actual lawyer – whether it was dressing, appearance, the way I spoke, ate, walked, responded, client dealing, file management, email writing and any and everything. All of these internships were a lot about observing minutely and learning how to keep calm at the time of legal chaos, urgencies and short deadlines. Everything which an intern does or is asked to do, should not be treated as unimportant or miniscule. Every single piece of such delegated work matters to the core and can have positive/negative irreversible consequences on any matter.

Could you share some insights into the legal landscape in Rajasthan and the unique challenges and opportunities it presents for legal practitioners?

One unique thing about legal practice in Rajasthan which I personally like dealing with is that the practice is not dominated by one particular kind of matters/lawyers – lets say banking, service law, electricity, start ups etc. and at the same time does not allow you to maintain that kind of approach. There is available work and clientele of diverse fields which one needs to tap, be it out of choice or compulsion. Similarly, there are both young as well as experienced senior lawyers in the market, contributing to the system at large in their own unique manner. Rajasthan, being at the pinnacle of renewable energy in the country continues to offer plenty of opportunities in the area of electricity law. In terms of challenges, there are many fora which continue to work in hindi pleadings, ordersheets and arguments. While it is not a challenge for seasoned lawyers, but could possibly be a challenge for lawyers fresh out of university.

Running your law chambers must have its own set of challenges and rewards. What are some of the most fulfilling aspects of having your own practice, and how do you navigate the complexities of managing a legal firm?

Being your own boss is the most fulfilling as well the most challenging aspect at the threshold. There is no office/firm if you are not there in the first place either by being physically present or in form of conducting daily review meetings/discussions. As a chamber practitioner, work flows down the in the hierarchy only from a single point of contact, i.e. myself. In such times, you ought to be constantly available for resolving queries of interns and associates, queries posed by a judge in court and kept for the next day, meeting and closing deals with new clients for upcoming legal work, focusing on your own legal and overall growth, taking out time to finish complicated drafting exercises, ensuring that the same gets filed without exceeding the limitation period and so on. Ultimately, the chain of command flows from you and everything which goes wrong, the buck stops at you. This is both challenging and yet enjoyable at the same time. It keeps you on your toes always, tires you out but doesn’t ever make you feel redundant – and that in my view is the silver lining. You only grow and every bad or unfortunate incident is a learning experience. This becomes most challenging when suddenly you have to deal with a legal issue you have never dealt before. The issue is not that much with legal skill but rather with the short span of time in which you have to resolve it out. In such a scenario, all your previous experiences of being a cucumber in chaos come in handy, you spoil some and you learn from some.  

In your experience, what are some of the critical skills or qualities that young lawyers should focus on developing to build a successful legal career?

Patience, is not a new answer to this question. Additionally, irrespective of whether someone is in litigation, transaction or anywhere else, being well read, thorough, being able to listen more and speak less (or only when it is required), not allowing a situation to overpower your senses, demeanor, being able to manage your temper, being slightly overprepared and most importantly – being responsive and not reactive to people as well as situations are the critical skills that young lawyers should focus on developing.

Finally, considering your journey from a young law graduate to an established advocate and legal consultant, what advice would you like to give to fresh graduates who are about to step into the legal profession?

I would tell them and rather clarify – I continue to establish myself and we all are sailing in the same boat. It’s just that our journeys began at different points of time. The moment one starts feeling that he/she has established himself at any point of time is the moment that you have slipped into some or the other kind of comfort zone. Don’t let that happen to you. As they say, if you are the smartest in your class, you are in the wrong class. One should try to be in company of people or lawyers where there is always something new to learn. There is no dearth of legal opportunities in the market. There are so many people literally craving for the right legal advice, don’t disappoint or misguide or play around with them. I am not telling you to work for free, after all we all have to first feed ourselves and then only we can feed the law. But, don’t take up a particular legal assignment or case only for the money and at the same time don’t abandon one because of money. There will always be some or the other kind of compromise. So, see accordingly where your sense of judgment takes you as everything you’d do as part of your daily work – drafting, research, arguing, filing, marketing yourself, you’ll always find yourself amidst a set of choices or options. Exercise your choices carefully but don’t be hesitant in doing that. Lastly, if you have 60% positive inclination towards doing a particular thing or making a choice and 40% negative, do go for it as not every time one can have 100% clarity or instinct with respect to everything.   

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