Dharmendra Chatur graduated from Christ University School of Law, Bangalore in 2013 as the Gold Medalist for being the Best Outgoing Student. Currently he is an advocate at King & Partridge.
A litigator who almost became an engineer tells us what it takes to transition from a law student to lawyer from his own experience. Key takeaways:
- The attitude of a successful lawyer and how he evolved over the years
- The three skills important in a litigator
- How to apply for internship at King & Partridge and research assistantships
How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m Dharmendra Chatur. I’m currently working as an Advocate at King & Partridge, which is one of the oldest law firms in India (established in 1904). I am a graduate of Christ University School of Law, Bangalore having graduated in May 2013 as the valedictorian and recipient of the Basant Kumar Sarala Birla Gold Medal for the Best Outgoing Student. During law school, I was an active mooter and published a few articles in international and national journals. I had a brief stint with debating as well. Being interested in academic writing and research, I was involved in research on and continue to be interested in the fields of law and public policy. I currently follow developments in the areas such as legal and judicial reforms and health and medical law.
Honestly, studying law was never a career choice during school. I took up Science in my 11th and 12th and had decided to do engineering (following the herd!). In fact, I enrolled myself into the Mechatronics Engineering programme at Monash University, Australia (Malaysia campus) and spent one month there (February-March 2008) before deciding to call it quits. The realization that I did not want to be an engineer dawned upon me only after I began my engineering courses! However, I had a great time being an international student at Monash – although for a limited time.
After I returned to India, I did a bit of soul-searching and introspection and thought of giving law a try. Being a first generation college-goer (in any course), I was fortunate to have no family pressure to choose a particular course. The lack of pressure therefore allowed me to explore possibilities with my career choices. I joined LST for a one month crash course to see if I would be interested in law; and prepared for the first edition of the CLAT. Being unsure if I had done well in CLAT, I enrolled myself into Christ University mainly because of the excellent faculty and campus facilities there.
According to you what are the qualities of a good lawyer?
Speaking from my limited exposure to the legal profession, a good lawyer must have three qualities – at the very least – firstly, he/she must be sociable and polite; second, he/she must have a good grasp of legal knowledge (both theoretical and practical); third, he/she must aspire to be independent in thought, inclination and action to develop a dispassionate mind.
What were your areas of interest while you were studying law?
I was interested in public law generally and a few subject areas in private law especially company law, law of contracts and so on. In addition, I was also fascinated by public international law and conflict of laws.
You are working with King and Partridge right now. What is a day at worklike?
As I am a practicing Advocate at King & Partridge, my work day involves preparation for and assisting my senior colleagues with appearances in the High Court of Karnataka/Civil courts/Arbitrations in Bangalore.
What skills and attributes are important according to you to hold a job like yours? How can law students go about developing these?
I believe three skills are important for any litigation job in an Advocate’s formative years: strong grounding in basic aspects of the law, immense patience to learn and grow and learning by observation.
To law students, I would suggest that they must make consistent efforts to understand certain basic concepts in all areas of law – this will hold them in good stead when they begin (a beginner’s advantage, in a way). In addition, you must better your research, critical thinking and argumentative skills – all of which you can learn by mooting, debating etc. In essence, please utilize every opportunity law school provides you to become your own person – with a voice to be heard.
What is the most challenging or stressful part of your job?
The transition from law school to law practice is both challenging and illuminating. Challenging because law schools do not prepare students to face a practical world (which is why some Advocates shine without having attended many classes in law school). However, I believe that time well-spent at law school can only make one better equipped. My transition was illuminating because you get exposed to a very different world which requires strategic planning, execution among other things. Also, you figure that law and justice are ‘personal’, in the sense that from different judges, the same facts and circumstances may elicit responses. Therefore, a successful Advocate is, in my opinion, is a person who can gauge what a judge requires and prepare/present a case accordingly.
Is it easy to have a work-life balance in this profession?
Successfully managing a work-life balance in this profession is very subjective as it is dependent on a variety of factors. These factors may be the firm’s environment, your commitments and so on.
At King & Partridge, we are fortunate to have a culture that encourages a solid work ethic permitting enough time to rejuvenate so we can be enthusiastic to get to work every Monday morning.
How do internships help in evolution of a legal professional?
Internships are essential to ascertain what kind of legal practice one would be suited to. Although figuring that out may take some time and different kinds of internships, pursuing a variety of internships will only help a law student decide his/her career options.
Does your organisation take interns? What is the process of application and selection?
Yes. The interns may apply to the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org with their CV and a covering e-mail for an internship. Based on availability of slots and an assessment of the profile of the applicant, internships would be confirmed. It usually takes a week to respond to internship applications/queries.
You have been one of the highest scoring students during your under-graduation. How does a good academic background help in the profession?
A sound academic background helps an Advocate in developing legal arguments from a variety of angles. Having said that, it is not necessary that only people will good academic backgrounds can succeed in the profession – because the skill set required to succeed is very different than mere academic merit.
You have also won moots and published papers in various journals as a student. How important are these extra-curricular activities that for a legal career?
Moots helped me get over my stage fear and develop confidence as a speaker. They are also helpful in developing research and argumentative skills which are skills useful in a legal career.
Publications in journals helped me learn good legal writing and developing arguments in writing.
Having said that, I believe that both moots/publications/ other extra-curricular activities are just ‘kick-starts’ and becoming a good Advocate is only possible by developing an attitude of constant learning and re-learning.
You were also a Research Assistant at Centre of Law and Policy Research and Azim Premji University (Law, Governance and Development Initiative). How was the experience? What is the process for applying for a research assistantship at these places?
My Research Assistantships at both CLPR and AzimPremji University were an attempt to explore if I could develop an aptitude for law and public policy research. They are both great places to intern/work at if one is seriously considering a career in law and public policy analysis/research. The details for applying for internships/research assistantships are available on the respective websites of the organizations: http://clpr.org.in and http://azimpremjiuniversity.edu.in/lgdi
What career goals have you set for yourself? How do you plan on achieving them?
I aspire to be a good and respected Advocate. I am aware that this will be long journey and perseverance is the key to be focused and never lose hope.
Is there any success mantra that you follow which you would like to share with our readers?
Doggedness. Diligence. Dispassion.