Interviews

Anupam Tripathi, Managing Partner, The Practice, on starting independent practice and working as Senior Standing Counsel with IT Department

Anupam Tripathi graduated from ILS Law College, Pune, in 2004. After successful stints as Senior Standing Counsel for the Income Tax Department, he founded his own firm, ‘The Practice’.  He is also the managing trustee of an NGO called ‘Fight For Animal Rights’.

In this interview we speak to him about:

  • Experience working as Senior Standing Counsel for the Income Tax Department, Ministry Of Finance in Delhi High Court
  • Starting his own firm “The Practice”.
  • Current scenario of direct tax law as a career option in india

 

 

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO OUR READERS?

I am a lawyer in the Supreme Court, a social worker and animal rights activist. I am the founder and the managing partner of an east Delhi based law firm called ‘The  Practice’. I am also the founder and managing trustee of an NGO called ‘Fight For Animal Rights’, India.

 

WHAT FACTORS INFLUENCED YOU TO CHOOSE LAW AS A CAREER? WHY DID YOU CHOOSE ILS LAW COLLEGE FOR PURSUING LAW?

I look at law as a means to bring about a social change in the society and in the country. By change I mean progress. My grandfather was a very successful trial lawyer in post-independent India before he was elevated as Judge, Allahabad High Court in the mid 1960s. To a great extent, I was inspired by him and more so by his personality and larger than life character to take up law as a profession. Late Nani Palkhivala has been an inspiration too, along with contemporary greats like Harish Salve and Ram Jethmalani. From very early days, while I was still in school what stood out to me always was that most great men who had achieved some remarkable feats were practicing lawyers (Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, my maternal grandfather, Late Kedar Pandey who was two time Chief Minister of Bihar and Railway Minister of India in Indira Gandhi’s cabinet in mid 70s to the early 80s was also a lawyer by profession). All these great men were lawyers. Today, you can add the likes of Barack Obama, former President of USA and our own President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind are also lawyers by profession.

I was very clear that I wanted to practice law, i.e., get into litigation and for this reason ILS Law stood out for me as even back in 1999, when I took admission into ILS Law College, it had a reputation and a track record for being a stand out performer in moot court competitions on the National stage and a college where moots were taken very seriously, add to that the August faculty we had at the time- this the choice was obvious. I was privileged and honoured to spend five wonderful years in ILS Law College which trained me to be the lawyer that I have become today. In 2004, when I graduated from ILS, my college was ranked the Number one Law College in the country ahead of National Law School of India University Bangalore that was our arch-rival. In that year (2003-2004), we had won eleven out of the thirteen National Moot Court competitions in the country standing true to the reputation of the ILS Law College. I was privileged to have contributed to these National Moots by winning the Stetson National Environmental Moot Court Competition at the time. I later represented India in the World event of this competition at Stetson Florida, USA, and won a scholarship in the process for an LLM and was later facilitated with a Gold medal by then Chief Minister of Maharashtra Late Sh. Vilas Rao Deshmukh at ILS, Law College and nominated for best student award for outstanding performance in Moot Courts.

 

HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WORKING AS SENIOR STANDING COUNSEL FOR THE INCOME TAX DEPARTMENT, MINISTRY OF FINANCE IN DELHI HIGH COURT? CAN YOU SHARE ANY MEMORABLE OR INTERESTING EXPERIENCES IN YOUR STINT AS A SENIOR STANDING COUNSEL?

I was privileged to be appointed as a senior standing counsel in the Delhi High Court on behalf of the Income Tax Department, Ministry of Finance, Government of India in the year 2010- 2013. At the time of my appointment which was after the assent and approval by the President of India in August 2010, I was only 29.5 years at the time (and subject to correction) I was supposedly the youngest senior standing counsel for the Central Government at the time in the country (I am told that the previous youngest senior standing counsel stood at 32.5 years). In my initial three months of appointment, I found myself to be struggling to cope up and match the requirements and rigours of the job and the pressures that you face being in that important position. Contesting, arguing with and facing in the court the likes of top tax moguls like Ajay Vohra, S. Ganesh, C.S. Aggarwal, H. Syali, Rakesh Gupta, K. Sampath, Mrs. Kapila Satyan Sethi, Rakesh Aggarwal was not easy to begin with. But I worked very very hard and in less than three months I had found my feet on the job and was now regularly matching these tax moguls argument by argument and submission by submission and having beaten all of them in several matters. I shared an excellent rapport with all my colleagues at Bar some of whom were 30 years my senior and I was also privileged to have developed an excellent standing before the Hon’ble High Court judges in the tax bench I was appealing before. Most these judges today are sitting judges of the Hon’ble Supreme Court today.

