“Conducting cross-examinations is the true test of a disputes lawyer. It tests your drafting, critical thinking, articulation, strategic ability, presence of mind, knowledge of human behavior and much more. The foremost challenge lies in the exhaustive groundwork that precedes the actual cross examination.”- Rohan Batra, Partner, Anagram Partners

This Interview has been published by Pragya Chandni  and The SuperLawyer Team

Can you please share the story of how you decided to pursue a career in law, and what specific factors or experiences led you to specialize in disputes, particularly company and commercial disputes?

The decision to pursue law was not a straight choice but a process of elimination and discovery. Given my family background and as someone who opted for commerce, I was presented with two choices: follow my father’s footsteps as a chartered accountant or pursue my studies in commerce. Right after my boards, I enrolled myself in esteemed colleges like CBS and SRCC.

In this time, I had developed a keen interest in analysing and comprehending intricate concepts, coupled with a passion for engaging in public speaking. It was during this period that I had the privilege of witnessing the legendary, Late Ram Jethmalani, showcase his extraordinary oral advocacy skills. This experience left an indelible impression, and my intuition directed me to the pursuit of law. Once I decided to pursue law, I naturally gravitated towards disputes or as we litigators colloquially refer to where the real “juice” of the legal profession is. Immediately after the last term, I explored a corporate position placement. However, I ultimately declined, much to the bemusement of my peers who continue to jest about my decision till day.

With over 12 years of experience in the field, can you walk us through the key milestones and challenges in your career, from joining Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. to founding your boutique litigation chambers in Delhi in 2019?

My journey commenced with a stint at a tax litigation firm, Economic Laws Practice. Under the mentorship of Mr. Tarun Gulati, today a distinguished tax senior counsel, who led the Delhi tax litigation practice at the time, I learnt the basics of basics. Transitioning to SAMCO marked a pivotal juncture. Here, I was exposed to the world of arbitration and commercial litigation. I was fortunate to be guided by Mr. Dhruv Dewan, my supervising partner at the time. Under his guidance, I refined my legal acumen and navigated the landscape of challenging yet intellectually stimulating work. In those days, burning the midnight oil was not just a phrase but a frequent reality. I vividly recall a period where I was given the opportunity to single-handedly manage three high stake live arbitrations, overseeing cross-examinations, evidence, and final hearings in a span of twelve months—an arduous yet immensely rewarding experience. Personally, my involvement in the Tata-Mistry legal battle was a watershed moment that transformed my perspective on legal strategy, which was akin to playing a highly strategic chess game. SAMCO, for me, was an institution where every case became a classroom, and every challenge was an opportunity for growth. I am grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Shroff and all my former colleagues for this immensely enriching experience.

In hindsight and given that I hail from a non-legal background, the decision to establish my boutique litigation chambers in 2019 was characterized more by audacity than meticulous planning. Gratefully, the leap of faith bore fruit. This transition has been instrumental in introducing me to the practice of law, its diverse challenges and putting me on an entrepreneurial journey.

Your profile mentions your involvement in a 5 Judge constitutional bench, Cox and Kings, before the Supreme Court of India. Could you provide insights into the significance of that case and how it reflects your expertise in arbitration and company disputes?

My involvement in the constitutional reference before a 5-Judge bench of the Supreme Court of India in Cox and Kings was unexpected. I had the honor of closely working with Mr. Darius Khambata, Senior Advocate, a renowned arbitration expert, in shaping our strategy and articulating our case. Mr. Khambata aptly coined our approach as establishing “guardrails” to manage the expanding purview of the Groups Company Doctrine (GCD)- a legal doctrine rooted in the Chloro Controls India (P) Ltd. v. Severn Trent Water Purification Inc. & Anr. case.

In the field of arbitration, we observed a concerning trend wherein GCD was being indiscriminately applied to bind non-consenting parties to arbitration. Our task was to conduct a comprehensive analysis of global practices pertaining to the application of GCD, presenting a legal threshold, and spell out safeguards for invoking and applying GCD within the context of arbitration. It is personally gratifying to note that majority of arguments put forth by Mr. Khambata were accepted by the constitutional bench in the Cox and Kings case, which is now the authoritative ruling on GCD in arbitration. For me, this experience underscores the challenge of navigating complex constitutional issues whilst balancing the contemporary challenges in the field of arbitration.

Congratulations on your Amazon bestseller, “Monk Your Mind: 10 Secrets to Transform the Mind.” What inspired you to write a book, and how do you see the connection between your legal expertise and the themes explored in your book?

