“As far as the ever evolving legal landscape is concerned, young professionals have wonderful knowledge management resources in the form of legal news portals and online workshops”-Mrinmoi Chatterjee  Advocate on Record

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

Can you share the story of how you chose to pursue a career in law and specifically how you ended up becoming an Advocate on Record at the Supreme Court of India?

I was always fascinated with law and the working of courts. My father being a member of Rajasthan Higher Judicial Services also naturally fuelled my inclination towards law. However, as it is with most people, it was not my first choice. I was preparing for engineering entrances and even scored well in some of them. But when I got through in CLAT, I wholeheartedly chose to join National Law University, Patiala, Punjab where I spent the most important five years of my life. 

During my third year, I was fortunate to intern with Ms. Shobha, a distinguished Advocate on Record at the Supreme Court. This particular internship completely changed my perspective and helped me develop a keen interest in the practice of law, especially, at the Supreme Court. By the time I finished college I couldn’t wait to get my bar license and come to Delhi. 

I immediately joined the offices of Ms. Aishwarya Bhati in 2014. I was fortunate enough to get invaluable opportunities to work on important legal matters, appear with and assist Seniors in the Supreme Court. Subsequently, I transitioned to the Delhi High Court where I learnt the ropes of original side work under the mentorship of Ms. Mrinalini Sen. The comprehensive exposure to various judicial fora, including district courts and tribunals, during my juniorship, significantly enriched my professional acumen. 

With the blessings of my mentors and a couple of briefs in my repertoire, I went into independent practice in 2017 and set up my own office. As soon I became eligible to write the AOR examination, I diligently started preparing for it. However, on account of Covid-19 pandemic, AOR exams were rescheduled twice and came to be scheduled in December. It was extremely challenging to prepare and sit for the exams while also maintaining a running practice. However, all the hard work paid off and I was able to fulfil the dream I had since my third year of college. 

With over nine years of experience in handling multifarious litigation, could you highlight a pivotal moment or case that significantly shaped your career as an advocate?

I was fortunate to receive a number of opportunities wherein my seniors and mentors gave me a lot of freedom to independently draft, file and argue matters. The trust reposed by my mentors helped me develop the confidence to venture out on my own. I started taking on independent briefs from the beginning of my practice and achieved several wins, but one matter which will be close to my heart was a pro bono matrimonial matter for maintenance under Section 125CrPC. My client had been suffering from cancer but was extremely diligent in providing inputs and following up with her case. It was one of the first matters I did as an independent counsel where I conducted the entire trial by myself and eventually was able to get maintenance not only for her but even her major but dependent son. 

Recently I was able to secure notice in a pension matter of a retired government officer from the Supreme Court. Another pivotal moment has been very recent wherein I was able to secure quashing of criminal proceedings as well as divorce under Article 142 from the Supreme Court for my client. 

Your practice spans across various forums, including the High Court of Delhi and the Supreme Court of India. How do you navigate the unique challenges posed by different legal environments and what strategies do you employ to ensure success across these diverse platforms?

Throughout my extensive legal practice across various courts in Delhi, I’ve come to realize that while the fundamental values of the judicial system and an Advocate’s preparation remain constant, the strategies employed must adapt to the distinct practices and procedures of each court. For instance, when dealing with the Supreme Court in a Special Leave Petition under Article 136, the focus lies in crafting a precise synopsis that highlights relevant legal points due to the limited scope. Miscellaneous days demand a quick-witted approach, as benches pose pointed questions, necessitating a thorough understanding of the case. Conversely, in Writ Petitions, where more time is allotted for arguments, a different presentation strategy is required. In trial courts, adherence to statutory timelines, rules of evidence, cross-examination, and knowing the procedural law thoroughly is imperative. My diverse experience has enabled me to tailor strategies on a case-by-case basis, involving clients in the decision-making process. Recognizing the importance of client inputs, particularly in matters of equity, underscores the necessity for effective communication. Staying updated with relevant cases, understanding the court dynamics, and maintaining a positive mindset are integral to my approach.

Given your specialization in Commercial Litigation, Debt Recovery, and Litigation Management, can you elaborate on your approach to handling complex cases involving corporates and companies, especially with a focus on debt recovery?

In handling complex cases involving corporates and companies, particularly with a focus on debt recovery, my approach centres on meticulous case analysis, client consultations to align legal strategies with business objectives and strategic planning tailored to each case’s unique aspects. I prioritize alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms to expedite resolutions and maintain effective client communication. Staying abreast of industry regulations and providing timely and relevant inputs to devise precise legal strategy is also key. Ultimately, my goal is to secure favourable outcomes for clients while upholding the highest standards of professionalism.

You mentioned taking up pro-bono cases and providing legal consultation to those in need. How do you balance your commercial practice with pro-bono work, and what drives your commitment to providing legal assistance to those who may not afford it?

Managing the balance involves meticulous time management and a strategic approach to workload allocation. I prioritize pro-bono cases that align with my expertise and can make a significant difference in someone’s life. While commercial cases may demand substantial attention, I allocate dedicated time and resources to pro-bono work, treating it with the same level of professionalism and commitment.

As an aspiring speaker and mentor, you’ve presented at webinars attended by law students and legal professionals. What topics do you find most important to discuss with aspiring lawyers, and what advice do you typically offer to those entering the legal profession?

I implore young professionals who are keen to learn the ropes to first conquer good drafting skills, which is the most important aspect of litigation which sets you apart from the competition. Sadly, university education hardly focuses on practical aspects of drafting. Second most important would be to maintain strong work and legal ethics without which it is difficult to build credibility with clients as well as mentors. Third would be to remain reasonably updated about the working of practice and procedure of different courts which builds confidence and independent thinking; and lastly to make lots of friends, develop strong relationships and have fun while you are at it. 

Expanding your practice to the Rajasthan High Court at Jaipur indicates a dynamic multi-state approach. Could you share the challenges and opportunities you anticipate in creating and sustaining a multi-state practice?

I have had the opportunity to appear before the courts at Rajasthan and collaborate with like-minded advocates which inspired me to expand my practice across jurisdictions. While there are inherent challenges, including adapting to divergent legal procedures, different client needs and logistical challenges, however, this expansion also brings forth significant opportunities for growth and networking. During the past years I have developed strong professional relationships which will help me overcome these challenges significantly. Additionally, key to growing any practice is meticulous planning and organizational efficiency. I am sure it would be an amazing opportunity for personal and professional advancement. 

Lastly, drawing on your extensive experience, what advice would you give to fresh law graduates aspiring to build successful careers in law, especially considering the evolving landscape of legal practice in India?

Every person who enters practice understands litigation differently based on their personal experiences, ambitions and capabilities. Strong work ethic and continuous learning are the basics, while, the more you work on upgrading your knowledge and skill, the more it will help you flourish. 

However, it is indeed a very tough profession, a very long and arduous journey. I learnt really late that one should prioritize their mental and physical health to be able to survive and thrive in this profession. Fresh law graduates should learn to manage stress in positive ways and must aim for personal growth besides just professional growth. 

As far as the ever evolving legal landscape is concerned, young professionals have wonderful knowledge management resources in the form of legal news portals and online workshops. Moreover, virtual courts, live streaming of constitution bench matters and open access to supreme court judgments are some of the recent welcome steps which can ensure easy access to learning. Fresh law graduates should not feel overwhelmed by the constant information overload by making reading and writing on legal issues a part of their daily or weekly schedule.

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