My overall experience as a senior standing counsel was excellent having given me an opportunity to have made more than 1500 appearances in Delhi High Court at the time with more than 100 reported judgments to my name in a short span of three years. It was a great boost to my legal career.

 

WHY DID YOU GO INDEPENDENT AFTER WORKING WITH BIG LAW FIRMS?

I was very clear from early days at law school that after graduating, I wanted to train for not more than two years maximum before branching out my own private practice. I was fortunate to have reached this zone and space where I felt that I could venture into private practice within a year and few months of graduating law. Thus, after briefly working for law firms like AZB & Partners (my first employer) to Associate Law Advisors to later training with Mr. Vikram Kapoor Advocate, I founded ‘The Practice’ on August 5th, 2005 and have been practicing privately since.

 

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ABOUT THE WORK ENVIRONMENT AT BIG LAW FIRMS?

It would be wrong of me to comment on the work environment in big firms that I have not personally worked with. I can only speak of my experience with the two big law firms I have worked with personally and would hence restrict my comments to my limited experience with them. At AZB & Partners, I was working on the corporate/ transactional side and found the atmosphere for a fresh graduate in law a to be very cold and unwelcoming. I also found that in a big firm like AZB & Partners, there were times when the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing. I also found an over emphasis on billing and bottom lines as opposed to winning cases and providing good representation and legal services to clients.

To sum up, I would describe AZB & Partners at the time (2004) to be a great body, missing a heart & soul with its mind all over the place. But I must admit I have the highest regard for Ajay Bahl and Zia Modi both of whom are genius in their respective fields. Raman Sharma and Nanju Ganpathy are good and kind people too in their  setup. My experience at Associate Law Advisors was lovely. Working on the litigation side here was perhaps helpful as I was in my comfort zone here. Good people, great leadership and friendly colleagues of course helped. Mr OP Bharadwaj and Lira Goswami were wonderful bosses and people to work with and learn from.

 

WHAT IS THE CURRENT SCENARIO OF STUDYING DIRECT TAX LAW AS A CAREER OPTION IN INDIA?

 

I would advice law students to study direct taxes especially income tax law and think of it as a career option on the corporate/ transactional side where there is huge scope both with the big four accountancy firms as well as with corporate law firms all across India. However on the litigation side (bear in mind my specialty is tax litigation) there is narrower scope and a lot of competition you have to deal with. For example, in the Delhi High Court there is a handful of 8-12 tax lawyers who dominate and have all the cases with them. In the Supreme Court, there is again a handful of 5-8 senior advocates who specialise in tax litigation and dominate. Thus, be mindful of this competition and almost cartel/monopoly that exists which is not easy to breach, no matter how good your standing and ability in tax litigation may be.

 

HOW DO YOU SAY ONE CAN GAIN EXPERTISE IN TAX LAW? WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A GOOD TAX LAWYER? IS THE WORK SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT FROM OTHER TRANSACTIONAL LAWYERS?

Tax law is an extremely technical and specialised field. Simply putting, its tough unlike most of other legal practice areas. The thing about tax law is that either you get it or you won’t. Period!  Once you have got the hang of it, you would begin enjoying and improving at it every day. Being an extremely specialised field, you will also find that the work you do as a tax lawyer would neither be understood by 90% of your colleagues, even judges of High Court and Supreme Court in matters of taxation are few, who understand the field, specialise in it and have command over it. Like every other field, tax litigation too requires hard work and perseverance and a lot of reading and staying up to date with the latest case laws, etc. You can have all the flair as an arguing counsel, but if you are not technically sound with tax, you would struggle.

