Interviews

Arjit Benjamin, Advocate with Experience in ADR & Litigation Talks about Networking and Challenges Faced by Second Generation Lawyer

Arjit Benjamin is law graduate from Amity Law School and has been extensively working in the field of Dispute Resolution (both litigation & ADR) and Intellectual Property Rights (including enforcement as well as prosecution), particularly in the area of trademarks. With experience in the fields of Dispute Resolution and Intellectual Property, Arjit enjoys attending court as much as networking in seminars and conferences held globally. He has been attending the Annual Global Meeting of the International Trademarks Association (INTA) across several countries; and has had the chance to interact with some of the most iconic IP minds across the globe. In this interview, he talks about managing interest in two practice areas, idea of networking, maintaining work-life balance and challenges of being a second-generation lawyer.

The primary area of your work relates to Civil, Commercial and Intellectual Property Litigation; and you have been appearing before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi, Trial Courts, Tribunals and other judicial and quasi-judicial forums. What, according to you, are qualities to grow as a litigator?

Imagine going to a surgeon who has never performed surgery, or who is not equipped with changing technology to treat you with the best possible medical equipment! Lawyers, as service providers, are no different. Just as a basic degree in medical sciences is a given for doctors or surgeons, a strong knowledge of substantive and procedural laws is imperative when it comes to lawyers and it perhaps gives a level-playing field to all those who graduate out of law school. How one adds-on to it decides your further course of growth in your career. I’m actively tracking legislative updates and precedents to stay abreast of all legal developments, which is a must for every practicing lawyer. For litigation, it is extremely important that one develops skills pertaining to court craft and litigation strategy. I’ve consciously tried to be present in the court, observing the seniors and veterans in the way they approach a matter and conduct themselves during court proceedings. Attentive client interaction, being observant and contributing during conferences with Senior Counsels and making a slight effort to deeply understand the industry sector of your clients will help you come up with excellent litigation strategy, an art that you’ll always pick on the job and not during your law school days. 

Litigators are always considered to lead a tough lifestyle, often compromising on work-life balance. What are your thoughts on managing conflicting professional and personal commitments?

I wouldn’t say that as a litigator we always compromise our work-life balance. It is only the unpredictability of the practice that may sometime lead to pressure-like situations. There will be instances where owing to the nature of the matter and stakes involved, urgent filing needs to be catered to – sometimes overnight! But these situations are one-off and I, in fact, tend to enjoy these challenging moments owing to the challenges involved. All of us also must understand that the band we proudly wear comes with a lot of responsibility. It is important to understand the clients’ perspective, who approach us with faith and belief that we will step up in the need of the hour. Barring such instances, I believe if we learn the art of managing time effectively, work-life balance can be achieved to a large extent. I understand that on a long court day, one has to come to office and then commence substantive work like drafting. However, simple hacks and use of technology will come to your rescue, provided you get accustomed to imbibing them. I also utilize my travel time and spare time between matters to read-up and research. I keep my phone and tab handy, which helps me manage court dates, access of documents and case laws, etc. on the move. 

You were drawn towards intellectual property laws from the inception of your professional journey. What are the emerging trends you’ve observed during your growth and engagement with IP practice?

I believe technological developments, government’s efforts in accelerating IP procedures while reducing paper-work and number of forms and announcement of concessions in a fee charged by the government to register intellectual property by start-ups are some of the notable achievements in last few years. The IP Registry is committed to expedite procedures and we all have witnessed the transition of days from physical filing to e-filing, and now issuance of Trademark Registration Certificates online. 