While the direct connection between my legal practice and my debut book is not overt, the book reflects a convergence of two key elements. Firstly, my training as a lawyer played a crucial role in honing the skills necessary for writing a book. Secondly, the professional challenges inherent in my legal career significantly influenced the themes I chose to explore in the book.

The book fundamentally emphasizes the notion that each individual possesses the capacity to transform their mind and leverage it to achieve their goals. Drawing from the rigors of legal practice I experienced, the book advocates embracing trials in life. It underscores the principle that undertaking difficult endeavors is the catalyst for personal growth and simplifying life, challenging the conventional notion to the contrary.

What motivated your move to Anagram Partners, and how does your current role differ from your previous experiences, especially in terms of handling alternative dispute resolution, commercial and corporate litigation, insolvency, and bankruptcy?

Joining Anagram Partners marked the initiation of a new chapter in my professional journey, and the motivation behind this transition was multi-faceted. From a workplace, Anagram Partners distinguishes itself through exemplary work practices- a candid feedback system, constant pursuit of excellence and a focus on executing superior legal strategy.

Since the inception of Anagram Partners, I have had the privilege of being deeply involved in the disputes practice. Working alongside partners who are eminent legal experts in their respective domains has contributed immensely to my professional growth. It’s here I transitioned from a practice of law to “business” of law. As a firm, we operate as a cohesive unit, and leverage cross-practice expertise. This helps in providing a comprehensive and nuanced approach to handling matters, thereby enriching the quality of advice provided to clients. With its diverse disputes profile, Anagram Partners has not only afforded me the opportunity to refine my legal skills but has also instilled in me a profound understanding of the holistic dimensions involved in legal practice. I am immensely grateful to all my partners for this opportunity.

Given your proficiency in conducting cross-examinations of witnesses before courts and tribunals, could you share some insights into the strategies you employ and the challenges you face in the process?

Conducting cross-examinations is the true test of a disputes lawyer. It tests your drafting, critical thinking, articulation, strategic ability, presence of mind, knowledge of human behavior and much more. The foremost challenge lies in the exhaustive groundwork that precedes the actual cross examination. Achieving proficiency in this aspect requires an in-depth understanding of the case from both sides’ perspectives. Prior to formulating questions, I try to wear the hat of not just a lawyer but that also of the witness, the opposing counsel, and even the presiding judge or arbitrator. Although time-consuming, this comprehensive approach not only fosters a nuanced understanding of the case but also provides a strategic edge over potential challenges in the cross-examination process.

You’ve published pieces on commercial laws, arbitration, and foreign investment. How does your commitment to writing contribute to your legal practice, and how do you approach speaking engagements at both domestic and international fora on arbitration?

Writing on topics related to commercial laws, arbitration, or the field of law I practice is driven by a genuine desire for self-expression. It is my belief that speaking and writing are strong mediums through which one can articulate, share and influence perspectives on various issues. While the external perspective may be to positiononeself as a thought leader, the intrinsic motivation should stem from the joy of writing and speaking itself. Rather than focusing solely on establishing oneself as a thought leader, authenticity and a true desire to contribute valuable legal insights should guide these endeavours. This is especially if the objective is to be consistent.

Considering your journey and accomplishments, what advice would you like to share with law graduates who are just entering the field? Are there specific skills, mindsets, or lessons that you believe are crucial for success in the dynamic and challenging world of legal disputes?

Reflecting on my journey and looking at what lies ahead, thriving in this field requires a combination of specific skills, mindsets, and lessons::

  1. Strong work ethic: The ability to work hard and consistently put in the effort cannot be overstated.
  2. Kaizen Mindset: Embrace a Kaizen mindset- focusing on constant and relentless improvement of your craft. This mindset is key to adapting to the ever-evolving legal landscape.
  3. Openness to learning-  Be willing to learn from everyone, whether they are younger or more senior colleagues. Cultivate the humility of a perpetual student, as there is valuable knowledge to be gained from diverse sources.
  4. Acceptance of Mistakes: Acknowledge and accept mistakes. Ego should not stand in the way of learning and growth.
  5. Ambition: Foster a strong ambition to achieve your goals.

One thing is certain- a lawyer in a family means the entire family is part of the legal profession. Managing personal and professional aspects, thus, requires constant calibration. There is no optimum work-life balance- it’s the balance that suits you the most.

In the end, these are only my personal views, which are shaped by my life experiences and observations. Take them with a pinch of salt!

Get in touch with Rohan Batra-

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