 

YOU FOUNDED A LAW FIRM THAT IS DOING VERY WELL TODAY. WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU THINK SOMEONE WHO WISHES TO START A FIRM OR INDEPENDENT PRACTICE IS LIKELY TO FACE? WHAT WOULD YOU ADVISE THEM TO DO TO MITIGATE SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES?

When I started my firm, I had left a salaried job of an associate where I was earning 22,000 per month at that time. My first month turnover in August end of 2005 of my private practice was 3,500 Rupees odd. All my near and dear ones including my own family were doubting and wondering how will I survive and whether I would make it because I had started from scratch. My father was not a lawyer, I had not inherited anyone’s practice or clientele and hence my future seemed gloomy to them. Within a year of private practice, I was touching a turnover of six lakhs per annum i.e. 50,000 per month and from that modest beginning I have come a long way today where when it comes to Income tax litigation, Public Interest litigation, Consumer litigation and Divorce cases litigation – my name and the name of ‘The Practice’ stands out. The money has been good too, but I like to be modest about such things.

To be brutally honest, I survived and succeeded because I had ability, perseverance and worked very hard. I would advice youngsters to get into private practice only if they are inheriting clientele and private practice of their father or they don’t just think but actually have the kind of ability, grit, determination and perseverance along with a well-worked out marketing and business plan to succeed, or else they will struggle or in fact fail. Youngsters should stick to jobs, unless they have the above, or at least wait for seven to ten years before setting up their private practice.

 

WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON THE ADEQUACY OF ANIMAL PROTECTION LAW IN INDIA?

The animal protection laws in India are to a very long extent adequate; however their lack of implementation is a serious issue. India, in fact has one of the best animal laws in the World barring the exception of 50 Rupees fine for the first offence of killing a stray dog. Almost all animal laws in India are near perfect. It’s their implementation that’s missing and is key.

 

HOW CAN A LAW STUDENT APPLY FOR AN INTERNSHIP AT YOUR FIRM? IF THERE IS SOMEONE WHO WANTS YOUR GUIDANCE, WHAT SHOULD HE/SHE DO?

Email me at anupamtrip@gmail.com to apply for an internship at my firm or to work as a volunteer for my NGO i.e.Fight For Animal Rights, India after sending your application wait for a revert back from me. If you hear from me in upto two weeks or so, consider yourself selected. If you don’t hear from me, then move on. No amount of email reminders and telephone calls will help your prospect. My firm and NGO has one of the most popular and vibrant internship program not only in New Delhi but in India. I have trained and mentored more than 1000 law students in the last fourteen years and my firm provides internship opportunities to 100-150 interns every year from leading law schools all across the country, there is competition and vacancy issues, so one has to be mindful of this.

 

WHEN YOU HIRE JUNIOR IN YOUR FIRM ‘THE PRACTICE’, WHAT QUALITIES DO YOU LOOK FOR?

I look for six to seven traits in every junior or for that matter in any person who is or shall be ever associated with me in whatever capacity – 1.Ability, 2.Integrity, 3.Energy, 4.Great sense of timing with situational and personnel awareness, 5.Ability to make work fun as purchasable a commodity as sugar & coffee, 6.dependability and 7.Loyalty. Unless, you have these seven traits in you, you may be a genius and may become the future Prime Minister or President of the country but sorry you don’t have a future with me.

 

WHAT WOULD BE YOUR WORD OF ADVICE TO LAW STUDENTS WHO ARE ASPIRING TO LITIGATE JUST AFTER GRADUATION?

My answer is Legal advocacy or “Vakalat” is  about litigation, litigation and only litigation. A real lawyer is one who goes to court, argues his cases, fights for justice for his clients and for larger public good and wins. Everybody else is a law graduate with a Bar license or a corporate suit with a fat salary,  may be a fancy car on EMIs who can’t secure his own bail when in trouble. In other words, graduate and get into litigation, work very hard, and do well. I wish you my kind of struggle, success, satisfaction and happiness!

 

 

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top