IP is also one area where we observe evolving jurisprudence every day. This year itself we’ve seen some remarkable steps taken by courts. For instance, the Delhi High Court recently passed a progressive judgment, taking cognizance of matters not being heard for several years for want of Technical Member in IPAB. To put an end to the ordeal of parties whose rights were being prejudiced (especially in patent matters where the statutory period of exclusivity is only 20 years), the Court held that the Chairman, IPAB and the Technical Member (Plant Varieties Protection) are competent to hear the urgent matters relating to Patents, Trade Marks and Copyright till the vacancies of other Technical Members are filled up. Similarly, last week, the Bombay High Court issued a notice instructing all urgent IP matters seeking to obtain ex-parte orders will be heard confidentially “in chamber” to maintain confidentiality and prevent any possible leakage of information to the defaulting party. The court has also indicated that such cases will neither be mentioned in the court openly nor will such cases be displayed on the High Court website. With growing judicial activism in the field, I’m sure we’re poised to witness trends that will move towards a robust IP regime being developed in our country, aimed towards the furtherance of justice for those who knock the doors of court of law.

You’ve attended conferences and events domestically and internationally. Do you think in the fiercely competitive professional landscape for lawyers, networking is an important tool for survival?

I do not really go by the term ‘networking’ for its sheer commercial parlance. I view attending conferences as an opportunity to build relationships and the joy of knowledge sharing. When you network, you only look for professional bonds, which may be long-term or short-term. Building relationships is wider as you connect with like-minded personalities from across the globe on professional as well as non-professional grounds. I’ve attended international conferences where attendees bond over common interests like sports, music and literature, more than practice area or work-based topics. I’ve learnt simple management tips from some, while with some I’ve only discussed my interests in photography and music. So, it isn’t necessarily a tool for survival, but more like expanding your reach to interesting people from different cultures and civilizations, who may or may not be professionally beneficial for you, but the ties you create are very fulfilling in the long run. If you ask me, I would say networking or professional benefits are a by-product of building relationships – incidental, inevitable, secondary, but useful!

Do you think being a second-generation lawyer comes with advantages? Can you elaborate?

For the longest time, I’ve heard this belief that being a second-generation lawyer comes with huge advantages. Let me take this opportunity to share that barring the environment where you can discuss law and getting familiarized with the lifestyle of a lawyer, there aren’t too many advantages for a second-generation lawyer. Rather, there is always a benchmark against which your performance is evaluated, not necessarily by your family but by third parties. In my case, my father is already an acclaimed IP lawyer, with over three and a half decades of experience in the field of IP. To match up to such high standards could be overwhelming. My advice to all such lawyers would be to not take undue stress of matching-up to the standard of your parent(s)/family member, or any role model for that matter. Identify the areas of your interest if you choose to pursue law, and carve your own identity. For me, while IP was home-ground, I was drawn towards enforcement, litigation and dispute resolution, out of my interest. Determined to grow and learn through my own mistakes, I decided to venture into both contentious and non-contentious laws. Fortunately, for me, the support from my family has been very positive.

I would also like to point out here that the legal profession has come a long way where merit is paramount and there is no substitute for talent. Several of my friends are first-generation lawyers and they’re doing extremely well for themselves. Opportunities are alike for everyone and I can proudly say that our profession is extending those opportunities to those who deserve them on merit, not by virtue of being born in lawyers’ family. 

For several upcoming lawyers, what would be your advice about the importance of having a mentor? Who do you consider as your mentor?

As I said above, it is important to make mistake and learn from them. You will continue to grow through hit and trial. But all of us need a ‘go-to’ person, who becomes our guiding light and someone who we look up to. It is important to have a mentor because they will teach you what no book or law school can. And more often than not, you will learn through simply observing them conduct themselves with a client, in court or in real life situations. Identify who will be your sounding boards – whose reactions to your ideas will be a test of validity or success. 

I consider myself blessed to have not one but two mentors. First, one being my father and my ideal since childhood, Mr. Kenneth David Benjamin, who is a proficient lawyer; and second my Reporting Partner, Ms. Meghna Mishra, who had the patience of teaching me from scratch. Most important thing that I’ve perhaps learnt from both is to stay humble and accessible despite being widely recognized for your work. Both come with immense patience to never get hassled even when I’ve approached them with repetitive and sometimes borderline silly queries. Both have had a very positive influence in my life and I would consider myself worthy if I achieve an iota of what they’ve achieved – not just as practitioners of law, but also as great human beings. 

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